Review: Canon PowerShot G1
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Sunday, October 22, 2000
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
most of this year, your only choices for a high-end 3 Megapixel
camera were the Nikon Coolpix 990 or Olympus C-3030Z. A few months
later, the Kodak DC4800 came into the field. And finally, Canon
has entered the fray with the PowerShot
G1 ($999) -- and it was worth the wait.
may have read our Coolpix
990 vs. Olympus C-3030Z review in the past. In my review of
the G1, I will do my best to compare it to the 990 and 3030 that
it competes with.
in the Box?
PowerShot G1 has an excellent bundle, with everything you need right
in the box. It includes:
3.34 Mpixel Canon PowerShot G1 camera
BP-511 Lithium-ion battery (rechargeable)
adapter / battery charger
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk v.2.0, and Adobe
first piece of good news about the PowerShot G1 is the CompactFlash
slot. While Canon only bundles a 16MB card, the camera supports
CompactFlash Type II cards, which means the IBM Microdrive is compatible.
I put the 340MB Microdrive from the EOS-D30 I'm testing into the
G1, and it worked flawlessly. One thing a lot of people wondered
about when the Coolpix 990 was released was why Nikon left out Type
II compatibility. I've got to give the G1 the advantage on storage
over the CP990 and C-3030Z.
news #2 is that Canon is finally including the battery kit in the
box (as opposed to making it optional on their other PowerShot cameras).
A fully charged BP-511 battery lasts for up to 160 minutes, according
to the manual. Your mileage will vary depending on your usage of
the camera, of course. When you plug the AC adapter into the camera,
it charges the battery and can provide power to the camera as well
(not at the same time of course).
shown with remote control, lens cap, and BP-511 battery
the third piece of good news is that like Olympus, Canon includes
a wireless remote control with the G1. You can take record and playback
pictures without ever touching the camera.
Canon's manual and software is top notch. The manual has lots of
sensible diagrams, and good explanations for everything. The software
has been updated since I last covered it in detail (see the PowerShot
S10 review), but it's only gotten better. One new piece of software
is Canon's RemoteCapture application, which lets you control the
camera from your computer (while it's connected, of course!)
and the lens cap even comes with a strap! <grin>
Tele-converter gives you additional 1.5X magnification
Wide-converter's magnification is 0.8X
included three optional accessories with the G1 for me to test out
as well: the Tele converter, Wide angle converter, and conversion
lens adapter (required to use the first two). You can see these
attachments in action in the photo gallery.
No word on pricing on these attachments was available.
for those of you who still only have serial connectors on your computer,
Canon sells a serial connection kit as an optional accessory.
PowerShot G1 is built like a tank. While I don't have the C-3030Z
or Coolpix 990 anymore, I can tell you that the G1 is definitely
heavier than my Coolpix 950. There is a good deal of metal on the
body, and some sturdy plastics too. The camera's dimensions are
4.7 x 3.0 x 2.5 inches, and it weighs 14.8 ounces empty. For comparisons
sake, that's more the double the weight of the PowerShot S100 Digital
because it's fairly heavy doesn't mean it's hard to hold. There's
adequate room for your right hand, though I found my left hand covering
up the LCD info display on many occasions.
front of the camera has the usual stuff: lens, AF illuminator (for
low light focusing), flash, IR receiver, and microphone. The lens
(7-21mm, equivalent to 34-102mm on a 35mm camera) is one we've seen
before. It's believed to be the same lens as on the Sony DSC-S70
(Carl Zeiss?), Epson PhotoPC 3000Z, and the Casio QV-3000EX. And
I just discovered that the lens on the Panasonic PV-SD5000 seems
to be the same one too! I guess this must be a pretty good lens
if it's so popular!
back of the camera is where things get interesting. The LCD display
can swing out and swivel in a number of directions. You can see
it closed a little further down the page... here's two other possibilities:
the lens is swiveled out to the side. I could flip it over the
other way too, and the image would correctly invert.
traditionalists (if there are any) can get the LCD in this position
like the Coolpix 9xx-series' swiveling lens, I initially viewed
the swiveling LCD as just a gimmick. After using this camera for
a few weeks, I wish every manufacturer was putting this feature
on their cameras! It's so nice to be able to look at the LCD without
crouching down to get behind it. You can also hold the camera over
people's heads and see what picture you're taking. And I also found
it helpful in reducing glare, since you could aim the LCD away from
far as the LCD's quality goes, it's very good -- very smooth and
very sharp. No complaints here, at all.
you prefer to use the optical viewfinder, you can close the LCD
and it shuts off. This is great for battery conservation as well.
optical viewfinder is quite large, and it has diopter correction
for those of us with glasses. If the LCD is folded out, you won't
have to worry about your nose smudging it... but if it's just flipped
over, you will.
buttons above the LCD control flash, spot metering, and macro mode
while in Record mode, and thumbnail mode, zoom & scroll, and
"jump" (more on this later) in Playback mode.
buttons to the right control: Exposure/Flash Lock, Exposure compensation/white
balance/flash strength/bracketing, and display (LCD on/off, etc).
buttons at the top right are for invoking and moving through the
G1's menu system.
let's look at the top of the camera.
LCD info display is one of the most detailed on any consumer digital
camera. In this photo, the settings shown are: 1 second exposure,
Fine/Large resolution, no flash, single shot, full battery, no CF
card inserted, auto white balance, no exposure compensation (whew!).
the middle of the picture, you can see a hot shoe for an external
flash, which neither the Coolpix 990 or C-3030Z have (though they
have a flash sync port). The G1 supports Canon's EX series Speedlites,
including the 220EX, 380EX, 420EX, and 550EX. I tried the 380EX
that came with the EOS-D30, and it worked without a hitch (and I
was surprised that the flash itself had a zoom mechanism too!).
the right of the hot shoe is the mode wheel, which doubles as the
power switch. The mode wheel sits on top of a switch that moves
between Record, Off, Playback, and PC connect.
mode wheel has more choices than almost any other digital camera
I've seen. Here's a rundown:
priority (Av) - ranges from f2.0 to f8.0, with plenty of stops
along the way
priority (Tv) - speeds range from 1/1000 sec to 8 sec
focus mode - for when you "don't want to miss a shot, but
you cannot predetermine the subject's position or focal distance"
Scene mode - for people against night scenes
and white mode
assist - for help making panoramas
few weird things I noticed about shutter and aperture priority mode,
and confirmed in the manual. In shutter priority mode, if you're
shooting at speeds between 1/640 and 1/1000, the aperture is fixed
at f8.0. The reverse is true as well: in aperture priority, if you
choose an aperture less than f8.0, the shutter speed will not go
above 1/500 sec. [Added 10/24]
to the right of the mode wheel, there's a button for continuous
shooting mode and self-timer/remote control. Seems like a strange
combination to me, but it works. The remote only works when you've
got the timer/remote mode engaged!
above that button is the shutter release and zoom control. The shutter
release gives just average tactile feedback... I'd prefer if it
was a little more "decisive" about what's halfway down
and what's not. While the zoom control was responsive, it seemed
like it always traveled a bit after the I stopped pushing the button.
now at the side of the G1. Under a VERY sturdy rubber cover you'll
find the USB and power ports. I stay VERY sturdy because the darn
thing was nearly impossible to open!
the left of that is the A/V out port, for hooking into a television.
You can see the manual focus helper on the right
that is a speaker, and a manual focus button. When you hit this
button, you're presented with a graphic on the LCD that shows you
how zoomed out you are. Unfortunately, no units of measure are used,
so it's pretty arbitrary.
the other side of the camera is the Type II CompactFlash slot. The
door covering the slot is the only flimsy-feeling piece on the G1,
but luckily the door stays shut.
finally, the bottom of the camera. The battery door stays shut thanks
to the black lock you can see in the middle of the photo above.
The metal tripod mount doesn't seem to be at the center of gravity
or below the lens.
the PowerShot G1
going to discuss record mode in detail, covering not only regular
shooting, but also RAW mode, and movies. I'll also cover playback
mode at the end of this section.
PowerShot G1 takes about five seconds to warm up, which is about
average. There is noticeable lag during auto focus (< 1 sec)
and shutter release (very small), but it's minimal, and on par with
the other 3 Megapixel cameras. Canon claims that the shot-to-shot
speed is 1.8 seconds on the G1.
uses the "overlay" style of menus, which can make the
menus hard to see when there's a bright background. The menus on
the G1 are well laid out, and easy to move around in. Here are your
choices in Record mode:
(Large/Medium/Small, which is 2048 x 1536 / 1024 x 768 / 640 x
(SuperFine, Fine, Normal)
Format (JPEG, RAW -- more on this in a second)
speed (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400 - more on this too below)
Zoom (Off, 2X, 4X)
Mode (continuous, single)
(Off, 2 sec, 10 sec - this is how long the photo is shown on the
LCD after it's been taken)
/ Sharpness / Saturation adjustment
the usual setup stuff.
doesn't give you an uncompressed TIFF mode on the PowerShot G1.
Instead, they give what is called a "CCD RAW" mode, which
is uncompressed data straight from the sensor. You can only view
this information in Canon's ImageBrowser. The RAW format takes up
much less disk space than TIFF mode (2.5MB vs. 9.4MB). The image
below is saved as both a JPEG and a TIFF (converted from RAW format).
I had a real hard time telling the difference between the two.
this image as a JPEG (224KB) or TIFF
the shot above is a macro shot, here's our usual one:
must say I was pleasantly surprised by the G1's macro abilities.
It handed this normally tough shot, and came out looking as good
as my current macro favorite, the Coolpix 990. And it did a great
job on the white balance (which my Coolpix 950 has a lot of trouble
with). You can get as close as 6 cm (2.4") to your subject
in macro mode.
shots were also very good, thanks to the full control of shutter
and aperture that the G1 offers. There's very little in the way
of noise in the above shot as well, which is always nice.
test I did back in the CP990
vs. C-3030Z review was the redeye comparison. As you might remember,
the C-3030Z beat the Coolpix handily. The PowerShot G1 did pretty
well too, but I couldn't see that the redeye reduction actually
helped. With special thanks to Dad again, take a look:
I first posted our gallery photos, there was a lot of discussion
on the web (especially on DP Review)
about why my photos looked worse than those on the other camera
sites. One thing we came up with was that just raising that ISO
can quickly add noise to the pictures. If you put the ISO in Auto
mode, it choose values between 50 and 100. While 50 is fine, 100
started to show this noise (take a look at the sky in the ISO 50
and 100 samples below). The shots below illustrate how changing
the ISO affects photo quality:
photo quality issue that was brought up was "purple fringing",
also known as chromatic aberrations. I especially noticed this on
cloudy days. If you blow up the fourth photo in the gallery,
look where the trees meet the clouds, and you'll see what I mean.
Most digital cameras do show this phenomenon to a certain degree...
since I was pointed out to me, this was the first time I've really
looked closely at it.
I figured out to keep the ISO set at 50, I got better results from
the camera, to the point that I was very satisfied with them.
PowerShot G1 also features a movie mode, with sound. I gave the
Olympus the advantage over the CP990 for its movie mode, and the
G1 is at the top of the pack as well. You can record up to 30 seconds
of M-JPEG video (saved as an AVI file), at 15 frames/sec, at a resolution
of 320 x 240.
reasons that I still don't understand, the G1 (like with many other
cameras) cannot use the optical zoom during movie filming. [Added
a little sample movie for your enjoyment. I'd rate the quality just
OK, at least for this one.
to view movie (AVI format, M-JPEG codec, 3.8MB)
final group of features I want to cover in Record mode are found
on one of the buttons on the back of the camera (see previous section):
exposure compensation, flash strength, white balance and auto bracketing.
compensation and flash strength use the same units - exposure value
(EV). You can move either between -2.0EV and +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments.
balance has the usual choices (auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten,
fluorescent, flash) and custom mode. In custom mode, you just put
whatever you want to be white in the center of the LCD, and hit
the * button. This feature is great when the other settings just
won't do (like in my dining room).
exposure bracketing will let you shoot three different pictures,
all with different exposure compensation values. For example, you
can shoot the first one at -1.0EV, the second at 0EV, and the third
at +1.0EV. You can choose pretty much any evenly-spaced set of exposure
values. This feature is handy when the best picture isn't the normally
G1's playback mode is very good as well. The typical playback features
like slideshows, DPOF print marking, zoom & scroll, and protection
are all there. The G1 doesn't have any really exciting extra features
in playback mode, so I'll just touch on how well the usual stuff
between photos on the G1 is very fast, especially considering that
there's no low res version shown before the high res one. It takes
just a bit over a second to switch between photos!
G1 shows quite a bit of information about each photo (see above)
-- the only thing missing is a histogram (which the Coolpix 990
has, by the way).
the push of a button, you can zoom in to your photos (2X or 4X),
and then scroll around in them. Canon's implementation of what I
call "zoom & scroll" has long been the best in the
business - it's superfast and very smooth too.
there's one thing missing from the G1's playback mode, it's the
ability to delete a group of photos (rather just just one, or all
of them). Nikon is still the only one who offers what I think is
a great feature.
Does it Compare?
inevitable question is, of course: Of the Nikon Coolpix 990, Olympus
C-3030Z, and Canon PowerShot G1, which should I buy? Well, I'm not
going to give you the answer you want -- you need to make the final
decision yourself, based on research on sites like this one, and
after spending some time at the store actually using these cameras.
I will say that the PowerShot G1 takes care of a lot of issues that
I had with the Coolpix 990, such as sound with movies, CompactFlash
Type II support, and a hot shoe. Plus it adds the very handy swiveling
LCD! This one would definitely be one of the finalists if I was
camera shopping, and its very much worth your time to consider it!
sturdy, well designed body; Swiveling LCD is great
features for those on the "pro" end: hot shoe and full
Type II support
mode just as good as TIFF but much smaller
remote control and battery kit
I didn't care for:
start getting noisy at ISO 100
fringing noticeable on cloudy days
to send it back to Canon
are tons of other cameras you'll want to consider before you buy.
I've already named the Nikon
Coolpix 990 and Olympus
C-3030Z as the primary competitors, but also don't miss the
PhotoPC 3000Z, and Casio
QV-3000EX. (Of the cameras I just listed, only the Casio supports
CompactFlash Type II.)
hope you enjoyed this extended review -- I certainly put a lot of
time into making it complete!