DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot G2
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, August 16, 2001
Last Updated: Monday, May 13, 2002

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Just when the 3 Megapixel wars were starting to settle down, the camera manufacturers moved into the 4 million pixel battlefield. Olympus, Sony, Casio, and Toshiba are already on board, and now there's Canon too, with their PowerShot G2 ($999).

The G2 is a new 4.0 Megapixel update to the very popular PowerShot G1, which is still one of the most popular reviews on this site. The new features on the G2, besides the new CCD, include:

  • Bigger grip
  • Champagne gold body
  • Better color accuracy (via RGB filter)
  • Noise has been reduced
  • New 3-point focusing
  • New evaluative/matrix metering
  • CP-10 card photo printer support
  • New vivid color mode

And more, as I'll describe later.

Another change to the G2 is something that most manufacturers will start doing soon: referring to the Megapixel rating in terms of the number of effective pixels, rather than actual pixels on the CCD. So while the G2 has 4.13 million effective pixels, it only uses 4 million of them, thus the 4.0MP designation.

How does the G2 compare to the other 4MP cameras I've tested so far? I'm not going to tell you now -- read on!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot G2 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 Mpixel Canon PowerShot G2 camera
  • 32MB CompactFlash card
  • BP-511 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • AC Adapter
  • Wireless remote control
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE, Canon Digital Camera Solutions, and drivers
  • 148 page manual (printed), plus software manual

First, a big thank you to Canon for leading the way on bundled memory cards! Unlike some other manufacturers who are including 8MB cards with their 4 Megapixel cameras, Canon gives you a 32MB card right in the box! Naturally, if you're going to be out shooting a lot of photos, you're going to need a larger card, but this is a great start.

The PowerShot G2 includes the same BP-511 rechargeable battery that came with the G1. Canon claims that it can last about 5 hours, or 400-1000 photos, depending on usage of course.

To recharge the battery, you just plug the AC adapter into the side of the camera. It takes around 80 minutes to fully recharge the BP-511.

I'm not a big fan of proprietary batteries, however. For one, they're expensive. Secondly, imagine you're on a trip somewhere (say, Disneyland), and your battery dies. You're out of luck. However, if you had a camera that uses AA batteries you could buy a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the day. Many people won't agree with my logic, but that's my argument.

Another nice feature you'll find in the box is the WL-DC100 remote control, which also came with the G1. You can use it in record and playback mode (where it is most useful).

Canon includes a lens cap and tether to protect the lens of the G2.

There are tons of accessories available for the PowerShot G2. That includes flashes, conversion lenses, cases, and battery chargers. The compatible flashes that Canon sells are the Speedlite 220EX, 380EX, 420EX, and 550EX. In addition, the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX is supported (you'll need to get an adapter for it first). Conversion lens options include wide, telephoto, and macro lenses.

The G2 also works with the Canon CP-10 card photo printer (see our review) -- you just hook the camera to the printer and away you go.


A good, but not perfect panorama (4 shots), made with PhotoStitch. Due to the funny angles, this one is tough to put together.

Canon's included software has always been my favorite (which isn't hard, if you've seen some of the other software out there). I'm a big fan of the PhotoStitch software, which I use for making panoramas for many digital cameras (not just Canon's). If you want a more "hard core" photo editing suite, Canon includes a limited edition of Adobe Photoshop 5.0.

Another handy program is RemoteCapture, which lets your computer control the camera via the USB cable. Just be sure to plug in the AC adapter!

I tested the G2 on Mac OS X 10.0.4 and it loaded the ImageBrowser software (in Classic) when I plugged in the camera.

I also like the manuals produced by Canon -- they're definitely better than average. They have clear diagrams and not a lot of fine print.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot G2's body is exactly the same as its predecessor, except for the new "champagne gold" color. The G2's body is a mix of high grade plastic and metal, and it feels very solid. It has a slightly bigger grip than the G1, which allows for one-handed operation if you'd like.

The G2 isn't large, but you probably won't be stuffing it in your pocket either. It's a bit on the heavy side, but not too heavy.

The dimensions of the G2 are 4.8 x 3.0 x 2.5 inches (W x H x D) and it weighs 425 grams empty. That makes it just slightly larger and heavier than the G1.

Let's being our tour of the PowerShot G2, beginning with the front of the camera.

The G2 and the G1 share the same F2.0-F2.5 Canon zoom lens. And those aren't the only cameras that use this lens: I've seen it on cameras from Casio, Epson, Toshiba, and maybe even Sony.

The lens has a focal range of 7 - 21 mm, which is equivalent to 34 - 102 mm. To add conversion lenses, you remove the ring around the lens, which has 58 mm threads, attach the lens adapter, and finally the new lens.

The G2's flash has a working range of 0.7 - 4.5 m in wide-angle, and 0.7 - 3.6 m in telephoto. Flash strength is adjustable via the menu system. If you want even more flash power, consider an external flash, which attaches to the hot shoe that you'll see in a minute.

Other items on the front of the camera include an AF illuminator (for low-light focusing) and a microphone.

One of the G1 and G2's trademark features is its swiveling LCD display. In the photo above, you can see some of the ways you can use (or not use) the LCD. When you use the top position, the image on the LCD will be mirrored so you won't be upside-down!

The LCD is 1.8", and is of excellent quality - it's bright and fluid. You can choose between two brightness settings via the menu system.

Here's a closer look at the back of the G2. I've already discussed the LCD, but will add that when it's folded out to the side like in the photo above, you won't have to worry about nose smudges!

The optical viewfinder covers 84% of the field, and has diopter correction for those of us with glasses. It's decent-sized, and has crosshairs in the middle.

The button to the left changes the flash setting (record) and enters thumbnail mode (playback). The two buttons to the right control spot metering (record) and macro (record) / jump (playback).

The three buttons to the right of the LCD storage bay have many functions. From top to bottom:

  • Exposure Lock [rec] / Delete photo [play]
  • Multifunction button [rec]
    • Exposure compensation
    • White balance
    • Auto exposure bracketing
    • Flash exposure (output) compensation
  • Display [rec/play] - toggles info on LCD

Here are some more details about some of those options.

Exposure compensation is the usual -2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV steps. The flash exposure settings have the same range.


AE bracketing

AE bracketing lets you use that same range to take three consecutive photos with different EV settings. You can view the setting on the LCD, or on the info display on the top of the G2.

The G2 has many choices for white balance, including a manual mode. Here's the full list:

  • Auto
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Tungsten
  • Fluorescent (warm-white, cool-white types)
  • Fluorescent H (daylight type)
  • Flash
  • Custom (shoot whatever you want to be white)

Getting back to the controls on the back of the camera now. The four-way switch at the top right of the photo is for changing settings in the menu system (and other things). The buttons below are for invoking and using the menu buttons.


AF frame selection

In addition, the set button doubles as the button for selecting an auto focus frame. This feature lets you choose one of three areas in the frame for the camera to focus on. This is useful for situations where the subject you want to focus on is not in the center of the frame.

The top of the PowerShot G2 is pretty busy. Here are descriptions of the items up here.

The LCD info display contains a lot of useful information. In the shot here, it shows:

  • Shutter speed (125)
  • Large sized image
  • Single shot mode
  • Fine quality
  • No flash
  • Full battery
  • 34 shots remaining
  • Cloudy white balance
  • No exposure compensation

To the right of that is the hot shoe. I've already mentioned the compatible flashes earlier in the review.

To the right of that is the mode wheel, with the power switch below that. The power switch moves between Off, Record, and Playback. The mode wheel above it has the following choices:

  • Full Manual - you pick shutter speed and aperture
  • Av (aperture priority) - you pick aperture, camera picks appropriate shutter speed
  • Tv (shutter priority) - you pick shutter speed, camera picks appropriate aperture
  • Program - camera picks exposure settings but you can change everything else
  • Auto - camera chooses all settings
  • Pan Focus - fixes the focus and locks the camera at wide-angle. Good when you want the shot quickly but don't know where the subject will be.
  • Portrait - sharp subject, soft background
  • Landscape
  • Night Scene - for illuminating human subjects against dark backgrounds
  • Color Effect - choose from vivid, neutral, sepia, and monochrome color.
  • Stitch Assist - helps you make panoramas like the one earlier in the review
  • Movie mode - more on this later

In shutter priority mode, you can choose from a range of 15 - 1/1000 sec. If you take shots with shutter speeds slower than 1.3 seconds, the camera will run a special noise reduction filter. This will increase recording time, of course.

In aperture priority mode, the range is F2.0 to F8.0, with many stops in between. The slowest shutter speed that is used in this mode is 1/60 sec.

The full manual mode has the same range. In order to do a 1/1000 sec shot, you must set the aperture to F8.0.

The button directly to the right of the mode wheel turns on continuous shooting, self-timer, and remote control (in that order). There are two choices for continuous shooting - regular, and high speed. In regular mode, you will shoot at 1.5 frames/sec until you fill up the buffer memory. In high speed mode, they'll be recorded at 2.5 frames/second, and therefore the buffer will fill up faster. At the Large/Fine setting, I was able to shoot 14 consecutive shots at normal speed, and 8 at high speed.

The last item of note on the top of the camera is the zoom control / shutter release button. The zoom is a little slow for my taste but it's not much worse than any other camera out there. The shutter release button has the right amount of "play", which makes photo taking easy.

Here is one side of the G2, where you'll find the Manual Focus button as well as the I/O ports.


Manual focus: see the zoomed area in the center, and the focus bar on the right

First, let's look at the manual focus feature. By holding down this button, you can use the LCD to manually focus the photo. The G2 will blow up an area of the photo so you can see if it's in focus (I still had trouble), which is a feature also found on the Fuji FinePix 4900 and 6900. One complaint about the manual focus feature on the G1 was that they didn't show any units on the little bar on the LCD. As you can see in the screen shot, that's a thing of the past on the G2.

Onto the I/O ports now. The A/V out port is out in the open, while two others are hidden under a sturdy rubber cover. Those include digital (for USB and Direct Print) as well as DC in, for charging the battery.

Here's the other side of the G2, with the included 32MB CompactFlash card shown. This is a Type II slot, and the IBM Microdrive is fully supported. The CF Type II feature really sets the G2 apart from the other 4MP cameras I've tested so far. The only concern I had here was that the door covering the slot seemed a little flimsy.

Finally, here's the bottom of the G2, with the BP-511 battery shown. Down here you'll find a metal tripod mount, and the battery compartment.

Using the Canon PowerShot G2

Record Mode

The PowerShot G2 takes about four seconds to extend the lens and "boot up" before you can start taking pictures. Canon seems to be joining the "flashy club", by playing a little sound and showing a startup screen when you turn it on.

When you depress the shutter release button halfway, focus lock can occur almost instantly, or sometimes in a second, depending on what your subject is. There is no noticeable shutter lag when you fully press the button.

Shot-to-shot speed is very good for a 4MP camera -- you'll wait just less than 3 seconds at Large/Normal. Speaking of which, let's take a look at the resolution and quality choices on the G2.

Resolution Quality # Images on 32MB card
Large
(2272 x 1704)
RAW 10
Superfine 14
Fine 27
Normal 54
Medium 1
(1600 x 1200)
Superfine 30
Fine 54
Normal 108
Medium 2
(1024 x 768)
Superfine 53
Fine 94
Normal 174
Small
(640 x 480)
Superfine 120
Fine 196
Normal 337

You can imagine how many photos you can hold on a 1gb Microdrive!

What is RAW mode? Simply put, it is the "raw" data from the CCD, after a photo is taken. The G2 doesn't have a TIFF mode -- instead, it uses this RAW mode. To convert a RAW file into a TIFF or JPEG, you'll have to run it through Canon's software on your computer first. The big advantage of RAW mode over TIFF is file size: you'll notice that you can store 10 RAW files on the 32MB card -- you could probably get 3, maybe 4 TIFFs on the same card. Smaller file size also means less waiting for the camera to write the file to the memory card -- it's not much worse than a JPEG on the G2. Canon includes a RAW Image Converter software application to do batch RAW to TIFF conversions.

While it may not have as many manual controls as the Nikon Coolpix 995, the PowerShot G2 is no slouch. It's also a lot easier than the 995 to figure out! I've already mentioned many options already, but here are the rest of them, found in the G2's menu system:

  • Resolution - see chart above for sizes
  • Compression - see chart
  • File Format (JPEG, RAW)
  • ISO Speed (50, 100, 200, 400, Auto)
  • Digital zoom (on/off)
  • AF Mode (continuous, single)
  • Light Metering (Evaluative, Center-weighted) - spot metering is available via the button on the back of the camera
  • Continuous shooting (Normal, High speed)
  • Review (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec) - how long image is shown on LCD after it's taken
  • File Number Reset (on/off)
  • Contrast (-, 0, +)
  • Sharpness (-, 0, +)
  • Saturation (-, 0, +)

There are also the usual setup items available, which include date/time, beep, LCD brightness, and more.

On the PowerShot G1, a lot of "noise" was made about the ISO settings, if you pardon the pun. People noticed that things got awfully noisy when the ISO went above 100, or in Auto mode. Below, I've provided test photos from the G2, at different ISO settings.


ISO Auto


ISO 50


ISO 100


ISO 200

ISO 400

As you can see, things start looking a bit grainy above ISO 100. The Auto and ISO 50 settings seem better.

The PowerShot G2 passed our macro test with flying colors (if you will). The color was accurate, in a room where things usually come out yellow. The subject was also sharp, and there was no noise to be seen. The range in macro mode is 6 - 70 cm at full wide-angle, and 20 - 70 cm at full telephoto.

The G2 is also very good at low light shooting, as you can see from the shot above. Unfortunately, it was foggy so the picture isn't as clear as I would like (and I may reshoot it in a few days), but I think you can still get a good idea. The above was taken in shutter priority mode for 4 seconds. As I mentioned earlier, the G2 has a noise reduction system (adapted from the pro EOS-D30, I'm told) that kicks in at slower speeds -- and there isn't much noise in this shot.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the photo quality from the PowerShot G2. If you don't believe me, check out the photo gallery and judge for yourself.

Movie Mode

The PowerShot G2's movie mode is pretty good. You can record at 15 frames/sec at 320 x 240, or 160 x 120. Sound is recorded as well.

At the larger size, you can record clips as long as 30 seconds. At the small size, up to 120 seconds can be saved.

Since the microphone is right next to the zoom lens, you cannot use the optical zoom during filming, since you'd pick up the lens noise. You can save a total of about 124 seconds worth of 320 x 240 video on the included 32MB card.

Here is a very unexciting movie for you to see. I plan on taking a better one over the weekend.


Click to play movie (AVI format, 1.2MB)

Playback Mode

The PowerShot G2's playback mode doesn't have a lot of gimmicks. But the basic features it has are done well. That includes slide shows, image protection, image rotation, and DPOF print marking.

The zoom & scroll feature is best on Canon cameras, in my opinion. This allows you to zoom in 2X or 4X into your photo, and then move around in the zoomed in area. The scrolling is in real-time and very cool.

Moving between images is very quick as well -- less than a second between high res thumbnails.


Basic Info

Detailed Info + Histogram

If you want information about your photo, the G2 delivers. You can find out almost everything about your photo, as you can see above. There is also a histogram display.

If you have a Canon CP-10 photo printer, you use playback mode to control it.

How Does it Compare?

I've tested three 4 Megapixel cameras (under $1000) so far: the Sony DSC-S85, Toshiba PDR-M81, and now the PowerShot G2. Of the three, the G2 is my favorite. From the useful swiveling LCD to the manual controls to support for external flashes and lenses, the G2 is an excellent choice. Of course, if you don't want to bother with all those manual controls, just put it in Auto mode and the G2 does all the work.

It edges out the Sony due to its support for CompactFlash Type II and the IBM Microdrive, which has a vastly higher capacity that the Memory Stick. The photo quality has also proved to be top notch -- and I plan on taking a lot more photos to make sure. Downsides? The main one for me is the price -- $1,000 is a lot of money for many people. Overall, the G2 is a great pick for the hard core digital camera enthusiast -- or someone who wants to print on large paper.

What I liked:

  • Excellent photo quality
  • Great bundle - 32MB card, remote control included
  • Many manual controls
  • Useful swiveling LCD display
  • Support for CompactFlash Type II cards
  • RAW mode - uncompressed images, much smaller than Tiffs
  • Support for external lenses, filters, and flashes
  • Lots of info about your photos in playback mode

What I didn't care for:

  • Proprietary battery
  • No optical zoom in movie mode
  • A bit pricey

Other 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Casio QV-4000, Olympus C-4040Z and E-10, Sony DSC-S85, and the Toshiba PDR-M81. Although it's not a true 4MP camera, don't write off the Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom either.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the PowerShot G2 and its competitors before you buy, assuming you can find them!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out PowerShot G2 reviews from the Imaging Resource Page, Steve's Digicams, and Digital Photography Review.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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