Musings on Photography

Powershot G9 Noise

Posted in Canon Powershot G9 by Paul Butzi on January 22, 2008


The photo above was made with my Canon Powershot G9, at ISO 800. Noisy, it is.

This is a roughly 600 pixel crop, full size, from the lower right corner of the GMB ColorChecker. We can see the nasty noise.

This is the same crop, with Noise Ninja run over the image using the default settings, and using a profile I built for the G9. (Building a profile for Noise Ninja is easy and takes only about 15 minutes).

I won’t claim that Noise Ninja makes the noise problem on the G9 go away; it doesn’t. ISO 1600 is noisier than ISO 800, and it’s not even meaningful to compare the noise on the G9 to the noise on my EOS-5d.

But here’s the thing: I think there’s a terrible tendency to evaluate cameras as if they were to be our ONLY camera, and even worse, we tend to evaluate things by using a marketing matrix of features. I think that when we evaluate complicated things using marketing matrices, we often do ourselves a disservice, ESPECIALLY when we use the marketing matrix provided by, or

The thing is, there’s no line in those matrices for things like “Sufficiently small enough that you’ll actually tuck it into a coat pocket when you take the dog for a walk”, “gives reasonable results in non-challenging conditions”, nor for “has control layout which doesn’t actually cause projectile vomiting on part of user”. And it turns out, those features are really important.

They’re more important, perhaps, than the noise level. Yes, I understand that freedom from noise is a good thing. But it’s not the ONLY thing.

The most important feature of a camera, ANY camera, is that the camera must actually be present when you want to make the photograph. The camera cannot be used to make the photograph before you if it is back at home, in a camera bag in the closet, because it is too damn heavy and bulky for you to carry around in your coat pocket and thus got left behind when you went out for dinner.

It does not matter if the camera at hand is noisy, in the very narrow sense that a photograph made with a noisy camera that you have with you is infinitely better than the photograph you would have made (but didn’t) with the noise-free camera that you left at home.

The G9 is not perfect. No camera is ever perfect. Sometimes we can gloss over some of the imperfections by using post-capture techniques and tools like Photoshop (to reduce the barrel distortion) and Noise Ninja (to reduce noise). It’s important, though, to understand that if we wait for the perfect camera before we start making photos, we’ll never start making photos. In some cases, the answer is to have one camera for one application, and another camera for another application.

5 Responses

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  1. John said, on January 22, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    For me, it’s not the noise that’s objectionable — it’s the terrible barrel distortion. At 35mm, anything closer than 12 feet gets the fisheye look on the G9, and that that to me is a much bigger deal breaker than high-ISO noise.

  2. Eric "Speedcat Hollydale" said, on January 31, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    How do you get rid of barrel distortion on photoshop??

  3. LifeSpy said, on February 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm PTL ens is a cheap standalone soloution as wellas comming with a plugin for Adobe Photoshop

    Nice blog Musings, keep it up

  4. Happen2bBlack said, on June 20, 2008 at 6:33 am

    So how do you make the G9 profile in Noise Ninja? Do you already have one made if so can you post it?

  5. powershot sx10is camera said, on January 8, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Do G9 has plugin for manage noisy?

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