Camera sensor noise profile of a Canon Powershot G12

I was recently reading the article The Truth about Digital ISO in Digital PhotoPro magazine, and decided to investigate the camera sensor noise profile of the Canon Powershot G12 I use for underwater photography.

Noise plays a big part in underwater photography. Available light levels are lower underwater,with less available the deeper you go. Knowing the noise performance of your camera allows you to push the ISO and get maximum performance.

I started looking at noise in the Canon Powershot series of cameras in my previous post Noise Comparison – Canon Powershot G11 vs G10.

There has been some recent talk on the web about “native ISO”, where the lower ISO of a camera is not necessarily the best for noise performance due to in-camera amplification methods. I have always thought the underwater photos taken with my Canon G12 at ISO160 were better than ISO80 or ISO100, and thought this might have been the effect of native ISO.

After reading the article The Truth about Digital ISO in Digital PhotoPro magazine, I decided to test my theory.

I setup the camera in manual mode, with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec, aperture of f2.8, and fixed white balance. A fixed white balance is required so the camera does not try and change the colour tints of the high ISO noise, giving you an incorrect result.

I placed a filter barrel and cap over the lens to block out all light, and shot a sequence of RAW images at different ISO settings from 80 to 3200.

File Size

The first interesting thing I noticed was the size of the RAW files.

canon g12 raw files

The size of the file increased as the ISO increased with more sensor noise. The ISO3200 RAW file is nearly twice the size of the ISO80 file.

Continue reading Camera sensor noise profile of a Canon Powershot G12

46 Secrets to Improving your Underwater Photography

I recently received the following question via my website asking for some secrets to improving underwater photography, and as I started to compile the list, I thought that I would share a few of my secrets with you.

…” I just purchased a Canon G12 and the WP-DC34 underwater housing for it. I am an experienced diver, I have decided to get into underwater photography and was amazed by your photos and video with the Canon G12.. I was wondering if you could share some secrets and pointers for my upcoming trip to Belize. I would love to return with some quality video and photos…. hoping your insight could give me an edge. Thanks, Lowell”…..

Thanks Lowell for the great question.

I sat down and started to make a list. It got quite long (some people have written whole books on this subject), so I have tried not to get too carried away.

Some of these secrets are scattered around in previous posts, and I have tried to keep my list to a few key points. Some points relate specifically to the Canon Powershot G12 (which I also own), but most points are general and relate to all cameras that can be used for underwater photography.

Canon Powershot G11 inside wp-dc34 underwater housing

Before the Dive

My list starts before the dive, as I am a big believer in preparing things correctly allows you to be more relaxed during the dive, which in turn allows you to take better pictures.
Continue reading 46 Secrets to Improving your Underwater Photography

Which Canon Powershot to buy for underwater photography – G10, G11 or G12?

An email received today asked for my advice on choosing a Canon Powershot G10 or G11 for underwater photography. There are a number of things to take into account, so I thought I would cover a few in a post.

I received the following email enquiry today:-

“Carl, Please counsel with me on a camera purchase. I am putting together an underwater system and wish to use the Canon G10 or G11. I will get the Canon underwater case. Should I get a near new G10 (ie. from Craigslist – approx. $450 US) or get the G11. Please advise. Thanks! Darrell”

Thanks to Darrell for the question.

I am a keen user of the Canon Powershot G Series cameras for underwater photography, and have owned a G10 and G11 camera.

The G10 vs G11

The G10 and G11 are both good cameras and popular with many professional photographers. There are a few new functions in the G11, but the fundamental differences are:-

  • G10 has 15MP sensor, G11 has 10 MP sensor.
  • G10 has a flat screen back, G11 has a flip screen back.

The smaller sensor on the G11 provides better in-camera noise performance (see my previous post Noise Comparison – Canon Powershot G11 vs G10). I find noise can become an issue underwater, particularly when you are going deeper where there is less natural light.

Using an external flash or video light helps to keep the shutter speeds fast at those deeper depths, reducing noise.

Noise is also becoming less of a problem in post processing. Particularly if you are using Adobe Lightroom 3 with its new software engine, which is doing incredible things with noise reduction. (I have to regularly stop myself going back to old images and improving the noise, as I would never get anything else done.)

I also like the G11 flip screen for taking pictures from different angles, but in the underwater housing it does not make any difference.
Continue reading Which Canon Powershot to buy for underwater photography – G10, G11 or G12?

How to use the Canon G11 Control Dial in an Underwater Housing

For a while now I have been under the impression you could not use the Control Dial on the Canon Powershot G11 when it was mounted in an underwater housing, but a recent review by Lawrence Alex Wu reveals a little known secret.

I was reading Underwater Photography Magazine (No 55 Jul/Aug 2010), and a review of the Canon Powershot G11 by Lawrence Alex Wu describes a key shortcut that allows the photographer access to the Control Dial functionality while underwater.

Canon Powershot G11 inside wp-dc34 underwater housing

Out of the housing, rotating the G11 Control Dial next to the screen allows you to adjust settings that include:-

  • Aperture size in Aperture Priority Mode (AV)
  • Shutter speed in Shutter Priority Mode (Tv)
  • Metering Modes
  • Manual Focus
  • Brightness Exposure Compensation
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing

I often use the Canon WP-DC34 underwater housing with my G11 camera, but the problem is that once you close the housing you no longer have access to the control dial…. or so I thought….

Continue reading How to use the Canon G11 Control Dial in an Underwater Housing

Noise Comparison – Canon Powershot G11 vs G10

After hearing of the Canon Powershot G11 noise improvement, I grabbed one while in Hong Kong and compared it to my G10.

I had been aware of the improved noise performance of the Canon Powershot G11 since October 2009, and thought this would be beneficial when shooting underwater where you need every bit of sensitivity you can get.

In Hong Kong on business I picked up a Canon G11 and compared it directly with my Canon G10. The results were better than I expected and show considerable improvement in noise levels.

Test Conditions

I setup the G10 and G11 next to each other on the window sill of my hotel room. Both cameras were set to the same settings at f5.0 and center weighted average.

Focusing on the same apartment block I took shots with ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600 at focal lengths settings of 6.1mm and 25mm. (Due to the smaller sensor, the focal length multiplier of 4.8 gives 35 mm equivalent focal lengths of  29mm and 121mm.)

The images were compared in Adobe Lightroom.

Exposure Differences

The first thing I noticed was the G11 image was brighter than the G10 image. Analyzing the Histogram for the images, the G11 image is exposed 0.70EV to the right making it brighter.

Exposing the image more to the right is a smart idea as there is more image information in this area.

Continue reading Noise Comparison – Canon Powershot G11 vs G10

Canon G10 Sharpness Experiment

I was looking through a few images the other day and noticed the RAW images from my Canon G10 looked less sharp than those taken with my Canon 750IS. I was a bit concerned as it had recently been repaired.

The reason for this did not occur to me at time , so I decided to do an experiment, which taught me a couple of interesting things about the camera.

Continue reading Canon G10 Sharpness Experiment

Canon Powershot G10 Technical Problems

Browsing through the Canon Australia support website, there are a couple of technical problems with the Canon Powershot G10.

Magenta Cast in Raw Images

Canon has released a firmware upgrade to Version 1.0.2.0.

According to Canon this upgrade is to fix the following issue:-

If RAW images are captured by continuous shooting under the ISO 1600 setting, abnormal data is recorded and a magenta cast appears in the second and subsequent RAW images. This phenomenon also occurs in the second and subsequent recorded RAW images captured by single shooting, but only if the LCD monitor display mode is set to the OFF position.

This phenomenon cannot be confirmed when images are played back on the camera’s LCD monitor. It can only be confirmed if image processing software (such as the Digital Photo Professional software bundled with the product) is used to develop RAW images on a PC.

For more information visit:

Lines Appear in Captured Images

According the Canon Australia website:-

In certain circumstances, lines may appear in images captured with some PowerShot G10 units.

  1. This phenomenon may occur irrespective of the camera settings.
  2. The occurrence of this phenomenon depends on the subject and may not occur every time.
  3. Images that exhibit this phenomenon cannot be fixed.

This problem seems to only effect specific batches of the G10. Refer to the Canon Australia website to determine if your camera needs to be returned for repair.

Collapsed Underwater Housing O-ring

I was checking the yellow o-ring on my Canon WP-DC28 underwater housing before a dive yesterday and noticed what looked like a pinch mark over a 3 mm segment.

This housing was brought in Dec 2008 and has done around 10 dives.  I always inspect the o-ring before and after each dive, and it is stored in a separate plastic bag between dives, so I know it has not been pinched, and expect the o-ring has collapsed around where it was joined. (I have owned 3 other underwater housings for Canon cameras and have not seen this before.)

After some chasing I discovered the part number for the problem o-ring is CY4-4517. I have ordered some new o-rings from the spares department, and sent the faulty item to Canon support for further inspection.

Canoscan FS4000US ICC Profile

I decided to get serious about profiling my Canoscan FS4000US slider scanner, due to having several years of slides from the period before my switch to digital.

My Canoscan FS4000US scanner is a couple of years old now (costing around $1500AUD when new), but provides high resolution images from slides and negatives.

For years I have wondered about what profiles to apply to my scanned slides. I tried hunting around on the web to see if there was some kind of boxed ICC profile available, but could not find anything.

For a while now my standard procedure has been to import the images from the scanner into Photoshop, assign the sRGB profile, and then convert to my default workspace profile of AdobeRGB. I have tried assigning AdobeRGB profiles directly to the scanned images, but it resulted in over saturated images.

Noticing my images were slightly washed out after conversion, I began to question how much color information has been distorted in the workflow process.

Producing the scanner ICC profile

The first step was to purchase a couple of IT-8 slide targets from Wolf Faust (www.targets.coloraid.de). They were well priced, supplied very promptly, and good quality. Wolf has lots of interesting stuff on his main site www.coloraid.de about color management.

To produce the profile, I then downloaded and purchased the Profile Mechanic software from Digital Light and Color, which made the process of generating a profile very easy, and gave me the ICC profile required.

Continue reading Canoscan FS4000US ICC Profile