I have managed to acquire quite a unique find – unique for the photographer that typically wields gear so large that a backpack is needed to carry it all. Last week, this camera made its way to my hands. In black, no less.
The battery was completely dead, and there was no charger to be found. After ordering an inexpensive replacement charger from Amazon, I was able to charge it and actually try it out to see firstly if it works at all and secondly if it’s good.
Having spent an overwhelming majority of my photography art journey in the Canon ecosystem, this camera seems to fit in the collection very nicely. Photography is a place where artists that can’t do much else can thrive. Drawing never ends well for me, nor does sculpting or any other sort of physical art form. The beauty of photography is that all of that work is done for you. It’s a game of capturing what’s already there, and then working with that image until you’re happy with it.
I wanted to read up on this thing first. The first question I had was simply what is an “elph?” Doing research online, it’s actually a combination of the words “elf” and “photograph.” An elf being small and magical and “ph” indicating photography. I guess they never considered Will Ferrell.
Released in March of 2011, it appears to have aged relatively well with fairly impressive specifications, even by today’s standards in 2022. Weighing in at 12.1 (of course Canon has to add that extra “0.1” to their number) megapixels, it can yield images that can be comfortably be printed at 11×14 inches and beyond. Don’t get too excited over that, though. The actual sensor is 6.2mm x 4.6mm. In comparison, most full-sized “DSLR” cameras have sensors that are 25mm x 17mm (and “full frame” sensors are even larger than that). Size does matter – the image sensor is the electronic equivalent of the film frame. The bigger the frame, the more light it can capture, the more information it can capture, and the more potential for a really high-quality image. Camera makers have all sorts of technical programming tricks to yield that higher “megapixel” number and produce bigger images from smaller sensors that I won’t get into here. That’s a discussion that really belongs in its own posting.
Having said that, this camera is no slouch. For its ultra compact size, smaller than even modern iPhones, it packs a lot of punch. Impressively, it also boasts shutter speeds as fast as 1/1500 of a second and an ISO setting as high as 3200. With an optical zoom range of 28-112mm (just say no to digital zoom), there’s plenty of room to work with. It uses Canon’s standard image stabilizer technology as well.
The only big drawback here is that it doesn’t support charging over USB. You have to take the battery out and use an external charger. This can be very tedious, especially when traveling. Even in 2011, this technology was not unheard of. Sadly, lots of modern cameras don’t support this. In the age where power packs are a staple in the modern traveler’s backpack, charging over USB should be a no-brainer.
Now that I’ve blinded you all with photographic technobabble, I think it’s time to show some images.
As with all Canon cameras, they feature a “P” mode, which stands for “Program Mode” that selects everything automatically but gives you some freedom to control or change the settings. They also feature a fully automatic mode where you hit the button and you just get what you get.
I started off shooting our front yard tree in the fully automatic mode. I have purposely edited nothing, so we can see exactly what comes off the card. Both of these shots of the trees in my front yard came out quite nice actually.
I noticed in full automatic mode the camera just wasn’t having anything to do with close up shots. I wanted to do this shot of a sprouting flower. I have not really done gardening before, but a few weeks ago I went to Wal Mart, grabbed $2.00 worth of seed packets of random flowers, and then came home and literally just poked holes in the ground and shoved the seeds in. This is sprouting up, and I have no idea what it is that I planted. I suppose when it blooms, I’ll find out. Unfortunately, in auto mode I couldn’t get it to focus right. This blurry foreground shot is all I got.
I went to the side of our house to look at our rose bush. I used the “P” program mode and my luck was a bit better. I could make it focus where I wanted, so I managed to get a clear flower foreground. I’m quite happy with the focus here. Adjustment of settings by menu was a painless affair. It appears that it captures color quite nicely.
This camera indeed packs a lot of power into a small package. Most every camera tries to make one button convenience for those on the go, but it’s very rare to find one that actually achieves this. Honestly, I don’t think anybody has achieved single button photo nirvana. Though, oddly enough, smart phone cameras actually do come very close and I’m not really sure how. Total automation is truly a mixed bag with photography. A consistent Program Mode is the hallmark of Canon, and the fact that this camera uses it gives it a lot of possibilities for really good images. For long time users of Canon products, this certainly does not disappoint. Add to that the advantage of putting it in your pocket or perhaps your purse.
Most importantly – it can be used to shoot photos, not each other.