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Canon PowerShot G2

Canon updates their very popular G1 with a 4 megapixel CCD and improved color management.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 08/16/2001

Executive Overview
The PowerShot G2 is an impressive update to Canon's popular 3.3-megapixel G1 model introduced in Fall 2000. Sporting a larger 4-megapixel CCD (3.87 megapixels effective) and even more advanced exposure controls than its predecessor, the G2 has added a number of new features, including longer shutter speeds (up to 15 seconds), three-point adjustable focus / spot metering area, high-frequency fluorescent white balance setting, improved manual focus utility, DPOF print compatibility, and a choice of movie resolutions.

Fortunately, the G2 also carries over all of the G1's great design elements, including the rotating LCD monitor we like so much. The monitor swings out to face the photographer, reverses and locks back into the camera's back panel (screen side up), or extends and rotates up to 270 degrees. This flexible LCD design allows the photographer to compose images while standing in front of the camera (with the remote controller or self-timer), or to hold the camera at various angles, such as overhead or waist-level. Most important is the ability to store the LCD face-down in its recessed compartment, protecting the delicate screen from fingerprints, scratches, and nose grease!

Though slightly larger than the G1 model, the G2 is still very portable, measuring only 4.7 x 2.4 x 3.2 inches (120 x 62 x 80mm) and weighing just 18 ounces (512 grams) with the battery pack and CompactFlash card installed. While this may seem a little hefty when compared to other compact digicams, the G2 is very manageable, considering the extensive features and controls it offers. It should fit easily into a large coat pocket or purse, and comes with a half-inch neck strap for added convenience. The slightly thicker body and convex front panel also provide a more substantial right hand grip than the G1.

The G2's eye-level optical viewfinder zooms along with its 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 LED lights on the same side report the camera's ready status. The LCD monitor display is activated by the Display button, which also controls the monitor's information readout. When in Shooting (or Record) mode, the LCD reports the exposure mode, flash setting, single or continuous capture, metering, and quality settings. New on the G2's information display is a tiny histogram (in Replay mode) that reports the tonal distribution of the image. Any overexposed highlights flash in black and white on the screen to warn you of potential problem areas. A small status display 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.

The 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 Autofocus mode, controlling how often the autofocus mechanism adjusts the focus. You can also assign the focus area to one of three points in the frame (and optionally link it to the autoexposure mechanism). 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 back of the camera. A distance scale on the LCD monitor indicates how far you are from maximum and minimum focus, reporting the distance in feet and meters. An improved Manual Focus display also enlarges the center portion of the frame, so that focus is easier to determine. 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 enlargements to 3.6x. (Remember that digital zoom only enlarges the center portion of the CCD image, therefore compromising image quality by increasing noise and softening the image.)

The G2 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 (Av) , Shutter Speed-Priority (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-f/8, and the shutter speed ranges from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds.

The remainder of the G2's extensive exposure controls are accessible through external control buttons or the on-screen Record menu. They include a White Balance setting with eight options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, and Custom; adjustable ISO settings from Auto to 50, 100, 200, and 400; Exposure Compensation from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV), in one-third-step increments; Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) from +1/3, 0, and -1/3 EV to +2, 0, and -2 EV (a total of three exposures, with adjustable step sizes ranging from 1/3 to 2 EV); a choice of Center-Weighted Averaging and Spot Metering modes, and Automatic Exposure (AE) Lock. The G2's built-in flash offers five operating modes (Auto; Red-Eye Reduction-Auto; Red-Eye Reduction-Flash On; Flash On; or Flash Off) and a Flash Exposure Compensation control from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. The Flash Exposure (FE) Lock function (* button) allows you to lock the flash exposure setting for a specific portion of the frame. A hot shoe accepts either dedicated Canon strobe units, or generic "dumb" third-party flashes.

The G2 also offers several special shooting modes accessed through the Mode dial (Canon refers to these as "Image Zone" modes). They include Pan Focus, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night Scene, Color, 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 large aperture 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 version of 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 as much as two minutes of moving images and sound at approximately 15 frames per second, with a choice of 320 x 240- and 160 x 120-pixel resolution. The Color shooting mode captures images in Vivid or Neutral color, B&W, or Sepia tone.

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 to 70mm) at the maximum wide-angle setting, and from 7.9 inches to 2.3 feet (20 to 70mm) at maximum telephoto. Continuous Shooting mode captures multiple, successive still images, at about 2.5 frames per second, as long as you hold down the Shutter button. (The number of images and actual shot-to-shot speed depend on several factors, including image size/quality and the amount of memory remaining on the flash card.) There's also a High Speed Continuous Shooting mode for faster captures. The Self-Timer / Wireless Remote Control mode 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 2,272 x 1,704, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, or 640 x 480 pixels. 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 a software CD offers 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.

US and Japanese G2 models come with an NTSC cable for connecting to a television set. (European models are equipped for the PAL standard.) Combining this video composition and playback tool with the remote control capabilities can turn the camera into a very useful presentation tool.

Power for the G2 is supplied by a rechargeable (high capacity) BP-511 lithium-ion battery pack and AC adapter, which are provided with the camera. A separate battery charger is available as an accessory, as well as an AC adapter kit, which plugs into an automobile cigarette lighter.

The G2 offers the extensive exposure controls we're accustomed to seeing in much larger digicams, with the benefit of a reasonably slim, portable camera body. The larger CCD captures bigger images with great quality, and the varying levels of exposure control provide complete flexibility. Improved exposure controls and added features make the G2 an excellent choice for any serious amateur or experienced photographer who wants a highly sophisticated and portable digicam solution. Given the success of the G1 model, we think the G2 will do extremely well.

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