Canon Powershot G3 Review
The PowerShot G3 is an updated version of Canon's extremely popular Powershot G2 prosumer camera. The Powershot G3 shares many features with the G2 like its 4.0 megapixel imager and offers many new improvements. It has a larger handgrip and the control layout was re-designed for easier access to key functions. The zoom lens is now a 4x optical (35-140mm in 35mm equivalent) with a maximum aperture range of f/2.0-3.0, it's the widest zoom range and largest aperture of any Canon PowerShot model. Inside is a new proprietary dedicated signal processor called "DIGIC" that provides better image quality, increased processing speed and Movie clips up to 3-minutes at 320 x 240 resolution.
The actual operation of the G3 is quite robust, the power up to image capture time is just over four seconds. These timings are based on the camera set to single advance mode, Large (2272 x 1704) image size, SuperFine JPG quality, auto white balance, continuous AF on, flash off with a 20x 512MB Ridata CF card. The shutter lag or time from depressing the shutter release to capturing your image is an impressive one second. This can be reduced to virtually instantaneous capture by using the half depressed shutter release method. By doing so, the camera has focused and done all its computing of exposure and white balance, only waiting on you - not you waiting on the camera. The shot to shot time is a little better than average at about two seconds. I continued to shoot as fast as possible and was able to fire eight frames before the "busy" was displayed on the LCD while the contents of the buffer was being processed. I was able to shoot another frame in about one second and to process the entire buffer required about fifteen seconds. The G3 has two continuous modes with burst rates as fast as 2.5 frames per second at full image size. The standard continuous capture rate in Large/SuperFine mode (LCD off) can record six frames in less than five seconds. The G3 (like most digicams) is optimized for processing JPEG images so when in RAW mode the camera can capture two frames in under 4 seconds and then only taking eight seconds to process them and empty the buffer. The G3 has no TIFF mode but with a RAW mode and this new robust "DIGIC" image processor there's really no need for TIFF. The average user will rarely if ever run into a full buffer that will delay shooting and if so, a couple of seconds isn't long to wait.
Even when the camera is set to record images in one of the JPEG settings, the PowerShot G3 now allows the captured image to be saved as a RAW file before it is recorded. This feature can be accessed at any time during the Review period immediately after the image is captured. This is particularly useful when the white balance or other planned effects were not obtained, or when resolution, contrast, saturation or sharpening needs to be modified in the execution of the final image. RAW images can be processed after storage by means of the bundled software.
As with all cameras the most important part is the lens and Canon has put a very good 4x optical zoom lens on the G3. It covers the 35mm equivalent of 35-140mm focal length with a maximum aperture of F 2.0 (W) - F 3.0 (T). There is moderate barrel distortion at full wideangle which is normal for most zooms but there's virtually no pincushioning at full telephoto, all in all a very nice lens. The autofocus system covers from 19.2 inches to infinity in normal mode and its dedicated macro mode covers from about 2 inches to 19.2 inches in wide angle and about 5.9 inches to 19.2 inches in telephoto. In the Manual Focus mode, focus is setable by bar graph and the center of the LCD magnifies a portion of the image to better determine focus. The Manual Focus range is from about 2 inches(W), 5.9inches(T) to infinity.
In the Multi record mode the AF point is user-selectable, any one of the 5 AF points may be chosen using the 4-way controller. The new FlexiZone AF system lets the user select the AF point almost anywhere in frame which is very handy when your subject or focus point isn't in the center of the frame. Canon is one of the companies that uses focus assist illumination to enable their cameras to focus in the dark, and the G3 has a very good one. And new on the G3 is an Auto Focus bracketing feature which takes 3 shots with minor variations in the focal distance. A real "gotcha" is the design of the optical viewfinder. It's very useable with approx. 85% coverage but the lens barrel blocks the lower left corner when in wideangle.
The overall ergonomics of the camera are excellent. The controls are fairly logical and very well placed. The only short coming was in normal handling I occasionally hit the Menu button with my thumb and had to turn it off before continuing. The camera is not "pocket size," it's more substantial with a durable body, swiveling color LCD, a high-capacity battery, a beefy grip and 4x zoom lens. Ask anybody with photographic experience and they'll tell you that a camera needs to have a certain amount of mass and size to accomplish its tasks. Lightweight cameras may be easy to carry but they're very susceptible to camera movement and that often relates to blurry pictures. I personally found the G3 very nice to handle, a camera with some size and weight just fits better in your hand and lends more to the creative endeavor. But it's not so "hefty" that you'll mind carrying it for long periods of time.
The Powershot G3 is loaded with benefits; creative controls that will enhance the
advanced user's photography and sophisticated automation for the less experienced user.
Novice photographers will find that the G3 takes the mystery out of successful pictures by
the level of hidden sophistication the camera is performing for you when you just "point-
n-shoot." How's the image quality you ask, just have a look at our sample pictures
on the next page. Consistently proper exposures and accurate white balance is what we
found to be the norm. We're confident in saying that the $799 (as of
November, 2002) PowerShot G3 will collect no dust on dealer's shelves this holiday
Suggested reading and 100% Steve approved!
Dennis Curtin's new
Canon Powershot G3 Book, 124 pages full of the information that you need to know to make
the best out of your new camera. Quite possibly the most sensible purchase you will ever make.
The printed book is $24.95, the book and the full-color eBook on CD are $34.95 or the
eBook by itself can be purchased for $19.95.
RAW Conversion Software Alternative
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G3 Sample Photos
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