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Canon PowerShot G3

The third generation of Canon's popular G model retains last year's 4 megapixel CCD, but brings a 4X zoom lens and a host of other improvements.

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G3 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 9/16/2002

Digital Cameras - Canon PowerShot G3 Test Images

(Posted 11/18/02)

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Great resolution, detail, and color, and the contrast adjustment option helps hold detail in the highlights and shadows.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the PowerShot G3 performed well overall, though with slightly high contrast using its default settings. - Its contrast-adjustment feature helped a fair bit though, producing very good results in its "low" setting.

The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, with the camera's contrast adjustment set to Low. (As noted, the default contrast setting resulted in lost detail in both the highlights and shadows,, a typical problem on this shot for many cameras.) Midtones are brighter in this shot, and although the highlights are still a bit hot, detail is better there as well. I chose the Daylight white balance as the most accurate overall, though the Auto setting produced similar results. The Manual setting resulted in a very warm color balance.

Skin tones look pretty good to my eye, although the blue flowers in the bouquet are a little dark and purplish. (This is a very difficult blue for many digicams to get right. For reference, the flowers are a light navy blue.) The G3 oversaturates the red flowers just a little, but handles the bright greens and yellows well. Resolution looks great, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the frame, even in the shadows. Details are also sharp, and image noise in the shadows is quite low. A very nice job all around.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files G3OUTLCDP0.HTM through G3OUTLCDP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


 

Closer Portrait:

Excellent resolution and detail.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the G3's 4x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. Detail is excellent, with sharp details in Marti's face and hair. The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which produced a nicely balanced exposure with only the strongest highlights blown out. I again shot with the low contrast setting, which increased detail in the highlights and midtones. Shadow detail is strong, with very low noise.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files G3FACLCDP0.HTM through G3FACLCDP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash

Good intensity and overall color, but the incandescent room lighting produces a strong orange cast.

The G3's built-in flash illuminates the subject well, producing a bright image with reasonably good color. The background incandescent lighting results in an orange cast on the back wall, which spills onto Marti's features a fair amount. Still, color on Marti's shirt and in the flower bouquet isn't too bad. The shot at right has a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which brightens the image just enough. Increasing the exposure beyond this point washed out highlights in the white shirt, and didn't really affect the orange cast very much.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files G3INFP0.HTM through G3INFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Excellent color with the Incandescent white balance option, but very good results with Manual as well.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The G3's Incandescent white balance produced the best color here, though the Manual option produced nearly accurate color as well (with just a slight greenish cast). The Auto setting really had trouble though, producing a strong warm cast. Marti's skin tone is pretty good here, although the blue flowers came out quite dark and purplish. (Probably to be expected, considering the light source.) The shots at right have a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average for this shot, and about as high as I'd like to go here.

ISO Series:
Image noise is low in the G3's test shots, especially at ISO 50. Noise increases at the 400 setting, but is fairly fine-grained.

ISO Series
ISO 50
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great resolution, detail, and color.

All three of the G3's white balance settings produced good results here, but I finally settled on the Manual setting as the most accurate overall. The Auto setting was nearly identical, though a hint warmer, and Daylight was just a touch cool. Resolution is high, and the tree limbs and shrubbery show a lot of fine detail. Details are just a touch soft, slightly more so along the left side of the frame. Additionally, the finer foliage details in front of the house are defined more by contrast than finely-resolved detail, but definition is still good overall. All in all, an excellent performance.


 

Far-Field Test

Excellent resolution and detail, but slightly limited dynamic range.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the G3 did an excellent job with it. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show strong detail, especially in the leaf patterns and branches. Details are crisp throughout the frame, although the left edge of the frame is a little soft. The camera picks up only a little detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams and evidence of a slightly limited dynamic range. (The main shot here was not taken with the low contrast setting selected, which would likely have helped somewhat.) Detail is stronger in the shadow area above the front door, however. Overall color looks good, but exposure is bright and contrast is high. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and effects series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,272 x 1,704
G3FARGF
G3FARGN
G3FARGE
1,600 x 1,200
G3FARLF
   
1,024 x 768
G3FARMF
   
640 x 480
G3FARSF
   


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 50
ISO 100
ISO 100 with ND Mode
ISO 200 ND Mode
ISO 400 ND Mode

Sharpness Series:

Sharpness Series
Soft
Normal
Sharp

Contrast Series:

Contrast Series

Low


Normal


High

Saturation Series:

Saturation Series

Low


Normal

High

 

"Effects" Series:
The G3 offers several interesting "Effects" options as well. Though I personally don't see a lot of value in the black & white or sepia options, preferring to do such manipulations in an imaging program, they do add some creative options. (If you're really interested in black & white digital photography, you can get much better results than the camera's own internal black/white conversion through any of several third-party applications and plug-ins, that mimic the behavior of popular black and white film emulsions.) The Neutral and Vivid color options produce similar results to the saturation adjustment, and produce good overall adjustments. The Low Sharpness setting, separate from the camera's main sharpness adjustment, is just a hair sharper than the Soft setting above (but softer than the Normal setting).

Effects Series
Black and
White
Sepia
Neutral
Vivid
Low
Sharpness

 

 



 

Lens Zoom Range

A nice 4x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (4x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The G3's lens is equivalent to a 34-140mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a fairly wide angle to a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
4x Telephoto
3.6x Digital Telephoto


 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Good overall color, albeit slightly cool-toned, and great detail.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The G3's white balance performs well here, producing only slight color casts. The Daylight white balance setting did the best job here, with good skin tones, despite a slightly cool color balance overall. The Auto setting was a little too warm, and the Manual setting seemed a little cool, with pale skin tones. Even with the slightly cool Daylight white balance, the blue background has purplish tints that aren't in the original image. The blue robe looks nearly right, although again purplish in the shadow areas. Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the embroidery of the blue robe. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the G3 are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)


 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

About average macro area with great detail, though the flash has trouble this close.

The G3 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.93 x 2.20 inches (74 x 56 millimeters). Resolution is very high, with strong detail in the brooch, coins, and dollar bill. Corner softness is present in this shot, and extends down the entire left side of the frame. This is a very common failing of digicam lenses in ultra-macro shots, most likely caused by the optical phenomena called "curvature of field." The G3's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, likely due to the close shooting range and proximity to the lens. Thus, the resulting image is overexposed in the top left corner, with a shadow in the lower right corner from the lens barrel.


 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good exposure and excellent color, with accurate saturation.

Though I picked the Auto white balance setting for the main image, the Manual setting produced very good results as well. The Daylight setting also resulted in good color, though the white color block and resolution target are just a bit warm. Exposure looks about right, and the G3 has no trouble distinguishing the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. Colors are bright and vibrant in the large color blocks, though the red and blue color blocks are slightly oversaturated. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes has strong detail, with low noise, and the last steps of both gray scales are just barely distinguishable. Overall, a really excellent performance on this target.


 

Low-Light Tests

Excellent low-light performance, with good color balance and low noise, well beyond average city street lighting at night.

The G3 performs very well in this category, given its full manual exposure control and maximum exposure time of 15 seconds. The G3 produced clear, bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings. Overall color balance is a hint magenta, but still very good. The G3 automatically employs a Noise Reduction system at slower shutter speeds, which does an excellent job of keeping noise in check. Even at ISO 400, noise is only a little high, but with such a fine grain that it's less obtrusive than that on many cameras. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. (For reference, a level of 1 foot-candle (fc) is about equivalent to average city streetlighting at night.) Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

 

  1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.3lux
1/16fc
0.67lx
ISO
50
Click to see G3LL0503.JPG

2 sec
F/2
ISO: 50

Click to see G3LL0504.JPG

4 sec
F/2
ISO: 50

Click to see G3LL0505.JPG

8 sec
F/2
ISO: 50

Click to see G3LL0506.JPG

15 sec
F/2
ISO: 50

Click to see G3LL0507.JPG

15 sec
F/2
ISO: 50

ISO
100
Click to see G3LL1003.JPG

1/ 1 sec
F/2
ISO: 100

Click to see G3LL1004.JPG

2 sec
F/2
ISO: 100

Click to see G3LL1005.JPG

4 sec
F/2
ISO: 100

Click to see G3LL1006.JPG

8 sec
F/2
ISO: 100

Click to see G3LL1007.JPG

15 sec
F/2
ISO: 100

ISO
200
Click to see G3LL2003.JPG

1/ 3 sec
F/2
ISO: 200

Click to see G3LL2004.JPG

1 sec
F/2
ISO: 200

Click to see G3LL2005.JPG

2 sec
F/2
ISO: 200

Click to see G3LL2006.JPG

4 sec
F/2
ISO: 200

Click to see G3LL2007.JPG

8 sec
F/2
ISO: 200

ISO
400
Click to see G3LL4003.JPG

1/6 sec
F/2
ISO: 400

Click to see G3LL4004.JPG

1/ 2 sec
F/2
ISO: 400

Click to see G3LL4005.JPG

1 sec
F/2
ISO: 400

Click to see G3LL4006.JPG

2 sec
F/2
ISO: 400

Click to see G3LL4007.JPG

3.2 sec
F/2
ISO: 400

 

Love high ISO photography? Hate noise? Check out Fred Miranda's ISO-R noise-reducing actions for Photoshop. Incredible noise reduction, with *no* loss of subject detail. (Pretty amazing, IMHO.) Check it out!



 

Flash Range Test

A powerful flash, with only a little falloff at the 14 foot limit of our test. (Canon states 16.5 foot range with the lens in its wide angle position, the shots below are slightly towards telephoto, with a slightly smaller aperture.)

Canon rates the G3's flash as effective from 2.3 to 16.5 feet (0.7 to 5.0 meters), and to a maximum of 13.1 feet (0.4 meters) at full telephoto. In my testing, the flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, without any significant decrease in intensity. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

 

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see G3FL08.JPG

1/60 sec
F/2.8
ISO: 50

Click to see G3FL09.JPG

1/60 sec
F/3
ISO: 50

Click to see G3FL10.JPG

1/60 sec
F/3
ISO: 50

Click to see G3FL11.JPG

1/60 sec
F/3
ISO: 50

Click to see G3FL12.JPG

1/60 sec
F/3
ISO: 50

Click to see G3FL13.JPG

1/60 sec
F/3
ISO: 50

Click to see G3FL14.JPG

1/60 sec
F/3
ISO: 50



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very high resolution, 1,100 lines of "strong detail." Average barrel and pincushion distortion.

The G3 performed very well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines horizontally, and perhaps 1,050 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines.

Optical distortion on the G3 is slightly better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better, as I measured a 0.3 percent pincushion distortion, although this lower level of pincushion distortion at the telephoto setting seems to be typical of cameras I've tested. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only about two or three pixels of very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The most obvious distortion I noticed was some corner softness, particularly along the left side of the frame.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,272 x 1,704
G3RESWLF
G3RESWLN
G3RESWLE
1,600 x 1,200
G3RESWMF
G3RESWMN
G3RESWME
1,024 x 768
G3RESWSF
G3RESWSN
G3RESWSE
640 x 480
G3RESWTF
G3RESWTN
G3RESWTE

 

Resolution Test, Telephoto
2,272 x 1,704
(Fine JPEG)
G3RESTLF



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A tight optical viewfinder, but nearly 100 percent accuracy with the LCD monitor.

The G3's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing 86 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing almost exactly 100 percent accuracy at both zoom settings. Actually, the top measurement lines were just barely cut off, but framing was almost exact. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the G3's LCD monitor performs well in that regard. Flash distribution is bright and even in the center of the frame at wide angle, with falloff at the corners of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform, though slightly dim.

 


Wide Angle, Optical

Telephoto, Optical

Wide Angle, LCD

Telephoto, LCD

 

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