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This is not a photography gear review site. I write about how to take better photos, advising on focus, exposure, composition, lighting and so on. I do sometimes mention relevant equipment needed to achieve a certain look, but not often.

This is one of those posts, but it’s more of a rave than a gear review to be honest. It’s also a reminder that with photography bigger is most certainly not always best!

(PS: Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links. Buying something through one of the links won’t cost you anything extra, but I might get a small commission by recommending stuff that I love using, which helps to keep the site running.)

The best camera is the one you have with you

It’s easy to forget that often quoted phrase, “the best camera is the one you have with you”. When you’re always chasing your next breathtaking image, it makes sense that you want to have the best equipment for the job. Like a great lens and a camera with ALL the megapixels.

The question is – how often do you leave your great (big, heavy) DSLR behind? You know those non-photography outings when you see a great shot and end up using your phone, because you didn’t bring your gear? Let’s face it, your family or friends don’t want to hang around while you go all photo crazy.  

Besides, if you have your camera with you and you take it out of the bag, you’re not going to just take one shot, put it back in the back and move on. Are you?

Well, in the last two weeks I have rediscovered the joy of convenience. I got a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II, a little compact camera!

The last time I had a compact camera was in 1992. Since then I’ve only had SLR or DSLR cameras. And of course my iPhone. But there’s only so much you can do with a phone.

Why would I get a compact camera?

The thing is, I didn’t get it for photography. 

I wanted a lightweight vlogging camera that wouldn’t break the bank. I’ll be using it for creating tutorials for The Lens Lounge YouTube channel and to film behind the scenes of shoots. (Oops! I’ve let the cat out of the bag now.)

After weighing up everything on the market, I decided that the G7x Mark II was the best one for me.

Getting familiar with the Canon G7x Mark II

I like to go for an early morning walk before I start work. Sometimes I take my Nikon D810 with me, but usually I just have my phone. That way I actually get the walking done without getting too distracted by the need to photograph the world at large.

So it made sense to use this time to play with my new little camera. I just slipped it in my coat pocket and off I went.

It’s so funny looking through all the photos – you can see everywhere I went on that first walk. Clearly there was a lot of photography going on! My usual 30 minute walk took an hour. The camera was in and out of my pocket constantly.

Photographing white walls and blue sky to test camera

 

Testing dynamic range of Canon's compact camera

That changed everything!

At first I was just playing with it to test how well manual mode, aperture priority and shutter priority worked. The answer is – brilliantly!

Then I tested the zoom lens to see how wide it went, how far I could zoom in and the what the quality was like when zoomed in. I was impressed.

Then I played with the flip screen. I love that little flip screen! What a joy being able to flip the screen up and shoot from the hip while looking down to see what is in frame. It’s an awesome little trick for street photography!

Using a compact camera for street photography

Why the Canon G7 X Mark II and not my phone?

I took some pretty random photos that first day. Well, it started out random and then I found myself photographing on purpose. You just can’t help yourself, can you? 

I wasn’t photographing for memories or for display, but to record and plot ideas for shoots. It just happened. One minute I was testing the color of white walls against a crisp blue sky and the next minute I was recording design elements that would look great in a shot. Like these steps. 

Using a compact camera to record design elements

I noticed the way the shadows formed interesting angles and patterns on the steps and immediately thought…

  • contrasty light
  • model in a brightly coloured dress
  • positioned at the tip of the shadow triangle

In the space of a week I’ve built up a great little library of local hot spots for a shoot theme I have in mind. 

I’ve also captured some wonderfully off-guard moments of family. They are so used to seeing me with a big camera in my hand, so didn’t pay much attention to me playing with this little thing I was carrying.

Yes, I could have used my phone, but it wouldn’t have been as good. For three reasons:

  • I can shoot in RAW, for a wide spectrum of color and dynamic range (although these photos were all shot as JPEGs, because I forgot to set the camera to RAW).
  • Being able to adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO is key to creating the look you want.
  • Holding an actual camera, no matter how small, changes things. It puts you in a photographer mindset.

The G7x Mark II for video

I’ve been so busy playing with the photography aspect of the camera that I completely forgot to test it for video. The actual reason for getting it! 

The only video I’ve captured so far was a moment when two geese started having words with each other. It was in my pocket and within seconds I was able to capture all the geese action.

I wasn’t wearing my (reading) glasses, so couldn’t really see details of the footage. But that didn’t matter – I tapped the screen where I wanted to focus (on the goose) and trusted that the camera would do the rest. It did!

Speaking of focus. I was really impressed when I arrived home and was able to look at this  photo with my glasses on. Even with all the foliage in the way, I was able to lock focus on the goose.

Photographing geese through foliage to test focus

File sizes

Another huge bonus – the files don’t take up as much space on my computer as my D810 files! This is a big deal. If I take lots of photos when planning shoots, I really don’t want to be clogging up my hard drive with big files. I don’t need loads of megapixels for these photos.

The good news is that, if I want to print my photos, the quality is more than good enough. It has a 20 megapixel CMOS sensor. In other words, while it is not full frame, it’s still really good and you can crop your photos.

Conclusion

This weekend we’re off to visit family. I’ll take my Nikon DSLR, because I have a few photography ideas to work on. However, I suspect that my compact Canon camera is the one that will be in my hand most of the time when we’re just hanging out together.

After 27 years of carrying a camera on my back, I absolutely love the freedom of a camera that fits in my pocket!

If you have any questions about using a compact camera, let us know in the comments. Also, we love good news, so if our photography tips have helped you, share that too.

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Sometimes a compact camera is better than a DSLR! I got the Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II and was so amazed by what a great compact camera it is that sometimes I leave my DSLR at home! Find out why. #whichcamera #DSLR #compactcamera #photography #thelenslounge
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