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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review - Canon G7X Mark II

     During that special time between Christmas and New Year's Eve when people don't quite know what to do with themselves, I decided to take my new Canon G7X Mark II for a spin to see what it can do on a photo walk.  I didn't expect massive improvements over the first G7X, but I knew there were a few added features and upgrades that made the sad demise of my G7X a bittersweet end.  

     It is no surprise that this camera is touted by the vlogging community as one of the best vlogging cameras on the market.  Having owned the G7X for about a year and a half, I was already familiar with the controls, but was still excited to just see how the second iteration of the well-loved camera has been improved.  

     I used downtown L.A. as the backdrop for my field test.  It's definitely one of the best places to shoot if you're looking for variety.  I'll be highlighting what I love about this camera, and in the end, summarizing who I think this camera would be perfect for.

     Before we get into how the camera performed, let me disclose my camera set up.  I was/am really paranoid about dropping my camera after what I will jokingly always refer to as "the most expensive Christmas party ever" (a.k.a. I dropped my camera and it broke).  This paranoia has led me to put a tempered glass screen protector on the rear screen, a Lensmate lens filter adapter on the front and a UV filter attached to the lens filter.  I really like how this has helped keep dust out of the lens barrel as that's always been one of the issues with the G7X series. I also added the new Peak Design anchor links that are now small enough to fit through the holes on compact cameras.  While I brought along my new Slide Lite strap, I didn't use it.  I opted to use my old Peak Design cuff along with the new Peak Design capture clip because I wanted to test out the clip on a lighter weight camera.  The cuff was just used to make sure I didn't accidentally drop the camera. 😮

     While I've seen great reviews on the Capture, it's been really tough for me to embrace it.  The one time I took it out to use with my 5D Mark III, I just couldn't relax about having my large camera dangle right there in front of me.  I also felt that the placement of the strap where you attach the Capture on both the Sling 5L and Sling 10L brings your hand (when you're closing the zipper on the slings) far too close to the button that releases your camera from the Capture.  You can see in the photos below what I'm referring to.

*Photo taken with my iPhone

*Photo taken with my iPhone

     Aside from having the constant fear of my camera dropping, the G7X II worked great on the capture.  It's a small and lightweight camera so you really don't feel it on the sling at all. 

     The best thing about shooting with the G7X II (or any compact camera for that matter) is not standing out in a crowd when you take a photo.  I managed to silence everything on the camera except for that initial "beep" when the camera first locks focus (I still need to figure out if that's possible!)

EDIT:  Okay, you can silence all the sounds by selecting "mute" from one of the menu options!

     I found there to be a great improvement in dynamic range (the balance of dark and light areas in a photo).  There are less blown out areas where there normally would be.  I thought the G7X II did better than my DSLR when it came to dynamic range (which is pretty disturbing if you think about it).  

     Again, I like how I can still get decent exposure of the building on the left.

     The macro on the G7X II is not perfect, but it's pretty good.  I tried shooting some pictures of rings at home, but the minimum focusing distance became an issue.  I didn't expect it to be a true macro, but it's "good enough" to let you get those close-ups of flowers and such.

     The auto focus is a bit faster on the G7X II.  In the first version, it seemed to search for focus more often than I preferred.  Also, for a compact camera, I've always been impressed by the bokeh (the blurry background) that this camera produces.  Dare I test this camera out and do a portrait shoot with it?! Hmm...😊

     I was pretty happy with how the G7X II did with my food shots!

     P.S.  The chicken rice below is from a place called Sticky Rice at Grand Central Market.  Do not get it!  I was not impressed with it at all.  The Thai BBQ chicken was pretty good, even though the papaya salad that came with it was obviously a watered down version of real papaya salad (a.k.a. it had no spice to it whatsoever!)

     There is an option to shoot grainy black and white photos in the G7X II.  I tried it out when I first got the camera and I didn't like it.  I prefer to do the black and white conversion myself and also add the grain if I want to in post.  However, it is nice to have as an option.  Speaking of options, this camera has plenty!  I love all the shooting modes you can play with.  I've even played with the timelapse feature, and while I'm not into video, it was pretty cool to do.

     With the image stabilization, it was easier to get this photo with the G7X II than it was when I used my 5D in the past to get the same photo.

     One of the things that I love about the G7X II is the tilt screen that tilts up and down.  It came in so handy when I needed to get down low with the camera to fit more in the frame, or when I raised the camera up high to get a shot but still wanted to see what I was shooting.

     My only real gripe with the G7X II is that I felt the colors were just a tad more cool toned than the G7X.  I prefer most of my photos to be more on the warm side than cool, but this is something that you can easily fix in post if that's your preference.  Again, I don't think most normal people would notice a color difference (but we all know I'm not normal 😏).

     So putting aside the fact that this camera is very popular for vlogging, who would the G7X II be a good fit for?  I think there are two groups of people that this camera could really appeal to.

1)  The Photography Newbie

I've heard of so many people, and some I personally know, that buy DSLRs with high hopes of getting into the hobby only to be overwhelmed by their new fancy camera.  Within months - sometimes less - these people revert back to using their cell phones and abandon the DSLR altogether, never to be used again but for the occasional special engagement. The G7X II would be perfect for people who want to get into photography.  Even though it's a little more expensive than an entry level consumer DSLR, I still think it's more cost effective than buying a consumer DSLR body and trying to invest in some decent lenses.  The G7X II would give a photography newbie all the access that photographers enjoy like manual mode and the ability to shoot RAW files, but in a lightweight, compact body.  

2)  The DSLR Enthusiast

I fall into this category.  I really enjoy using my DSLR, but as my fellow photographers who do photography for a living full time or part time can attest to, the last thing you want to do after a shoot is pick up a heavy DSLR.  This need for something that can still take great photos is what prompted me to buy my first G7X.  When I got tired or didn't feel like carrying around a big camera, I could just bring along my G7X and not miss an opportunity to shoot something should the moment present itself.  More and more, I find myself leaving my 5d at home and opting for my G7X II.

     Whatever you choose to shoot with, here's to capturing all the great moments in 2018!  Happy new year, everyone! 👊

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Photographing Seattle

     The last time I was in Seattle, it was the summer of 2013 (I think).  The days were long, and because I wasn't internet savvy enough to search the internet and plan ahead, I ended up booking a hotel a little bit outside of Seattle.  I'm not exactly sure where, but it was waaaay east of Seattle, and took about a 45 minute bus ride to get into the city.  Needless to say, this made every day feel long, and the massive amount of walking made me want to give up on taking photos...and I pretty much did.  I recently had an opportunity for a do-over, and was luckily staying in downtown Seattle. 👍

     I was crazy enough to order myself an all black version of the Peak Design Everyday 20L backpack.  It arrived just in time.  I was so happy to have this version, and it fit perfectly under the seat on the plane.

     I mentioned the challenges I faced in 2013.  Well, 2017 brought new challenges.  It was now almost winter, and the weather was a lot colder than I was used to.  I can easily recall a few places (*cough cough* Death Valley *cough* Grand Canyon) where it was so cold that I kinda just gave up and went indoors or stayed in the car hehe. These are the moments when you tell yourself you're not a truly dedicated photographer.  Despite wanting all the photos, you aren't willing to do what it takes to get them.  More power to people who photograph for National Geographic and the like, because I'd probably be fired within a short amount of time.  

     Not a cloud in the sky. UGH.  Did I also mention I bought a new tripod for this, and used it only once during a failed attempt at selfies?!  

     This place is such a great photo op.  So many vibrant colors and opportunities to get a variety of shots.  I probably shot here more than I should've, but oh well. 😊

     I was pretty bummed about those flowerbed things they put in front of the sign.  I bet they did it to discourage people like me from standing in the middle of the street trying to get photos.

     All the cups and mugs I did NOT buy because #nospend2017!

     I will have to try out the Long Beach location of this place and compare.

     There is something so awesome about vegging out in your PJs and watching mindless TV after a lot of walking.

     I had all these plans to get up around 5am and take some sunrise photos.  Well, the sun doesn't rise until about 7am.  This photo was taking at a nearby Starbucks and it was pretty dark outside still.  It was very strange, and I found it tough to get used to.  I never made it out as early as 5am, and I never did those sunrise shots.  It was too. Freakin'. Cold.

     For lunch one day, we had pizza from this place called Mod Pizza.  It's very similar to Pieology, but maybe slightly better.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a Mod Pizza is coming to a plaza near where I live!

     This might be the only tip I offer up in this post, but one of the things I did in order to force myself to take more photos was this CityPASS booklet.  You can find their website online, and it's very easy to do.  It includes five different places, and two of them give you an option of one or the other.  There are a variety of CityPASSes, but I liked the one I got because it covered almost every place I wanted to go to.  It was a huge savings over paying for each place separately as well.
     First stop - the Space Needle!  I was pretty bummed that it was being renovated.  It meant scrapping all my plans to do long exposures from Kerry Park, and also having photos of it that don't really look like the Space Needle.  Looking back, I am pretty glad I brought a variety of lenses to shoot with that allowed me to get different photos.  I don't think I took very many photos from the top of the Space Needle in 2013.  

    You can see the construction even on the underside of the Space Needle.  I guess it looks different, but still a bit "off".

         Winter time also meant that it was dark by 4:30 pm.  I probably could've done some street long exposures because of this... but I didn't because it was too.  Freakin'.  Cold.

     If you're ever looking for a place to eat near the waterfront, I highly recommend this Thai place.  It was so good.  I loved what I ordered here.

          I think this was called the papaya salad platter.  It had papaya salad, some soup, grilled meats with dipping sauce, and sticky rice.  SO delicious!  Highly recommend.

     Night cap.

     It's always concerning when you wake up early to go somewhere, and you discover you might be the only person going that way. 😐

     $5.25 each way... Just so you know, the photos you're about to see cost me $10.50.  As a side note, I found out that the ferry to West Seattle is on a limited schedule during the winter months.  It made it very difficult for me to get the photos I had planned to get there, and I really didn't want to take a cab or Uber back to downtown.

     There was only one other person on the ferry with me.  Obviously, they are not in this photo.

     This is about the time I used my tripod that ONE time.  I'll spare you the horror of my failed selfie attempts, but I'm supposed to be sitting on that log looking at the city skyline.  You'll have to use your imagination.

     There was hardly anyone around.  It was nothing like how it is during the summer.  I had all these plans to hike to the Alki Point Lighthouse, but I would've missed my ferry if I had done that.  Note to self:  Don't come here during the winter without a car.

     On the ferry back.  This time there were about five of us.

     Next stop was the Seattle Aquarium.  I only had one purpose in going to the aquarium, and that was to get a shot in the underwater dome tank.

     I got this shot using my G7x on a mini tripod.  I was probably one of the first people in the Aquarium once it opened.  About 20 minutes later, this place was swarming with kids.

     It was both pretty cool and equally terrifying to know that you are under water.  I didn't stay here long.  It creeped me out too much.

     I had to kill a little bit of time before doing the next item on my CityPASS booklet which was the Argosy Harbor Cruise.  I decided to walk back to Pike Place Market to shoot a little more.

     I met this little cutie named Luna.  This dog was some kind of special breed of golden retriever.  Her hair was SO soft.  I stalked her for a little bit hehehe...

      Lunch at Beecher's.  They make a great cheese called "Flagship".

     The famous Gum Wall.

     Third stop - Argosy Harbor Cruise!  I really enjoyed this because it gives you a different vantage point to shoot from.  It was COLD though, and a bit windy.

     See?  The Space Needle doesn't look normal at all.

     I did a quick pit stop at one of the fancy Starbucks.  Actually, almost all of the Starbucks here are fancy compared to the ones I've seen elsewhere.  I wonder if they spruce these up because that's where Starbucks originated from?

Next stop - Chihuly Garden and Glass!  I walked to the monorail station and took the monorail back to the Space Needle area.  Chihuly Garden and Glass is right next to the Space Needle.

     I wasn't really sure what to expect here.  There only thing I knew about Chihuly was that the glass art at the Bellagio lobby was done by the same artist.  The glass art exhibits were pretty amazing.  I don't know how well they translate into a photograph, but I tried to shoot them to look like how they did in real life.

     This was by far my favorite part of Chihuly Garden and Glass.

     Last stop - Museum of Pop Culture!  I had a choice between this and some other place nearby, but I chose this because one of my friends had gone here and seemed to enjoy it.  I don't know if it was because I had been on the go since 7am that morning, or if I was just burned out on taking photos, but I had zero desire to really see this place.  I thought this guitar display was one of the coolest things there.  There are several "rooms" that focus on different aspects of American pop culture, and much of it was focused on comics and/or sci-fi type of things.  I just wasn't feeling it.

     Even thought I watched Star Trek Next Generation when I was a kid, I wasn't all that into walking around this area of the museum.  I'm sure someone that is a true trekkie would be all over this.

     I went through this horror film room just out of curiosity.  The walkway that leads into the actual room is creepy AF.  No joke.  I didn't even take photos of it because it was too creepy.

     I probably stayed at the Museum of Pop Culture for about 30 minutes, and then was happily on my way back to the monorail.  I was ready to take a nice long nap.

     I was so tired from being out all day that going out to dinner didn't seem like a great idea.  Nonetheless, someone told us about this place called The Pink Door that was supposed to be really good Italian food.  We did the almost one hour wait for a table, and quickly ordered some food.  The restaurant itself is really interesting looking.  I think on one of the nights, they even do a burlesque-type show for an admission fee.

     I was more tired than hungry and opted for the antipasto.  It was good, but not amazing.  I probably would've been in a better position to judge it had I not been beat from walking all day.

     I took dessert to go and enjoyed it in my hotel room. 😊

     During out last day, we ventured back towards the waterfront for some food and last minute souvenirs.  I finally got to try this little bakery called Piroshky Piroshky that always had a line out the door.

     They were good, but they weren't $10 good.  Seriously, $10 for two pastries...these people are making a killing!  Also, this is waaaay too much dough to have for breakfast.

     I wish every city had a mass transit means of getting from the airport to the city center.  This is where SoCal is really lacking in my opinion.