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Canon PowerShot G3

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

Review First Posted: 9/16/2002

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MSRP $779 US



4 megapixel CCD (3.87 effective) for 2,272 x 1,704 pixel images
New 4X optical zoom lens, f/2.0-3.0
Auto, Scene Program, Program, and Manual exposure modes
Unique tilt/swivel LCD panel
MANY user interface and feature enhancements.

Manufacturer Overview
Canon U.S.A. has long been a dominant player in the film and digital camera markets, well-known for their high-quality optics, technical innovations, and aggressive product development. Over the last few years, they've developed a powerful lineup of digital cameras, ranging from surprisingly feature-rich entry-level models, all the way to the extreme high end of professional digital SLRs. Last year, their PowerShot G2 prosumer model was one of the top two or three cameras on the entire Imaging Resource site, a fact I attribute to the superb job Canon did in designing and producing it. - The G2 was one of those rare cameras that really hit all the right notes with the "enthusiast" crowd, offering a rich feature set and excellent image quality.

Now, Canon has updated the G2, calling the result the PowerShot G3. To the surprise of many, they eschewed the five megapixel sensors employed by many of their competitors in high-end prosumer models, choosing instead to stay with the proven four megapixel chip first seen in the G2. (I'm told the reason for this is that Canon was unwilling to accept the image noise tradeoff that the current crop of 5 megapixel CCDs require.) While the sensor has remained the same, numerous feature and user interface enhancements (including a new 4x zoom lens with fast f/2.0 maximum aperture) combine to result in a noticeably different user experience. Read on below for the full story, but based on my early look at the new model, I'd say Canon has come up with a very worthy successor to the wildly popular G2.

High Points

Changes from the Canon PowerShot G2
(And the G1, for historical reference)

As one of the most popular high-end "prosumer" digicams of the past year, many of our readers may already be quite familiar with the Canon PowerShot G2. The G3 is clearly based on the G2's design, with a very similar body design and control layout. There are a number of enhancements (beyond the obvious increase of the zoom range to 4x) that have been added though. I address all of these in the text of the review, but for convenience, have also listed them here, for more convenient, concise reference:


Body Improvements/Differences More angular handgrip for better finger-traction, Silver-colored metal body panels. Body is more rectangular, boxy-looking
Enlarged Handgrip, Champagne metal cover
Standard grip,

gray metal cover

Startup screen, startup sound yes/yes
(Multiple options via "My Camera" menu)
Maximum Resolution 3.87 MP (eff)
3.87 MP (eff)
3.14 MP (eff)
Resolution Settings

2272 x 1704,

1600 x 1200,

1024 x 768

640 x 480

2272 x 1704,

1600 x 1200,

1024 x 768

640 x 480
2048 x 1536,

1024 x 768

640 x 480
Filtration RGB
Lens 4x
35-140mm equiv.
32-104mm equiv.
32-104mm equiv.
Minimum focusing distance No spec from Canon yet, but it looks to be about 1.5 inches. 2.4 inches 2.4 inches
Slow shutter speed range 15 sec
15 sec.
8 sec.
High shutter speed and aperture combinations 1/1250 - all apertures

1/2000 - f/4.0 and higher

1/640 - f/2.8~f/3.5 to f/8

1/800 - f/3.5~f/5.0 to f/8

1/1000 - f/8 only

1/640 ~ 1/1000 sec. —

f/8 only

Neutral Density Filter 3-stop cut (equivalent to ND 0.9), set via record menu. ---- ---
Flash Operation

Internal: Total of 9 modes, counting all combinations of on/off/auto and redeye plus slow sync options.

Supports EX-mode Speedlites, Ringlight, Macro Twin Flash, and Remote Transmitter

Internal: 5 modes

Supports EX-mode Speedlites and Ringlight,

Internal: 5 modes

Supports EX-mode Speedlites only
Signal processing speed Considerably faster than G2, but don't have a specific spec for this.
Faster (twice as fast as G1)
Signal processing bit depth 12 bits/channel, through all image processing operations. 10 bits/channel 10 bits/channel
Noise reduction Unknown
(Awaiting production model to test)
Battery Life Excellent: No spec from Canon yet, but my own measurements indicate roughly a 15% improvement in worst-case battery life over the G2.
400 images/LCD on

1000 images/LCD off

300 minutes/Playback

260 images/LCD On

800 images/LCD off

160 minutes/Playback

Focusing Points "Infinite"- FlexiZone AF/AE allows positioning of the AF/AE area anywhere within about 60% of the frame area.
Manual Focus Focusing area magnified on LCD monitor, numerical distance values displayed
Focusing area magnified on LCD monitor, numerical distance values displayed
Autofocus Bracketing Focus bracketing option under the FUNC button snaps three shots with minor tweaks in focus setting between them. (First time I've seen this function on a camera.) --- ---
Metering Modes

Evaluative, Center-Weighted, Center Spot, Off-Center Spot

G3 Incorporates Canon iSAPS scene-analysis technology for more accurate exposures under tricky lighting.

Evaluative, Center-Weighted, Center Spot, Off-Center Spot
Center-Weighted, Center Spot
Manual exposure mode improvements (Same as G2)
Metering display when shutter button is pressed halfway; LCD monitor remains bright even when underexposure is set.
Program Shift (?)
(Didn't see this, need to check with Canon to see if it's there or not.)
Intervalometer Option Shoot 2-100 shots, at intervals of 1 to 60 minutes --- ---
White Balance Modes 8, including two separate Custom settings for manual adjustment to standard white card.
6 including new Fluorescent H for daylight fluorescents
Color Effects Mode Yes
(Now expanded to allow application of color effects (including B/W shooting) in any exposures mode.
Movie Mode options and durations 320 x 240 — 180 sec.

160 x 120 — 180 sec.

320 x 240 — 30 sec.

160 x 120 — 120 sec.

320 x 240 — 30 sec.
Continuous Shooting Speeds Continuous High: 2.27 fps

Continuous: 1.46 fps

(by actual measurement)

Continuous High: 2.46 fps

Continuous: 1.04 fps

(by actual measurement)

Continuous: 1.7 fps
Startup time, shutter lag, etc. Much faster
(4.2 seconds startup, 0.94 second full AF lag)
(7.2 seconds startup, 1.3 second full AF lag)
Interval between frames in Single frame mode 1.88
(Actual measurement, not Canon specs)
2.3 sec.
(Actual measurement, not Canon specs)
1.12 sec.
(Actual measurement, not Canon specs)
Digital zoom function True zoom up to 14x combined digital and optical
True zoom up to 11x combined digital and optical
Digital teleconverter, either 2x or 4x for a maximum of 8x combined
Histogram display in Playback mode Yes
Image magnification during playback Up to 10x, 10 steps
Image erase modes (Same as G2)
Improved (fewer steps)
RemoteCapture functions (Same as G2)
Improved: Live video can be shown on attached monitor as well as computer screen. Shutter button on camera remains functional.
Displays captured images only. Shutter can be released with computer only. Video out does not function while RemoteCapture is active.
USB Mounter for Mac OS 9.0 ~ 9.1 Provided.
(Also supports PTP mode for Windows XP and Mac OS X conneciton with no driver software needed.)
No (however, software itself is compatible with G1)
Direct Print mode Yes - Also with CP-100, S830D and S530D Bubble Jet printers.
Yes, with CP-10
Cropping in Direct Print mode Yes
Accessory Compatibility

New bayonet-mount lens adapter, with wider range of wide, tele converters, now covering range of 24.5mm to 245mm equivalents.

Support for both Macro Ring Light and Macro Twin Light units, as well as Remote Strobe Transmitter for wireless flash connection.

Same as G1 plus Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX
Wide, tele converters extend range to ~28 to 150 mm
Wide, Tele and Macro Converters
Supplied CF Card 32MB
Control Changes Top controls mirror EOS layout more closely. Command wheel makes its first appearance in a PowerShot. Mode dial and power switch separated, made easier to operate. Tabbed sub-menus for FUNC button greatly improve efficiency of user interface. --- ---
Position Sensor Position sensor automatically tags EXIF header for image rotation on portrait-format shots. --- ---
Post-Exposure RAW file save You can choose to save a RAW-mode file on the fly, by hitting the FUNC button during the review period. --- ---



Executive Overview

The PowerShot G3 is a solid update to Canon's wildly popular G2 model, introduced in the late summer of 2001. The G3 retains the same 4-megapixel CCD (3.87 megapixels effective) used by the G2, but sports a 4x optical zoom range, vs the 3x zoom of last year's model. There are myriad other upgrades and improvements though, including maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 (vs 1/1000), an internal ND (neutral density) filter that reduces incoming light by three full f-stops, much more flexible autofocus operation, expanded white balance options, increased bit depth in all color management and image processing operations, increased flash flexibility, including full support for the wireless features of the EOS line of speedlights (via Canon's optional remote transmitter) AND support for Canon's macro twinlight, and expanded utility for the camera's "creative" exposure modes (black/white, sepia, vivid color, etc).

Fortunately, the G3 also carries over all of the design elements I applauded in the G1 and G2, including the rotating LCD monitor that's one of my personal favorites. 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 lets you 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 at 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!

The G3 is very close to the size of the G2, at 4.7 x 2.7 x 3.0 inches (120 x 69 x 77mm), and just slightly lighter, at 17.3 ounces (494 grams) with the battery pack and CompactFlash card installed. While this may seem a little hefty when compared to other compact digicams, the G3 is quite manageable, considering the range of 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 more angular protruding grip on the right side of the G3's body also provides a more secure grip for the fingers of your right hand.

The G3's eye-level optical viewfinder zooms along with its 4x lens and features a central autofocus / exposure target in the center. 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. Canon positioned the optical viewfinder very close to the lens, apparently to minimize parallax between lens and viewfinder, but one result is that the lens protrudes into the lower left-hand corner of the viewfinder frame at wide angle focal lengths. 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. The G3 retains the playback-mode histogram readout we first saw on the G2, which reports the tonal distribution of the image. In addition to the histogram display, 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, 4x optical 7.2-28.8 mm zoom lens (equivalent to 35-140mm 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. Where the G2 allowed you to assign the focus area to one of three points in the frame, the G3's powerful "FlexiZone" autofocus option lets you move the focus area freely around the central 60% of so of the frame. As with the G2, the autoexposure system can be configured to spot-meter from the area being used to set the focus. Manual focus mode is accessed by pressing a button on the upper right side of the camera's rear panel and then adjusting the focus with the command dial on the top of the front handgrip, just below the shutter button. A distance scale on the LCD monitor indicates approximately how far you are from maximum and minimum focus, reporting the distance in either English or Metric units. The Manual Focus display also enlarges the center portion of the frame, so that focus is easier to determine visually. As of this writing (based on a prototype model), Canon hadn't stated the minimum focusing distance of the G3 yet, but it appears to go somewhat closer than the G2's 2.4 inch minimum. (I'd peg it at around 1.5 inches, or 3.8 cm.) Digital zoom is controlled through the Record menu, with enlargements to 3.5x. (Remember that digital zoom only enlarges the center portion of the CCD image, therefore compromising image quality, softening the image in direct proportion to the magnification achieved.)

The G3 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 1/2,000 to 15 seconds. (Depending on the lens aperture, maximum shutter speed may be limited to 1/1,250. This is a significant upgrade from the G2 though, which had a maximum shutter speed of 1/1,000, and was limited to 1/640 at large apertures.) In another advance over the G2, the G3 has an internal neutral density (ND) filter, that cuts the incoming light by a factor of 8. (This three f-stop attenuation will permit the use of slower shutter speeds or larger apertures with brightly-lit subjects, providing for special effects like motion blur or shallow depth of field. It also makes it practical to use the flash for much closer macro shooting than would otherwise be the case.)

The remainder of the G3's extensive exposure controls are accessible through external control buttons or the on-screen Record menu. They include a White Balance setting with nine options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, and two separate Custom settings; 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 Evaluative (new to the G3), Center-Weighted Averaging and Spot Metering modes, and Automatic Exposure (AE) Lock. The G3's built-in flash actually offers nine operating modes (Flash off, on (forced), and auto, with options for red-eye reduction and slow sync independently selectable for each of the two active modes), although Canon's draft manual described it as a 5-mode flash. There's also a Flash Exposure Compensation control that lets you vary flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments. The Flash Exposure (FE) Lock function (* button, in record mode) allows you to lock the flash exposure setting based on a specific portion of the frame. A hot shoe accepts either dedicated Canon strobe units, or generic "dumb" third-party flashes. New to the G3 is full support for the wireless capabilities of Canon's high-end EOS external speedlights (through the use of Canon's optional remote transmitter accessory), as well as for Canon's very flexible Macro Twinlight.

The G3 also offers several special shooting modes accessed through the Mode dial. They include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Stitch Assist, and Movie modes. (Several "Image Zone" modes from the G2 have apparently been dropped, including Pan Focus, Color, and Macro modes. The options formerly associated with Color mode (vivid color, neutral color, black/white, and sepia) are now accessed via an LCD menu option, while Macro mode is entered solely via a rear-panel pushbutton.) Portrait mode uses a large aperture to focus on the subject, while maintaining an out-of-focus background. In contrast, 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 three 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 three-minute maximum movie recording time represents another enhancement relative to the G2, apparently thanks to Canon's new "Digic" image processor.)

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 1.5 inches to 2.3 feet (38 to 70mm) at the maximum wide-angle setting. (I need to confirm the macro-focus range with Canon, once I get a production-model camera to test.) 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 pixel dimensions 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 G3 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 G3 is supplied by a rechargeable (high capacity) BP-511 lithium-ion battery pack and AC adapter, which are provided with the camera. The AC adapter serves as an in-camera battery charger, but a separate battery charger is available as an accessory, as well as an AC adapter kit, which plugs into an automobile cigarette lighter. Battery life is exceptional, thanks to the high capacity of the BP-511 pack.

The G3 appears to build well on the heritage of the G1 and G2 before it. It offers an exceptional feature set, good optics, and excellent exposure and creative controls, all at a competitive price point. While some prospective purchasers may be given pause by its 4-megapixel resolution in a day when many of its competitors weigh in at 5 megapixels, I don't think there'll be that much of a difference in real resolution, based on my early test results. Like the G2 before it, the G3 has a very sharp lens, and really makes the most of the pixels it has to work with. At the same time, sticking with the four megapixel CCD has let Canon maintain better noise performance than much of the 5-megapixel competition. Bottom line, I doubt that many G2 owners will find sufficient reason to trade in their cameras for new G3s, but I do think that the G3 will compete very strongly in the high-end "prosumer" market, even against the plethora of 5-megapixel models now available.



Building upon the solid body design of the previously-released PowerShot G2, Canon has introduced subtle improvements in the G3's overall body design, although differences in the overall visual aesthetic are more evident. The body is almost identical in size to the G2, but a more sharply-angled handgrip on the right side of the camera provides more secure purchase for your fingers than did the grip on the G2.

The G3 measures 4.7 x 2.7 x 3.0 inches (120 x 69 x 77mm), and is just slightly lighter than the G2, at 17.3 ounces (494 grams) with the battery pack and CompactFlash card installed. The G3 can fit into a very large coat pocket or purse, or it can be carried with the half-inch neck strap. For extended location shooting, I highly recommend investing in a small, padded camera case.

The G3's flat front panel houses the lens, optical viewfinder window, built-in flash, autofocus assist light, microphone, and remote control sensor. The 4x zoom lens telescopes out about an inch from the camera body when the G3 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, which is barely visible next to the camera lens, records sound to accompany in-camera movies. A thick, somewhat angular hand grip on the right side of the camera provides a more secure grip than more rounded protrusion on the previous G2, giving your fingers a bit more traction on the camera body. Also visible on the front panel is a small button below and to the right of the lens. This is a latch for the new bayonet-mount for accessory lenses. Pressing this latch lets you twist and remove the cosmetic lens barrel shroud, revealing a set of mounting flanges to which Canon's new lens adapter barrel will attach. While I had no complaints about the accessory threads on the previous G2, the bayonet mount of the G3 offers a much faster means of attaching and removing accessory lenses. (Big kudos to Canon for this subtle improvement.)

On the right side of the camera is a sliding/hinged door that accesses the CompactFlash slot, accommodating both Type I and II CompactFlash cards. At the top of the right side is an eyelet for attaching one end of the neck strap.

The left side of the camera has a speaker for playing back recorded sound, and a set of jacks for the A/V output, USB connection, and DC input for the included AC adapter/battery charger. All the jacks are protected by a hard plastic door that swings open to reveal the connectors. At the top of the left panel is the other neck strap attachment eyelet.

The G3's top panel features a small status display window; an external flash hot shoe; a Main Power dial (now a separate control, vs the arrangement on the G2, which placed the power control underneath the mode dial); a Mode dial, with shooting and exposure options; a Zoom Lever; a Shutter button; and a Continuous Drive / Self-Timer / Wireless Controller button. I always appreciate status display panels like the one on the G3, as they report camera settings and other miscellaneous information, without the need for powering up the LCD monitor. Moving the power switch out from under the mode dial makes it a bit more obvious and accessible, and easier to actuate, in my opinion. An interesting detail is that this control is normally locked to prevent accidental actuation in your camera bag. It's released when y ou place your finger on it, pressing in the small button at its rear. I'd previously complained that both the mode and power dial required a two-finger grip to turn them, and am happy to report that Canon heard that objection and has now made both dials easy to actuate with your thumb alone. I did have the feeling with the prototype G3 though, that the power switch was a bit insubstantial - It felt like it could be prone to damage if it got knocked against something while you were carrying the camera around your neck. Another interesting ergonomic wrinkle is that the shutter button on the G3 is now angled toward the right side of the camera, to match the angle of your index finger, as it wraps around the grip. Not a big thing, but the angled shutter button did fit my finger more naturally as I worked with the camera.

The majority of the exposure controls are located on the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor. The G2's eye-level optical viewfinder features a diopter adjustment switch on the left and two LEDs that report camera status. The swiveling LCD monitor pops out of the camera back and rotates 270 degrees when fully extended. You can fold it back into its storage compartment with the monitor facing outward or leave it extended and turn the screen to accommodate a variety of shooting angles. Finally, the monitor can be turned around and popped back into the panel face-down, protecting it from accidental scratches and fingerprints. On the G3, the Four Way Arrow pad ("omni controller," in Canon parlance) protrudes slightly from the back of the camera, creating a thumb rest that provides counter support to the large hand grip on the front of the camera.

Control layout on the back of the G3 is quite similar to that of the G2. The macro and metering pattern buttons have been moved over to the left of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, and their place is now occupied by the Manual Focus/Audio recording button, which appeared on the left side of the G2. The other buttons on the back panel are in the same locations as before, but what was formerly labeled the Exposure Compensation/White Balance/AutoExposure Bracketing/Flash Exposure Compensation button is now simply referred to as the "FUNC" button. As we'll see later in this review, the menu structure associated with the FUNC button has changed quite a bit, providing more control and flexibility than seen in the G2. - Rather than requiring multiple presses of the FUNC button to step through the various options it controls, a tabbed menu interface now lets you scroll quickly through the available options with the Omni Controller, while the "*" key toggles additional options on some of the menus. Exposure compensation and white balance functions are now accessed more directly via the Omni Controller itself, while the sub-menus of the FUNC button let you adjust ISO, Image Effects (including direct contrast/sharpness/saturation adjustments), exposure and focus bracketing, flash exposure compensation, and image size and quality. - Overall, the modifications in the FUNC menu and Omni Controller options make a lot more camera functions much more easily accessible.

The G3'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 just slightly off-center (to the left of the lens), most likely to allow clearance for the bottom of the lens mechanism. 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. However, the side-access of the DC In slot should remedy any power concerns when shooting in the studio.

Accompanying the camera is the same small infrared Remote Control we saw with the G2, 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 Control 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 Four Way 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 a television. As with the G2, I was glad to see the inclusion of this simple gadget as a standard feature on the G3, especially given its video capabilities, which allow the camera to be used as a presentation tool. A very welcome enhancement relative to the wireless remote is a new option for zero delay for remote shutter release: The G2 had a minimum of 2 seconds for remote release, limiting the remote's usefulness.



The G2 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. The viewfinder optics seem particularly well-suited for eyeglass wearers: The objective has a high enough "eyepoint" to accommodate even fairly thick eyeglass lenses, and the diopter adjustment seems to cover a very broad range. (Accommodating even my own 20/180 vision.) Two LED lights to the right of the viewfinder eyepiece 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 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, while 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.

I don't recall whether this was an issue with the G2 or not, but with the G3, Canon positioned the optical viewfinder very close to the lens, apparently to minimize parallax between lens and viewfinder. One result of this though, is that the lens protrudes into the lower left-hand corner of the viewfinder frame at wide angle focal lengths. Overall, I'd have favored a bit more parallax and no interference by the lens barrel, as the present arrangement results in poor viewfinder coverage across quite a range of operation, whereas increased parallax error would only affect close-in shooting. Removing the cosmetic lens collar reduces the viewfinder obstruction somewhat, but that's neither a complete nor a practical solution.

Measuring 1.8-inches diagonally, Canon's low-temperature, polycrystalline silicon, TFT, color LCD monitor features the same smart, swiveling design we first saw on the PowerShot Pro 70, and later on the original G1. 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. 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, Single or Continuous Shooting, Manual Focus, and Flash modes (depending upon the Shooting mode you are using), as well as Digital Zoom, when it's enabled. At the bottom of the screen are the Shutter Speed and Aperture settings, which appear only when the Shutter button is halfway depressed. The third press of the Display button cancels both displays.

The G3 preserves the enhanced manual focus utility we first saw on the G2's LCD display. Not only does the LCD show numbers on its distance scale (a feature I consider almost mandatory), it also enlarges the center of the image, making it easier for you to focus accurately based on what you're seeing in the LCD. Per my note in the Optics section of this review, I'd like to see a bit more enlargement in the manual-focus mode though, as the roughly 2x magnification provided by the G3 is still somewhat marginal to use in determining critical focus.

The G3's LCD is also used when selecting exposure compensation, white balance, flash exposure compensation, and autoexposure bracketing options. Pressing the middle (FUNC) button next to the LCD on the camera's rear panel calls up a series of tabbed sub-menus that let you control ISO, picture effects, exposure and focus bracketing, flash exposure compensation, and image size and quality. The Picture Effects menu options include Vivid Color, Neutral Color, Low Sharpening, Sepia Tone, and Black/White recording. A final "Custom Effect" option provides access to the manual Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation adjustments, by hitting the "*" button. This is the first time I've seen focus bracketing in a prosumer digicam, and it strikes me as a good idea. I've often seen digicams select a portion of the subject to focus on that is either slightly in front of or slightly behind the part of the subject I was actually interested in. By snapping three frames in rapid succession with slightly different focus settings, you're more likely to get exactly the focus setting you want. The size of the focus step between successive shots in focus bracketing mode can be adjusted to one, two, or three units on an arbitrary scale.

The exposure compensation and white balance adjustment options that were part of what's now the FUNC menu on the G2 have now been moved to the Omni Controller pad. Pressing the top of the Omni Controller calls up the exposure compensation control, while pressing the bottom of the controller calls up the White Balance menu. As with the G2, I like the way the exposure compensation and exposure bracketing functions interact on the G3, to show the net exposure settings that have been selected.

In Replay (Playback) 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 Controller 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 Omni Controller. The zoom control on top of the camera activates the G3's Digital Enlargement mode, which lets you enlarge an image anywhere from 2.5x to 10x its normal size on the screen, in ten steps. (Another enhancement over the G2, which had playback magnifications of only 3 and 6x.) The arrow keys permit you to move around the image and check the fine details. Unlike the implementation of this feature on some cameras, zoomed playback on the G3 lets you see all the way to the extreme edges of the image, important for checking critical framing. The 10x magnification is also quite sufficient for critical focus evaluation.

In Playback mode, one press of the Display button 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, Aperture, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance. Included in this extended information display is a small histogram, which plots the tonal distribution of the image in a graph. Histograms are useful tools for checking exposure, as they report the distribution of highlights, shadows, and midtones, but they don't do a good job of informing you when small highlight areas are blown out. The G3 deals with this by flashing any overexposed portions of the image black and white in the image accompanying the histogram display, indicating that you need to adjust the exposure. A third press of the Display button turns off the information display, returning the LCD to the main image display mode. A nice feature is that the expanded information display seen in histogram mode remains on the screen if you use the zoom toggle to magnify the playback image from that mode.



The G2 features a built-in, 4x, 7.2-28.8mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-140mm lens on a 35mm camera). When the camera is powered on, the lens telescopes out from the camera body into its operating position (extending about an inch from its stowed 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 Focus mode. Macro mode features a focus range of 1.5 inches to 2.4 feet (3.8 to 70cm). (Those focus figures are unconfirmed with Canon at this point, I'll recheck once I receive a production unit to test.) The aperture adjusts automatically or manually, with an f/2-f/8 range, depending on the zoom setting.

Manual focus is activated by depressing the Manual Focus (MF) button on the back of the camera. Once pressed, a distance indicator appears on the LCD monitor, providing a reference scale for focusing. The Up and Down arrows of the Omni Controller control the focusing distance, which is displayed on the LCD monitor. The focus distance is reported in metric or English units, as selected in the setup menu. The readout shows meters or feet, centimeters or inches, depending on the range. I found the roughly 2x viewfinder enlargement that accompanies Manual Focus mode very helpful in setting focus. As soon as you press the Up or Down arrows to adjust focus (while in MF mode), an enlarged portion of the subject appears in the center of the LCD display, making it easier to determine exact focus. (In a side note to the Canon engineers, I'd really like to see even more magnification than this: How about 3x, or perhaps an option in the setup menu to switch between 2x and 4x for MF-assist magnification.)

When shooting in Autofocus mode, the G3 offers both Continuous and Single Autofocus functions. In Continuous mode, the camera is constantly adjusting focus, even when the Shutter button is not depressed. In Single mode, the camera focuses only when the Shutter button is depressed halfway, which helps to conserve battery power. The Pan Focus (hyperfocal) mode of the G2 is missing, but you can achieve much the same effect by working in aperture priority mode, selecting a smallish aperture, and then manually focusing a little ways in from infinity. (It'd be helpful if Canon would tell us what the hyperfocal settings are for various aperture settings, at wide angle and telephoto focal lengths.)

The G2 offered the ability to select from one of three main focus areas, but the G3 goes quite a bit farther. Borrowing a page from their video division, Canon has implemented what they call "FlexiZone Autofocus" in the G3. This means that the focus area can be scrolled smoothly up or down, right or left, to be positioned anywhere within a central area covering roughly 60% of the frame. To move the AF area, press the SET button while in Record Mode. The central box that marks the AF area will turn green, indicating that it is selected. Using the up/down, left/right arrows on the Omni Controller, you can move the AF box smoothly around the frame. When you have it positioned where you want, press the SET button again to unselect it. Once the focus point is set and the picture is framed, pressing the Shutter button halfway will turn the box green if the selected area is in focus and yellow if it's not. Through the Record menu, you can choose to have the the Spot Metering function use this same area for its exposure determination, using the Spot AE Point submenu.

Digital Zoom is activated through the camera's Record menu and is operated with the same controls as the optical zoom. The amount of total zoom (optical plus digital) is reported in the top right corner of the LCD monitor whenever digital zoom is engaged, and can go as high as 14x. (The 14x total zoom corresponds to 4x optical plus 3.5x digital.) Digital Zoom is not available when shooting with the G3's Movie mode, or when using the RAW file format. (It's important to note that digital zoom simply enlarges the center of the CCD image, resulting in some loss of image quality in the form of reduced image sharpness that's directly proportional to the amount of digital zoom used.) The G3's digital zoom operates the same as that on the G2, producing a continuous zoom range up to 14x, working in cooperation with the 4x optical zoom lens.

Like the G2, the G3 accommodates several optional lens converters via a lens adapter kit, so you can extend your camera's wide angle or telephoto capabilities with high-quality optics. What's different on the G3 is that these adapters attach via a bayonet mount on the lens barrel, rather than the body threads used on the G2. A small button below the lens on the front of the camera releases a catch, letting you remove the cosmetic collar surrounding the lens barrel, revealing the flanges of the bayonet mount. I haven't seen the new accessory lenses Canon will be offering for the G3 yet, but know that they'll offer a good bit wider range overall than did the ones for the G2. With the new adapter lenses, the total equivalent focal length range of the G3 will run from 24.5 mm at the extreme wide angle end to 245 mm on the telephoto side. (The G2's accessory lenses gave it a range of roughly 27 to 150 mm.)

Auto Focus Bracketing (!)

The G3 is the first camera I've seen with this feature on it. Auto Focus Bracketing (AFB) snaps three exposures in rapid succession, shifting the focus slightly after each. This function is accessed through the FUNC button's sub-menus. You can set the focus step size from 1 to 3 in arbitrary units, by depressing the FUNC button, scrolling to the AFB option with the Omni Controller, and then using the Omni Controller again to choose the amount of variation between shots. 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. (Pretty slick.)

Confused by Apertures and Depth of Field? - Do you know how to use "Front Focus" or "Back Focus" to get *all* your subject in focus? Visit our free Photo Lessons area and click on the lessons "Focusing Up Close" and "Selective Focusing Outside!"



Confused by White Balance? Visit our free Photo Lessons area and click on the lessons "White Balance Indoors" and "White Balance Outdoors!"

The G3 offers excellent exposure control, with Automatic (AUTO), Program AE (P), Shutter Speed Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av), and Manual (M) exposure modes, as well as 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. The Program AE mode also takes control of the shutter speed and aperture settings, but allows you to adjust all other exposure controls, including ISO, Exposure Compensation, Flash, Flash Exposure Compensation, Light Metering, 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 1/2,000 to 15 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 to f/8) 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 (when you half press the Shutter button), letting you know that either the aperture or shutter speed needs to be corrected.

The shutter speed range on the G3 is expanded over that of the G2, at the high side of its range. While the G2 had a maximum shutter speed of 1/1,000 that was only available when an aperture of f/8 was selected. Maximum speed with apertures from f/3.5-5.0 (wide to tele) was 1/800, and only 1/640 with the lens wide open. By comparison, the G3 can shoot at 1/1,250 with the lens wide open, and can go all the way to 1/2,000 with aperture settings of f/4.0 or smaller. (In manual exposure mode, the shutter speed and aperture settings interlock such that you can only select valid shutter speed/aperture combinations. That is, if the aperture is wider than f/4, you won't be able to select the highest shutter speeds. Likewise, if you begin with a smaller aperture and have the shutter speed set higher than 1/1250, you won't be able to set the aperture to f/4 or wider without first reducing the shutter speed.)

Several preset exposure modes are also available for shooting under special conditions. 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 remain still after the flash, until the shutter is closed.

Stitch-Assist mode helps you align successive shots for later assembly into a panoramic image, using software Canon includes with the camera. (See the section on Stitch Assist below for more information on this mode.)

A quick-review mode allows you to confirm the recorded image immediately after exposure. To access the Review mode, you can simply continue to hold down the Shutter button after the exposure. - The just-captured image will remain displayed on the LCD until you release the shutter button. (I really like the convenience of this feature, as it's easy to access when you want it, without tying you down with long review times when you don't need them.) Or, you can turn on the Review function through the Record menu, which displays the image for anywhere from 2 to 10 seconds, in 1-second increments. 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 to complete the erasure.

An interesting wrinkle added to the G3's feature set is the ability to decide after you've shot a photo whether you want to save it to JPEG or RAW file format. If the camera is set to record normally in JPEG format, you can elect to save the just-captured image to a RAW file by pressing the FUNC button at any time during the image-review period. (Whether you're reviewing the image by continuing to hold down the shutter button, or via a preset review period programmed through the setup menu.) This seems like a handy option, as you could elect to save any images with problematic exposure as RAW files to maximize the data you'll have to work with on the computer after the fact.

Exposure compensation can be adjusted from –2 to +2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. The camera's metering system offers three operating modes: Evaluative (a new addition on the G3), Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot Metering. Evaluative metering looks at a number of points throughout the frame, and evaluates the brightness range and distribution between them to come up with the best exposure setting. 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 area you want properly exposed, then lock the exposure with the AE Lock function, (activated by pressing the "*" button on the back panel in record mode), and recompose your shot for the final exposure. (Note: depressing any other button on the camera will disengage the Spot Metering function.)

Through the Record menu (Spot AE Point submenu), you can also link the Spot Metering area to the FlexiZone AF point described earlier, through an option on the record-mode setup menu. When the Spot AE Point option of "AF Point" is selected, and the spot metering option is activated, the AF box acquires a set of inner brackets indicating that spot metering is active, and that the AF box is where the metering is being done. If the Spot AE Point is set to "Center", the white brackets will appear in the center of the LCD screen, indicating that this is where the Spot AE metering is being done, regardless of the position of the AF point.

The G3 offers nine White Balance modes, including Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H (for daylight-balanced fluorescents), Flash, and two separate Custom modes. The Custom mode lets you manually set the white balance by holding a white card in front of the camera and pressing the "*" button to set the value. The G2 had a single Custom white balance setting, and I like the addition of a second one to the G3. Having a second Custom setting would make it easy to move back and forth between scenes with radically different lighting. - An example might be a shooting assignment that had you moving between indoor and outdoor spaces at night, with different types of artificial lighting used in the two settings. You could set one Custom white balance for the indoor shots, and the second for the outdoor ones.

ISO film speed equivalents are set in a submenu of the FUNC button, with choices 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 and increased image noise. Other manual exposure adjustments in the Record menu include Sharpness, Contrast, and Saturation controls.


The G3's built-in flash operates in any one of a total of nine modes: You can leave it turned off, have it fire all the time, or only fire automatically, as the camera sees fit. In any of its active modes, you can turn on red-eye reduction (which illuminates the bright AF assist light on the front of the camera before the flash fires, to make your subjects' pupils contract), or enable Slow Sync mode, which combines the flash with a slower shutter speed to allow more light from the scene lighting to enter the lens. The combination of off plus two active modes (forced or auto) with four variations each (normal, red-eye w/o slow sync, red-eye w/slow sync, and slow sync w/o red-eye) adds up to 9 modes total, although Canon only counts five modes in their manual for the G3. The main flash modes of off, forced on, and auto are selected via the Flash/Index button in the upper left-hand corner of the G3's rear panel. Slow Sync and Red-Eye Reduction modes are controlled via the record-mode setup menu.

The amount of flash power can be adjusted from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments by the using the FUNC button on the camera's back panel together with the Omni Controller to access the Flash Exposure Compensation adjustment menu. You can also lock the Flash Exposure Setting (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 that pressing any other button after the "*" button will cancel the flash exposure lock.) Canon rates the G3's flash effectiveness from 2.3 to 14.8 feet (70cm to 4.5m). (I'll verify this once I receive a production model to test.)

In addition to its built-in flash, the G3 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 G3's flash sync speed appears to be similar to that of the G2, although the draft manual I received with my prototype test unit didn't include any specs for sync speed. Experimenting on my own though, I found that whenever the internal flash fired, shutter speed was limited to a maximum of 1/250. (I suspect that the maximum sync speed with an external, third-party flash is 1/125, as was the case with the G2.)

Canon's handling of the sync-speed limitation on the G3 bothers me a little though. If you're in auto or programmed exposure mode, all is well, the camera simply won't select a shutter speed greater than 1/250 when the flash is enabled. In Tv (shutter speed priority) or Manual mode though, you can select shutter speeds as fast as you want (all the way up to 1/2000), but if you have the flash turned on (forced flash is the only mode available, the Auto option is only offered in Programmed exposure mode), the actual shutter speed will be restricted to 1/250! I disagree with this design choice: When a camera is in a mode that gives the user control over some parameter or other (such as shutter speed), the camera shouldn't arbitrarily override the user's settings. While the G3 does show you that the shutter speed has changed to 1/250 when you half-press the shutter button, it's easy to miss seeing the changed shutter speed unless you're on the lookout for it. I guess it's good that the camera tries its best to deliver you a well-exposed shot, but I'd really like to see some way of optionally preventing an override like this.

Carried over from the G2 is automatic Speedlight EX recognition in Aperture-Priority mode. When the camera senses that a Canon EX-model external flash is mounted and in ready mode, it automatically sets the shutter speed to 1/60 second. Note though, that the G3 must be in full manual mode to use with other brands of flash units. (Since the Aperture Priority mode will normally select a very slow shutter speed when an "unrecognized" flash unit is attached.)

The G3's compatibility with Canon's various external flash units has been enhanced relative to that of the G2. The G2 was the first prosumer digicam of Canon's that supported their Macro Ring Lite, model number MR-14EX. Ring lights are great for evenly illuminating close-in macro subjects, and the availability of one for the G2 and G3 is a decided plus for many potential industrial and medical applications. The G3 goes one step beyond the ring light compatibility though, adding support for Canon's very sophisticated Macro Twin Light unit (model MT-24EX), which has two independent flash heads, with exposure-ratio control between them.

Beyond the excellent strobe support for macro shooting, the big news with the G3's external flash capabilities is that it supports the full range of wireless operation of Canon's high-end speedlights, via the Speedlight Transmitter, ST-E2. This makes the G3 an exceptionally versatile platform for digital strobe photography.

Auto Exposure Bracketing

The Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode is another function controlled by the FUNC button's sub-menus. It automatically captures a series of three images, each at a different exposure setting. You can manually set the exposure step size in one-third-step increments, covering a range from -2 to +2 EV, by depressing the FUNC button, scrolling to the AEB option with the Omni Controller, and then using the Omni Controller again to choose the amount of variation between exposures. 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 G3's Continuous Shooting mode captures multiple consecutive pictures at up to 1.5 frames per second (fps). (Canon rates this option's speed at 1.5 frames/second, matching the results from my own lab tests of the camera.) This frame-capture rate may vary slightly, depending on image quality, functions in use, and the amount of internal memory available. (1.5 fps is based on a "Large" image quality setting, "SuperFine" JPEG compression, and the LCD monitor and flash turned off. Oddly, this rate decreases slightly to 1.46 frames/second for "Small/Basic" settings.) The G3 will continue to capture images as long as the Shutter button is depressed, or until the camera's internal memory fills up. I again noticed one slightly odd behavior with the G3's continuous shooting mode that I also saw with the G2 (and indeed, with a number of digicams as well): The interval between the first and second shot of the series is always about 0.1 - 0.15 seconds longer than subsequent ones, regardless of the size or quality setting being used. (If having a relatively consistent interval between each shot of a continuous-mode series is important to you, start slightly early, and discard the first frame.)

Through the Record menu, you can also select a High Speed Continuous Shooting mode. In this mode, the capture rate is much faster than normal Continuous Shooting (approximately 2.3 fps in our measurements, rated at 2.5 fps by Canon).

We first saw these two continuous shooting modes with the G2, and at that time, I was puzzled as to what the difference between the two Continuous Shooting modes might be. When I asked Canon what the difference was, I learned that it has to do with how the camera manages its buffer memory and CPU activity. Both continuous modes capture data directly to the buffer memory, but the "standard" continuous mode does some amount of the signal processing on the fly. The result is that cycle times in normal mode are slower, but the camera can record longer bursts before having to pause to empty its buffer. High Speed continuous mode captures more quickly, but doesn't do the processing on the fly, with the result that fewer shots can fit in the buffer memory before having to empty it.

Movie Mode

The G3 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 either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels, at approximately 15 frames per second. Recordings can last as long as three minutes at either resolution setting, depending on the amount of memory available on the CompactFlash card. (Thanks to Canon's new "Digic" high speed image-processing CPU, the three minute recording length is a significant upgrade from the G2, which had a maximum record time in 320x240 mode of only 30 seconds, and two minutes in 160x120 mode.) To begin recording, you simply press the Shutter button once. A red dot icon appears in the upper right-hand corner of the LCD screen, indicating that recording is in progress, and a counter in the lower right-hand corner begins counting up to show the length of the current clip in seconds. To stop recording, simply press the shutter button again. (Note that the recording options are largely preset in Movie mode: Macro mode, Resolution, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Manual Focus, Picture Effects (vivid, sepia, etc), self-timer, wireless delay, and AF assist beam are the only adjustable functions.)

When finished, you can view the recording by toggling the power switch to the playback position. Pressing the Set button brings up a little VCR-style playback control panel, with buttons for play, fast forward and fast reverse, go to end and go to beginning. A scissors icon lets you trim the movie to select just the part you're most interested in, and save it to the memory card as a separate file. When the movie is playing back, the control panel disappears, but you can stop playback by hitting the Set button again. In movie playback mode, the up/down positions of the Omni Controller adjust the audio volume.

Stitch-Assist Mode

The Stitch-Assist mode records a series of overlapping images that can be stitched together to create horizontal or vertical panoramas or stacked, 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 horizontal and vertical 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. Once the images are downloaded, you can 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 the bright white AF-assist 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 Setup 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.

Interval Shooting

New on the G3 is a built-in intervalometer, that lets you program the camera for extended time-lapse exposure sequences. You can choose intervals between successive photos of 1 to 60 minutes, and anywhere from 2 to 100 photos in the series. This opens lots of opportunities for interesting time-lapse shots, but be sure to use the AC adapter for any long sequences, to avoid any interruption of power.

Remote Sensor/Transmitter

The G3's Wireless Remote Control allows you to trigger the camera from as far away as 16.4 feet (5 meters) in front of the camera. While the G2 had a fixed two second delay between pressing the IR remote trigger and the shutter actually firing, the G3 lets you set the delay to zero (big kudos for that!), two, or ten seconds. Besides simply triggering the shutter, you can also use the IR remote 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 G2'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 movies.


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, I now measures shutter lag and cycle times using an electronic test setup I built for this purpose. - It has crystal-controlled timing, with resolution to 0.001 second.

PowerShot G3 Timings
Time (secs)
Power On -> First shot
Time from power-up to first shot. About average, quite a bit faster than the G2.
Time for lens to retract, also faster than the G2.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured. A bit slower than average.
Record to play (max/min res)

Top times are for max res JPEGs, bottom times for min res. First time in each pair is for preview mode immediately after shutter release, second time is for switch to playback mode after camera has processed the last frame and saved to memory. All times are very fast.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.94 - 0.80
Longer time is for telephoto, shorter for wide angle. Both figures are about average.
Shutter lag, manual focus
Slightly faster than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
MUCH faster than average. (Good for sports?)
Cycle Time, max/min resolution


First number is for large/fine files, second for small/economy. Last time is for full res CCD RAW files. Times of 2.5-2.8 are for first four shots in RAW mode, with slight variations between fast and slow CF cards. Times of 7.4-16.4 are for buffer clearing, with dramatic variation between fast and slow cards. Buffer capacity in large/fine mode is about 10 shots, after which cycle time increases to 3.1 - 5.1 seconds, depending on card speed. Overall, very fast.
Cycle time, continuous mode
1.46/1.50 fps

2.27/2.41 fps
Quite fast. First set of numbers are for max/min res in "normal" continuous mode, second set are the same for "high speed" continuous mode. Buffer size for large/fine mode was about the same for both normal and high-speed modes, at ~10-12 frames, depending on scene content. Buffer clear afterward ranged from 17-39 secs in normal mode, 23-44 secs in high speed mode, depending on card speed. Buffer size in small/economy mode was ~63-65 frames.

Overall, the PowerShot G3 is noticeably faster than the G2 in just about every parameter, and is either average or a bit faster than average relative to competing high-end prosumer digicam models. Startup and shutdown times have been markedly improved, as have shot to shot cycle times. Shutter lag is also a good bit better, with the result that the G3 is now average or a bit faster than average in that critical parameter. As was the case with the G2, prefocus shutter lag is very short.


Operation and User Interface

Like its predecessor, the G2, the Canon G3's combination of control buttons and dials may seem a little complicated at first glance, but once I became familiar with the features, I actually found the user interface to be very intuitive. I generally prefer to change as many exposure settings as possible without resorting to the LCD menu, and the G3 provides a fair amount of external control. Better yet, the G3's reorganization of multiple functions under the FUNC button's menus makes for much more fluid camera control than did the G2. The camera controls are somewhat spread out, but it's possible to operate the camera one-handed and still access the majority of the buttons. (I wouldn't recommend it unless you're working at fast shutter speeds or with a flash.) The new configuration of the mode dial, power switch, shutter button, and the addition of a command dial constitute a significant improvement in the G3's ergonomics over those of the G2.

I appreciate 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 nice battery conservation feature). I also enjoyed shooting with the rotating LCD screen, which makes composing shots from odd angles a lot easier to manage. The ability to flip the monitor all the way around to face the back panel was great for keeping fingerprints and smudges off of the screen when handling the camera.

The more sharply angled handgrip of the G3 was a real bonus, as it provided a firmer hold on the camera than did the more gently curved design on the G2. One of my biggest gripes with the G2 was that the mode dial and power switch were both too stiff to operate reliably with one finger. I'm consequently very pleased to see the new implementation of these controls on the G3. Herewith my usual rundown of all the camera's controls and their functions:

Control Enumeration

Shutter Button
: Sloping downward to the right on the camera's top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed. (It looks a little odd, but I really like the angled shutter button - It fits your finger better than the traditional flat-mounted design.)

Zoom Lever: Surrounding the Shutter button and also sloping slightly, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, this lever controls the digital enlargement of recorded images.

Mode Dial
: Directly behind the Shutter button and Zoom lever on the camera's top panel, this notched dial controls the camera's exposure mode. The following options are available:

Power Switch and Button
: This lever and button combination controls both the camera's power and mode. Located to the left of the Mode dial, the lever portion features a small button on the front, which allows it to turn when pressed. Turning the lever to the left activates Record mode and powers on the camera, while turning it to the right enables Playback mode. In the center of the lever is the Off button, which powers the camera off.

Drive Mode Button
: In front of the Power Switch and Off button, this button cycles through the camera's available drive settings. Choices are Single, Continuous (or High Speed Continuous if enabled through the Record menu), and Self-Timer modes.

Main Dial
: Directly below the Shutter button, on the top of the handgrip, this dial controls a variety of camera settings. It adjusts aperture or shutter speed depending on the exposure mode, sets any menu setting in the Function menu, sets White Balance and Exposure Compensation options, and controls the manual focus setting. In Playback mode, this dial scrolls back and forth through captured images. This is the first time we've seen a command wheel control of this sort on a PowerShot, and it's a welcome addition. (I do wish though, that the internal timing of the camera were such that you could scroll through shutter speeds more rapidly. If you turn this dial too quickly, the camera largely ignores it, advancing the shutter speed only one step for each rotation of the dial, rather than rapidly scrolling through the available settings. (Note to the Canon engineers: You should significantly reduce the debounce interval on this control, or increase the polling rate of the sensor, to let the user make more rapid adjustments.)

Lens Ring Release Button: Hidden beneath the lens in the lower left corner of the front panel, this button releases the lens ring so that it can be removed. Removing the ring allows you to connect accessory lens adapters to the G3.

Omni Controller (Four-Way Arrow Pad)
: Dominating the top right corner of the camera's back panel, this rocker button features an arrow in each direction. In any settings menu, these arrows navigate through menu options. In most Record modes, the up arrow activates the Exposure Compensation menu, at the bottom of the LCD display. Pressing the down arrow enables the White Balance menu. In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images.

Menu Button
: Directly below the Omni Controller, this button displays the settings menu in any camera mode. It also dismisses the menu display.

Set Button
: To the left of the Menu button, this button confirms menu selections. In standard Record mode, this button lets you change the AF area. After pressing the button, the AF indicator frame turns green, and can be moved throughout the frame with the arrow keys.

MF / Sound Button
: Tucked on the right side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this button switches the camera between auto and manual focus control. In Playback mode, this button enables sound recording, for short sound clips to accompany images.

AE / FE Lock (*) / Erase Button
: The top button in a series lining the right side of the LCD monitor, this button locks the normal exposure, or the flash exposure (if the flash is enabled) in any Record mode. Additionally, this button accesses secondary settings in the Resolution, Effects, and Bracketing menus. In Playback mode, this button calls up the single-item erase menu.

Function Button
: Below the * button, this button displays a set of menus on the LCD monitor. Icons for each submenu line the left side of the display, and item choices appear along the bottom of the LCD display. The following menu options are available:

In addition to its other functions, pressing the FUNC button during the review interval after a shot has been taken offers you the option of saving the just-captured image in the RAW file format, rather than the usual JPEG.

Display Button
: Directly below the Function button, this button controls the image and information displays on the LCD monitor. 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, including a detailed information display with a histogram.

Macro / Jump Button
: The first button in a series on the left side of the viewfinder, this button accesses the Macro function when the camera is in Record mode. In Replay mode, it pulls up the "jump bar." When the jump bar is displayed, the right and left arrow buttons jump nine images forward or nine images backward, rather than the usual single-image movement.

Metering Button
: To the left of the Macro / Jump button, this control selects between Evaluative, Center-Weighted Averaging, or Spot metering modes when the camera is in Record mode.

Flash / Index Display Button
: Positioned in the very top left corner of the back panel, this button cycles through the three primary flash modes of off, on (forced or fill-flash) and automatic. (The sub-options for the flash of red-eye reduction and slow sync are controlled via the record setup menu.) In Playback mode, this button displays up to nine images at a time, in a thumbnail index format, on the LCD screen.

Diopter Adjustment Dial
: Next to the circular viewfinder eyepiece, this notched dial adjusts the optical viewfinder's focus to accommodate eyeglass wearers. As noted earlier, the G3 seems to have a very wide range of diopter adjustment.

Camera Modes and Menus

The G3 has a single Mode dial on the top panel, which controls the exposure mode. A second Power lever controls whether the camera is in Record or Playback mode. Within Record mode, the Mode dial sets the exposure mode to either Movie, Stitch-Assist, Night Scene, Landscape, Portrait, Auto, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, or Custom (C1 & C2).

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

Setup Menu (Yellow): The Setup 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 then scrolling to the right with the Omni Controller rocker. Following are the available settings:

My Camera Menu (Purple): The third menu available in any Record mode, this lets you customize the camera's start-up screen, sounds, etc. Each setting offers three choices already programmed into the camera (Canon screen, scenic view, or bird image), but you can also load your own images and sounds. (I guess some folks may find this amusing, but I really don't understand Canon's expending the engineering resources to put this sort of thing in a camera for the serious amateur. I mean, do any of the G3's prospective buyers really care about having their cameras play a different startup sound or tune?)

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:


Image Storage and Interface

The G3 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 32MB CompactFlash Type I memory card is supplied with the camera. Entire CompactFlash cards cannot be write-protected, however, the G3's Play menu allows you to write-protect individual image files, protecting them from accidental erasure, unless the card is formatted.

Still images can be saved at one of four resolutions (2,272 x 1,704, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,024 x 768, or 640 x 480 pixels), while movies are recorded at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 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, without any processing. The benefit of the RAW data file format is that it compresses the image file without any loss in image quality (that is, the compression can be completely reversed) and the color isn't adjusted to match any particular file format, such as RGB TIFF. All of the image color parameters are kept in their original state. (RAW images require the Canon Zoom Browser software for processing on a computer.)

Following are the approximate resolution / quality and compression ratios for a 32MB card (compression numbers are based on our own computations):

Image Capacity vs
High Resolution
2274 x 1704
2.0 MB
1.1 MB
566 KB
3.9 MB
6:1 10:1
Medium 1
1600 x 1200
1.0 MB
570 KB
289 KB
Medium 2 Resolution
1024 x 768
583 KB
329 KB
181 KB
640 x 480
261 KB
161 KB
92 KB

A full complement of interface software comes with the G3, as does a USB cable for speedy connection to a PC or Macintosh computer. The G3 supports "PTP" image transfer mode, which means you can connect it to a computer running Windows XP or Mac OS X without the need for additional driver software. (Drivers are included for other flavors of Windows and Mac OS though, so no worries if your computer is running an older OS.) Data transfer over the USB connection is quite fast: I clocked the G3 at a transfer rate of 559 KB/sec on my 867 MHz Power Mac G4. - This is about as fast as USB 1 devices get.

Direct Print
Besides the USB computer connection, the G3 also supports direct printing (no computer needed) to a number of Canon printers. Models that can be directly connected to the G3 include the compact Card Photo Printer models CP-10 and CP-100, as well as the S830D and S530D Bubble Jet (inkjet) printers. The two Bubble Jet printers support the EXIF 2.2 standard, which takes advantage of special "metadata" stored in the JPEG file header to optimize print.


Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...



Video Out

The G3 has a video-out port with a choice of NTSC timing format, for US and Japanese model televisions, and PAL timing format for European televisions, which are selectable through the Play menu. 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 G3, combined with the wireless remote control, should make it an effective portable presentation device.


The G3 is powered by an internal BP-511 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, a LiIon design that packs quite a wallop (meaning long run times). The camera ships with one battery pack, as well as an AC adapter that doubles as an in-camera charger. A standalone charger is sold separately, as is a car AC adapter that plugs into any automobile cigarette lighter. A CR2016 lithium battery keeps the G3's internal clock going, and fits into a small compartment within the battery chamber.

Because the G3 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.

That said, the G3 offers really excellent battery life (even better than the G2 in most areas), as shown here:

Operating Mode
(mA @9.5v)
Est. Minutes
Capture Mode, w/LCD
340 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
80 mA
~ 10 hours
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
347 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
260 mA
Memory Write (transient)
137 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
934 mA
Image Playback
176 mA

I really like Canon's BP-511 batteries. While I generally prefer nonproprietary batteries (allowing many third-party solutions), the BP-511s hold a lot of charge. In the case of the PowerShot G3, the worst-case run time in capture mode is about 2.5 hours, a very good figure. (Up from about 2.5 hours with the G2.) With the LCD off, you can leave the camera on for over 10 hours without running out of juice.

Unfortunately, the proprietary external power connector of the G3 precludes use of an external battery pack for longer run times, but the BP-511's life is good enough that this probably won't be an issue for most users. Still, as always, we strongly recommend buying a second battery to have as a spare. (Murphy's law dictates that the battery in your camera will always run out just as the most interesting photos present themselves. Carry a spare and don't miss out!) Fortunately, there are now some third-party battery packs available to fit the G3, so it should be easier to find spare batteries in the marketplace. (Maha's MH-BP511 is actually rated at 1300 mAh, fully 200 mAh more than Canon's own BP-511.)

Included Software

The software they didn't include...
(But that you should)
Few people realize just how *much* you can improve your digicam images through clever processing in Photoshop. Greatly (!) increased sharpness, reduced noise, and even ultra-wide dynamic range (light-to-dark range) by combining multiple exposures. Fred Miranda and uber-Photoshop expert Fred Miranda has packaged some of his Photoshop magic in a collection of powerful and affordably priced "actions." Check out his site, the results are pretty amazing!
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 G3 comes with a software CD containing the latest versions of Canon's digital software, which provides a wealth of utilities. Compatible with Windows and Macintosh operating systems, the software package 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. (For Mac users, a plugin for Adobe Photoshop(tm) provides the capability to read the CCD RAW format files.) Bundled software packages include: Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE, Apple QuickTime 6.0; ZoomBrowser EX 4.0 (for Windows) and ImageBrowser 2.7 (for Mac); PhotoRecord 1.6 (Windows only); PhotoStitch 3.1, File Viewer Utility 1.1, and RemoteCapture 2.6 ( the last three for both Windows and Mac).

In the Box

Included in the box with the PowerShot G3 are the following items:


Test Results

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Last year's G2 was already one of my favorite digicams, a feeling apparently shared by a sizable chunk of the digicam market, judging by the traffic its review drew from our readers, not to mention the strong sales it enjoyed at retail. The most noticeable enhancement to the G3 over the G2 is the 4x zoom lens, but myriad other minor tweaks and enhancements make for a significantly upgraded shooting experience. Many in the enthusiast community will doubtless question Canon's decision to stay with the 4 megapixel sensor, but every indication is that the combination of sensor and lens in the G3 very much hold their own with its 5 megapixel competitors. My tests of a production model of the G3 confirmed all my earlier conclusions about image quality: The G3 takes great pictures, with excellent color and tone. I don't know that many G2 owners will feel compelled to upgrade to the G3, but it certainly looks like a strong entry into the high end "prosumer" digicam marketplace.


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