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Camera has great photo quality, but should be faster

  • Story Highlights
  • The Canon PowerShot G10 is a solid enthusiast digital camera
  • Camera has a functional and fun shooting design; very nice photo quality
  • It's not as fast as it should be for the price
  • Some buttons have an odd, angled design
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By Lori Grunin
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(CNET) -- Panasonic's Lumix DMC-G1 offers interchangeable lenses, Nikon's Coolpix P6000 provides GPS--the feature sets on enthusiast compact cameras are all over the place these days.

So, should we be disappointed that the whizziest new feature of Canon's PowerShot G10 is its almost-15-megapixel resolution?

While this isn't the kind of update that will inspire envy in G9 owners or a must-have feature to experiment with, the G10 holds true to the elements that have made the G series a successful shooter's camera over the years.

The G10 is physically quite similar to the G9.

At 14 ounces, it's heavier by about an ounce, and it's also a bit bigger--one- to three-tenths of an inch on all sides, for dimensions of 4.3 by 1.8 by 3.1 inches.

As with its predecessors, the G10's metal body feels like a tank. I'm beginning to wish for just a little bit more grip, though, especially since the thumb rest feels kind of slippery.

The dial configuration ranks as the most notable change to the design; Canon stacked the mode dial inside the ISO dial for right-hand operation and added an exposure compensation dial on the left.

It retains the four-way switch (for setting manual focus, macro, flash, and drive mode) with a Function/Set button nested inside the navigational scroll wheel on the back.

And though the focus point, metering, display, and menu buttons remain in the same positions, they now have an odd, angled design. Overall, I like the changes, and shooting with the G10 feels quick, fluid, and comfortable. The optical viewfinder is relatively large and distortion-free, making it quite usable.

Though Canon giveth with the improved wide-angle coverage, it taketh away in total zoom range. The new optically stabilized f/2.8-4.8 28-140mm-equivalent 5x lens should please landscape photographers, but some folks will miss the 210mm-equivalent reach of the G9.

That and the move to a 1/1.7-inch 14.7-megapixel CCD from a 12-megapixel version constitute the most notable feature changes. At least they haven't taken away the stuff I liked in the G9--the built-in neutral-density filter, two slots on the mode dial for custom settings, ability to change the size of the AF area, a hot shoe, exposure lock, raw support, and the bayonet adapter mount--that help distinguish the G10 as a camera for enthusiasts.

The addition of Servo AF is nice as well, but it's odd to use while holding the camera out for LCD view, and unlike on an SLR, there's no focus-area confirmation in the G10's viewfinder. I think it'll take some getting used to.

However, most of the new capabilities enhanced by the switch to a newer generation Digic 4 processor--face detection improvements, face detection self-timer, and i-Contrast automatic correction--are probably more important to the audience of snapshot-camera users than the manual enthusiasts who tend to buy the G series models.

One capability I wish Canon had enhanced is the movie capture: it's still 30fps VGA without optical zoom.

Unfortunately, performance is mixed compared with the G9. Time to first shot is a quick 1.3 seconds, faster than the G9's 1.7-second start. In bright light, a relatively quick focus helps keep the shutter lag to a zippy-for-its-class 0.4 second. In dim light, that increases to a 0.8 second. Both are improvements over its predecessor.

Two shots in a row have a decent 2.2-second gap between, a bit slower than the G9's 2 seconds, and adding flash recycle bumps that to a not-very-speedy 2.9 seconds. Continuous shooting is 1.4fps, down from the G9's 1.7fps. The AF system is pretty responsive, though no one would confuse this with an SLR. The 3-inch LCD is big and bright, but sucks quite a bit of power; the camera's 1050mAh battery is only rated for 400 shots with it on but 1,000 without it.

The primary reason to buy a camera like this, however, is the photo quality, and here the G10 doesn't disappoint. Color and exposures are great. There's some wide-angle distortion at the 28mm-equivalent maximum, but photos have very good center and edge-to-edge sharpness at longer focal lengths.

ISO 80 and 100 produce relatively pristine images and if you're alert to it, you'll see some noise-suppression artifacts starting at ISO 200. But photos look quite usable up to and including ISO 400; at ISO 800 they get visibly soft. (For more on photo quality, click through the slide show.)

Though I can't yet compare it with competitors like the Nikon Coolpix P6000 or the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, users of the G9 or previous models who want the higher resolution and who won't miss the extra lens reach won't be disappointed.

Only the mixed performance--not bad, just not as fast as it should be for the price--brings down its overall rating. And even if the Canon PowerShot G10 eventually turns out to not be best-in-class for whatever reason, it's still a great camera.

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