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Canon’s PowerShot G-series digital cameras just keep getting better. These are its flagship ‘compact’ models, with full professional controls, excellent wide aperture zoom lenses, compatibility with a decent range of accessories, and a solid build quality. On the other hand, with product cycles under a year, it’s frustrating if you bought a G3 to find it superseded by the G5 within months. The G5 adopts the five-megapixel CCD (2,592-x-1,944 pixels) that most people expected to find in last year’s G3. Instead, the G3 kept the 4mp CCD of the G2, but added Canon’s advanced DIGIC processing for fast response with lower image noise. The G5 also benefits from DIGIC. DIGIC puts the key image-processing functions onto a single chip for faster operations, freeing up the system more quickly for the next frame. Although shutter response isn’t any faster than average for its type, continuous shooting is respectable, with two speeds of around 1.5 or two frames per second (fps) for about six full-resolution frames until the buffer memory fills up. However, single shots write to the memory card rather too slowly for action work. An intervalometer also lets you set up time-lapse automatic shutter firing at one-minute intervals for up to 60 shots. A 320-x-240-pixel movie mode runs at 15fps with sound for up to three minutes. Three Li-ions on my shirt
Canon has kept the revised body of the G3, with its sensible control set including a selector wheel for fast change of exposure settings. The metal body is now black, which I prefer to the previous silver. Usefully, the big Li-ion battery is interchangeable with Canon’s D30, D60 and EOS-10D D-SLRs. Battery life between recharges was very good on our model. All G models have the amazingly flexible flip-out and rotating LCD monitor which can be viewed from the front, sides, up, or down – I often use it with the camera held at either waist-level or overhead. The playback options include a histogram display. Also retained from the G3 is the 4:1 zoom lens (35-140mm equivalent) with its excellent f/2 maximum aperture. I’d prefer a 28mm lens, but this can be achieved by buying Canon’s 0.7x converter lens (for 25mm equivalence). There’s also a 1.75x telephoto and a macro close-up adaptor. A small but versatile wireless remote control unit is included, which can control the shutter, zoom, monitor, and playback. A new feature is a built-in three-stop neutral density filter that lets you use wider apertures (for restricting depth of field) or slower shutter speeds in bright lighting conditions. The FlexiZone control lets you steer the autofocus/exposure centre point around the preview monitor. The G5 has a rotation sensor that detects whether you’re holding it in portrait or landscape orientation, and resets the exposure meter and playback alignments. The four pre-set scene modes cover portraits, landscapes, and night shots – plus assisted stitching (which displays alignment overlays on the monitor when shooting panoramas). The tiny built-in flashgun is surprisingly effective, and worked well for fill-in lighting on interiors. The flash can be set for slow-sync or 1st/2nd curtain for some effects. For serious flash work, there’s a standard hotshoe that can interface with Canon’s Speedlite EX series flashguns, which include lens-mounted ring and macro close-up models. Images can be saved in three levels of JPEG, three resolutions, or Canon’s uncompressed Raw format, which has to be opened and converted in the File Viewer (Adobe’s Raw Photoshop filter won’t work). There’s a single slot for a CompactFlash II card (a 32MB card is included) or IBM Microdrive. Bundle bits
Canon’s usual decent software bundle is included, comprising the ImageBrowser file viewer/downloader, RemoteCapture remote camera control, File Viewer, and PhotoStitch panorama stitcher. Also supplied are Arcsoft’s PhotoStudio 4 and VideoImpression for Mac and Windows. The additional resolution of the G5 is welcome, and further extends the appeal of this series, though single-shot refresh cycles are too slow. Its main rivals are the Nikon CoolPix 5400, or the Olympus C5050Z, which offer similar format, quality and ‘system’ accessories. If you need a quality digital camera with full professional controls but don’t want the bulk and extra expense of an interchangeable-lens SLR model, the PowerShot G5 hits the mark.