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Canon PowerShot G1

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

Review First Posted: 10/28/2000

Must-have e-book for this camera -- $20, Click Here!

MSRP $999 US


3.34 megapixel CCD delivering up to 2,048 x 1536 images
Auto, Scene Program, Program, and Manual exposure modes
Unique tilt/swivel LCD panel
Accepts Type II CF cards (MicroDrive compatible)
Beautiful pictures!

Manufacturer Overview
Canon U.S.A. has been an active contender in the digital market this year, releasing a full complement of new digital cameras, all designed and engineered to live up to Canon's high standards. Its two May announcements, the PowerShot S100 Digital Elph and the EOS D30, are perfect examples of how versatile Canon's digital line has become. In a body originally debuted as the "world's smallest" APS film camera in 1994, the 2.1-megapixel Digital Elph was redesigned on the inside for digital capture, but still maintained its super-sleek, ultra-compact physique. The EOS D30, built to look and feel like a conventional 35mm SLR, was introduced as a "prosumer" version of Canon's professional digital line, which included the EOS D2000 and EOS DCS-1. Now the 3.3-megapixel PowerShot G1 takes its place in Canon's digital line-up, with the look and feel of a compact SLR and the user-adjustable features of a pro model.

High Points

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.

With dimensions similar to many film-based, point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, the Canon PowerShot G1 is relatively compact and portable. It measures 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) without batteries, making it just slightly larger and heavier than the small- to mid-size point-and-shoots. It fits easily into a large coat pocket or purse, and the half-inch neck strap makes toting it around much more convenient.

The front of the camera includes the lens, optical viewfinder window, built-in flash, autofocus assist light, microphone, and remote control sensor. The 3X zoom lens telescopes out from the camera body when the G1 is powered on, and retracts when the camera is powered off. The lens is protected by a small plastic lens cap, tethered to the camera body with an attached cord. The microphone, barely visible next to the camera lens, records sound to accompany in-camera movies. A small, rubber finger grip on the front of the camera is positioned to counterbalance a curved, molded thumb grip on the back. Both are critical, as they are the only built-in design features provided to help you hold onto the camera body.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the back) is the single eyelet for attaching the neck strap, and a sliding chamber door to access the CompactFlash slot, which accommodates both Type I and II CompactFlash cards. The opposite side of the camera has a manual focus button, speaker, and an A/V Out jack in clear view, with the USB and DC-In jacks covered by a soft rubber flap that pulls outward from the camera and then slides out of the way.

The G1's top panel features a small status display window; an external flash hot shoe; a Main (lower) dial with a Shooting (or record) position, Off setting, Replay (or playback) position, and PC Connection mode; a Mode (upper) dial, with shooting and exposure options; a zoom control; a shutter button; and a Continuos Drive/Self-Timer/Wireless Controller button. The status display panel is always appreciated, as it reports camera settings and other miscellaneous information, without the need for powering up the LCD monitor. Positioning the exposure mode dial on top of the power switch, is a configuration we have been seeing more of lately. We are accustomed to the power control as a function of the mode dial, but this configuration works as well. The only troublesome thing we noticed is that the power switch is a little hard to control when turning the camera off. It seemed that we always wound up pushing the dial too far - all the way to the Replay mode setting - and had to switch it back the other way. We eventually discovered that a two-finger approach was necessary to control the dial's movement.

The majority of the exposure controls are located on the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The G1's eye-level optical viewfinder features a diopter adjustment switch and two LEDs that report camera status. We were intrigued by the camera’s LCD panel, which pops out of the camera back and folds forward to face the front of the camera. It also swivels around 270 degrees, to accommodate several shooting angles, and the monitor screen can be turned around and popped back into the panel face-down, protecting it from accidental scratches and fingerprints. A raised thumb grip, just to the left of the Omni selector arrow pad, provides counter support to the rubber finger grip on the front of the camera, affording a reasonably secure hold.

Other camera controls on the back panel include the Menu, Set, and Display buttons; an Auto Exposure (AE) and Flash Exposure (FE) lock; dual-function buttons for Spot Metering/Enlarge, Macro mode/Jump, and Flash mode/Index Control; and a four-function button for controlling Exposure Compensation/White Balance/Auto Exposure Bracketing/and Flash Exposure compensation. This last control is by far the most complicated of the group; however, each of its functions is related to exposure, and therefore uses the -2 to +2 EV bar to make its adjustments (with the exception of the white balance bar, which gives you a choice of seven light-quality options). The first function, exposure compensation, is activated with one press of the button; the white balance is activated by pressing the button twice, and so on. And like many digicam models, the dual-function buttons perform their first functions in capture mode and their second functions in playback mode.

The G1's bottom panel is reasonably flat, with a sliding door to the battery compartment and a threaded metal tripod mount. The tripod mount is positioned off-center (to the left of the lens), presumably to compensate for the extra weight of the battery compartment. Because the battery door and tripod mount are so close to one another, it would be difficult to make quick battery changes while working with a tripod.

Accompanying the camera is a small infrared remote control with a working range of up to 16.4 feet (5 meters). By activating the Continuous/Self-Timer/Wireless Controller button in Shooting mode, you can use the remote to fire the shutter, adjust the optical zoom, or scroll through the LCD display screens without coming in contact with the camera body. This works well with the rotating LCD monitor, because you can mount the camera on a tripod and compose the subject while standing in front of the camera. The remote also offers several playback functions which are useful when viewing images on a television screen. The Index display and Replay zoom buttons on the bottom of the remote enable you to view up to nine thumbnail images at a time, or enlarge one captured image on the LCD monitor. The four arrow buttons on the remote give you the same capabilities as the Omni selector arrow pad on the back of the camera, permitting you to scroll through stored images or maneuver within a larger one. Depressing the remote's shutter button while in Replay mode lets you play movie files on the camera's monitor or television. We were glad to see the inclusion of this simple gadget as a standard feature, especially with the G1's video capabilities, which allow the camera to be used as a presentation tool.

The G1 features both an eye-level optical viewfinder and a repositionable LCD monitor on the back of the camera for image composition. The real-image optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens (except in Digital Telephoto mode, which requires the LCD monitor), and displays a set of target crosshairs in the center of its screen. A diopter adjustment control on the left of the eyepiece adjusts the viewfinder focus for eyeglass wearers, and two LED lights report the camera’s status during certain operations. For example, when you depress the shutter button halfway, a steady green light (on top) indicates that the camera is ready to record and/or the flash is charge is complete; a flashing green light indicates that an image is either being written to, read from, or erased from the CompactFlash card; a steady orange light (on top) indicates that the camera is ready to record and/or the flash is adequately charged; and a flashing orange light indicates a camera-shake warning (i.e. the shutter speed is too slow to handhold), or the battery is charging. The lower LED light glows yellow when the camera is set in Macro or Manual focus modes.

Measuring 1.8-inches diagonally, Canon's low-temperature, polycrystalline silicon, TFT, color LCD monitor features a smart, swiveling design for nearly unlimited viewing options. The monitor's plastic casing actually pops out of the back of the camera and swings around to face forward (the same direction as the lens). From that position, the monitor can be rotated forward 180 degrees or backward 90 degrees, allowing you to hold the camera in practically any position and still see what's going on in the viewfinder. It's a real boon to photographers who frequently have to shoot over people's heads in a crowd!

The best part of the LCD’s swiveling monitor design is that it can be flipped around to face the back panel and then closed, keeping the screen safe from scratches and fingerprints. The Display button controls the LCD monitor’s image and information display. Pressed once, it activates the LCD monitor. The second press turns on the information display, which reports exposure mode, digital zoom, single or continuous shooting, manual focus, and flash mode (depending upon the shooting mode you are using). At the bottom of the screen are the shutter speed and aperture settings, which are always a bonus when analyzing a shot. The third press of the Display button cancels both displays.

In Replay mode, the LCD monitor provides a full-frame display of captured images, which you can view individually by scrolling left or right with the arrow buttons on the Omni selector arrow pad. Depressing the Flash/Index button brings up a thumbnail index display of nine images at a time, which you can also scroll through with the arrow buttons. A Digital Enlargement button (marked by a magnifying glass) allows you to enlarge an image 2.5X and 5X its normal size in the screen. The arrow keys permit you to move around the image and check the fine details.

Depressing the Display button one time in Replay mode pulls up detailed information about the captured image, including the file name, date and time it was recorded, compression, resolution, and what number it is in the sequence of captured images. Depressing the Display button twice adds exposure information such as the Image Zone (portrait, landscape, etc.), shutter speed, f/stop, exposure compensation, and white balance. A third press turns off the information display.

The LCD viewfinder is also involved in setting a number of exposure parameters, controlled by a four-function pushbutton. Successful preses of this button cycle you through screens for setting exposure compensation, white balance, auto bracketing, and flash exposure compensation.

We found the G1's optical viewfinder to be quite tight, showing about 85 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 82.6 percent accuracy at the telephoto setting. The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing approximately 96.5 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 97 percent at telephoto. (We actually found that the measurements for the LCD monitor differed slightly with the image resolution at the telephoto setting. Measurements indicated 97 percent at 2,048 pixels, 96.9 percent at 1,024 pixels, and 96.8 percent at 640 pixels.) Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the G1 performed well in this respect.

The G1 features a built-in, 3X, 7-21mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 34-102mm lens on a 35mm camera). When the camera is powered on, the lens telescopes out from the camera body into its operating position, then retracts again when the camera is shut off. A plastic lens cap protects the lens when not in use, and features a small tether to attach it to the camera body. Focus can be automatically or manually controlled, with a range of 2.3 feet (70cm) to infinity in normal mode. Macro mode features a focus range of 2.4 inches to 2.4 feet (6 to 70cm). The aperture adjusts automatically or manually, with an f/2.0-f/8.0 range, depending on the zoom setting.

Manual focus is activated by depressing the Manual Focus button on the left side of the camera. As it's held down, a distance indicator appears on the LCD monitor, providing a reference scale for focusing. The up and down arrows of the Omni selector are used to focus on the subject in the monitor (the top of the scale represents infinity). Although the LCD scale is not marked numerically, the Canon G1 Camera User Guide provides an approximate scale in feet and meters on page 74 for reference.

When shooting in Autofocus mode, the G1 offers both Continuous and Single Autofocus functions. In Continuous mode, the camera is constantly adjusting focus, even when the shutter button is not depressed halfway. In Single mode, the camera focuses only when the shutter button is depressed halfway, which helps to conserve battery power. A Pan focus mode is also provided as a preset exposure on the Mode dial. It fixes the lens at the widest possible angle, allowing you to photograph at any distance (25.6 inches/65cm to infinity), without having to refocus on close-up or far-away subjects. This mode is great for fast-paced action, when subjects are in constant movement.

Digital zoom is controlled within the camera’s Record menu, with options for 2X or 4X enlargement. Digital Telephoto is not available when shooting with the G1’s Continuous Shooting or Movie modes, or when using the RAW file format. It’s important to note that the digital zoom simply enlarges the center of the CCD image, ultimately resulting in some image degradation. (Loss of image quality often shows up as increased noise or reduced image sharpness.) The good news is that the G1 accommodates several optional lens converters with a lens adaptor kit. Options include a wide-angle WC-DC58 conversion lens, which augments the lens focal length by a factor of 0.8; a tele-converter TC-DC58, which increases the lens' focal length by a factor of 1.5; and a close-up lens 250D, which brings the camera's focusing range down to 4.7-7.9 inches (12-20cm) in Macro mode.

Optical distortion on the G1 is moderately high at the wide-angle end, as we measured approximately 0.5 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, showing only about two pixels of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is also relatively low, with about one or two pixels of coloration on each side of the black 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.) All distortion figures are lower than average among digicams we've tested.

The G1 offers excellent exposure control, with Automatic, Program AE (P), Shutter Speed Priority AE (Tv), Aperture Priority AE (Av), Manual (M) exposure modes, and a handful of special settings for specific shooting situations. Under the Automatic exposure mode, the camera controls both shutter speed and aperture settings, giving you control of digital telephoto, flash, compression, and image resolution or quality. The Program AE mode also takes control of the shutter speed and aperture settings, but allows you to adjust all other exposure controls, including exposure compensation, flash, flash exposure compensation, spot metering, ISO adjustment, AE lock, auto exposure bracketing, white balance, contrast, sharpness, and color saturation.

Shutter Priority mode puts you in control of the shutter speed setting (from 1/1,000 to 8 seconds), while the camera chooses a corresponding lens aperture. As with the Program AE mode, you maintain control over all other exposure options. Aperture Priority works along similar lines, except that you control the aperture (f/2.0 to f/8.0) and the camera chooses the best shutter speed. Both the shutter speed and aperture values are displayed on the LCD monitor. If the camera doesn’t agree with the exposure settings you’ve selected, the LCD indicators will turn red, letting you know that either the aperture or shutter speed needs to be corrected.

Several preset exposure modes are also available for shooting under special conditions. Pan Focus mode sets the camera lens at maximum wide angle, so your subjects will be in focus close-up and far away (25.6 inches/65cm to Infinity). Portrait mode uses a large aperture setting to reduce the depth of field, resulting in blurred backgrounds and strong focal emphasis on the primary subject. Landscape mode uses a small aperture to keep both the foreground and background in sharp focus. A slow shutter speed is also common in Landscape mode, so it's recommended that you use a tripod.

Night Scene mode uses a slow shutter speed to capture the color and detail of an evening setting, along with a flash exposure to illuminate the primary subject in the foreground. When slow shutter speed and flash are used together, the overall scene is more evenly exposed. This mode can also be combined with the red-eye reduction flash for portraits. A tripod is also recommended when working in Night Scene mode, and portrait subjects should be warned to stay still after the flash, until the shutter is closed. Black and White mode is self-explanatory, as it simply captures images in black-and-white monotone tones.

A quick-review mode allows you to confirm the recorded image. To access the Review mode, you can either continue to hold down the shutter button after it fires, or press the Set button after capturing the image. The image will be displayed in the LCD monitor for two seconds (or 10 seconds, if the option is changed in the Record menu). You can immediately erase the image by pressing the "*" button, which pulls up a small erase menu on the bottom of the monitor. Press the right arrow button to highlight "OK" and press the Set button again to complete the erasure.

Exposure compensation can be adjusted from –2 to +2 EV (exposure values), in one-third-step increments. The camera’s metering system offers two operating modes: Center-Weighted Averaging and Spot Metering. Center-weighted averaging is based on an averaged reading of the overall scene, plus a reading from the center of the viewfinder or LCD monitor. Spot metering reads only the center of the image—that area that falls within the crosshairs of the viewfinder or within the small square that pops up on the LCD monitor when you press the Spot Meter button. Spot metering is useful when you're shooting under backlit conditions. In these situations, you can use the spot meter to obtain a reading of the subject you want properly exposed, then lock the exposure with the AE Lock function, (activated by pressing the "*" button on the back panel), and recompose your shot for the final exposure. (Note: depressing any other button on the camera will disengage the spot metering function.)

The G1 offers seven white balance modes, including Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom. The Custom mode allows you to manually set the white balance by holding a white card in front of the camera and pressing the "*" button to set the value. ISO film speed equivalents are set in the Record menu, with a choice of Auto, 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO values. The higher the ISO setting, the more you can extend the camera's exposure range in low-light situations. Just keep in mind that higher ISO values have slightly lower quality levels. Other manual exposure adjustments in the Record menu include: Image sharpness, Contrast, and Saturation. These give you a little more creative control over your images.

The G1's built-in flash operates in one of five modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction (Auto), Red-Eye Reduction (Normal), Flash On, and Flash Off. The Auto mode enables the camera to determine when flash is necessary, based on existing exposure conditions. Flash On means that the flash fires with every exposure, regardless of lighting conditions, and Flash Off completely disables the flash. The two red-eye reduction modes fire a small pre-flash before the full flash, to reduce the dreaded red-eye effect in portraits. The difference between the two red-eye modes is that the auto mode puts the camera in charge of when to use the flash, while the normal mode fires the flash with every exposure. All flash modes are accessed by pressing the Flash/Index button to the left of the optical viewfinder.

The amount of flash power can be adjusted from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments by the using the four-function exposure compensation button on the camera's back panel. (Depressing the button four times cycles to the flash compensation adjustment.) You can also lock the flash exposure (FE) lock for a specific area of your subject, just as you would with a normal exposure. Simply center the portion of the subject you want to have metered and press the "*" button to lock the flash exposure. The flash will fire a pre-flash to lock the exposure reading, then you can recompose your image and make the exposure with the FE lock in place. (Note: Pressing any other button after the "*" button will cancel the flash exposure lock.)

Canon rates the G1's flash effectiveness from 2.3 to 14.8 feet (70cm to 4.5m), which is right in line with our test results. Though the flash was reasonably effective all the way to 14 feet, we noticed a very slight dip in brightness between 10 and 11 feet.

In addition to its built-in flash, the G1 features a hot shoe for mounting more powerful external flash units. Canon recommends using its own Speedlight 220EX, 380EX, 420EX, or 550EX models, but other manufacturers' models should work as well. The instruction manual notes that when using another manufacturer's flash unit with the G1, the maximum shutter speed for flash synchronization is 1/125 second. (The onboard flash syncs to a maximum shutter speed of 1/250 second.)

Auto Exposure Bracketing
The Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode is the third function controlled by the exposure compensation button on the G1's back panel. It automatically captures a series of three images, each at a different exposure setting. You can manually set the exposure variables in one-third-step increments, covering a range of -2 to +2 EV, by depressing the exposure compensation button three times to activate the mode and using the arrow buttons to choose the amount of time between photos. Depress the Set button, then fully depress the shutter button to start the series. The camera makes all three exposures with just one press of the shutter button. This function cannot be used with flash photography. If the flash fires, only one image will be recorded.

Continuous Shooting
Controlled by the Continuous/Self-Timer/Wireless Remote button on top of the camera, the G1's Continuous shooting mode captures multiple consecutive pictures at up to 1.7 frames per second (fps). This frame-capture rate may vary, depending on image quality, functions in use, and the amount of internal memory available (1.7 fps is based on a "Large" image quality setting, "Fine" JPEG compression, and the LCD monitor and flash turned off). The G1 will continue to capture images as long as the shutter button is depressed, or until the camera's internal memory runs out.

Movie Mode
The G1 also offers a Movie mode, which is accessed by turning the Mode dial on top of the camera to the miniature movie camera symbol (a camera will appear in the upper left corner of the LCD display). The AVI/Motion JPEG files are recorded at a fixed resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, at approximately 15 frames per second. Recordings can last up to 30 seconds, depending on the amount of memory available on the CompactFlash card. To begin recording, you simply press the shutter button all the way down and hold it there until the red circle in the upper right corner of the LCD disappears. The flashing green LED light next to the eye-level viewfinder indicates that the camera is storing the movie. When finished, you can view the recording by switching the camera's Main dial to the blue Replay symbol, scrolling to the last frame of the movie with the arrow buttons, and depressing the Set button. The camera will play back both moving images and sound. (Note that the recording options are largely preset in Movie mode: Image resolution, JPEG encoding, Exposure compensation, White balance, and Manual focus are the only adjustable functions.)

Stitch-Assist Mode
The Stitch-Assist mode records a series of overlapping images to create horizontal or vertical panoramas, and 2 x 2-frame rectangular composites. A framing guideline for each format appears in the LCD monitor to help line up successive shots. For the panoramas, you can take as many images in a series as you want, enabling you to record a full 360-degree circle of the surrounding scenery. The 2 x 2 mode uses a series of only four images, starting from the top left corner and moving in a clockwise direction, to create a complete composite. You can then use Canon's PhotoStitch program to seamlessly combine the images in your computer.

Self-Timer Mode
The self-timer button on top of the camera also controls the continuous shooting and remote operating modes. When set to the Self-Timer/Wireless mode, the camera displays the standard self-timer icon (a clock counting down) in the LCD display, and the self-timer icon with a remote (radar) symbol in the LED panel on top of the camera. When in Self-Timer mode, depressing the shutter button activates a 12-second countdown, during which a bright blue lamp on the camera's front panel blinks, gaining speed in the last two seconds. If the camera's Beep function is turned on in the Set-up menu, you will also hear the beep counting down. While in Self-Timer mode, you can also trigger a two-second countdown by pressing the shutter button on the remote control.

Remote Sensor/Transmitter
The G1's wireless remote control allows you to trigger a two-second self-timer countdown from as far as away as 16.4 feet (5 meters) in front of the camera. It can also be used to adjust the optical zoom lens with its two Zoom buttons, and activate the LCD monitor with its Display button. By rotating the LCD monitor so that it faces you (or the subject), you can use the Zoom buttons to compose the image and the Display button to scroll through the G1's LCD information screen to check exposure settings. In Replay mode, the remote control can be used to scroll through stored images, scroll around areas within a magnified image, view an index of up to nine captures, and replay movie images.

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a digital camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time allows the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms to do their work and can amount to a significant delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported by manufacturers or reviewers, and can significantly affect the picture-taking experience, Imaging Resource now measures shutter lag and cycle times using a prorietory electronic test setup.


G1 Timings
Time (secs)
Power On -> First shot
Time to first shot (A bit slow, lens extension takes a little while.)
Time until lens retracts and camera shuts down. (No processing pending.)
Play to Record, first shot
Pretty fast
Record to play (max/min res)
Average to a bit faster than average
Shutter lag, full autofocus
A bit faster than average
Shutter lag, manual focus
Shutter lag, prefocus
Very fast (Not as fast as the Canon spec though.)
Cycle time, max/min res
Very fast (for four shots in high-res mode, 64 in lowest res), then about 5 seconds to next shot
Shutter lag, prefocus
Very fast (Not as fast as Canon claims though.)


In our testing of the G1, it proved to be a a little slow "getting out of bed", but then very fast once it was operating. The full autofocus shutter lag is a little faster than average, at 0.75 seconds in our measurements, but this number drops to a mere 0.12 seconds when the camera is prefocused by half-pressing the shutter button before the exposure itself. Canon's data sheet claimed a prefocus shutter lag of only 0.075 seconds, but our testing didn't support that (extremely fast) number. Still, at 0.12 seconds, the G1 is twice as fast in this parameter as the average camera we've tested. - Good for action photography, if you're in a situation that would permit prefocusing. The shot to shot cycle time is also very fast, at just 1.12 seconds between frames in large/fine resolution mode, for the first four frames shot in series, and then only 5 seconds until the next shot can be taken. In small/coarse mode, this time drops to only 0.7 seconds between frames, and the camera captured 64 (!) frames without a pause.

Operation and User Interface
Though its combination of control buttons and dials may seem a little complicated at first glance, the G1's user interface is actually very straightforward. We generally prefer to change as many exposure settings as possible without resorting to the LCD menu, and the G1 provides a fair amount of such external control. The camera controls are somewhat spread out, but you could conceivably operate the camera one-handed and still access the majority of the buttons. We appreciated the small status display panel on top of the camera, which allows you to check current camera settings without having to activate the LCD monitor (a battery conservation feature). We also enjoyed shooting with the rotating LCD screen, which made composing shots from odd angles a little easier to manage. The ability to flip the monitor all the way around to face the back panel was great for keeping fingerprint smudges off of the screen when handling the camera.

Though we missed the security of a bulky hand-grip, it made sense to keep this already substantial camera down in size, and the small finger grips on the front and back of the camera provide a reasonably firm hold. The only control feature we had a hard time operating was the power dial, which is difficult to turn with just one finger or thumb (especially one-handed). We found the force required to turn the dial from the Shooting mode to the Off position actually pushed it beyond the target setting and on to the Replay mode. A two-finger approach worked a little better; gripping the front and back of the dial with a thumb and index finger provided just enough control to do the job right. Take note that when using the Mode dial, the settings align with a very small and inconspicuous marker jutting from the base of the flash hot shoe mount; it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention.

Control Enumeration

Zoom Toggle: Encircling the shutter button on top of the camera is toggle switch that controls the optical zoom in any record mode. Pushing it to the left gives you wide-angle and pushing it to the right zooms into telephoto.

Shutter Button: In the center of the zoom toggle switch is the shutter button. When halfway depressed, it sets focus and exposure; when fully depressed, it trips the shutter release. In the Self-Timer/Wireless mode (see below), fully depressing the shutter button triggers a 12-second countdown before the shutter is released. Holding the shutter button down after an exposure displays the captured image on the LCD monitor for as long as you hold it down. You can also program the camera to provide an automatic 2- or 10-second display of the captured image by setting the Review value in the Record menu.

Contiuous/Self-Timer/Wireless Controller Button: Located just behind the shutter button and zoom toggle switch, this button cycles between the Continuous Shooting, Self-Timer/Wireless Control, and Single frame recording modes.

Mode Dial: To the left of the Continous/Self-Timer button, and sitting on top of the camera's power control, this notched dial is used to select the camera's shooting modes. Olympus divides these functions into two categories: Image Zone and Creative Zone. Their options are as follows:

Creative Zone

Image Zone

Main/Power Dial: Located directly beneath the Mode dial, this larger notched dial controls the camera's operating mode. The following options are available:

Omni Selector Arrow Pad: Positioned in the top right corner of the back panel, this rocker pad features four arrows, one in each cardinal direction. In any settings menu, these arrows navigate through menu options. In shooting modes, the left and right arrows work in conjunction with several exposure controls to adjust settings. When manual focus is enabled, the up and down arrows manually adjust focus. In manual exposure mode, the left and right arrows set the shutter speed, while the up and down arrows set the lens aperture. In aperture and shutter-speed priority modes, the left and right arrows adjust the designated exposure variable. When using the four-function exposure compensation button, the arrows help you select exposure variation in the three exposure conpensation functions, and it scrolls through white balance settings. In playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images. When the Magnifying Images mode is enabled, all four arrows allow you to move around within the enlarged image to examine detail.

Menu Button: Just beneath the Omni selector is the Menu button, which calls up the Record and Setup menus on the LCD display in all camera modes. A second press of the Menu button cancels the menu display.

Set Button: To the left of the Menu button, this button confirms or sets any on-screen menu selections. While in record mode, you can depress the button immediately after capture to bring up a review of the recorded image. It will stay on screen as long as you hold down the button. In playback mode, it sets menu options and plays back movie files.

* Button: Located to the right of the LCD monitor, this button serves as the Auto Exposure (AE) lock and Flash Exposure (FE) lock button in record mode. When Review mode is active, pressing this button pulls up an erase menu for erasing the image.

Exposure Compensation Button: Immediately below the * button, this four-function button scrolls through four shooting adjustments: exposure compensation, white balance, flash exposure compensation, and auto exposure bracketing. When set on exposure compensation (press the button one time), you can use the right and left arrow buttons to control the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. The white balance setting (press two times) lets you choose the white balance value from Automatic, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, and Custom. Flash exposure compensation (press three times) works similarly to the standard exposure compensation function, by adjusting the flash intensity from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. Finally, the auto exposure bracketing mode allows you to take a series of three images at different exposure variations.

Display Button: Just beneath the exposure compensation button, the Display button controls the LCD monitor's display mode. In record mode, this button turns on the image display with the first press, activates the information display with the second press, and cancels both with the third press. In playback mode, the button cycles through the captured image information displays.

Macro/Jump Button: Located over the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button accesses the Macro function when the camera is in record mode. In playback mode, it pulls up the "jump bar." When the jump bar is displayed, the right and left arrow buttons jump either nine images forward or nine images backward.

Metering/Enlarge Button: To the left of the Macro/Jump button, this control places the camera in either spot or center-weighted average metering modes when the camera is in record mode. In playback mode, this button digitally enlarges the captured image on the LCD screen, for close-up viewing of fine details.

Diopter Adjustment Lever: Hiding on the left side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, in a recessed niche, this lever adjusts the optical viewfinder's focus to accommodate eyeglass wearers.

Flash/Index Display Button: Positioned in the very top left corner of the back panel, this button cycles through the automatic, red-eye reduction, auto, red-eye reduction (normal), flash on, and flash off internal flash modes. In playback mode, this button displays up to nine images at a time, in a thumbnail index format, on the LCD screen.

Manual Focus Button: Located on the speaker side of the camera (closest to the lens), this button puts the camera into manual focus mode, or returns it to autofocus, when in record mode.

Battery Cover Lock: This sliding latch is located on the bottom panel of the camera, next to the battery compartment door. Sliding the switch locks and unlocks the battery compartment.

Camera Modes and Menus
We explained the G1's shooting modes in the previous section, in the process of describing the functions of the Mode Dial settings. Rather than repeat that information in this section, we'll just show you the menu screens for the major modes.

Record Menu (Red): With the exception of the Auto exposure mode, and most of the Image Zone exposure functions, the Record menu provides virtually the same options for all exposure modes. These menus are accessed by depressing the Menu button once while in one of the Shooting modes. Following are the available settings:

Set-up Menu (Yellow): The Set-up menu provides universal camera control options that remain the same in both Shooting and Replay modes, with the exception of shutter and speaker volume (see below). This menu is accessed by depressing the Menu button once and scrolling to the right with the Omni selector arrow pad. Following are the available settings:

Play Menu (Blue): This menu is only available in the Replay mode. It allows you to scroll through captured images; erase, protect, and rotate them; or set them up in a slide show or for printing on a DPOF compatible device. The Play menu offers the following selections:

Transfer Mode: Denoted by the crooked arrow symbol after the Playback symbol, this mode allows the camera to connect via USB cable to a computer for image downloading or remote control through the accompanying software. No menu appears in this mode.

Image Storage and Interface
The Canon G1 uses CompactFlash memory cards for image storage, accommodating both Type I and II card sizes. This means that the camera is also able to store images to an IBM MicroDrive for increased storage capacity. A 16MB CompactFlash Type I memory card is supplied with the camera. Entire CompactFlash cards cannot be write-protected, however, the G1's Play menu allows you to write-protect individual image files, protecting them from accidental erasure, unless the card is reformatted.

Still images can be saved at one of three resolutions (2,048x1,536, 1,024x768, or 640 x 480 pixels), while movie images are recorded at 320x240 pixels. Still images also have three JPEG compression levels available: Superfine, Fine, and Normal, plus a RAW setting that records the image straight from the CCD, with no further processing. RAW images require the Canon Zoom Browser software for processing on a computer. The benefit of the RAW data file format is that it compresses the image file without any loss in image quality.

A full complement of interface software comes with the G1, as does a USB cable for speedy connection to a PC or Macintosh computer. The USB interface makes it feasible to download images directly from the camera, although it still isn't quite as fast as a good external card reader. In our tests, the G1 transferred a 2.2 megabyte file in only 6.1 seconds, a data rate of 369 KBytes/second. This is about average for USB-connected cameras we've tested.

Following are the approximate resolution/quality and compression ratios for a 16MB card (compression numbers are based on our own computations):

Resolution/Quality vs Image Capacity
2,048 x 1,536
1,024 x 768
640 x 480
Approx. Compression
Approx. Compression
Approx. Compression
Superfine Quality
Fine Quality
Normal Quality
RAW Format

Video Out
The G1 has a video-out port which supports the NTSC timing format on US and Japanese model televisions (the PAL standard is supported on European cameras). The video output can be used for reviewing previously recorded images or running slide shows from the camera. It also shows all three LCD menu screens, as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder. Combined with the very flexible controls of the wireless remote transmitter, the live video output display opens up interesting possibilities for portrait photography, such as using a video monitor as a remote viewfinder.

The output cable is a true AV cable, as it fans out into two RCA jacks, one for video, and one for audio. Plugged into any video monitor (or TV with direct video and audio inputs), the audio capabilities of the G1, combined with the wireless remote control, could make it an effective portable presentation device.

The G1 is powered by an internal BP-511 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. The camera ships with one battery pack, as well as an AC adapter that doubles as an in-camera charger. A stand-alone charger is sold separately, as is a car AC adapter that plugs into any automobile cigarette lighter. A CR2016 lithium battery keeps the G1's internal clock going, and fits into a small compartment within the battery chamber.

Because the G1 relies on its LCD display for viewing and selecting some of its settings, it can be somewhat of a drain on the power supply. Fortunately, the camera has an automatic three-minute shutdown mode to help conserve battery power, and you can control power consumption by reducing the amount of information displayed on the LCD monitor, and keeping the autofocus mechanism in Single mode rather than Continuous mode.

Operating Mode
Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD
730 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
160 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
750 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
470 mA
Memory Write (transient)
160 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
580 mA
Image Playback
370 mA


We measured the G1's power consumption at the battery terminals, at the nominal 7.4 volts that it's lithium battery pack produces. That pack is rated at 1100 mAh, for a total power capacity of 9.1 watt-hours. This is almost double the energy capacity of typical high-power NiMH AA cells.With the higher battery voltage, the current drain of the G1 is a bit lower than average. The bottom line should be very good battery life, which we'd estimate at 70 minutes with the LCD on, or a good 6 hours with it off. We still recommend buying a second battery (as we do with all digicams), but the G1's battery life looks to be better than average.


Included Software

Learn what the manual left out -
How to *use* your camera.

Camera manuals are (sometimes) fine for knowing which button does what, but where do you go to learn how and when to use the various features? Dennis Curtin's "Shortcourses" books and CDs are the answer. (Cheap for what you get, too.) Order the Shortcourses manual for the camera reviewed in this article.
The Canon PowerShot G1 comes with a nice complement of software on two included CDs. Compatible with Windows (95, 98, NT 4.0, and 2000) and Macintosh operating systems, Canon Digital Camera 2.0 allows you to download images from the camera, process RAW data files, stitch together images shot in Stitch-Assist mode, set up images for printing, and operate the camera remotely from the computer. Bundled software packages include: Adobe PhotoShop 5.0 LE and Apple QuickTime 4.1; ZoomBrowser EX 2.4 (for Windows) and ImageBrowser 1.4 (for Mac); PhotoRecord 1.2 (Windows only); PhotoStitch 3.1; and RemoteCapture 1.1, a newly developed software application for Mac and PC that enables a USB-connected G1 camera to be controlled through a personal computer.

This last function is the most interesting of Canon's software offerings. The RemoteCapture software interface displays a preview window with the same image as that seen on the camera's LCD monitor, along with thumbnail views of already captured images, the number of shots available, a histogram of the preview window, a listing of exposure settings, and a set of control buttons that enable you to release the shutter, rotate the image, view the image, and delete the capture. There's also a "Comments" feature that allows you to add short notations to the image file. Unfortunately, you can't change the exposure settings through the software interface, but you do have access to the self-timer and an interval shooting mode through the File menu. The Interval shooting mode is only available through the RemoteCapture software (not on the camera), and sets the camera to record a series of images at set intervals, creating the effect of time-lapse photography. Adobe Photoshop LE 5.0 provides more extensive image correction and enhancement capabilities, including a full menu of creative filters and image effects.

Like most recent Canon digicams, the G1 also supports a "RAW" file format, in which the data is taken straight from the CCD with no processing inside the camera. These RAW files can subsequently be processed on a personal computer using Canon's ZoomBrowser EX software, which lets you adjust white balance, brightness, color saturation, and sharpness post-exposure. This has several benefits. First, the RAW files are completely lossless, in that they contain all the information captured by the CCD. Relative to the more common uncompressed TIFF files though, they are quite a bit smaller, at only 2.7 megabytes instead of 9.0. (!) Finally, any modifications or tweaks you make on these files with ZoomBrowser begin with the full 10-bit data that the camera captured. This means that fewer image artifacts will result from your adjustments. Our one complaint about ZoomBrowserEX though, is how slow it is: It took a couple of minutes per image to export RAW images to TIFF format on our (admittedly now slightly elderly) 350 MHz Pentium III Windows machine. - I mean *minutes*? We don't know what the software could possibly be doing for that long, but we do appreciate the results you can obtain. It would be much preferable though, if we were able to set up the adjustment parameters for a number of images separately, then walk away while the machine converted all of them. The software will convert multiple images at once, but only one set of adjustment parameters may be applied to the whole batch.


Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, the following comments are condensed, and summarize our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Canon PowerShot G1's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the Canon G1 did, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the G1 performed very well, with great color balance in most instances. Automatic and manual white balance settings functioned well, with good interpretation of most light sources. The indoor tungsten light test proved a little tricky, however, producing a warm, magenta cast. We also noticed odd highlights in the indoor portraits. The G1 accurately reproduced the large color blocks in the Davebox test target with reasonably vibrant color balance, and tonality was handled very well, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target were completely visible up to the "B" range. The G1's color saturation adjustments did a great job of controlling color intensity, without "over-adjusting." Other than the slight casts and odd highlights, the G1 did an excellent job overall in terms of color.

The results of our resolution test supported our conclusions from the other test shots we took with the G1: The camera captures an exceptional amount of detail, easily the equal of any other 3 megapixel camera we've tested, but its images are just slightly soft, compared to the sharpest 3 megapixel cameras we've seen. (Easily corrected post-exposure in an imaging program though.) Numerically, we'd "call" the G1's resolution as about 800 lines per picture height in both vertical and horizontal directions, but there's significant detail visible well beyond that point. At very high spatial frequencies (1100 lines per picture height and above), moderate color artifacts appears, particularly in the horizontal direction. Overall, an excellent performance but, contrary to our usual chiding of manufacturers for using too much sharpening, we'd like to have seen a little more in the G1's images.

The G1 provides excellent exposure control, with automatic, program AE, shutter priority, Aperture priority, and manual exposure modes, as well as several presets for special shooting situations. The user can also control automatic or manual focus; image sharpness, contrast, and saturation; spot or center-weighted averaged metering; ISO settings; exposure compensation (for flash and normal exposures); white balance; and flash mode.

The G1 performed very well in low-light tests, producing bright, useable images in 1/16 foot candle (0.67 lux) light readings. (That's really dark!) At these low levels, and with the resultant long exposure times, there is only moderate noise present in the images, most notably at the 200 and 400 ISO settings. The 50 and 100 ISO settings showed a very minor noise level. (We direct readers to Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program, for a tool with an amazing ability to remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.) Detail looks good in each of the low-light images, but color balance is slightly warm. To put the G1's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene, lit by modern street lamps, has a light level of about one foot candle. Bottom line, the G1 can probably see better in the dark than you can!

We found the G1's optical viewfinder to be quite tight, showing about 85 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 82.6 percent at the telephoto setting. The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing approximately 96.5 percent at wide angle, and about 97 percent at telephoto. (We actually found that, at the telephoto setting, measurements for the LCD monitor differed just slightly with the image size. It showed 97.0 percent of the image at 2,048 pixels, 96.9 percent at 1,024 pixels, and 96.8 percent at 640 pixels.) We like to see LCD monitors perform as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, and the G1 comes very close to the mark.

The G1 also performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 3.21 x 2.41 inches (81.64 x 61.23mm). Color balance is a little cool, but detail and resolution both look great. The G1's built-in flash does a good job of throttling down for the macro area, tricked ever so slightly by the shiny coin. Color balance appears a little blue with the flash exposure, and the large silver coin shows a few magenta highlights.

Despite some difficulties with color and white balance under incandescent lighting, the G1 turned in an impressive performance. Throughout our testing, the camera's exposure controls and features proved excellent for fine-tuning exposures to achieve optimum results. It also did a great job in both the macro and low-light categories. Overall, a very solid, performance with excellent control.

Its compact size, excellent exposure controls, and unique rotating LCD monitor, make the Canon PowerShot G1 a great option for novice consumers who want a camera with room to grow, and the RAW data file format and RemoteCapture computer-control capabilities should also entice more advanced digicam consumers. Overall, the G1 produces excellent image quality, good color balance, and is accompanied by a robust software package. All things considered, we think the G1 is a great solution for anyone who wants the utility of a fully manual digicam, with the ease of automated control. Clearly, one of the strongest performers in the three megapixel arena: Canon's going to sell a lot of these!

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