The Powershot “G-series” is a highly regarded family of cameras and for good reason too. The Canon ‘G’ is consistently one of the best made, highest performing, and most comfortable of all the point and shoot-sized digital cameras. The Canon G10 is no exception. In fact, it makes significant improvements of the lens disappointment of the G9, the non-existent G8, the RAW-less G7, and the funny-colored G6 with its horrendous chromatic aberration. The G10 is the best Canon G-series since the G5, and in general, it holds its own too.
Top Command Dial
The main command dial on top of the camera generally controls the exposure mode that the camera will be using to arrive at a scene’s exposure. Like most compact point and shoots there is a green AUTO mode where the camera remains completely in the driver seat when determining exposure. This is a fail-safe for when the user is just starting out with the camera or does not want to worry about setting anything and just take snapshots. Beyond that, you have the standard SLR modes of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and full manual. These modes allow for user override and/or for achieving special photographic effects, but are still limited by the point and shoot nature of this camera. Beyond that, Canon provides their very comprehensive SCENE [SCN] mode menu which allows the user to dial in more precisely the nature of the photograph about to be taken (fireworks, landscape, night portrait, underwater, museum, etc). These modes really work, however, the slight problem is that there is no override when in one of those modes. The camera engages full control again.
Rounding out the options on the main command dial you have the video clip mode, C1 & C2 customized user modes, and lastly a panoramic stitch-assist mode. This mode is quite useful for photographing very wide vistas or interiors. Take your first shot, then the camera assists you in lining up the scene to take your next shot, and so forth. The camera does not stitch them together for you in camera, but Canon provides a very good software named PhotoStitch in the camera box for doing this. Additionally, both Adobe Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS can perform the feat of stitching a scene together for you.
The exterior layout of this camera is absolutely brilliant. Why can’t Canon design their SLRs as straightforward and easy to use like this just like Nikon does? All of the controls are exactly where you would expect to find them. The most important, I think, is the blatantly obvious ISO dial which is situated around the Main Command dial on camera-top. They even provide a notch on the wheel for the Auto-ISO setting. This is so much more convenient than digging around in back menus when you wish to change the ISO setting or engage the Auto-ISO. Additionally the exposure compensation dial, which is toward the left on camera-top requires no secondary button pushing – just a turn of the dial for the desired direction and increment. Doesn’t get any simpler than this. On the back of the camera you have quick access buttons to the focusing points, focus lock, flash option, drive modes, and display options. The slightly confusing thing with the Canon system is that they incorporate two different ‘menu systems’ which may cause some confusion in the beginning before you familiarize yourself with where certain options live. Canon uses both a ‘Menu’ button and a ‘Function’ button. The ‘Function’ button will bring up options for resolution, compression, picture-style, white balance, flash compensation, etc. The ‘Menu’ will then bring up more options for flash, options for focusing, face detection, etc. In the beginning you will probably go searching for a particular list item in the exact opposite spot you thought it might be in – be mindful of the two ‘menus’.
Manual White Balance Panorama stitch ISO 80
- Viewfinder – has some barrel distortion, but no too objectionable. Has a diopter adjustment, something the Nikon Coolpix P6000 does not have.
- 5x Zoom – WIDE ANGLE! Lens equivalent to a 28mm-140mm
- No Pop-up flash. Built flat into the body. Cuts down on range and red-eye reduction effectiveness.
- Hot-shoe – this is great for attaching small unit such as the Canon 220EX or a small Nissin flash unit.
- Metal casing. Absolutely beautiful. Feels indestructible. I am not sure if it is weatherproof, but I had it out in the snow.
- One of the features on the ‘Function Menu’ is ND Filter. A built-in ND filter will help cut down light to provide a longer exposure. Sure, no replacement for neutral filters, especially the graduated type, but certainly a neat built-in feature.
- Optical Image Stabilization. A technology that Canon pioneered in the early EOS days. Works beautifully.
- Extremely easy ISO adjustment access
- VERY fast auto-focus. Even indoors.
Notable Menu Functions
In terms of the Setup menu, only two items really jump out and hit you. You can adjust screen brightness. This helped somewhat in bright situations. It’s still not as good as any of the Panasonic models, but it allowed you to atleast see something on the LCD screen. Also, when you are in a dark room – wow is it important to dim that screen down. It can really hurt your eyes! The Setup menu also has an option for File Numbering ‘Reset’ or ‘Continuous’. Typically you would want to keep this set for ‘Continuous’ so you don’t get duplicate image file names on your computer.
The Shooting menu provides a bit more interest. Herein lies options for Face Detection, continuous auto-focus, also known as AF-Servo, and the various Image Stabilizer modes: Shoot, Panning, Continuous, & Off. Depending on how much battery power you are willing to sacrafice or how well you can hold your stomach, you might change the parameter for the image stabilizer. When set for ‘Shoot’, the stabilizer will only kick in when you actuate the shutter. When set for ‘Panning’, it will only engage itself when you begin to turn the camera left to right, vice-versa or up & down. ‘Continuous’ means that the stabilizer is always refreshing itself and providing a ‘stabilized’ view on the LCD screen. This setting by all means uses up the most battery juice. ‘Off’ means just that. No stabilization whatsoever. There would be instances where this is useful. On a bright sunny day you really don’t need the stabilizer – especially if your battery is weak. It will only die quicker. Turn it off! Additionally, if the camera is tripod mounted, you should turn the stabilizer off so the camera is not fooled.
The Shooting menu is also home to two of a bit more advanced flash options: slow-synchro, and 2nd-curtain flash. Unlike Nikon, who puts these options in with all of the other flash options accessed via the external flash option button, Canon chooses to put these two ‘more advanced’ flash features in the back menu. Ths isn’t good or bad, its just different. Slow-synchro, or ‘dragging the shutter’, is useful for when shooting in lower light situations and in addition to getting a good exposure of your foreground subject, ambient light will also be collected to enhance exposure of the background. 2nd-curtain flash is a technique used to accentuate action in the scene while still using flash. First-curtain, or ‘regular flash’ works in the following: Shutter opens, flash fires, exposure collected, shutter closes. 2nd-curtain flash is slightly different: Shutter opens, exposure collected, flash fires, shutter closes. The difference may sound very subtle, but the visual results are dramatically different.
Abandoned outdoor swimming pool at my high school alma mater
Over the course of my evaluation period with the Canon G10, all it did was snow. It proved to hold up very well in the outdoors with snowflake falling on it. No seal compromises and while wearing gloves, it was still manageable to adjust settings. Shooting with the Canon G10 was overall very satisfactory. One of the things that really helps make this camera stand out is the super fast autofocus – even in poor lighting. It is light years ahead of the Panasonic LX-3 and Nikon P6000 in this respect. Another feature of the Canon G10 which proves quite useful is the live histogram that you can call up on the LCD screen while shooting. It perpetually refreshes itself based on what the lens is pointing at. It gives you a very quick, yet accurate approximation of how your exposure will turn out. In terms of shooting out in the field, the manual white balance option is, like the Panasonic LX-3 and Nikon P6000, extremely easy to engage and program. I find it amazing that the custom white balance tools are quicker on the point and shoots than they are on the SLR cameras.
In terms of image quality, the resolution is, as expected, exceptional. 14 megapixels is not only enough for 20″ prints, but allows ample data for cropping and still retains high quality 8″ capabilities. As with all point and shoots however, the ISO noise starts to become a problem above ISO 400. ISO 800 in a 4×6 print would be quite acceptable and probably unnoticed by most people. Anything larger, especially if there was cropping done to the file, noise will certainly rear its ugly head. Just as I did for the Nikon P6000 review, I have photographed an apple in front of a white backdrop, tripod-mounted, at gradually increasin ISOs. Click on the image to bring up the full-size file to analyze the noise characteristics and make your own conclusions! Everybody’s eyes and perceptions are unique. One thing that you will hopefully see is the decrease in color vibrancy and overall tonal contrast as you go up the ISO ladder. Point and shoot type digital cameras cannot keep as even a tonality at higher ISOs like SRLs can…plain and simple.
I always shoot in RAW when given the option. The Canon G10 allows for the user to capture in the RAW file format. Of course there is no need in this article for me to go on and on about why you should shoot RAW because you can read that in the myriad of other articles here on the site….but with respect to RAW mode on the G10 as opposed to other cameras, it was quite disturbing to think you were shooting in RAW and then find out mid-way through your evaluation time with the camera that you in fact were not shooting. In the Shooting Menu there is an option that says: “RAW+JPG?”. If you say ‘yes’ you would think that you’ll be getting a RAW with your JPG. Not on the G10. This option only tells the camera to allow you to shoot RAW+JPG; you then must go enable RAW in an entirely different menu system. This was misleading and disappointing. Also, like the AUTO Mode on Canon DSLRs, the user cannot shoot in RAW.
One other shooting mechanism that seemed a bit glitchy (and this might have been the specific unit I had, and I would like to see if others can confirm this issue) was the exposure compensation command. Let’s say I took a photo, evaluated the histogram and said, “Oh, that could use a bit more exposure.” So, I dial in the exposure compensation at +0.7. Take the photo again and say – “Whoa, why is my image blown out?!” Take it again, and then it was fine. The same thing happened for underexposure as well – it just went really dark instead. This was also true if tripod-mounted and I know the point of metering did not change. As I said, I am curious if other people encountered this problem. Perhaps there is something quirky with the unit I had for evaluation.
The title of this article ‘The Canon Powershot G10 – If only it had…” hopefully stirred up some thoughts and curiosity. What is it that this camera is missing? Well, for some there may be a bunch of items, items that may be beyond my list of wants. For the size of the camera, I am very pleased with the autofocus performance, the recycle time of the unit. I don’t mind the shooting lag or the lack of an outrageous number of FPS (that’s what my D3 is for). A slightly wider angle lens would be nice – a 25mm, perhaps; but not a 24mm – too much distortion. But no, that’s not the key ingredient here. If the Canon G10 only had a larger sensor this camera would be capable of a great many more things. If the camera had a sensor the size of a Nikon DX or Canon APC-S sensor it would open up many more opportunities for imaging.
- A larger sensor allows for more efficient light-gathering.
- A larger sensor has physically larger pixels that produce less noise
- A larger sensor would allow for a more shallow depth of field if desired
- A larger sensor can perform at a higher native ISO
- A larger sensor would allow those 14 megapixels to make better print enlargements
I also talk about sensor on this forum quite often, almost as much as I discuss RAW. Sensor size actually matters. It’s not the number of pixels on a sensor, it’s the quality and size of those pixels on that sensor that truly matters. As-is the Canon G10 is a superb camera, and if the size is OK for you (honestly it isn’t that big at all), wouldn’t you want a larger sensor in there is they could do it without making the camera any larger? Oh, don’t worry – they can. And one day they eventually will. If they could make tiny film cameras that had a ‘full-frame’ area for 35mm film, they could get a full-frame sized sensor into a G10-sized body. Only one problem, this whoe digital thing is actually less cost-effective for manufacturers than film camera production ever was, so they have to keep tempting you with new product every year to continue sales growth. They’re not stupid, but they think we are. Instead of buying new equipment every year, learn better the equipment you already own. Education is always a much more valuable investment than purchasing new gear. The new camera won’t take better pictures, only you can take better pictures. Please consider private instruction or attending one of our shooting or software workshops. You won’t be disappointed.
Cool/Warm Split-Tone effect in RAW conversion