Pros: 4MP, f2.0 3x zoom, excellent battery life, tilt/swivel LCD, 32 MB CF card.
Cons: Slow Start-Up, zoom, and Autofocus times, battery charges in camera, off-set tripod mount
The new Canon Powershot G2 is the digital camera I had hoped for when its predecessor the Canon Powershot G1 was introduced a bit more than a year ago. Here?s what I had to say about the Canon Powershot G1 (review 2/01) ?Where does the G1 fail to measure up? Disappointingly, in a large number of important ways. The optical viewfinder is small, chintzy, and barely usable. It is a crime that digi-cam optical viewfinders are so poorly designed and constructed, most APS Point?n?Shoot cameras are equipped with vastly superior optical viewfinders. The cheap rubber hinge on the I/O connector cover doesn?t look like it would stand up to extended use.
The tripod mount, while sturdy, is offset and not positioned in line with the lens, as it should be. The front cover and lens bezel are metal, but the top, sides and rear of the camera are plastic. The camera is quite small and the tiny (decorative?) grip is pretty much useless. Start-up time lag (from the time you turn the camera on until it cycles the lens, auto focuses on the subject, and the image is captured) is one of the longest I have seen in any digital camera, typically 8-10 seconds, this effectively nullifies the short shutter lag time unless you leave the camera on all the time.
What Could Canon Have Done Better?
What could Canon have done better? Since the G1 was the last major 3.34 MP digital camera to reach the market, Canon had the advantage of an extended window for Research & Development. The G1 should have been engineered with a larger CCD, which would have made it easy for Canon to offer 4 (or 5) megapixel resolution. The 3X optical zoom should have been 4X with the addition of Canon?s wonderful image stabilization technology (like on the just introduced Canon Powershot Pro 90 IS) which would have made the proprietary ISO 50 sensitivity setting and Shutter Priority Mode much more useful for longer exposures at slower shutter speeds and with less light.
The optical viewfinder (which doesn?t provide parallax compensation) should have been much better, what is the point in offering pro features like RAW mode, a TTL flash hot shoe, and ISO 50 settings when they are coupled with a viewfinder that would have been more at home on a $50.00 K-Mart Blue Light special. The G1?s images are on par with other 3.34 megapixel cameras, and its features are pretty similar to those of its competition. A combination of automatic "snapshooter" features, some advanced "pro" options, and a few money saving engineering moves that tend to make the G1 a confusing mix of low, high, and pro. Canon didn?t break any new ground with this camera, and that is too bad, because the potential for pushing the envelope was certainly there.?
Canon?s new G2 does push the envelope. The new CCD provides four megapixel image files, the chintzy optical viewfinder has been slightly improved, and the almost useless (and uncomfortable) grip from the G1 has been replaced with a more ergonomically correct (and more useful) grip. Metering has been significantly improved and a collection of new pro features makes the new Canon Powershot G2 an outstanding digital camera value. Overall Canon?s updated G2, while not perfect, does prove that Canon is responsive to the complaints and suggestions of consumers.
I have an old friend who sells and distributes new and used cameras and photographic equipment. He is a former professional photographer who worked mainly in promotional, advertising, wedding, and portrait photography. He still shoots several weddings every summer and he occasionally takes on a commercial job when he has the time, just to keep his hand in. He has always been somewhat disdainful of digital cameras (he doesn?t really like 35mm too much either) He and I often argue about the merits of digital and 35mm photography compared to medium and large format photography. He feels that nothing smaller than a medium format camera is capable of producing acceptable quality negatives.
Imagine my surprise on a recent Saturday when he stopped in for a visit. The first thing he said was that he had actually purchased a digital camera for his own use. I assumed he had purchased a Nikon D1X or possibly a Canon D30, but instead he pulled out a Canon G2. He told me that he had played with the G2 when he got his first shipment of them back in September, and that he had been very impressed. He even went so far as to say that the Canon G2 was the digital equivalent of his beloved Contax TVS (an Ultra Compact top of the line 35mm point and shoot with an excellent Carl Zeiss 30-60mm Vario Sonnar zoom lens and many pro features) This is high praise indeed, since my friend carries his little TVS everywhere he goes. He has been carrying the G2 along as well (for the past couple of weeks) and using it for business applications, shooting friends, and for those ?just in case? situations where the photographic opportunity of a lifetime might pop up. He refuses to be without a camera, but doesn?t really want to lug his heavy Pentax 67 or Pentax 645 systems around with him all the time. After two weeks of using the two cameras interchangeably, he feels that the G2 is capable of 8X10 enlargements that are almost as good as the film 8X10 enlargements he gets from his TVS.
In the Field/Handling & Operation
My friend asked if I would like to go along on a photographic outing and check out his new G2 first hand. He knows I love to play with new cameras, so he wasn?t at all surprised when I dropped everything and jumped at the chance to play with his new toy. We brought along a Nikon N80 (with 28-80 zoom) loaded with Kodak Gold 200 print film for comparison purposes. We?ve been having some absolutely spectacular Indian Summer weather here in Louisville for the past few weeks, but this particular Saturday was cold and gray with rain and gusty winds. My friend suggested that we take advantage of the gloomy weather to check out some of the monuments in the older section of Cave Hill Cemetery. He said, "We could shoot some gothic looking stuff, like something out of an Anne Rice or Stephen King novel.?
I suggested that we follow that experiment up with a trip to Old Louisville landmark St. James Court, and shoot close up details of some of the wonderful old Victorian Mansions that line both sides of the court. We agreed that we would shoot until the light was pretty well gone and then stop at the Twice Told Coffee shop on Bardstown Road to drink an esspresso, check out the eccentric customers (and maybe shoot a few of them), and discuss the G2 and what we thought of its operation and capabilities.
Cave Hill was almost deserted when we got there and we were able to quickly drive to the oldest section of the cemetery and shoot some of old headstones still damp with rain and surrounded by ankle deep fallen leaves. Especially interesting were some of the old nineteenth century children?s markers. During most of the nineteenth century children often died during their first few years. Popular children?s headstones of the time were little white marble angels or small limestone lambs. It was really easy to get a forlorn ?dark? gothic look, especially with the rain darkened hand-carved native limestone lambs. The marble angels were a bit more difficult, because they tended to get rain slick (rather than darkening) and reflected hot spots where much of the detail washed out when the on board flash was used. We left the cemetery when it started to rain.
St. James Court is an upscale collection of Victorian Mansions built in the late 1890s on the site of the 1883-1887 Southern Exposition. The Southern Exposition was the first major exhibition to be completely lit by electricity. President Chester A. Arthur looked on as Thomas Edison threw the switch that lit up the grounds and opened the exhibition that honored the post civil war rebirth of Southern industry. The world?s first electric trolley car hauled passengers around the exhibits. After the Southern Exposition ended in 1887, a consortium of wealthy Louisville businessmen bought the property and built a group of homes that were designed to look as if they were a part of London. St. James, Belgravia, and Fountain Courts are one of Louisville?s most recognizable landmarks. The courts are lined with dozens of magnificent homes that easily rival anything seen in New Orleans Garden District.
St. James Court was a little gloomy, because of the weather and the late afternoon light was pretty weak We shot some architectural details from one of the Moorish influenced mansions, and some interesting shots of the bronze fountain, and after a couple of additional circuits around the court (and a few shots of a friendly neighborhood cat who insisted on following us) we left for Bardstown Road and the Highlands neighborhood. The Twice Told Coffee House (502) 456-0507 at 1604 Bardstown Rd is a funky retro-hip local hangout that attracts a truly eclectic crowd of goths, ?pierced ones? disaffected Gen-xer?s, aging hippies, and even a few un-recontrusted beatniks. Twice Told offers an ?only in Louisville? combination of avant-garde live music, off-the-wall, beat/jazz, and conventional poetry along with coffee, tea, fruit drinks, and vegetarian grub. We shot some pretty interesting candids of the local characters hanging out and interacting around the handful of tables. Shooting inside the fairly dark coffeehouse was a real test, but the G2 came through with flying colors. The f2.0 lens performed beautifully and it was easy to see why my friend felt it was the digital equivalent of the Contax. The ISO 400 (35mm equivalent) images did show some noise, but they were fine for up to 5x7 enlargements.
We got together Sunday afternoon to look at the images from the Nikon N80 (overnight C41 processing) and compare them with the images from the G2 that my friend had printed. The G2 images compared very well. The new metering system does a much better job than the system in the G1. Colors are well saturated, shadow detail is quite good, and resolution (while not quite on par with 35mm slide or fine grain B&W film) is roughly equal to 35mm color print film. Canon?s engineers have done an excellent job with the updated G2 and the images are the best I have seen to date from a sub five megapixel camera. Both my friend and I were amazed that the printed digital images were virtually indistinguishable from the ISO 200 color print film images shot with the Nikon N80. I have always felt that the rough parity point between digital and silver based images would hit somewhere in the 6-8 megapixel range, however the G2 produces images that (at least up to 5x7) are virtually identical with ISO 200 color print film images.
LCD: The Canon PowerShot Pro70 was the first digital camera to offer a fully articulated (twist/tilt) LCD viewfinder that let photographers shoot from almost any position, waist-level, overhead, or lying on the ground. The G2 features the latest version of this innovative fully articulated LCD.
Lens: The lens is the same 3X (35mm equiv. 34 - 102 mm/ f2.0 - F2.5) zoom offered on the Powershot G1.
Flash: Like the G1, the G2 has a dedicated hot shoe for auxiliary flash units. The G1?s built-in flash is relatively powerful with a range of 2.3 - 14.8 ft at the wide angle setting The Focus Assist fires a beam of patterned white light in low light situations which helps the auto focus system to lock-on the subject. When anti-red-eye is enabled the FA beam remains lit (for as long as you half-press the shutter release) to reduce the chances of redeye.
Batteries/Power: The redesigned G2 uses much less power than its predecessor, which means more pictures from each battery charge.
Image Storage: Compact Flash Type I & II. Up to 1GB of memory (with the optional IBM Microdrive)is possible. A 32MB card is included (which will hold about 15 high resolution images) rather than the usual 8MB or 16MB CF cards included with most other digital cameras.
Remote Capture: The G2 allows photographers to remotely control the camera (via. USB) for composition and shooting. You can work directly from a computer (a notebook is ideal) which will provide you with a larger view and direct storage and review of each image as it is shot.
White Balance: The G2?s improved White balance presets provide much better control than the G1. Manual white balance works well under virtually any type of light.
Advanced image capture controls include a histogram exposure graph for image evaluation (first seen on the Canon EOS D30) The histogram is displayed on the G2?s LCD
Resolution: 4.0 MP (2272 x 1704)
3X Zoom f2.0-2.5/34-102mm
Shutter Speeds: 15 seconds to 1/1,000th of a second.
Metering: Evaluative, Center-Weighted, Spot AE Program Shift
ISO (equiv) 50, 100, 200, 400
Image formats ? RAW, JPEG
Exposure Modes: Full automatic, shutter priority, aperture priority, or manual exposure modes.
Exposure Compensation: +/-2EV in 1/3EV steps
Auto bracketing: Yes
Flash: Built-in with dedicated hot shoe for external flash
In the box
BP-511 Lithium-Ion battery, CA-560 AC adapter/charger (110-240V)
32 MB CompactFlash card, WL-D100 IR Remote Control, lens cap & string, shoulder strap, USB cable, AV cable, Canon Solutions CD-ROM, USB / TWAIN drivers, Remote Capture, Photo Stitch, Zoom Browser, Adobe PhotoShop 5.0 LE, User Manual
Macro Ring Light (MR- 14EX) 250D close-up lens, 53mm tele-converter, 27.2mm wide-angle converter. Canon Speedlites 220EX, 380EX, 420EX, and 550EX
A Few Concerns
Mild barrel distortion at the wide angle end and slight pincushion distortion at the telephoto end of the 3X zoom. The G2 (like the G1 before it) has start-up times that are some of the slowest in the industry. This is something Canon should have addressed with the G1 update.
Canon has obviously been paying attention to G1owners complaints and suggestions. The ISO 50 setting, tilt/twist LCD, manual controls, RAW file format, AF assist lamp, Infrared remote control, flash hot-shoe, remote capture, excellent battery life, fast lens, much improved metering, and excellent image quality add up to a photographic tool designed to do the job while providing serious photographers with the most input and the least possible fuss. The ?film camera? like modes and controls are logical and will allow photographers to tweak images right at the source, in the camera. The G2 also provides movie and panoramic modes, a loss-less RAW image mode, and a new Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and RGB filter. This is a high quality camera that?s really easy to use, the controls are logically placed and its operation quickly becomes intuitive. I highly recommend giving the Canon Powershot G2 a careful look if you are in the market for a top of the line, feature rich, point and shoot digital camera.
For information on How to Choose a Digital Camera please see my review:
For information about specific Digital Camera models, please see my Digital Camera Reviews:
Nikon Digital Cameras
Nikon Coolpix 5000
Nikon Coolpix 885
Nikon Coolpix 995
Nikon Coolpix 880
Nikon Coolpix 990
Canon Digital Cameras
Canon Powershot G2
Canon Powershot S10
Canon EOS D30
Canon Powershot PRO 90IS
Canon Powershot G1
Canon Powershot PRO 70
Sony Digital Cameras
Sony DSC S85
Sony MVC-CD 300
Sony Mavica MVC-CD1000
Olympus Digital Cameras
Olympus Camedia C3040
Olympus Camedia C3000
Olympus Camedia E10
Fuji Digital Cameras
Fuji Finepix S1 ?PRO?
Minolta Digital Cameras
Minolta Dimage 5
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