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DCRP Review: GE G1
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 13, 2006
Last Updated: April 6, 2008

The G1 ($150 street price) is one of the first digital cameras from GE, a company more famous for light bulbs and jet engines than digital cameras. GE isn't actually designing or producing these cameras -- rather, they've licensed their brand to General Imaging, a new company founded by a former Olympus executive.

The G1 is an ultra-compact camera featuring a 3X optical zoom lens, 2.5" LCD display, point-and-shoot operation, in-camera panorama stitching, and more. It finds itself in one of the most competitive arenas in digital photography, so the G1 has its work cut out for it.

How does the G1 perform? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The G1 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

Like most cameras these days, the G1 has built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. The G1 has 26MB of onboard memory, which holds just six photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a memory card right away, unless you have one laying around. The G1 accepts SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards, and I'd suggest a 1GB card as a good starter size. A high speed card is recommended, especially if you'll be using the continuous shooting mode a lot.

The G1 uses the GB-20 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. This compact battery packs just 2.8 Wh of energy, which is about as low as you'll find these days. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD1000 210 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z77 190 shots
Fuji FinePix F40fd 300 shots
GE G1 200 shots
HP Photosmart R742 150 shots
Kodak EasyShare M853 300 shots
Nikon Coolpix S51 150 shots
Olympus FE-280 200 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 350 shots
Pentax Optio M40 220 shots
Samsung L83t 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 380 shots

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturer

Thanks to strong numbers from Fuji, Kodak, Panasonic, and especially Sony, the GE G1's battery life falls below the group average of 240. Therefore, picking up an extra battery is probably not a bad idea.

Speaking of extra batteries, I should remind you about my two usual complaints about the proprietary batteries used by the G1 and cameras like it. They're typically very expensive, and I can't find the GB-20 for sale anywhere. Second, when the rechargeable battery dies, you can't replace it with something "off-the-shelf, as you could on an AA-based camera. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to find a camera this small that uses anything else.

When it's time to charge the camera's battery, simply insert it into the included external charger. It takes a whopping four hours for the battery to be fully charged, which is amazing, considering how weak the battery is. Do note that this isn't one of those "plug it right into the wall" kind of chargers -- you must use a power cord.

As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the G1, so there's no lens cap to worry about.

With the exception of extra batteries (which I cannot find for sale anywhere), there aren't any accessories available for the GE G1. Not even an AC adapter!


PhotoImpression 5 for Mac


PhotoImpression 6 for Windows

GE includes ArcSoft's PhotoImpression software with the G1. The Windows version is several years ahead of the Mac version, which I believe ArcSoft has stopped developing. Thus, the Windows version is a little more capable, though the Mac version is no slouch either (though it's interface is awkward).

The software can import photos from the camera, and then organize, edit, print, and e-mail them. You can view the photos either one at a time or in a thumbnail view, with the Windows version adding a calendar view.


Editing in PhotoImpression for Mac


The Easy-Fix Wizard in PhotoImpression 6 for Windows

PhotoImpression has a full set of editing tools. You can enhance photos, resize and crop them, remove redeye, adjust contrast/exposure/color/sharpness, and more. The Windows version has a handy Easy-Fix Wizard which lets you do everything in one shot (no pun intended).

The documentation included with the G1 is good, but not great. You get a "quick start guide" to get you up and running, plus a full manual that covers everything else. The manual is well-written, with a large typeface, useful diagrams, and a minimum of small print. It doesn't go in-depth at all when describing camera features, though.

Look and Feel

The GE G1 is an ultra-compact camera made of a mix of metal and plastic. Despite having a lot of metal on it (which includes, I'm told, the front panel), the G1 feels somewhat "cheap" in your hands. The camera be be operated with one hand, though your thumb sits on the mode dial, and the zoom controller is very awkward and uncomfortable.

This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise -- the G1 comes in two colors, silver and black. I've seen evidence of a blue model as well, but I can't find it for sale anywhere.

Now, let's take a look at how the G1 compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD1000 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.8 in. 5.7 cu in. 125 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z77 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 118 g
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 153 g
GE G1 3.6 x 2.5 x 0.8 in. 7.2 cu in. 115 g
HP Photosmart R742 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu in. 136 g
Kodak EasyShare M853 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 145 g
Nikon Coolpix S51 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.6 cu in. 125 g
Olympus FE-280 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.5 cu in. 108 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 125 g
Pentax Optio M40 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.7 in. 6.1 cu in. 116 g
Samsung L83t 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.7 in. 6 cu in. 110 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 116 g

While it's not the smallest camera of the bunch, the GE G1 is one of the lightest. It fits easily into your smallest pocket, so it can truly go anywhere.

Alright, let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?

The G1 has a fairly standard lens for a camera in this class. Its an F3.5-4.3, 3X optical zoom lens that uses folded optics design to keep the camera body thin. Light hits the front element and passes through a prism, continuing to the left (toward the flash) where it eventually hits the CCD sensor. The lens has a focal length of 6.4 - 19.2 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. As you might imagine, conversion lenses are not supported on the G1.

To the immediate left of the lens is the G1's built-in flash. GE doesn't provide the flash range using Auto ISO (instead using ISO 400), so it's not directly comparable to other cameras. Nevertheless, they list the range as 0.3 - 3.4 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 3.0 m at telephoto, which is fairly typical for a camera in this class.

Jumping back to right side of the lens, we find the AF-assist lamp, which also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer. The camera uses the AF-assist lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations. I found it quite easy to accidentally block the lamp with your fingers, so be careful.

The main event on the back of the G1 is its 2.5" LCD display. The resolution of the screen isn't very good (153,600 pixels), and it really shows when you use the camera. Outdoors the screen visibility isn't great -- the scene is washed out, and "blooming" is a problem as well (purple streaks appear on the LCD when the camera locks focus). Low light viewing was somewhat better, as the screen brightens automatically in low light situations, though not as much as I would've liked.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the G1 -- which is fairly common on cameras in this class. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you: some people like'em, while others could care less.

The first thing to talk about on the right side of the LCD is the mode dial. The dial, which feels really cheap and plasticky, has these options (going counterclockwise):

Option Function
Auto record mode Point-and-shoot, most menu options locked up
Manual record mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
Panorama mode Line up three photos side-by-side and then stitch them into a single panoramic shot; see below for more
Portrait mode For people pictures
Scene mode You pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from sport, children, indoor, leaf, snow, sunset, fireworks, glass, museum, landscape, night landscape, night portrait
Image stabilization mode Camera boosts ISO to produce sharp photos; see below for more
Movie mode More on this later
Playback mode More on this later

The G1 is a 100% point-and-shoot camera -- that manual mode isn't really manual, it just lets you adjust things like ISO sensitivity. There are the usual assortment of scene modes, though their names leave something to be desired.


Panoramic image created by the G1

The G1 has an automatic panorama stitching feature. You can take three photos side-by-side (in either direction) and the camera automatically stitches them into a single photograph. Unfortunately, the original (separate) images are not saved, so you can't stitch them together manually on your computer. The low resolution LCD makes it a bit difficult to properly line up your images, as well.

Image stabilization mode will boost the ISO as high as necessary in order to obtain the fast shutter speed needed for a sharp photo. I recommend avoiding this mode, as the G1's high ISO image quality is not great. Instead, boost the ISO manually (as needed) in order to get that fast shutter speed.


The camera didn't find any faces in our test scene...

.... unless I zoomed in, and it found two...

... and locked onto one.

Below the mode dial we have buttons for face detection and for entering the menu system. GE doesn't provide much information about their face detection system, like how many faces it can find in the frame. What I can tell you is that it doesn't work terribly well. In our test scene (which is actually a photo on a computer monitor), the G1 didn't pick up a single face -- even the worst face detection systems that I've seen pick up at least or one two. Only when I zoomed in did I get the camera to discover a face (two actually), though it only locked onto one of them.

The next item of note on the back of the G1 is the four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as:

You'll access the camera's continuous shooting modes in the self-timer menu. By default, this activates the "regular" continuous shooting mode, though there are others available which I'll discuss in the menu section. In the standard continuous mode, the camera kept shooting at 1.5 frames/second, and it seemed like it would keep going until the memory card filled up. Do note that a high speed memory card is needed for best continuous shooting performance. The LCD kept up nicely with the action, so tracking a moving subject should be a piece of cake. Do note that the "best" quality setting is not available in any of the continuous shooting modes.

The last item on the back of the G1 is the delete photo button, which does just as it sounds.

On the top of the G1 you'll find its speaker and microphone, followed by the power and shutter release buttons. At the far right is the G1's awkward zoom controller, which I found to be small and uncomfortable to use. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.9 seconds, and quite noisily, might I add. I counted nine steps in the G1's 3X zoom range.

Nothing to see here...

Nothing here either. The lens never protrudes from the camera, since it's completely internal.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find it's strangely located A/V+USB port (which is under a rubber cover), plus a plastic tripod mount, and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over this compartment is of decent quality. Do note that you won't be able to swap memory cards while the G1 is on a tripod.

The G1 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

The included GB-20 li-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the GE G1

Record Mode

The G1 starts up in 3.2 seconds -- quite slow for a camera with an internal lens.


A live histogram is available

Focus times on the G1 were average. Best case scenario, you're looking at a 0.4 - 0.6 second wait before the camera locks focus. At the telephoto end of the lens, or if the camera has to "hunt" for focus, you'll wait for a second or more. Despite having an AF-assist lamp, low light focusing on the G1 was lousy.

While there wasn't any shutter lag at faster shutter speeds, I did notice some at slower speeds, where you should really be using the flash or a tripod anyway.

Shot-to-shot speeds were fair, with a delay of two seconds before you can take another shot. You can add an additional second if you're using the flash.

There's no way to delete a photo while it's being saved to the memory card. You must enter playback mode and delete it from there.

There are quite a few image quality options available on the G1. They include:

Resolution Quality # Images on 26MB onboard memory # images on 1GB card (optional)
7M
3088 x 2320
Best 6 225
Fine 14 526
Normal 28 1052
6M (3:2 ratio)
3088 x 2058
Best 7 263
Fine 16 601
Normal 32 1202
5M (16:9 ratio)
3088 x 1737
Best 9 338
Fine 19 714
Normal 38 1428
3M
2048 x 1536
Best 16 601
Fine 32 1202
Normal 49 1841
2M
1600 x 1200
Best 26 977
Fine 51 1916
Normal 54 2029
1M
1024 x 768
Best 56 2104
Fine 72 2706
Normal 76 2856
0.3M
640 x 480
Best 83 3119
Fine 92 3457
Normal 105 3946

See why you need a memory card right away? The GE G1 doesn't support the RAW or TIFF image formats, nor would I expect it to.

Images are named GEDC####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

The G1 has a simple, easy-to-navigate menu system. Keeping in mind that some of these options may be unavailable in the automatic shooting modes, here's the full list of record menu options:

There are more continuous shooting options here in the record menu, in addition to the one I mentioned earlier. The five shot mode takes -- guess what -- five shots in a row, at a frame rate of 1.5 frames/sec. In the 5 shots (last) mode, the camera will keep firing away at the same frame rate, saving the last five photos that were recorded before you let go of the shutter release button. The time-lapse feature will take a photo at a set interval (30 sec, 1 min, 5 min, 10 min), though you can't select how many shots are taken, and the lack of an AC adapter makes this one a real battery-killer.

The G1 also has a separate setup menu, which is a "tab" in the record and playback menus. The options here include:

Okay, enough menus, let's talk about photo quality now, shall we?

The G1 did a pretty good job with our macro test subject. Colors are generally good, though the cloak is a little too orange. The subject is sharp, but it has a somewhat "fuzzy" look, possible due to noise reduction or in-camera sharpening.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle and 25 cm at telephoto, which is typical for cameras in this class.

I had a terrible time getting a decent night shot out of the G1. I first tried using the slow shutter feature and the self-timer, but all my photos (over a dozen) came out blurry. I think this is due to the fact that the camera focuses twice when you use the self-timer: first when you halfway-press the shutter release, and again when the photo is taken. The second time the camera tried to focus, it didn't do it properly.

I ended up using the night scenery mode, which was sharp, but didn't bring in enough light. The self-timer problem wasn't an issue here, since the camera locks the focus at infinity in this mode -- too bad you can't do that manually. There's not much to say about the resulting photo, as it's too dark to really see any details. Bottom line is that I wouldn't recommend the G1 for low light photography, at least when the self-timer is involved.

Since I couldn't a decent night shot, I didn't bother with the low light ISO test. I do, however, have the studio ISO test further down the page.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the G1's 3X optical zoom lens. The chart also shows noticeable vignetting (dark corners), which made an appearance in a few real world photos as well. Much to my surprise, corner blurriness was not much of a problem.

Ultra-compact cameras always have problems with redeye, and the G1 has a pretty bad case of it. The camera has a redeye removal tool available in playback mode, and here's what it did with the about photo:

As you can see, the redeye removal tool only fixed half of the problem. You might get better results using PhotoImpression instead of the camera for redeye removal.

I should also point out the amount of detail loss in the above crops. I had the camera in auto ISO mode to compensate for the G1's relatively anemic flash.

Above is our studio ISO test, which you can compare between cameras that have been reviewed on this site. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise and detail levels at each ISO setting, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. And with that, here we go:


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

The ISO 80 and 100 images are fairly clean, though they have a slight "fuzzy" look, most likely due to noise reduction. Detail loss starts to appear at ISO 200, and by ISO 400 it's already done a lot of damage, so this is as far as I'd take the sensitivity on the G1. For the sake of comparison, have a look at the same photos in the Canon PowerShot SD1000 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 reviews -- they do quite a lot better. ISO 800 is a blurry mess, with ISO 1600 being even worse (proof that marketing wins over engineering these days).

Overall, the G1's image quality was just fair. Exposure was generally good, though color accuracy wasn't the best: there was a noticeable color cast in many of my sample photos. Images have a soft, fuzzy look to them, with noticeable detail loss (even at ISO 80), most likely due to noise reduction. Solid colors (such as the sky) appear mottled, and fine details such as grass appear turn to mush. I saw some serious moiré in one of my photos, as well. While purple fringing appeared a few times, it was generally not a problem. These issues won't really be a problem for those of you making small prints, but when there are cameras which produce much better photos out there, why bother with the G1?

As usual, I invite you to take a look at our photo gallery, printing the pictures if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the G1's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

On paper, the G1's movie mode is pretty good. The camera lets you record video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound until the memory card fills up. Since the G1 uses the efficient MPEG-4 codec, you can record for quite a long time -- 30 minutes to be exact

For longer movies you can lower the resolution to 320 x 240, the frame rate to 15 fps (not a good idea), or both.

As is usually the case, you cannot use the optical zoom lens while you're recording, though the digital zoom is available. A digital image stabilization feature is available to smooth out any "shakes" in your recording, but it's only it's only available when the frame rate is 15 fps.

Here's a sample movie for you. As you can see, the quality is poor, with streaking and a color cast (the sun was at my back, too). Yuck.


Click to play movie (5.6 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, MPEG-4 format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The G1 has a pretty standard playback mode for a camera in this class. You've got slideshows, thumbnail view, image protection, DPOF print marking, voice captions, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge an image by as much as 8 times and then move around the frame. This is handy for checking for proper focus, closed eyes, etc.

Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped quickly. The camera saves the original image when you do any of those, which I found a bit annoying. There's also a redeye removal tool, though it didn't work very well in my tests. A movie edit mode lets you trim the beginning and/or end of your clip, saving the result as a new file.

By default, the camera doesn't show much information about your photos. However, if you turn the "info box" on in the playback menu, you'll see more details, including a histogram.

The camera moves through photos instantly -- very nice.

How Does it Compare?

The G1 is the first digital camera from GE and General Imaging, and it failed to impress me. Mediocre in every way, about the only positive things I can say are that it has a nice design and a snappy continuous shooting mode. Everything else is average or worse, including picture and video quality, speed, focusing performance, and the quality of the LCD display. In the very competitive ultra-compact camera field, the G1's flaws make me unable to recommend it.

The GE G1 is a stylish, ultra-compact camera made of a mix of plastic or metal. Despite having a fair amount of metal on it, the G1 feels quite cheap in your hands. Ergonomically speaking, the G1 is nothing to write home about: your thumb rests on the mode dial, the zoom controller is stiff and uncomfortable, and the USB+A/V port is strangely located next to the tripod mount. The G1 has a 3X optical zoom lens with a fairly standard 38 - 114 mm focal range. It uses the folded optics design to help keep the body thin. On the back of the camera you'll find a 2.5" LCD display that's pretty lousy. The resolution isn't terribly high, and it "washes out" when you're in bright sunlight, making it difficult to see. The camera lacks an optical viewfinder.

The G1 has a fairly typical set of features for a point-and-shoot camera. You've got your auto mode, your "manual mode" (basically auto, but with all menu settings available), and plenty of scene modes. The camera lets you create three-shot panoramas without touching a computer, though I wish it saved the separate images, as the in-camera stitching doesn't always give you the desired result. There's also the ubiquitous face detection AF feature, though it didn't work terribly well. Same goes for the camera's redeye removal tool -- it only removed the red from one of our test subject's eyes. The G1 has manual controls for slow shutter speeds and white balance, and that's it. I had a hard time getting a good quality night shot using the slow shutter feature, mainly due to the double-focusing self-timer and the G1's poor low light focusing ability.

Camera performance was poor in most respects. The G1's 3+ second startup time is as slow as you'll find these days. Focus speeds were alright, ranging from 0.4 - 1.0 second, depending on the focal length. Low light focusing was extraordinarily bad, despite the fact that the G1 has an AF-assist lamp. Shot-to-shot delays hovered around two seconds, which is about average. The camera has several continuous shooting modes, with the best one taking photos at 1.5 fps until the memory card fills up. The LCD keeps up nicely with the action, so tracking a moving subject isn't a problem. Battery life was 20% below average, and finding a spare battery seems like Mission: Impossible at the moment.

Photo quality on the G1 is nothing to write home about. While exposure was good, the G1 produced more than its share of photos with a noticeable color cast. Photos are soft, with fuzzy details, probably due to heavy noise reduction. Photos are missing quite a bit of detail at fairly low ISO settings (compared to other cameras in this class), and the two highest sensitivities are a bit of a joke. Purple fringing wasn't much of an issue, save for our torture test photo. Vignetting (dark corners) popped up several times, however. Redeye was a big problem on the G1, and the in-camera redeye removal tool couldn't get rid of it.

In case you didn't notice, I'm not a big fan of the GE G1. In a world of great cameras, I cannot recommend one that performs so poorly. Spend your money on something better -- I've got some suggestions for you below.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD1000, Casio Exilim EX-Z77, Fuji FinePix F40fd, HP Photosmart R742, Kodak EasyShare M853, Nikon Coolpix S51, Olympus FE-280, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12, Pentax Optio M40, Samsung L83t, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the G1 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want another opinion?

You can read more reviews at CNET and Steve's Digicams.

 

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