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Book Review: Magic Lantern Guide to Canon G12

I am adding Book Reviews to the “Equipment” category. I have often referenced my considerable library of photo books and frequently reference and recommend particular books. Like all my equipment reviews, book reviews will by my opinion and obviously, subjective. I hope readers can use the information here to make better decisions about a book. All of the books reviewed here can be seen and purchased at my Amazon Store which is in the lower left marginal column on the blog. I get credit as an Amazon Associate if you “click through” my store when you order. I certainly appreciate any help I can get in that regard. As always, thanks for reading and following here!


Magic Lantern Guide to G12 by Peter Burian

In February, I have the good fortune of taking a week-long Caribbean Cruise. For the first time in many years, I plan to carry only a point and shoot camera. I am not going to have any of my DSLR gear with me. I have worried that I will feel naked and inadequate with the big gear, but I am going to face my fears. 🙂 Anticipating that, I purchased a Canon Powershot G12, knowing I needed (wanted) some “pro” features even in a “casual” point and shoot (see, “My Review of Canon’s G12“). Thinking that since it is all I am going to have with me, I decided I needed to learn some of the details of the camera. Like so many electronics manuals, Canon’s G12 manual leaves a bit to be desired. So I headed to my local bookstore to find a third party guide. I settled on The Magic Lantern Guides series book on the G12.

We each “learn” in our own way. Some of us learn better by reading, some by listening, and others by a “hands-on” approach. My own tendency over the years has been to do my own reading and research, occasionally augmented by listening at seminars, watching video, and sometime-hands on learning. So, not surprisingly, my bookcase contains several feet of books on photography.

Similarly, teachers teach differently. In my experience, this means that it is rare that you will find one written resource that will have all the answers on a particular topic. No place is this more true than the so-called “manual” that comes with photographic gear. Because of this, writers and publishers have maintained a niche, producing third-party “manuals.” These tend to be a little more in-depth, and written in a more conversational style.

The book does exactly what I expect a Magic Lantern Guide to do

Over the past 20 years, I have found the “Magic Lantern Guides” series to be uniformly well-written and informative. So, when I purchase a new item (or sometimes when I am contemplating purchasing) of photographic equipment, I naturally look for the corresponding Magic Lantern Guide.

Canadian pro, Peter Burian has been an “internet friend” for many years. Peter is a working pro, teacher and writer for several photography magazines (including the Canadian publication, PhotoLife, where he is a regular contributor) and for the BetterPhoto.com online photography school. He has written the National Geographic Photography Field Guide, several Magic Lantern Guides. Peter has given me valuable advice on more than one occasion, both personally and in his numerous writings. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Peter authored the Magic Lantern Guide for the G12.

The book does exactly what I expect a Magic Lantern Guide to do. It clarifies and elucidates what is not very well done in the pdf manual that ships with the G12. Peter first gives us a comprehensive overview of the camera features. He then gives us his version of the “quickstart” section of the manual. So for those “hands-on” folks who want to fire up the camera and start shooting, he has that well covered.

One point that could be made more clearly is that many of the “cool” features and menu choices of the camera do not work when shooting in the raw mode

The balance of the books goes progressively into greater detail, covering the camera’s numerous shooting modes first, then the functions and how they are activated for each mode (the function button on the back of the camera allows you to set essential functions in each mode right on the back screen without switching to the more detailed menu system), and finally, covering the detailed menu system for camera settings. The book finishes by covering the camera’s flash capabilities, accessories, and bundled image editing software. Peter’s style is clear, conversational, and easy to read and understand.

One point that could be made more clearly is that many of the features and menu choices of the camera do not work when shooting in the raw mode. Granted, this is a “point and shoot” camera. But it is not an “everyman’s” P&S; it is in many ways, a pro-style camera, with pro-style features. I suspect that that means that many of us who are serious DSLR users and carry the G12 as a backup/casual/convenience camera will be shooting with the raw setting. Many of the “cool” features of the camera are limited to shooting jpeg files. The book doesn’t always make this clear, when discussing settings.

That these features do not work when shooting raw makes sense if you understand the nature of raw vs. jpeg. Raw files are essentially the electronic information captured by the camera’s sensor in its “raw”state. Raw files must be “interpreted” by software after they are transferred from camera to computer. Jpegs are rendered in the camera from the raw file data, using the camera’s onboard processor. For many reasons, some of us would rather use our more powerful and versatile computer software than rely on the arguably limited software in the camera over which we have only rudimentary and pre-conceived control (see, “Why You Should Shoot Raw“). So, things like changing the aspect ratio (which is essentially telling the camera to make an in-camera crop of the raw image—delivered at the sensor’s native size—and render it as a jpeg) just don’t work. I suppose it’s a fair argument to say that when you get to that level as a photographer, you really don’t need to use, or know about the “gimmicks” in the camera. Still, I would make that more clear.

I recommend this book as a good addition and perhaps carrying companion for any G12 owner

The book is nicely illustrated throughout, with images taken primarily by Peter, with the G12. His thorough familiarity with the Canon camera systems shows through the book. And perhaps best of all, the price is very reasonable! I recommend this book as a good addition and perhaps carrying companion for any G12 owner.



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