For those times, a compact camera will do the trick. Enter the Canon Powershot G12.
Canon Powershot S95.
So why would anyone want to have something this big instead of a full-pledged DSLR? Well, it is still smaller than a Rebel and much smaller than an Eos. It can go to places where DSLRs are not allowed like concerts and sports arenas. And, as I've mentioned, you can put it in the inside portion of your winter coat or a small purse and have it with you all the time, albeit with a little difficulty. Remember - the best camera is the one that you have on hand.
The G12 can shoot 10 megapixel RAW files. Canon made the wise move of not increasing the pixel count of the G12 but still giving users the ability to print up to 8x10 size pictures. With a relatively bigger sensor compared to other point-and-shoots, the G12 can handle noise much better even at higher ISOs. There is a feature that I really like: setting the maximum ISO speed. So, you can just put the ISO on Auto and expect to still get crisp, relatively low-noise pictures. This function is only available in P, Av, Tv and M modes.
The G12 has a swivel screen that will enable you to shoot at "awkward" positions, like really low macro shots or when you are shooting with your camera overhead - just tilt the screen and you can get a really good view of what you are shooting at.
There are controls galore for this camera. You have a dial for the ISO speed, exposure compensation and the main mode dial - you can choose the fully automatic modes or you can choose to shoot in Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual (the P, Av, Tv and M modes.). There are scene modes where you can shoot HDR, miniature effect, and a lot more. There are a lot of timed shots available - only start counting down when someone enters the shot; only start counting down when someone winks, etc. There is now 720p HD video capture, a built in ND filter, and, as aforementioned, scene modes.
With video, you cannot change the zoom nor the focus while you are recording. If you want to change any setting, you would have to stop video recording first then change the settings that you want. There is also a stitch-assist scene mode but, as the name implies, it'll just assist you during shooting. You still have to go to your computer to stitch the pictures together. Canon provided the software necessary to stitch the pictures together but it would've been nicer if the photo stitching happened in-camera. Speaking of software, as of this writing, neither Lightroom 3 nor Adobe Camera Raw, are capable of editing RAW pictures from the G12. However, there is a Lightroom 3 release candidate that can process G12 RAW pictures.
The camera takes great pictures. I couldn't believe that just two years ago, I was using a Canon Rebel XS and now there's a "point-and-shoot" that's almost as capable as that. Even at ISO 800, the picture looks great with negligible noise. Take note, though, that the sensor of the XS is still bigger than that of the G12.
The Canon G12 is proving to be a great alternative for those who do not want to tow around a full-size DSLR.
If you already own a Canon speedlite then you are in luck as this is compatible to the G12.
For a compact camera, the G12 has a lot of accessories: waterproof case, teleconverter, lens adaptor, etc.
A lot has been mentioned about the similarities of the G12 and the Canon Powershot S95 - they use the same size sensor and there is a full manual capability, though with the G12, the controls are already out in the open. Of course, as all other reviews will tell you, the S95 is pocketable while the G12 isn't. Other reviewers often tell that the G12 has an f/2.8 maximum aperture while the S95 has a maximum aperture of f/2.0. But what they do not often tell is that at the telephoto end the G12 has a maximum aperture of f/4.5 while the S95 has a maximum aperture of f/4.9. That's the kind of thing that shouldn't be left out. The smallest aperture of the G12 is f/8.
The G12 has a 5X zoom with a 35mm-sensor size equivalent of 28-140mm. With the G12, you can actually transfer the focus point, just like what you can do with DSLRs.
Is there anything I would like to change? Well, I like that there is an optical viewfinder though I find it close to useless. The 77% view is something I can live with (not, not really; not gonna lie to myself) but there is nothing there that can tell you about the settings with which you will take your photographs. There is nothing that will tell you what your aperture is, what your shutter speed is, nothing. If this is the case, then I think that, instead of the ISO speed and exposure compensation, I'd rather have dedicated dials for the shutter speed and the aperture. An electronic viewfinder for the G13? I also don't like the neck strap. Canon should have given the user a choice of converting the neck strap to a hand strap. Perhaps their rational is, since you cannot put it in your jeans pocket, then might as well hang it around your neck...
All in all, the Canon Powershot G12 is a very good alternative to a full pledged DSLR. Despite it not being pocketable, the ability to add and use accessories make up for the size. The articulating screen is a big help for awkward angle shots or if you want to have a self portrait. The dials make it very easy to make adjustments.
The Canon Powershot G12 is highly recommended!
Some sample shots by the G12:
For those without Flash:
|Shots by the Canon Powershot G12|
(The book feature in one of the shots is The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book by Martin Evening. It's a great book for those who want a thorough discussion of Ps Lightroom.)
Considering a bag, case and hand strap for your Canon G12? Then check out the BlackRapid Snapr. My review of that bag can be found here.