I had hoped the modestly priced A2300 would do as a lightweight autoKAP mule but after a handful of flights found the cheap an cheerful approach lost its cheer as I grew weary of its splotchy image quality on 60m imagery. What I’d saved in weight and cash I’d lost in IQ. A lucky hit with the A2300 revealed the awfulness…a similar shot by EosM highlights the problem: This isn’t comparing like with like but is shows that 16mP on a tiny sensor is not really worth the effort of putting the camera in the air! The vast array of Canon compact cameras is a problem, how many are low resolution ‘budget’ and how many are worth shooting at 60m AGL with? A close look at KAP shots on flickr shows the ‘S’ range to be a popular choice.
The 10 million-pixel Canon Powershot S95 replaces the S90, which was released in 2009. In complete contrast to the larger boxy G-series, the Powershot S95 retains the S90’s svelte, truly pocketable body design that has a lot more in common with the Ixus/Elph cameras. Inside its compact bodyshell, Canon has managed to squeeze a 28-105mm (equivalent) zoom lens, and a bright, high-resolution LCD screen. The S95 features an impressive ISO span for its class, from ISO 80-3200 at full resolution, with both RAW and JPEG recording options.
DP Review Aug 2010
The key attractions are the CHDK compatability, RAW capability, 195g weight, and since issue at £2oo it has been replaced by 4 successive models (S100 Sept 2011, S110 Sept 2012, S120 Aug 2013 and S200 Aug 2014 ) making used examples affordable for the knock about stuff I had envisaged it would have to cope with…and these cameras have been the ‘standard’ tool for many Kapers (including the notable Jim Powers) for a while and the results are superb! I got mine on a best offer ebay deal and put it to work on a pano rig:
it did not disappoint! Using a basic L rig with a slow (5s) pan step I got a good sweep of shots and built up a 6 frame panorama. The images are nice and sharp and hold up well at 1:1 . Although heavier than the A2300 the S95 looks like the autoKAP slave I have been looking for- a decent resolution, lightweight ‘fly and forget’ CHDK pixel bucket. The idea is to get the most out of light wind situations. I have found, if there is enough blow to lift the 8’rokkaku (4-5mph) I can get around half a kilo aloft but need to be ready to survive lulls. Experiments with an Ixus 7 and even the awful A2300 shows good results are possible in these conditions and that weight is the enemy. This was a random frame from an Ixus 7 flight using an early version of a clickPan Pro synced to CHDK set up, the camera was hanging off the end of the tilt servo- not ideal but it proved the point: a lightweight option brings opportunity: The Ixus 7 has some severe limits: its CHDK build can only address 1GB which is gone in about 20 mins shooting raw at a 5s interval. A bonus of having a light wind set up handy is that, if the lift is there, I can fly it above a heavier rig and collect pano cover as well as get directed camera work lower down. I have been able to do this where down wind space allows hitching the light rig to the line, paying out line, finding more lift and hitching a second rig before the 60m limit is reached. With 2 rigs aloft the line profile is something like this: I imagine kite fishing in New Zealand works in a similar way, a great deal of line is paid out and only a modest height is gained. Trees, fences, ditches, overhead lines and the like get in the way of this sort of thing so it’s a technique for the wide open ‘big sky’ places … like the Fens. The lighter the load the steeper the line angle and the less space required. The next step for the S95 is to build a portrait aspect 2 servo rig for it, hanging it off the tilt servo didn’t work so I’ve ended up with this:
which is an ugly duckling, yet to fly.