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Canon Powershot G6

By: Dave Etchells

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

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Page 3:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 09/28/2004

Executive Overview

The PowerShot G6 is a solid update to Canon's extremely popular G5 model. The G6 retains the same user enhancements that debuted on the G3 and G5 models, including a 4x lens and various feature upgrades, but features a new body design, along with a larger, 7.1-megapixel CCD. The G6 also carries over all of the design elements I applauded in the previous "G" models, 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 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 G6 is quite a bit smaller than the G3, at 4.1 x 2.9 x 2.9 inches (105 x 73 x 73 millimeters), and weighs in at 16.7 ounces (474 grams) with the battery pack and CompactFlash card installed. While this may seem a little hefty when compared to other compact digicams, the G6 is quite comfortable in the hand, thanks in part to its redesigned, chunky handgrip on the right side that provides secure purchase for your fingers. It should fit easily into a large coat pocket or purse, and comes with a half-inch neck strap for added convenience.

The G6's eye-level real-image optical viewfinder zooms along with its 4x lens and features a central autofocus / exposure target in the center. The diopter adjustment slider below the eyepiece controls the viewfinder focus for eyeglass wearers, and two LED lights on the right hand 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 thanks to the body redesign, the lens no longer protrudes into the lower left-hand corner of the viewfinder frame at wide angle focal lengths. - A very welcome change from the G3 and G5. 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, plus the low battery and camera shake warnings as applicable. Also shown, if set to other than their defaults, are the exposure compensation, white balance, ISO speed, photo effect, bracket, flash exposure compensation / flash output, file format, digital zoom, red-eye reduction, macro / super macro, auto rotate, ND filter, AE / FE lock, manual focus, and movie recording indicators. Even if the information readout is disabled, camera settings are shown on the LCD display for six seconds after the most recent settings change. The G6 retains the playback-mode histogram readout first seen 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. The G6's powerful "FlexiZone" autofocus option lets you move the focus area freely around the central 60 percent of so of the frame. 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 left side of the camera's rear panel and then adjusting the focus with the Main dial on the top of the front handgrip, just behind the Shutter button. A distance scale on the LCD monitor indicates approximately how far you are from maximum and minimum focus, with approximate distances shown in either English or Metric units. The Manual Focus display also enlarges the central portion of the frame about 2x, to make focus easier to determine visually. The G6's Macro mode lets you focus as close as 2.0 inches (5.0 centimeters). Digital zoom is controlled through the Record menu, with enlargements to 4.1x. (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 G6 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 the rear 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 (although a Program Shift function lets you bias the exposure for a faster shutter speed / wider aperture, or a slower shutter speed / smaller aperture). Aperture and Shutter Speed Priority modes allow you to set one exposure variable (aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best value for the other parameter. Manual mode gives you full control over all exposure parameters. The camera's aperture can be set from f/2 to f/8, and the shutter speed ranges from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds. The G6 has an internal neutral density (ND) filter, that cuts the incoming light by a factor of eight. (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 G6'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 EV to +/- 2 EV (three exposures in rapid sequence, with adjustable step sizes ranging from 1/3 to 2 EV); a choice of Evaluative, Center-Weighted Averaging, and Spot Metering modes, and Automatic Exposure (AE) Lock. The G6's built-in flash actually offers no less than 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. 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. The G6 also offers 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 G6 also offers several special shooting modes accessed through the Mode dial. They include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Stitch Assist, and Movie modes. 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 rectangular grouping of four. 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 either 10 frames per second at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, or approximately 15 frames per second, with a choice of 320 x 240- and 160 x 120-pixel resolutions.

Continuous Shooting mode captures multiple, successive still images, at just over one frame 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 of approximately 1.6 frames per second. The Self-Timer / Wireless Remote Control mode can be used to activate a two or ten-second countdown shutter-release function, as well as trigger the shutter remotely with the accompanying wireless infrared controller (with remote delays of zero, two or ten seconds set through the camera's menu system).

Images are saved onto CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, with available pixel dimensions of 3,072 x 2,304; 2,592 x 1,944, 2,048 x 1,536, 1,600 x 1,200; 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 operating the camera remotely through your computer. You can control nearly every aspect of the camera, including ISO, White Balance, Zoom, flash and EV settings, and of course shutter speed and aperture. It's pretty impressive. Captured images are sent directly to the computer. ArcSoft Camera Suite 2.1 also accompanies the camera.

An A/V cable accompanies the camera for connecting to a television set. 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 G6 is supplied by a rechargeable (high capacity) BP-511A lithium-ion battery pack and AC adapter, which are provided with the camera. The battery charger included with the G6 charges the battery outside the camera, allowing you to have a second battery charging while the camera is in use (a positive change from the G5's in-camera charger). This does mean that the AC adapter is now an optional extra, however, and since the included "folding prongs"-style charger plugs directly into the wall without a cable, the charger may block access to nearby power points when in use. Also available as an accessory is a dual external battery charger for charging two batteries simultaneously, and a car battery cable, which plugs into an automobile cigarette lighter.


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