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Canon PowerShot G1

Canon combines dead-easy auto shooting, full manual control, and excellent image quality in a killer3 megapixel!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 10/28/2000

Executive Overview
The compact shape of the Canon PowerShot G1 may fool you into thinking that it's an ordinary point-and-shoot digital camera, but if you look more closely, you'll see the extensive exposure mode offerings on the mode dial, the external flash hot shoe, and a very intriguing, rotating LCD panel. One of our favorite design elements is the rotating LCD monitor, which actually lifts up and off the camera's back panel and swings to face forward, as well as rotates a full 270 degrees, with locking positions in the forward, up, back, and down positions. This added flexibility in the LCD's design allows you to compose images for self-timed photography while standing in front of the camera, and also means that you can view the LCD monitor when shooting from odd angles. For example, you can view the monitor while holding the camera at waist level, or look up at it while holding the camera over your head in a crowd. The best part is that you can turn the LCD around to face the camera's back panel, and then snap it back into its compartment to protect the LCD screen from fingerprint smudges or scratches.

Maintaining the portability of the PowerShot digicam line, the G1 measures about 4.7 x 3.0 x 2.5 inches (119.7 x 76.8 x 63.8mm), and weighs approximately 14.8 ounces (420 grams). While this may seem a little hefty when compared to other compact digicams, the G1 is surprisingly light, considering the extensive amount of features and controls it offers. The camera should fit into a large coat pocket or purse, but also comes with a 0.5-inch neck strap for added convenience.

An eye-level optical viewfinder zooms along with the 3X lens and features a central autofocus/exposure target for composing images. The diopter adjustment dial on the left side of the eyepiece controls the viewfinder focus for eyeglass wearers, and two LEDs on the same side report the camera's ready status. The LCD monitor display is activated by the Display button, which also controls an information readout. When in Shooting (or record) mode, the LCD reports the exposure, flash, and single or continuous capture modes. The small LED panel on top of the camera reports settings such as file size, battery power, the number of frames remaining, and various other functions as they are enabled.

A telescoping, 3X optical 7- 21mm zoom lens (equivalent to 34-102mm on a 35mm camera) offers both manual and automatic focus control. The through-the-lens (TTL) autofocus system operates in either continuous or single mode, controlling how often the autofocus mechanism actually adjusts the focus. Manual focus mode is accessed by holding down a button on the upper left side of the camera and adjusting the focus with the up and down arrow buttons on the "Omni selector" pad on the back of the camera. A distance scale on the LCD monitor indicates how far you are from maximum and minimum focus, but does not mark the distance numerically. Focus ranges from 2.3 feet (70cm) to infinity in normal mode, and from 2.4 inches to 2.4 feet (6 to 70cm) in macro mode. Digital zoom is controlled through the record menu, with 2X and 4X enlargement options. (Remember that because digital zoom only enlarges the center portion of the CCD image, it compromises the image quality by producing excess noise and softer images.)

The G1 provides as much or as little exposure control as you want. The main exposure modes, which Canon refers to as "Creative Zone" functions are selected using the Mode dial on top of the camera. These include: Auto, Program AE (P), Aperture-Priority AE (Av) , Shutter Speed-Priority AE (Tv), and Manual (M). Shooting in Auto mode puts the camera in charge of everything except the flash. Program AE lets the camera choose the aperture and shutter speed settings, but gives you control over all other exposure options. Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes allow you to set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best corresponding one. Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure controls. The camera's aperture can be set from f/2.0 to f/8.0, and the shutter speed ranges from 1/1,000 to 8 seconds.

The G1's remaining exposure controls, accessible via one of the on-camera buttons or through the Record menu, are quite extensive. They include a White Balance setting with seven options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom; adjustable ISO sensitivities from Auto to 50, 100, 200, and 400; Exposure Compensation from -2 to +2 EV, in one-third-step increments; Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) from -+/- 1/3 EV to +/- 2EV (a total of three exposures, spread across that range); a choice of Center-Weighted Averaging and Spot Metering modes, and Automatic Exposure (AE) Lock. The G1's built-in flash offers five operating modes (Auto; Red-Eye Reduction, Auto; Red-Eye Reduction (Normal); Flash On; or Flash Off) and a variable intensity control from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. The Flash Exposure (FE) Lock function allows you to lock the flash exposure setting for one specific subject in the frame.

The G1 also offers several special shooting modes on the Mode dial (Canon refers to these as "Image Zone" modes). They include Pan Focus, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night Scene, Black and White, Stitch-Assist, and Movie. Pan Focus, Portrait, and Landscape all make automatic camera adjustments to optimize shooting under specific conditions. For example, the Pan Focus fixes the lens focal length to its widest angle setting and hyperfocal distance to give you maximum shutter speed and depth of field to cover unpredictable subject movement. The Portrait mode uses a low aperture setting to focus on the subject, while maintaining an out-of-focus background. Landscape mode slows the shutter speed and maximizes depth of field.

Night Scene mode illuminates your subject with flash and uses a slow shutter speed to evenly expose the background. The Stitch-Assist mode is Canon's answer to panorama mode, in which multiple, overlapping images can be captured horizontally, vertically, or in a clockwise grouping. Images are then "stitched" together on a computer using Canon's bundled PhotoStitch software. Movie mode allows you to capture up to 30 seconds of moving images and sound at approximately 15 frames per second.

Other special shooting modes, accessed via on-camera buttons or the Record menu, include: Macro, which allows you to photograph subjects within a range of 2.4 inches to 2.3 feet (6-70mm) at the maximum wide-angle setting, and from 7.9 inches to 2.3 feet (20-70mm) at maximum telephoto. Continuous Shooting mode captures multiple, successive still images, at about 1.7 frames per second, as long as you hold down the shutter release. (The number of images and actual shot-to-shot speed depend on several factors, including the amount of memory remaining on the flash card.) The Self-Timer/Wireless Remote Controller can be used to activate a 12-second countdown shutter-release function, as well as trigger the shutter remotely with the accompanying wireless infrared controller.

Images are saved onto CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, with available resolution sizes of 2,048 x 1,536, 1,024 x 768, or 640 x 480 pixels (movies are saved at 320 x 240-pixel resolution). Three JPEG compression levels are available, as well as a RAW data file format, which results in a higher quality image compression (Canon ZoomBrowser EX software is required to process RAW images). A USB cable is provided with the camera for speedy connection to PC or Macintosh computers, and two software CDs offer an impressive selection of utilities. Canon's own Digital Camera software package includes tools for downloading and organizing images, processing RAW files, stitching images captured in Stitch-Assist mode, and a unique application that allows you to operate the camera remotely through your computer (RemoteCapture 1.1). RemoteCapture not only controls the shutter, but provides a histogram of the subject so that you can check the exposure. A copy of Adobe PhotoShop LE 5.0 is provided for more extensive image editing and enhancement capabilities.

US and Japanese G1 models come with an NTSC cable for connecting to a television (European models are equipped for the PAL standard). Combining the television composition and playback with the capabilities of the remote control can turn the camera into a useful presentation tool. Power for the G1 is supplied by a rechargeable BP-511 lithium-ion battery pack, which comes with the camera, as well as an AC adapter. A battery charger is available as an accessory, as is a car AC adapter kit, which plugs into an automobile cigarette lighter.

Overall, we were very pleased with the PowerShot G1. It offers the extensive exposure control we're accustomed to seeing in much larger digicams, with the benefit of a reasonably slim, portable camera body. Its varying levels of exposure control are great for novices who want to learn camera functions incrementally, but will also keep more advanced photographers satisfied. Great image quality, plus loads of features, makes the G1 a versatile, user-friendly digital camera that should appeal to a wide variety of consumers.

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