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DCRP Review: Canon
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 13, 2003
Last Updated: June 15, 2003
One of the hottest cameras of last year was undoubtedly Canon's PowerShot G3 (see our review). It looks like Canon may have another hit on their hands this year with the 5 Megapixel version of the G3, known as the PowerShot G5 ($799 street price). The G5 is the exact same camera as the G3, except for these four differences:
|PowerShot G3||PowerShot G5|
|CCD||4.0 Megapixel||5.0 Megapixel|
|LCD Resolution||113,578 pixels||118,000 pixels|
The G5 apparently uses the same CCD as the PowerShot S50 (see our review).
The main competitors of the G5 are probably the Nikon Coolpix 5400 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1 (see our review), which are also 5 Megapixel, 4X zoom cameras. If you haven't seen it already, don't miss the G5 vs. DSC-V1 shootout. There won't be a photo comparison with the 5400, as I have not yet received a production model camera.
One more note before I begin. Since the G5 is so similar to the G3, the text in both reviews will be similar. Rest assured that all sample photos and analysis is original -- I'm just trying to save some time.
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot G5 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
While a 32MB card is larger than you'll get with some other 5 Megapixel cameras, it's really just a starter card. I highly recommend getting something much larger -- 256MB is my recommendation. I've long been a fan of the 1GB IBM Microdrive, and that is supported by the G5, but keep in mind that it puts extra strain on the battery. There are plenty of "regular" 1GB CompactFlash cards out there, so you may want one of those instead.
The G5 uses the same BP-511 Li-ion battery as its predecessor. The battery has a very respectable 8.1 Watt/hours of power. Here's a look at battery life on the G5 and the competition:
|Camera||Battery Power||# of shots, 50% LCD use||Mins in playback mode|
|Canon PowerShot G5||8.1 Wh||750||360|
|Nikon Coolpix 5400||5.0 Wh||N/A||N/A|
|Sony DSC-F717||8.5 Wh||410||350|
|Sony DSC-V1||2.8 Wh||175||175|
|(note that the DSC-F717 is always using the LCD/EVF)|
Nikon doesn't publish the same kind of information about battery life as Sony and Canon, so I can't put any CP5400 data in the chart, aside from the power rating. Nikon does say that you can use the camera for 110 minutes with 100% LCD use. My guess is that the 5400 lies somewhere between the V1 and the G5.
The downside of proprietary batteries like the BP-511 is the cost ($50) 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 personally prefer cameras that use AA batteries.
When it's time to recharge, you just plug the included AC adapter into the G5. This same AC adapter can be used to power the camera in the studio, or when you're transferring photos to your computer. It takes 80 minutes to bring the battery back to 90% capacity, and then 2 more hours to fill it to 100%.
The G5 includes a lens cap and strap to protect your 4X zoom lens.
While an option on many other cameras, Canon still includes a wireless remote control (shown above) with the G5. You can control the camera in both record and playback mode with this device.
If you like accessories, then you'll love the G5. In the lens department, you can purchase the WC-DC58N wide-angle converter ($149) to shorten the focal length to 24.5 mm, or the TC-DC58N tele converter ($110) to bring the zoom up to 245 mm. A 58 mm close-up lens is also available. Note that the LA-DC58B conversion lens adapter ($20) is required in order to use any of these.
The G5 is compatible not only with Canon's EX-series Speedlites, but also their Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX ($450) and Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX ($650).
Other accessories include a soft carrying case and dual battery charger w/car power adapter ($140).
The G5 can also print directly to all of Canon's Card Photo Printers, as well as any of their Bubble Jet printers that support the direct print function.
With the G5, Canon includes version 13 (!) of their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software, as well as ArcSoft's Camera Suite 2.0. The main programs in the DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser (Mac/PC names), PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product), File Viewer Utility (does what it sounds like) and Remote Capture (which lets your Mac or PC control the camera over a USB connection). Canon's software continues to be head and shoulders over the competition in this reviewer's opinion. Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), all the software is Mac OS X native.
Canon 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.
Look and Feel
If you've seen the PowerShot G3, you'll know what the G5 looks like. The G5 is a bulky, mid-sized camera which won't fit in most of your pockets. There's a bit of plastic mixed in with the metal frame, but overall it's pretty solid. While the G5 can be operated with one hand, I found it to be more comfortable to use both hands.
Since I had both "in house" at the same time, here is a comparison of the G5 and the Coolpix 5400:
Now, let's take a look at the dimensions of the G5 and its competitors:
|DSC-V1||PowerShot G5||Coolpix 5400|
(W x H x D, inches)
|4.0 x 2.6 x 2.3||4.8 x 2.9 x 2.8||4.3 x 2.9 x 2.7|
|Volume (AKA bulk)||23.9 cu. in.||39.0 cu. in.||33.7 cu. in.|
|Mass||300 g||410 g||320 g|
As you can see, the Sony is quite a bit smaller and lighter than either the G5 or the CP5400.
With all that out of the way, let's begin our tour of the G5 now.
The G5 has the same 4X, F2.0 - F3.0 optical zoom lens as the G3. The lens has a focal range of 7.2 - 28.8 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 140 mm.
Deep inside that lens is a neutral density filter. I'll explain why you might want want one later in the review.
The lens itself isn't threaded, but by removing the plastic ring around it (by pushing the button just left of the "PowerShot G5" label), you can add lenses or filters.
Remove the ring, screw on the conversion lens adapter and lens, and you're set. You can also use 58mm filters with the G5, but you'll need the conversion lens adapter to do so.
At the top-right is the G5's light guide flash, originally introduced on the G3. The light guide design prevents the wasting of flash power that is common on "regular" flashes by better focusing the light. The working range of the flash is 0.7 - 5.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.7 - 4.0 m at telephoto. For the Coolpix 5400, the range is are 0.5 - 4.5 m (W) and 0.5 - 2.8 m (T). On the DSC-V1, the range is a measly 0.4 - 2.8 m (W) and 0.4 - 2.0 m (T).
Added 6/16/03: A reader pointed out that on the G3, there was always a shadow (from the lens) in the lower right corner of flash photos taken at wide-angle. Sure enough, the G5 does the same thing:
To the lower-left of the flash is the G5's microphone.
To the left of that, just above the lens, is the autofocus (AF) illuminator. This bright light helps the camera focus in low light situations. This feature should be on every camera, in my opinion.
The G5 has the same rotating 1.8" LCD as its predecessors, and it's one of the features that makes this camera stand out in a crowd. The LCD can rotate in a number of ways, as you can see above and below. It can also point toward the subject, for self-portraits (the image on the LCD will be shown right side up).
It's nice to see that Canon hasn't started shrinking the LCDs on their high end cameras, unlike some other manufacturers <cough... Nikon>. The resolution of the LCD is even a little higher than on the G3, and it's just as bright and fluid as before. Like with all LCDs, it can be difficult to see in bright sunlight.
At the top-center of the photo is the optical viewfinder, which is quite large. 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 toward the telephoto end of the focal range, the lensdisappears. Based on reader feedback about the G3, this bothers a lot of people.
My other complaint is with the diopter correction knob. While I'm very happy that it's there (being someone with poor vision), I found the knob too small and difficult to turn.
To 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:
|Record Mode Function||Playback Mode Function|
|Flash mode (Auto, flash on, flash off) - redeye reduction is turned on in the record menu||Thumbnail mode|
|Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)||N/A|
|Macro mode||Jump - quickly moves ahead in playback mode|
On the other side of the optical viewfinder is a button for manual focus and voice annotations (up to 60 seconds). Like some other higher-end cameras, the G5 enlarges 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 right side of the LCD shows you the current focus distance. You use the command dial (on the top of the camera) to adjust the focus.
The Function menu
The three buttons to the right of the LCD are for (from top to bottom):
|Record Mode Function||Playback Mode Function|
|AE Lock||Delete photo|
|Display - turns LCD and info on it on/off||Display - toggles between full size image and image info|
Two items that I want to cover in more detail are the bracketing and photo effect features.
The G5 can do two types of bracketing: exposure and focus. With exposure bracketing, you pick a median value and choose the range. For example, I could do -1/3EV, 0, and +1/3EV. It's shown 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.
The flash exposure compensation feature varies, depending on what mode you're in. Normally, it works exactly like regular exposure compensation. In manual mode, you can adjust the flash power in three steps: 1/3, 2/3 or full strength. If you've got an external flash attached, you'll have a wider range of control: 1/16 to full strength in 1/3 steps.
The photo effect feature lets you quickly adjust the color and sharpness of a photo. For even more control, you can use the custom effect feature to manually adjust the contrast, sharpness, and saturation. Each of these three options has a low, normal, and high setting. You can use photo effects in any mode, including movie mode.
Continuing with our tour now, at the top-right is the four-way controller, with two buttons below it. The four-way controller 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 G5 has plenty of white balance settings, too. The choices are:
That's right, you can have two custom white balance settings stored for easy retrieval.
The menu button does just as it sounds -- it invokes the menu system. The "set" button below the four-way controller is used in the menus, and it also activates the G5's "FlexiZone" focusing system. When this is used, 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 the nicest system of its kind, in my opinion.
That's enough about the back of the camera -- let's head to the top now.
Yes, there are even more buttons and dials up here. I will work my way from left to right.
The G5 has a large, data-packed LCD info 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 -- that is one of the few things on my wish list for the next revision of the G-series.
To the right of that is the hot shoe. I've covered Canon's flash options earlier in the review. The G5 will also work with non-Canon cameras, though you'll probably have to manually select the flash settings.
Just right of the hot shoe you'll find the drive mode button, with the power/mode switch below that. The available drive modes include two types of continuous shooting (more on that later), a self-timer (2 or 10 seconds), and a remote control option. The power switch turns the camera on and off (obviously), and also is used to move between record and playback mode.
Continuing to the right, you can see the shutter release button (with zoom controller around it), and the mode wheel. The zoom controller smoothly and quietly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just over 2.5 seconds.
The G5's mode wheel has a load of options, including:
|Stitch Assist||For help making panoramic shots|
|Night Scene||For night shots|
|Fully Auto||Point-and-shoot mode, most settings locked up|
|Programmed Auto||Camera chooses shutter speed and aperture. All menu options are unlocked.|
|Shutter Priority (Tv)||You 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.|
|Aperture Priority (Av)||You pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. The choices range from F2 - F8 and will vary, depending on the current focal range.|
|Full Manual||You pick the aperture and shutter speed. See above for values.|
|Custom Settings 1/2||Two sets of your favorite settings, easy to access.|
As you can see, you can store two sets of custom settings right on the mode wheel. Once you've found the settings you like, just go to the menu and save them to the C1 or C2 position.
The final item up here (at top-right) is what Canon calls the "main dial". You'll use this to adjust things like shutter speed and aperture.
Here is the side of the PowerShot G5. Under a plastic cover, you will find I/O ports for DC in (for the AC adapter), digital (USB), and A/V. I'm surprised that Canon hasn't followed Sony's lead and switched to the faster USB 2.0 standard (or better yet, use FireWire instead!).
Above that is the speaker. Next!
On the other side of the G5 is the CompactFlash slot, which is behind a somewhat sturdy plastic door. Like on the G3, this is a Type II slot, and the IBM Microdrive is fully compatible. With 1GB Type I cards now available, the Microdrive isn't as appealing as it once was.
The included 32MB memory card is also shown.
Finally, here is the bottom of the camera. You can see the metal tripod mount as well as the battery compartment. The tripod mount is neither centered, nor inline with the lens. That's the bundled BP-511 battery over on the left.
Using the Canon PowerShot G5
The G5 takes about four seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures -- exactly the same as the G3. When the camera is turned on, a startup screen with accompanying sound is played. You can edit these, or turn them off, in the My Camera menu.
When you depress the shutter release halfway, the camera generally focuses quickly, in under a second. It may take a little longer if the AF-assist lamp is used or if the camera has to "hunt" a bit. I have heard discussion about improved AF speeds on the G5, but I didn't notice any major improvement over the G3. The G5 also did a good job focusing in low light.
When you press the shutter release fully, the picture is taken promptly, with no noticeable shutter lag.
No live histogram in record mode on the G5
Shot-to-shot speed is very good on the G5. You will wait for just 1.5 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 an image format in which the (raw) image data is stored in a lossless, compressed format. The files are larger than normal JPEGs, but are still much smaller than TIFF files (which the G5 doesn't support). 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, such as TIFF or JPEG.
After a picture is taken, you have three 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. And, by pressing the Display button, you can see the exposure data and histogram of the photo you just took.
Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the G5:
|Resolution||Quality||# Images on 32MB card|
(2592 x 1944)
(1600 x 1200)
(1024 x 768)
(640 x 480)
Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.
Now, onto the menus!
The menus haven't changed a bit since the G3. They are still well laid out and easy-to-navigate. Here's a look at the record mode menu:
Time for some further explanation on some of those.
There are two speeds for continuous shooting: standard and high. The shooting rate is 1.5 frames/second at the standard setting, and 2.0 frames/second at the high speed setting (this is slower than on the G3). 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 9 shots in a row in standard mode, and 10 shots in high speed mode (both at the Large/Superfine setting). It took about 28 seconds to finish writing the nine images (from standard continuous mode) to my Microdrive.
The Neutral Density (ND) filter is a light reducing filter, which allows you to use slower shutter speeds or larger apertures, that normally wouldn't be possible due to the bright outdoor light. Now this is one feature you don't see every day on a digital camera.
Finally, there's the Intervalometer (gotta love that word). This tool will let you set up the G5 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 necessary.
There is also a setup menu on the G5, so let's take a look at that. Here are the interesting items:
The My Camera menu allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps, and phony shutter sounds that your G5 makes. If these bother you, you can also turn them off.
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
The G5 produced an excellent macro shot of our famous 3" tall subject. Color and sharpness are both spot-on. 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 give you a focal range of 10 - 25 cm (only at the telephoto end).
The recordable area in macro mode is 75 x 55 mm at wide-angle, and 56 x 42 mm at telephoto.
The night test shot had its good and bad points. The good news it that it's well exposed and the noise levels are low. The bad news is that there are a bunch of purple halos around bright lights in the picture. The G5 seems to have a bit of a problem with purple fringing, and I'll get to that in a bit.
One way to use faster speed speeds (like when you don't have a tripod) is to crank up the ISO sensitivity. Here's what happens to the noise levels when you turn up the ISO:
View Full Size Image
View EXIF Data
View Full Size Image
View EXIF Data
View Full Size Image
View EXIF Data
Notice anything interesting in that series of crops? Sure, the noise/grain went up along with the ISO, but did you also notice that the purple halos went away? As the ISO went up, the aperture closed down (higher F-numbers) which got rid of it. And that's generally the trick you can use to get rid of purple fringing -- but more on that in a second.
The distortion test shows just minor barrel distortion and no vignetting or blurry corners.
I've had a lot of trouble with the light guide flash and redeye on the PowerShot S50 and G3, and it's just as bad with the G5. As you can see, even with redeye reduction turned on, the subject still has "demon eyes". Not everyone has had trouble with redeye on the S50 and G3, though, so your mileage may vary. Here are two tricks that you can try that may reduce redeye. First, try to keep the subject directly lined up with the flash. If that doesn't work, a simple but more expensive solution is to use an external flash. You can also correct redeye fairly well in software.
The bottom line about the PowerShot G5's photo quality is this: exposure, color, and noise levels are all excellent. The G5 has class-leading resolution, or darn close to it. Canon tends to go for a softer, smoother image than some other manufacturers, which helps to keep noise levels down.
One thing that bugged me, though, was the level of purple fringing and/or purple halos in areas with a lot of contrast. It's not surprising to see this on a "fast" lens with the aperture opened up all the way -- the Olympus C-5050Z is a fine example.
Not pleased to see this at F4.0 though
One way around this is to close down the aperture, by using a higher F-number (see the church sequence in the gallery for an example of this). I was surprised to still see some purple fringing at F4.0, an aperture that I would normally consider "safe" from this phenomenon. The purple fringing certainly isn't in every shot -- but I saw it often enough that the G5 lost a few points with me in the image quality department.
I have two photo galleries full of images from the PowerShot G5, including some comparisons with the Sony DSC-V1. See the standard gallery or the shootout gallery, and decide if the G5's photo quality is right for you!
The PowerShot G5 has the same above average movie mode as the G3. You can now record for up to 3 minutes per movie at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120. Of course the included 32MB card only holds about 1.5 minutes worth of 320 x 240 video, but if you had a larger card, you could do 3 minute movies.
Sound is recorded along with the video, which is saved in AVI format using the M-JPEG codec. The frame rate is 15 frames/second, which is typical for a digital camera movie mode. You can use the photo effects (described earlier) in movie mode, so you can make black and white or sepia movies.
As is the case with most cameras that record sound with movies, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
The G5 allows you to 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.
Here is a short, but exciting sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (1.2MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The G5's playback mode is exactly the same as on the PowerShot G3. There aren't a lot of gimmicks, but all the features are well-implemented. Basic playback features include slide shows, image protection, thumbnail mode, image rotation, and DPOF print marking.
The "zoom & scroll" feature is best on Canon cameras, and it's extra fast on the G5, thanks to the 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.
Moving between images is very quick as well -- about a second between high res thumbnails.
If you want more information about your photo, just press the Display button. You can find out almost everything about your photo, including a histogram.
How Does it Compare?
The Canon PowerShot G5 is a very good camera that is kept from greatness by a few annoying flaws. First, the good news. The G5's photos are usually excellent, with superior resolution, low noise, good exposure, and accurate color. The camera's performance is robust, it has more manual controls than you can count, and the playback and movie modes are better than average. The G5 is also unmatched in terms of available accessories.
Now, the bad news. There were two photo quality issues that bugged me. The first issue was purple fringing. While not nearly as bad as some other cameras I've tested, I felt that the level of fringing was too high for a camera with this price. I'll let a camera get away with a little purple fringing at F2.0 or F2.8, but at F4.0 it shouldn't be there. My second image quality complaint may or may not affect you, and that's redeye. I've had a lot of trouble with Canon's newer cameras that use the light guide flash, which seem to produce a lot of redeye compared to a regular flash. Redeye really varies from person to person, so it's hard to draw a firm conclusion about this issue. My last complaint about the G5 is one that I had with the G3 as well (not surprising, as they are practically the same camera) -- and that is the lovely view of the lens barrel while at wide-angle.
So those three issues are my only complaints about the PowerShot G5. I still do recommend the camera, just not as enthusiastically as I would've liked.
How does the G5 hold up against the DSC-V1 and Coolpix 5400? Well, since I'm yet to test a production Coolpix 5400, I can't compare it against the G5. I have used the DSC-V1, however, and my experience was the same as this one: a nice camera with some annoying flaws. Even with the redeye and purple fringing, I still think the G5's photo quality is superior to the V1's, especially with regard to resolution, color, and noise. Perhaps a better competitor for the G5 is the Sony DSC-F717, which despite having few manual controls, probably still has the best image quality of any 5MP camera.
If you can't decide between the G3 or G5, here's my recommendation. If you're planning on making large prints (and by that I mean larger than 8 x 10), you'll probably do best with the G5. Otherwise, I'd probably save a few bucks and get the G3 instead.
I hope this helped in your decision making!
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Other full-featured 5 Megapixel cameras to check out include the Canon PowerShot S50, Casio QV-5700, Fuji FinePix S602 Zoom (uses 3.3MP SuperCCD), HP Photosmart 935, Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi, Nikon Coolpix 5400 and 5700, Olympus C-5050Z, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717 and DSC-V1.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot G5 and it's competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our PowerShot G5 gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Get another opinion on the G5 from Steve's Digicams.
Jeff 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.
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