GE G1 Review
The G1 and A830 are the first digital cameras we have seen so far from GE, who just recently entered the consumer digicam world. The G1 is a compact and stylish model that offers some appealing features like 7-megapixels, 3x optical zoom, electronic Image Stabilization, Face Detection AF mode, 2.5-inch LCD, MPEG4 640x480 (30 or 15fps) video, etc. This point-n-shoot model includes several fully- automatic exposure modes for those who want to snap photos without much fuss, as well as a "Manual" mode that allows the novice users access to more advanced exposure settings.
Ergonomics were Ok. Three things were a bit of an annoyance to me, the position of the shutter release, lens, and zoom controls. You have to "reach" over the zoom controls to press the shutter release, and the zoom controls require being "mashed" pretty hard to change the zoom position. However, the various other controls are well placed and functional. The lens is located at the top right hand corner of the model (when looking at the front of the camera), and I found my fingers from my left hand in the frame quite often. So don't be surprised if you see the tip of your finger in several of your photos until you master the "pinch and tuck" hold technique. Being what I consider an ultra-compact model, measuring a mere 0.8 in. thick, the G1 can be tucked away in the smallest of pockets or purses. Its 2.5-inch LCD is the only viewfinder on the camera, and is used for composing your shots, reviewing captured images and navigating the menu system. This display occupies a large portion of the back of the camera, and I found it worked Ok outdoors, however, there are still many angles which reflect the sun, and the display's coating is also very prone to finger prints. When shooting in bright sunlight, I found it was difficult to see the subject. Indoors, the display "gains up" very well, which is crucial when composing your shots in these marginal lighting conditions.
The G'1 shooting performance results were Ok for a compact consumer digicam. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 3.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing the image, was 1/10 of a second wen pre-focused, and about 6/10 of a second including autofocus time. Rapid shooting in single drive mode captured images at intervals of 2.2 seconds without flash, and between 3.2 and 4.5 seconds with flash, depending on your subject's distance. GE claims the Burst or Continuous capture mode allows you to capture images at 2.1fps. Using the 5 Shot mode, I was able to capture 5 Large/Best images in just 2.4 seconds. It clears the buffer almost instantaneously, allowing me to quickly capture another sequence. 5 Shot last mode continuously captures images at approx. 2.1fps and saves the last 5. The LCD viewfinder briefly displayed the live image between frames, which will help you follow a moving subject; this is where an optical viewfinder would be nice. All tests were done using a fast ATP Pro Max 2GB SD card, Auto recording mode, 7M/best size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality when using 7M Best mode was only Ok for a 7-megapixel camera in this class. The majority of our outdoor samples showed good overall exposure and color balance, however, they were a bit soft. I also noticed above average amounts of noise at eve the lowest ISO 80 setting. This of course can only be seen when viewing an image at 100%. It is unlikely you will see anything in you prints as long as the sensitivity is not ISO 200. You can see for yourself by looking at our examples on the samples page. The 3x optical zoom covers a 35mm equivalent range of approx. 38 - 114mm. This is a typical range for a consumer model, and will afford you nice interior shots in large rooms, however you might find yourself backed up against a wall in smaller rooms (like bedrooms, etc.) Outdoors you will be able to capture nice landscapes, but don't expect to bring distant subjects up close with the 114mm telephoto extreme. This lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle, and only slight pincushioning at the telephoto end. I also saw noticeable amounts of purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberrations) around brightly lit objects.
GE claims the G1's flash will cover up to 10.8 feet at wide angle (ISO 400). This is a relatively short flash range that will be sufficient for close interior shooting (Marco or close-up portrait shots), but the flash will not be able to illuminate open rooms. I achieved the best results from about 4 - 5 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. The Face Detection AF mode is activated by pressing the dedicated button on the back of the camera. I found it worked well, quickly finding and locking on the subjects face, and it helped produce nice close-up portraits that show sharp facial detail and natural skin tones.
Like all consumer digicams these days, the G1 allows you to record video. There are two resolutions to choose from 640x480 or 320x240, with a selectable frame rate or 30 or 15fps. Because audio is recorded, the optical zoom may not be used during recording, however, you can preset it before starting. Our movie samples were Ok, showing average amounts of compression noise.
Power is supplied by a small 3.7-volt 750mAh GB-20 rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, which is charged in the included AC battery charger. According to GE, this pack can power the G1 for up to 200 shots (using CIPA standards). I had no problems capturing all of our samples (over 60 shots) and concluded all of our other tests with power to spare.
Bottom line - GE has created a nice "entry-level" digicam that offers some appealing features. However, I was a bit disappointed with the position of the zoom controls and shutter release. That said, this model has the ability to capture nice photos, and with all of the useful exposure modes, everyone in you household or office will enjoy using it. With 7-megapixels of resolution, you'll be able to create prints up to 13x19- inches or larger. With and MSRP of about $199 or less, the GE G1 offers an Ok value for a 7-megapixel ultra- compact digicam.
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