Canon G10 Review

 
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Canon PowerShot G10 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good overall color and hue accuracy, with minor oversaturation of some colors.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Saturation. The Canon G10 produced very good saturation overall, with only slight oversaturation in reds and blues. Some other colors such as bright yellows and purples were actually undersaturated a small amount. The Canon G10's images appeared to have natural looking color without appearing dull or subdued. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the Canon G10's skin tones did have a slightly reddish cast, but should still be pleasing to most consumers. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Canon PowerShot G10 produced a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, most visibly pushing cyan toward blue (for better-looking skies), red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Still, overall hue accuracy was quite good. Hue is "what color" the color is.

Saturation Adjustment
The Canon G10 lets you adjust the image Saturation, Contrast, and Sharpness (as well as Red, Green, Blue, and Skin Tone settings) in five steps each. As can be seen below, the saturation adjustment was pretty effective.

Saturation Adjustment Examples
Click to see G10OUTBSAT1.jpg Click to see G10OUTBSAT3.jpg Click to see G10OUTBSAT5.jpg
-2 0 +2

The table above shows results with the default as well as the two "extreme" saturation settings. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Auto and Manual white balance settings. About average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was a little warm with the Auto white balance setting, but the Canon G10 did better here than most digital cameras. The Incandescent white balance option resulted in a fairly strong reddish cast, while the Manual setting produced the most accurate overall. The G10's exposure system handled this lighting well, producing good results with an average amount of exposure compensation, + 0.3 EV. Overall color looks good, though the blue flowers look a touch purplish, probably due to the G10's tendency to punch up reds a little. (Many digital cameras reproduce the blue flowers here with more of a purplish tint, so the Canon G10 actually performs a little better than average here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good overall performance outdoors, though high contrast and hot highlights. Good color as well.

Manual White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The Canon PowerShot G10 performed reasonably well under harsh outdoor lighting, though contrast was quite high. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation (+1.0 EV) was needed to keep the model's facial skin tones bright, resulting in a lot of blown highlights in her shirt and flowers. There was slight overexposure in the outdoor far-field house shot at the default exposure. Overall color is good though, if slightly reddish, with the Manual white balance setting on the portrait (the Auto and Daylight settings were just a touch too cool). Though overall contrast is high, the shadows hold onto a fair amount of detail. Fortunately, there's a contrast adjustment to help tame the highlights a bit.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, 1,800 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,800 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,800 lines vertical
Extinction at
2,600 lines horizontal
(2x chart)
Extinction at
2,600 lines vertical
(2x chart)

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height in both directions. (Some would argue over 2,000 lines, but artifacts begin to appear at around 1,800 lines.) Extinction of the pattern occurred around 2,600 lines in both directions (multiple the results from the 2x chart by two). Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp, detailed images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression limits definition in the shadows, though detail is still strong here.

Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with only minor
edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot G10 captures excellent detail and reasonably sharp images. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows moderate noise suppression, as the darker areas of hair show less distinct detail. However, individual strands remain fairly well defined in the more moderate shadows. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Canon G10 produces fairly sharp, detailed in-camera JPEGs. As is almost always the case, quite a bit more detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs. The Canon G10's JPEGs are quite good straight from the camera, but it's surprising how much more detail is visible after processing in a good RAW converter. Take a look below, to see what we mean:

In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking twice will open the full resolution image.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with pretty good results up to ISO 400. Strong noise and loss of detail at higher settings, however.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1,600
   
  ISO 3,200
(1.9 MP)
 

The Canon PowerShot G10 produced low to moderate noise at the lower sensitivity settings, though the effects of noise reduction such as smudging and loss of detail can already be seen at ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise is still reasonable and fine detail fairly strong, though additional smudging is evident and chroma noise starts to appear in the shadows. Noise grain is much more apparent at ISO 800, as is an increase in detail loss and chroma noise. At ISO 1,600, a pronounced increase in noise greatly interferes with detail and color. Yellow and purple blotches start to appear in even tones and hair at ISO 800, and worsen as ISO goes up. ISO 3,200 is reasonably clean, but also devoid of fine detail due to the pixel binning or interpolation employed to produce the much lower resolution (1.9 megapixels) image. The exposure at ISO 3,200 is a bit dim as well. The Canon G10 does not have an adjustable noise reduction setting. To see how these images held up to printing at various sizes, read the Output Quality section below.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong detail, but high contrast. Good low-light performance, capable of getting bright images in near darkness.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot G10 performed reasonably well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, but with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Despite some noise suppression in the shadow areas, detail is still good in the shadows. Highlight detail is compromised, with clipping occurring in the shirt and some flowers, but still pretty good. At +0.7 EV, the face, background and some shadow areas are just a little dark, so we preferred the +1.0 EV exposure, though it resulted in a lot of blown highlights. The G10's adjustable contrast setting did a good job of decreasing the overall contrast and bringing up the midtones, without creating any strange color gradations on the face, but some highlights were still too hot. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.

Contrast Adjustment
As mentioned previously, the camera's contrast adjustment helped in handling the harsh lighting.

Minimum Contrast
Contrast set to lowest,
+1.0 EV
Contrast set to lowest,
Auto Exposure

At its lowest contrast setting, the Canon G10 did a better job of preserving highlight detail, maintaining fairly natural-looking skin tones, and holding more in the shadows, though there are still some blown highlights in both the portrait and far-field house shots.


Contrast Adjustment Examples
-2 0 +2

The shots above show the results of the minimum, default and maximum contrast settings. While you can see the extremes, it's pretty hard to evaluate small differences in contrast on small thumbnails like these, click on any thumbnail to go to the full-size image.


i-Contrast Example
Off, +1.0EV Auto, +1.0EV

The above images show the effect of the Canon G10's Intelligent Contrast (i-Contrast) feature. The Auto mode did brighten the model's face a bit, though there appears to be sightly more clipping of highlights in her shirt and flowers.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)




  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
80
Click to see G10LL00803.JPG
2 sec
f3.0
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4 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL00805.JPG
8 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL00806.JPG
15 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL00807.JPG
15 sec
f2.9
ISO
100
Click to see G10LL01003.JPG
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL01004.JPG
3.2 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL01005.JPG
6.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL01006.JPG
12.6 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL01007.JPG
15 sec
f2.9
ISO
200
Click to see G10LL02003.JPG
0.8 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL02004.JPG
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL02005.JPG
3.2 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL02006.JPG
8 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL02007.JPG
12.6 sec
f2.9
ISO
400
Click to see G10LL04003.JPG
0.4 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL04004.JPG
0.6 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL04005.JPG
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL04006.JPG
4 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL04007.JPG
6.3 sec
f2.9
ISO
800
Click to see G10LL08003.JPG
1/5 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL08004.JPG
0.4 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL08005.JPG
0.8 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL08006.JPG
2 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL08007.JPG
4 sec
f3.0
ISO
1600
Click to see G10LL16003.JPG
1/10 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL16004.JPG
1/6 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL16005.JPG
0.4 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL16006.JPG
1 sec
f3.0
Click to see G10LL16007.JPG
2 sec
f3.0
ISO
3200
Click to see G10LL32003.JPG
1/24 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL32004.JPG
1/12 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL32005.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL32006.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.9
Click to see G10LL32007.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.9

Low light. The Canon PowerShot G10 performed well on the low-light test, capturing reasonably bright images at the lowest light level with almost the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). At ISOs 80 and 100, the image at 1/16 foot-candle are a bit dim, due to the G10's maximum exposure time of 15 seconds. Alternatively, images captured at ISO 3,200 were only bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level because the camera limits its exposure times to 1/8 second at that ISO setting. Color balance was pretty good with the Auto white balance setting. Images were reasonably clean up to ISO 400 at the lowest light levels, but increase in noise as ISO increases until ISO 3,200, where the lower resolution masks much of the noise (and detail too). In addition to default noise reduction, the G10 automatically applies dark-frame subtraction for exposures 1.3 seconds or slower.

The camera's autofocus system worked well also, as it was able to focus on the subject down to just below the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and down to the darkest light level with the AF assist enabled. (A useful trick when shooting under dim lighting is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy. The G10 should do quite well in such situations.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
A powerful flash, with good coverage. About average exposure compensation required.

28mm equivalent 140mm equivalent
Normal Flash, +0.7 EV Slow-Sync Flash, Default Exposure

Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was somewhat uneven at wide angle (not surprising, given the wider-than-average 28mm equivalent focal length), with more uniform results at full telephoto. In the Indoor test, the G10's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a boost in exposure to +0.7 EV, a typical value for this scene. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results with no exposure compensation, though with a stronger yellow-orange cast from the room lighting.


Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see G10FL06W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL07W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL08W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL09W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL10W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL11W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see G10FL12W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL13W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL14W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL15W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL16W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see G10FL06T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL07T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL08T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL09T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL10T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL11T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see G10FL12T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL13T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL14T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL15T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100
Click to see G10FL16T.JPG
1/64 sec
f4.6
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. At wide angle and ISO 100, flash shots were bright all the way out to 16 feet, the limit of our test. At telephoto, flash shots were bright to about 12 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. Excellent results here.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see G10FL_MFR150WA0250.JPG
15.0 feet
Auto ISO 250
Click to see G10FL_MFR092TA0250.JPG
9.2 feet
Auto ISO 250

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the G10 seems to perform about as Canon says it will at wide angle and telephoto. It boosted ISO a little to 250, probably because the metering reacted to all the black in the target scene. Much better than average performance here. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, good color, sharp 16x20-inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 13x19, ISO 800 shots are good at 11x14.

Print quality is quite excellent from the Canon G10's images, with good color. Conservatively, the ISO 80 JPEG images look great at 16x20 inches, and are usable at 20x30 straight out of the camera; sharpening and processing from RAW can sharpen things up considerably at all ISO settings. ISO 400 JPEG images are soft but usable at 13x19, but stand up better at 11x14 inches. Even ISO 800 shots are usable at 11x14, with a film-like grain pattern. ISO 1,600 shots are good at 5x7, too, but ISO 3,200 shots really are too soft to be usable at 4x6 inches. Overall, an amazing performance.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot G10 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot G10 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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