Review: Canon PowerShot G3
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 15, 2002
December 7, 2002
review has been completed using a production model camera. Product
shots have been updated where necessary, and all sample photos are
from this shipping model.
After a bit
of a delay, I finally got a production model PowerShot G3! Judging
by all the e-mails asking me what was taking so long, I can tell
that there is a whole lot of interest in this camera!
PowerShot G3 ($799) is an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary
upgrade of the PowerShot G2 (see
our review). But Canon has added more than just bells and whistles.
Here's what's new with the G3:
DIGIC image processor - noticeable improvement in photo quality,
plus faster performance
Totally new 4X zoom lens
FlexiZone auto focus
records up to 3 minutes of video with sound; editable in playback
neutral density filter
Support for wireless flashes
probably confused by that last item. iSAPS stands for Intelligent
Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space (what a mouthful). The
system is a database of photographic data, which has been accumulated
by Canon over the last 60 years. When you press the shutter release
button halfway, the G3 compares the current scene to the scenes
in the database, and choose the best settings for that situation.
11/14/02: According to Canon, one of the key advantages
to this new feature is a reduction in shutter lag time compared
to earlier models like the G2. The G3 spends less time hunting for
focus because it already "knows" how far the subject should
be based on statistical analysis of other photos shot at the same
focal length and light level. Pretty slick!
that's the iSAPS system -- now learn about the other new G3 features
in our review!
in the Box?
PowerShot G3 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.0 Mpixel Canon PowerShot G3 camera
Li-ion rechargeable battery
Adapter / battery charger
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and drivers
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
PowerShot G3 is ready to go right out of the box. The only minor
quibble I have is the 32MB memory card. Sure it's a good start,
but you should plan on buying a much larger card right away if you
want to get serious about digital photography.
G3 uses the same BP-511 Li-ion battery as its predecessor. The battery
has a very respectable 8.1 Watt/hours of power. For the sake of
comparison, the EN-EL1 battery used by the Nikon Coolpix 5700 is
5.0 Wh and the NP-FM50 on the Sony DSC-F717 is 8.5 Wh. Canon says
that you'll shoot about 750 pictures per charge with 50% LCD usage;
you can stay in playback mode for 6 hours on a single charge.
it's time to recharge, you just plug in the included AC adapter.
This same AC adapter can be used to power the camera in the studio,
or if you're just transferring photos to your computer. Charging
the battery takes about 80 minutes.
downside with proprietary batteries like the BP-511 is the cost
($60) and the fact that you can't use standard batteries (as you
can with AA-based cameras) if you're in a bind. That's why I usually
prefer cameras that use AA batteries.
G3 includes a lens cap and strap to protect your lens. I must say
I'm happy that everyone seems to be including both the cap and retaining
strap these days.
nice surprise is the inclusion of the WL-DC100 wireless remote control
(shown above). You can control the camera in both record and playback
mode with this device.
G3 is a fairly large camera
the PowerShot G2, the G3 is an accessory lovers dream. There are
even some new options available. In the lens department, you can
use the WC-DC58N wide-angle converter ($199) to shorten the focal
length to 24mm, or the TC-DC58N tele converter ($129) to bring the
top end up to 240mm. I tried both of these and was impressed with
the results. A 58mm close-up lens ($125) is also available. Note
that the LA-DC58B conversion lens adapter ($24) is required in order
to use these.
G3 is compatible not only with EX-series Speedlites, but also the
Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX ($750), Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX ($1100),
and the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 ($340).
accessories include a soft carrying case and dual battery charger
w/car power adapter ($180).
G3 can also print directly to Canon's CP-10, CP-100, S830D, and
S530D photo printers.
includes their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software, as well
as ArcSoft's Camera Suite, with the G3. The main programs in the
DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser (Mac/PC names),
PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product), and Remote Capture
(which lets your Mac or PC control the camera over the USB connection).
Canon's software continues to be head and shoulders over the competition.
Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), all the software is Mac
OS X native.
is also one of the best at creating camera manuals. Unlike the "VCR
manuals" produced by some other manufacturers, Canon's manuals
are well laid-out and easy to read. There are thick, printed manuals
for both the camera and the software.
most obvious differences between the PowerShot G2 and G3 can be
seen on the front of the camera.
you can see, some things have been moved around between the two
models. The G3 has a slightly different grip, and a command dial
sits atop it. The G3 uses a new light guide flash which promises
better flash exposure. And then, there is the new lens, which I'll
cover in a second.
G3 is a mid-sized camera which probably won't be in any of your
pockets. The body is a bit more plastic than the G2, but it's "high
grade" and seems tough enough.
dimensions of the G3 are 4.8 x 3.0 x 2.5, and it weighs 410 grams
empty. The G2 has the same dimensions but weighs 15 grams more.
PowerShot G1, G2, and now the G3 are famous for their rotating LCD.
You can use the positions shown above and further down the page,
and anywhere in between. You can also flip the LCD around so the
subject can see what's going on -- and the image is oriented correctly.
all that out of the way, let's begin our tour of the G3 now.
I've already mentioned, the G3 has a totally new 4X, F2.0-F3.0 optical
zoom lens. The lens has a focal range of 7.2 - 28.8 mm, which is
equivalent to 35 - 140 mm.
inside that lens is a neutral density filter. I'll have more on
why you'd want one later in the review.
lens itself isn't threaded, but you can remove the plastic ring
around it by pushing the button just left of the "PowerShot
G3" label. See:
11/14/02: This is how you install those conversion lenses
(it's a "bayonet-style" system). You can use 58mm filters
with the G3, but you'll need the conversion lens adapter to do so.
our tour now: just above the lens is the autofocus (AF) illuminator.
This bright light helps the camera focus in low light situations.
It should be on every camera, in my opinion.
the right of that is the new light guide flash. This design prevents
the wasting of flash power that is common on "regular"
flashes. The light guide flash is much more focused than a normal
flash. The working range of the flash is 0.7 - 5.0 m at wide-angle,
and 0.7 - 4 m at telephoto. As I've mentioned already, the G3 supports
all kinds of add-on flashes.
the flash, you can see a few holes for the microphone.
is the back of the G3, with the LCD in the traditional location.
This 1.8" LCD is very good, with a bright, sharp, and fluid
image. It is tough to see outdoors in bright light, though, which
is typical. It's nice to see that Canon hasn't compromised on LCD
size on their high end cameras, unlike some other manufacturers
(here's a hint: it's "nokin" spelled backwards).
the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is good-sized. It shows
83% of the frame, according to Canon. I do have two complaints about
it, though. The first is that at the 1X-2X zoom settings, you have
a great view of the lens barrel. As you zoom, it disappears. My
other complaint is about the diopter correction knob. While I'm
very happy that it's there (being someone with poor vision), I found
the knob hard to turn while looking through the viewfinder (when
you're trying to adjust the focus).
the left of the viewfinder are three buttons. They have different
functions depending on which mode you're in, record or playback.
From left to right:
mode (Auto, forced, flash off) - redeye reduction is turned
on via the menu
(Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- quickly moves ahead in playback mode
the other side of the optical viewfinder is a button for manual
focus and voice annotations (in record and playback mode, respectively).
Like some other higher end cameras, the G3 can enlarge the center
of the frame in manual focus mode, so you can make sure you're subject
is in focus. A little gauge on the LCD shows you the current focus
distance. You use the command dial (on top of the grip) to focus.
The "Func" menu
three buttons to the right of the LCD are for (from top to bottom):
speed (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
effect (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black
& white, custom effect)
exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) /
flash output (1 - 3)
/ quality (see chart later in review)
- turns LCD and info on it on/off
I listed above should be fairly self-explanatory. The two things
I wanted to cover in more detail are the bracketing and photo effect
G3 can do two types of bracketing: exposure and focus. In exposure
bracketing, you pick a median value and choose the range. For example,
I could do -1/3EV, 0, and +1/3EV. It's done graphically on the LCD
and it makes sense. AE bracketing is a good way to ensure that your
photos are properly exposed. Focus bracketing is the same idea:
you choose a median value and the camera focuses a littler further
away and a little closer. It makes more sense if you try it yourself.
flash exposure compensation feature varies, depending on what mode
you're in. Normally, it'll be just like regular exposure compensation.
In manual mode (or if flash adjust is set to "manual",
you can adjust the flash power in three steps: 1/3, 2/3 or full
strength. If you've got an external flash hooked up, you have more
control: 1/16 to full strength in 1/3 steps.
11/14/02: The G2 had photo effects but now there is a new
one: custom effect. Here you can save brightness, contrast, and
saturation into this spot, for easy retrieval. Also, unlike on the
G2, you can use photo effects in any mode, including movie mode.
continue our tour now. Over on the far right is the four-way switch,
with two buttons below it. The four-way switch is used, of course,
for menu navigation. It's also used for setting the exposure compensation
(-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments) and white balance. The white
balance settings have been expanded as well, since the G2. The choices
right, you can now have two custom white balance settings stored
for easy retrieval.
the four-way switch are buttons used for the menus -- most of the
time. That "set" button is also used for activating Canon's
"FlexiZone" focusing system. When this is activated, you
can move the focus point anywhere on the frame using the LCD and
the four-way switch. There is a border of about 1/4" on the
LCD where you cannot go. This is nicer than the system used by Sony
(for example), which limits the number of points you can use --
here it's virtually unlimited.
we're done with the back of the camera -- so let's move on to the
there are even more buttons up here. I will work my way from left
G3 has a large, information-packed LCD display up here. I'm not
going to read off what it says (that's what the manual is for),
but you can get a pretty good idea by looking at it. The one downside
is that it's not backlit -- maybe in the PowerShot G4.
the right of that is the hot shoe. I've covered the flash options
earlier in the review. The G3 works with any EX-series Speedlite
plus the macro ring lights that I covered back in the first section.
I assume it will work -- to some extent at least -- with non-Canon
right of the hot shoe you'll find the button for continuous shooting
mode and the self-timer/remote control, plus the power/mode switch.
final three items up here are the shutter release button, zoom controller,
and mode wheel. The zoom controller takes the camera from wide to
tele in 2.5 seconds, smoothly and quietly. The mode wheel has a
load of options, including some new ones. Here they are:
on this later
help making panoramic shots
portraits, believe it or not
chooses shutter speed and aperture. All menu options are unlocked.
choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the correct aperture.
You can choose from a number of speeds ranging from 15 sec -
1/2000 sec. The 1/1600 and 1/2000 shutter speeds are only available
above F4.0 at wide-angle and F5.6 at telephoto.
pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate shutter
speed. The choices range from F2 - F8 and will vary a bit depending
on the focal range used.
pick the aperture and shutter speed. See above for values.
saved settings, easy to access. 1 of 2
you can see, you can now store two sets of custom settings right
on the mode wheel. You do so via an option in the menu.
G3 can be used as a pure point-and-shoot camera or as an advanced,
manually controlled one.
is the side of the PowerShot G3. Under a plastic cover, you will
find I/O ports for DC in (for the AC adapter), digital out (USB),
and A/V out.
that is the speaker. Okay, next side!
you can see the CompactFlash slot, which is behind a fairly sturdy
plastic door. Like on the G2, this is a Type II slot, and the IBM
Microdrive is fully compatible.
included memory card is also shown.
here is the bottom of the camera. You can see the metal tripod mount
as well as the battery compartment. That's the BP-511 battery over
on the right.
the Canon PowerShot G3
G3 takes just under four seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures. If you desire, you
can change the startup screen and sounds, via the menu system.
you depress the shutter release halfway, the camera generally focuses
quickly -- well under a second. It may take a little longer if the
AF-assist lamp is used. The G3 did a good job focusing on the tougher
subjects around the house. When you press the shutter release fully,
the picture is taken promptly.
a picture is taken, you have two options. Press the */Delete button,
and you can delete the photo as it is being written to memory. Press
the Func. button, and you'll be able to save the image in RAW format
instead of JPEG. I have no idea when you'd ever need this feature.
speed is excellent. You will wait for just under 2 seconds before
you can take another shot, even in RAW mode (assuming the post-shot
review is turned off). RAW mode, by the way, is a format where the
image is stored as uncompressed data from the CCD. The files are
larger than normal JPEGs, but smaller than TIFF files (which the
G3 doesn't write). Information about exposure and white balance
are stored in the file, so you can tweak them later on the computer.
That's also the point where you can save RAW files in other formats.
11/21/02: One thing missing on the G3 compared to the competition
is a live histogram in record mode. You can see one right after
you take the picture by pressing the Display button, but not while
you are composing a shot.
a look at the image size and quality choices available on the G3:
Images on 32MB card
(2272 x 1704)
(1600 x 1200)
(1024 x 768)
(640 x 480)
are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering
is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.
onto the menus!
the appearance of the menus has not changed since the G2, the items
in the menus have. Here's a look at the easy to navigate record
sync (1st, 2nd-curtain)
shooting (Standard, high speed)
(2, 10 sec)
delay (0, 2, 10 sec) - delay before picture is taken when remote
control is used
AE point (Center, AF point) - what part of the frame is used to
judge exposure while in spot metering mode
zoom (on/off) - turns on zoom feature in manual focus mode
mode (Continuous, single) - whether camera is always focusing
or only when the shutter release is pressed halfway
zoom (on/off) - using this will reduce photo quality
(Off, 2-10 sec)
- see below
settings (to C1 and C2 on mode wheel)
for some further explanation on some of those.
are two speeds for continuous shooting: standard and high. The shooting
rate is 1.5 frames/second at the standard setting, and 2.5 frames/second
at the high speed setting. In high speed mode, you cannot review
the images on the LCD after they are taken; at normal speed you
can. I was able to take 13 shots in a row in standard mode, and
14 shots in high speed mode (both at the Large/Superfine setting).
brings us to the neutral density (ND) filter. The ND filter is a
light reducing filter, which allows you to use slower shutter speeds
or larger apertures, which wouldn't be otherwise possible due to
bright light. The ND filter subdues all colors uniformly. This is
a feature you don't see everyday on a digital camera.
there's the Intervalometer (gotta love that word). This tool will
let you set up the G3 for time lapse photography. You choose the
interval between shots (1-60 minutes) and the total number of shots
to be taken (2-100). Using the AC adapter is strongly recommended.
is also a setup menu on the G3, so let's take a look at that. Here
are the interesting items:
brightness (Normal, bright)
volumes (for shutter, playback, startup, operation, self-timer)
number reset (on/off)
rotate (on/off) - rotate your images automatically in playback
units (metric, imperial)
(English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands, Dansk, Suomi,
Italiano, Norsk, Svenska, Español, Chinese, Japanese)
system (NTSC, PAL)
(Normal, PTP) - this is for USB
you so desire, you can customize the startup screen, beeps, and
phony shutter sounds that your G3 makes. If these bother you, you
can also turn them off.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
very pleased with how the macro test shot turned out. The colors
look great -- accurate and not too saturated. Aside from the slightly
out of focus nose, the subject (3 inches tall) is sharp. The focal
range in macro mode is 5 - 50 cm at wide-angle, and 15 - 50 cm at
telephoto. The optional close-up lens will get you as close as 10
cm (only at the telephoto end).
the way, the recordable area in macro mode is 74 x 54 mm at wide-angle,
and 55 x 41 mm at telephoto. You're welcome, Andy <grin>.
G3 did a pretty good job with the night test shot. This exposure
was 10 seconds, and it really captured all the lights and reflections
that you'd see in person. There is some noise, but I don't think
it's out of control or anything, especially considering the length
of the exposure. Though it's not easy to see in this shot, the G3
had some strange chromatic aberrations on certain lights. I have
a better example of this shortly.
I first took the redeye test shot, I was kind of disappointed in
the results. So I set it up again and re-did it. Same thing. I tried
it again (using the same setup that I always use) and got the same
result. Even with redeye reduction, there's noticeable redeye. Of
course this can be removed in software, but I'd prefer not to see
it this pronounced in the original shot.
12/5/02: Several people wrote in saying they had very little
trouble with redeye, especially if the subject was looking right
at the camera. My redeye test isn't terribly scientific, and as
they say, your mileage may vary.
a rather strange phenomenon that I noticed in just a few pictures
I took with the G3. One was the night shot, and the other was the
interior of the church (see
I almost expect to get chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) on
things like windows with bright light filtering through them. This
isn't what bothered me -- I almost expect to see this on a digital
does. All of the lights in the church (I didn't inspect them to
see what kind they were) had these purple halos around them. You
can also see this a bit in the night shot. I had another night shot
that I took (a more zoomed-in version of the shot above, not available
online) that exhibited more of this phenomenon than the one posted
here. These were the only times that I noticed this problem. In
other photos, chromatic aberrations weren't really an issue. In
fact, I'm not even sure that this is the same thing as the purple
fringing that you usually see (like in the stained glass above).
below added 11/13/02:
After reading some analysis of my tests elsewhere, I decided
to do a few more tests. I headed to San Francisco's City Hall,
a building more spectacular than most state capitals. I did
two separate tests, for noise and chromatic aberrations (purple
first test was to compare noise levels at the four available ISO
settings: 50, 100, 200, and 400. I've cropped the same area in each
of the shots for comparison purposes. The full-size images are also
available. These were all taken in program mode.
was starting to rain, so I had to hurry. The next test I did was
to see the effect of aperture on chromatic aberrations. I cropped
the very top of the dome (the cupola?) in each picture.
you can see, as the F-number went up, the purple went down. Once
I got above F3.5, it was totally gone. As I continued to raise it,
the image became too dark to really be usable (I suppose full manual
mode could've helped there). These were taken in aperture priority
mode at ISO 50, by the way.
from the purple fringing and redeye, I found the G3's photo quality
to be excellent, in terms of color and exposure. I don't think the
G3 is the best in terms of resolution, compared to other cameras.
Have a look at the palm tree and grass in this
shot for an example -- it's not as sharp as one would hope.
Still, the G3's photo quality is some of the best out there... just
not groundbreaking, knock-your-socks-off amazing. I think the Nikon
Coolpix models (even the 4300) and the Sony DSC-F717 produced noticeably
sharper images than the G3.
all means -- check out the photo gallery
and judge the photo quality for yourself.
PowerShot G3 has a newly enhanced movie mode. The resolution is
still 320 x 240 (or 160 x 120), but you can now record for up to
3 minutes per movie (regardless of resolution). Of course the included
32MB card only holds about 2 minutes worth, but if you had a larger
card, you could do 3 mins.
is recorded with the movie, which is saved in AVI format, using
the M-JPEG codec. You can use the photo effect feature in movie
mode, so you can make black and white or sepia movies.
surprisingly, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming. This
is the norm for cameras that record sound with movies.
can edit your movies in playback mode. You can delete unwanted frames
from the first or second half of the movie, and either save it as
a new movie, or overwrite the current one.
sample movie was taken while I was waiting (and waiting) for the
to play movie (4.0MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
playback mode is basically the same as on the PowerShot G2. It doesn't
have a lot of gimmicks, but the basic features it has are implemented
well. That includes slide shows, image protection, thumbnail mode,
image rotation, and DPOF print marking.
zoom & scroll feature is the best on Canon cameras, and it's
even faster on the G3 thanks to the new DIGIC image processor. You
can zoom into your images up to 10X, with many steps in between.
Scrolling around in the enlarged area is very snappy.
between images is very quick as well -- about a second between high
you want information about your photo, the G3 delivers. You can
find out almost everything about your photo, including a histogram.
you have a Canon photo printer, you use playback mode to control
Does it Compare?
Canon PowerShot G3 is one of the finest digital cameras on the market.
It offers robust performance, tons of manual controls, unmatched
system expandability, and excellent photo quality. The DIGIC processor
has made the G3 one of the most responsive cameras I've used. The
playback and movie modes are some of the best out there, as well.
The neutral density filter is a nice bonus, but my guess is that
the average shooter probably won't use it. But it's not a perfect
camera. The redeye and strange (but rare) purple fringing that I
noticed were surprising for a camera of the G3's caliber. The diopter
correction knob was hard to use, and I didn't care for the view
of the lens through the optical viewfinder at wide-angle.
for the million dollar question: is the G3 the best 4 or 5 Megapixel
camera out there? Guess what, I'm not going to answer. I don't think
there is one camera that is best for everyone (I mean that honestly,
not as a cop out). The G3 is definitely a contender that goes up
nicely against cameras from Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony. Do
your research and you (rather than me) can decide what the perfect
camera is for your needs.
I was a PowerShot G2 owner, I probably wouldn't race out and
upgrade. If I was deciding between a G2 and G3, I'd pony up the
for the G3. My main reasons for doing so would be the DIGIC processor
and the 4X zoom lens.
I hope this helped somewhat in your decision making!
photo quality in most situations
expandability in terms of lenses, flashes
zoom a nice change from the usual 3X zooms
movie, playback modes
an AF illuminator lamp
of manual controls
focusing system lets you focus on any area of frame
I didn't care for:
worse than expected (even with repeated tests)
chromatic aberrations (rare, but annoying)
not as sharp as the very best 4/5 Megapixel cameras
correction knob difficult to operate
blocks view from optical viewfinder at wide angles
4 and 5 Megapixel cameras to check out include the Canon
PowerShot S45 (a smaller version of the G3), Fuji
FinePix S602 Zoom (uses 3.3MP SuperCCD), HP
Photosmart 850, Minolta
DiMAGE 7Hi, Nikon Coolpix 4500,
5000, and 5700,
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707,
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the PowerShot G3 and it's competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our PowerShot
a second opinion? How about a third?
another opinion on the G3 from Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.