One of the critical pieces of gear for any trip, regardless of the destination, is a camera.. or, in my usual instance, a pair or cluster of cameras that I forcibly restrict to a small Lowe Pro backpack. As an avid sea kayaker, however, I love having a point and shoot that I can plop in a plastic housing and use for shooting from the cockpit when on the water. While I routinely shoot with Nikon DSLR cameras, I used a Canon digital Elph in a housing for the past two years when on the water until it died a few months ago.
So, a few weeks ago, I purchased the Canon G10, the point and shoot compact that shoots RAW files and has the sexy design that recalls the Leica M and Contax G series of cameras. Having seen files from its predecessor the G9 and heard the buzz about it from peers, I had high hopes that the G10 would be the ultimate travel camera. National Geographic ran a double truck of Peter Hessler's G7 night shot of Shanghai on page 52/53 of the May 2008 China issue. Outside magazine ran a double truck of Rolando Garibotti's G9 shot of Patagonian Torre Traverse. I was hoping for the one-size-fits-all camera in a tiny rangefinder style body, the type of tool that would allow for street portraiture one minute and hand-held low light 1600 ISO in a church the next minute.
The G10 doesn't totally deliver. Above 200 ISO, the files start to show noise in the blacks and anything above 800 ISO seems no better than a file pulled from a camera phone. Pretty useless. So, the low light stuff cannot be hand-held as it can with my larger, heavier DSLRs. My second gripe comes from landscape shooting. Last week I was shooting city skyline images and had my lensmate cable release coupler set with a release and then I realized the camera cannot shoot in bulb mode. So the limit for opening the shutter is 15 seconds. I was definitely a bit bummed. These are the two limitations of the G10 that could be improved in later iterations.
Despite these misgivings, I'm really enjoying the G10 as it works well as a portable take-everywhere camera. With my Domke/Canon strap, it is totally inconspicuous on the shoulder. The bombproof shell of the camera allows you to throw it into a shoulder bag when in a hurry or gingerly place it on a tripod and manually focus. It's an incredible replacement for my old Elph as my kayak camera and will doubtless make for an ideal snorkel camera with Canon's dedicated housing.
So, is the G10 the ultimate travel camera? I think it comes closer than any compact camera thus far on the market with the possible exception of the Panasonic LX-3. I'll be carrying mine with me pretty much everywhere I go these days. As Jay Maisel said once at a seminar, "You want to make good pictures, take the camera for a walk."
I look forward to seeing where my G10 leads me.