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Canon Powershot G6

By: Dave Etchells

The next generation of Canon's popular "G" model updates the line with a larger, 7.1-megapixel CCD and a redesigned camera body.

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Page 13:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 09/28/2004

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Canon PowerShot G6's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the G6's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the G6 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!

"Gallery" Photos
Readers interested in seeing a sample of more pictorial images shot with the G6 can visit our Canon PowerShot G6 Photo Gallery.

  • Color: Very good to excellent color. Throughout my testing, the G6 delivered what I've come to call "Canon color," characterized by bright, accurate hues, albeit with a tendency to shift cyans toward blue slightly, which seems to result in better sky colors. Caucasian skin tones were excellent, and white balance was generally quite accurate. The camera's auto white balance option had some difficulty with the household incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait shot, but both the incandescent and manual white balance options handled it very nicely. All in all, very nice color. (Click the image at right to see a larger view of the color-error map from Imatest, or see the G6's Imatest page for more complete results and analysis.)

  • Exposure: Good exposure accuracy. The G6's exposure system handled my test lighting well, accurately exposing most shots, and generally requiring about the average amount of exposure compensation on those shots that typically require it. Its default tone curve was a little contrasty, but the low contrast option did a good job of preserving highlight detail under the deliberately difficult lighting of my "Sunlit" Portrait test, although the exposure I had to use to accomplish this left the midtones and Marti's skin tones rather dark. Overall though, a good exposure system with good contrast control.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very high resolution, 1,550 lines of "strong detail." The G6 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions around 1,200 lines per picture height vertically, but around 1,000 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,550 lines horizontally, but only to about 1,500 lines vertically. (And there were strong aliasing artifacts a good 100-150 lines lower than these levels.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,900 lines. Using its "MTF 50" criteria, Imatest reported uncorrected resolution figures of 1552 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge), and 1334 along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 1443 LW/PH. Correcting to a "standardized" sharpening with a one-pixel radius increased the vertical number quite a bit, to 1493 LW/PH, giving a corrected average of 1523 LW/PH, an excellent result.



  • Image Noise: Good image noise levels, a significant improvement over the G5 model. More importantly, a very fine-grained noise pattern makes the noise less objectionable. The chart above compares the PowerShot G6's noise performance over a range of ISOs against that of other cameras. As I'm writing this, we haven't yet seen any other cameras with 7-megapixel chips in them, so this comparison is against a couple of other "high end" 8-megapixel units, as well as against the earlier G5, to show the improvement Canon managed with the G6. (This last is particularly impressive, given the smaller pixels in the G6's sensor.) As you can see, the G6 falls somewhere between the Nikon 8700 and Konica Minolta A2. What doesn't show in this graph is the very smooth, fine-grained nature of the G6's noise pattern, which makes it much less evident to the eye than the noise of many other cameras.

  • Closeups: A small macro area with good detail in the dollar bill, but the corners are very soft. Flash almost throttles down enough, but overexposes slightly. The G6 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.11 x 1.58 inches (54 x 40 millimeters). Resolution was very high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill. The G6 lost some points in the macro category though, for the very soft corners in the image. Most digicams tend to have soft corners when shooting in macro mode, but the G6 is worse in this respect than most. The G6's flash almost throttled down for the macro area, but still overexposed a little. The G6's built-in Neutral Density filter fixed the overexposure problem though.

  • Night Shots: Very good low-light performance, with bright images and good color to the limits of my test. Good focusing with the AF illuminator as well. The G6 produced clear, bright, usable images with good color down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at all four ISO settings. (Average city street lighting at night corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle.) Some of the shots at the lowest light levels show a slight pink cast, but overall color is still quite good. Noise was low, at the 50 and 100 ISO settings, creeping upward at ISO 200, and becoming high at ISO 400. Even at ISO 400 though, while the amplitude of the noise is fairly high, its pattern is so fine-grained that it really isn't all that objectionable. (IMHO, anyway - I'd have no qualms about shooting at ISO 400 with the G6.) Thanks to its bright autofocus-assist illuminator, the G6 can also focus in almost total darkness as well.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A very tight optical viewfinder, but accurate LCD monitor. The G6's optical viewfinder was very tight at telephoto, showing approximately 76 of the final image area. Results were a little better at wide angle, showing about 83 percent frame accuracy. The LCD monitor proved more accurate, showing about 99 percent at both zoom settings (though my top measurement lines were cut off at the wide angle setting, possibly from the barrel distortion). Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the G6's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard, but I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder on the camera.

  • Optical Distortion: Average barrel distortion, and low pincushion. Very low chromatic aberration, and very good corner to corner sharpness. Optical distortion on the G6 was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured approximately 0.3 percent pincushion distortion there. (Both numbers are within the average range, among digicams I test.) Chromatic aberration was very low, showing no more than two or three pixels of moderate 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 G6's lens was also very sharp from corner to corner, further evidence of high quality optics.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Shutter lag and cycle times slightly faster than average. While not as fast as recent digicams using hybrid IR/contrast-detect autofocus systems, the G6's full-autofocus shutter lag times of 0.73-0.78 second represents a significant improvement over the 1.04-1.17 second range of the earlier G5. (Impressive, given the G6's larger sensor, which means more data has to be clocked off for each iteration of the autofocus adjustment cycle.) At 1.93 seconds/frame in single-shot mode, shooting large/fine JPEG files, cycle time is almost exactly the same as that of the G5, although the G6's buffer now holds 11 shots, vs the meager 4 shot of the G5. Continuous mode cycle times have slipped a little bit, to just under 1 second per shot, down from 0.72 second on the G5 for normal continuous mode, and 0.64 second, down from 0.51 second for high-speed continuous mode. Not bad, but probably not a first choice for sports or other fast-paced action.

  • Battery Life: Excellent battery life. Unfortunately, the PowerShot G6's proprietary power connector prevented me from conducting my usual detailed power-drain measurements. It's safe to say though, that the G6 offers very long battery life, given that Canon claims a 300-shot battery life, based on the CIPA industry standard. (A fairly conservative rating standard, which includes use of the flash on a percentage of the images. The spec calls for shooting an image every 20 seconds, running the lens back and forth between wide angle and telephoto focal lengths, using the flash every 4th shot, and turning the camera on and off after every 8th shot.) Canon also claims approximately 400 minutes of run time in Playback mode, which is longer than the 312 minutes I projected for the G5. (Although my standard and Canon's may differ, so the G5 and G6 numbers many not be directly comparable.)

 

Conclusion

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Canon's "G" series of digicams have always been favorites of mine, not to mention favorites of our readers. They offer a nearly ideal blend of features and capabilities, along with excellent image quality and great battery life. With the G6, Canon has once again upped the ante, managing to actually reduce image noise, even as they boosted resolution from 5 to 7 megapixels. Overall, there's really not much that I can find to complain about with the G6, other than perhaps its limited movie recording time at maximum resolution, and the lack of a live histogram option in record mode, both relatively minor quibbles. - This is a powerful photographic tool, and a pretty affordable one, relative to its exceptional capabilities. Also, while it's clearly aimed at the "enthusiast" shooter, I should point out that (as is the case with most high-end digicam models) even complete novices will have no trouble using the G6 in its full auto mode. If you're in the market for a rangefinder-style prosumer digicam, the Canon PowerShot G6 should be at or near the top of your list of likely candidates. Oh - and if you hadn't guessed by now, the G6 was also a shoo-in for a "Dave's Pick" as one of the better models on the market.

 

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