Price: £750 plus VAT
Less than a year after Canon introduced the sturdily built 3.34-megapixel PowerShot G1 comes this heavily revised G2 model. It has a 4mp CCD and improved software, plus a restyled ‘champagne’ silver body with a decent new handgrip to replace the less ergonomic steel grey G1 shape. It’s comparatively large at 121-x-77-x-64mm, and weighs a hefty 425g. Improved camera software displays more image information on playback, in particular an exposure histogram plus flashing burnout areas in the thumbnail image. The 4mp (2,272-x-1,704 pixels) images hold more detail than before, and decompress to 11.1MB. If you need to save memory card space, there’s a respectable 1.92mp setting (1,600-x-1,200 pixels), plus two lower settings. Under the skin, the shutter release response time is better, there’s a new digital signal processor and improved RGB filters for the CCD. The improved noise reduction works well for night shots. A new RAW file saving option is available for maximum quality – the 4mp files occupy 2.4MB in the camera and can be processed into 22MB 16-bit TIFFs using Canon’s utility software. Conversion options let you change white balance, contrast, sharpness and saturation without quality loss. Monitor positions Canon’s clever flip-out rotating LCD monitor can be viewed from a surprising range of positions to the front, back, both sides and below the camera body, and can be stored face-in for protection. Canon has worked to reduce power consumption, with noticeable success – the 7.4v Li-ion battery ran far longer between charges than most cameras I’ve tried recently, although recharges took longer. Usefully, the mains adaptor charges the battery while it’s still in the camera. The G1’s 3x zoom lens is retained, giving the equivalent of 34-102mm on a 35mm camera. Compared with the opposition, this is a bit so-so – not very wide, and not very long. There’s an additional 3.6x digital zoom setting, but that only interpolates without improving quality. Extra-cost lens adaptors include a 153mm telephoto, a 27.2mm wide angle and a close-up. The lens and autofocus system proved disappointing on my test model. Canon makes some of the world’s best lenses and the G1’s was excellent, so perhaps my G2 just had a bad example. My G2 sometimes failed to focus on infinity, giving slightly unsharp results. On the other hand, the macro focus mode worked well for subjects down to 60mm. The manual focus mode includes an enlarged area on the LCD to help judge sharpness, plus a measurement bar to show focal distance, but it’s still not really clear enough to judge exact focus. Control central A full range of exposure controls include manual, aperture and shutter-priority, plus program and auto. There are also pre-set modes for lens and exposure, including fixed focus, portrait, landscape, night scene (slow exposure with foreground flash). A colour-adjust control offers saturated, sepia and B&W shooting. The built-in ‘stitch assist’ displays guides for creating overlapping panoramas and 2-x-2 alignments. Canon’s software bundle includes PhotoStitch software to merge the images. The movie capture mode can shoot and play back clips plus sound of about 30 seconds at 320-x-240 pixels and about 120 seconds at 160-x-120 pixels – both at about 15fps. You can’t zoom while shooting. There’s a small built-in flashgun plus a hot shoe that interfaces the exposure system with Canon’s full current range of Speedlite EX flashguns. These include the MR-14EX Macro Ring Light, which fits on the close-up lens adaptor. A small wireless remote controller is included, which can handle zoom, image capture and playback functions. Canon supplies a 32MB Compact Flash memory card and a USB cable for downloading via its ImageBrowser software. A copy of Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE is also included. Apart from my slight reservations about the autofocus, the G2 is a well-built and full-specified camera that’s fairly compact, if rather heavy. A realistic alternative for another £50 would be the 4mp Olympus Camedia 4040Z, which is smaller, lighter and has an f/1.8 lens, though it lacks a movable LCD and the range of external flash options.