Best Buy
  • Price: 510

  • Company: Canon

  • Pros: This year’s update of Canon’s popular G-series compact digital camera, with more resolution, faster processing and a smaller body.

  • Cons: There are some ergonomic issues – the on/off switch is poorly positioned, and it’s still too large to put in your pocket. Still prone to purple fringing.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

That Canon produced a PowerShot G6 at all comes as something of a surprise. The introduction of the 8mp Pro1 model earlier this year appeared to be the next step up from 2003’s 5mp G5 model, and seemed to spell the end of the well-regarded G-series of semi-professional digital compact cameras. Evidently, Canon reckons the G series still has legs despite its overlap with the Pro1.

The G6 has a 7.1mp sensor (for 3,072-x-2,304-pixel shots) and a 4x power-zoom lens of 35-140mm (35mm equivalent), while the Pro1 has 8mp and a 7x manual-zoom lens with a more versatile 28-200mm.

However, the 7.1mp resolution isn’t necessarily a drawback. All the 8mp models we’ve tried have been rather noisier than their 5mp predecessors, while noise from the G6 only seems about the same as its 5mp G5 predecessor. The new 7.1mp Sony sensor used in the G6 has slightly larger photodiodes than the 8mp sensors.

The G6 is generally faster than the G5. The autofocus is said to be up to 45 per cent faster for single shots (and 55 per cent faster for continuous) and now features nine-point autofocus with a steerable focusing/exposure point.

The latest version of Canon’s DIGIC processor allows continuous shooting of up to 14 pictures at two frames per second. It helps with single-shots, too – you can quickly take a second shot while the first is still being written to the memory card. Canon has tweaked the DIGIC settings to reduce false colours – though sadly the dreaded purple fringes still appear on high contrast edges.

Canon has dropped the attractive black finish of the G5 and reverted to a cheaper-looking silver, presumably to differentiate it from the Pro1. The G6 shape is slightly changed from the G5, with a narrower body, but with a bigger hand grip, and the main selector wheel is repositioned behind the shutter button. The control dial for exposure and programmed modes is moved to a vertical position above the preview monitor where it can easily be seen.

Less impressive is the location of the on-off switch – it’s on a corner of the body where it easily brushes against clothing and switches on unnoticed.

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<b>Nothin’ but a G thang</b>
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G-series models have always been notable for the combination of a good, wide-aperture zoom lens, a full set of manual and automatic controls, and an articulated LCD monitor. The G6 zoom lens has a healthy f/2 maximum aperture (Pro1’s is f/2.4, a half-stop smaller). The control button set is extensive, but anyone who’s used a Canon film camera should find them easy to understand. There are 12 modes for pre-sets, two of which are user-specified. Five of the modes are for panorama and multi-tile shots that can be blended together in the PhotoStitch software provided. 
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The monitor has been increased in size from 1.8 to 2.0 inches, with anti-reflective coating and an articulated ‘vari-angle’ mounting. It’s a clever piece of design, as it has the ability to flip and rotate, so it can be viewed from any angle. 
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Unfortunately, Canon has changed its raw format again, so the G6 Raw images cannot be decoded even by Adobe’s latest upgrade to the Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS. So you’re dependent on Canon’s own Raw ‘developer’ in its ImageBrowser software, which doesn’t offer as wide a range of features, although there is a useful adaptive noise-reduction slide. Canon’s conversion from Raw to TIFF is painfully slow although at least it offers batch conversions. 
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The PowerShot G6 is part of the Canon extended family, so it can interface to Canon’s EX series flashguns. There are three accessory lenses available at extra cost – a 0.7x wide angle (for a 24.5mm equivalence) and a telephoto for a maximum of 245mm; plus a close-up lens that can be used with Canon Macro Ring Lite or Macro Twin flash. A small IR remote controller is supplied with the G6. 
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The camera takes Compact Flash II or Microdrive cards – a 32MB card is supplied. Its digital port only supports USB 1.1 download speeds, not the faster 2.0. However, you can control the camera remotely via USB. 
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Canon’s usual extensive software range includes the main ImageBrowser for camera downloads and processing, PhotoCapture remote camera control, ZoomBrowser catalogue, PhotoStitch stitching, plus Arcsoft PhotoStudio, and VideoImpression image-editing. All run with Windows 98 to XP and Mac OS X. 
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The G6 produced some excellent images in challenging exposure conditions, and it’s fast enough to capture ‘reaction shots’ – people’s fleeting expressions. It may be too bulky and heavy (380g) to count as a pocket camera, but the quality puts it into the pro class.
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