Canon Powershot G5 Review
The PowerShot G5 is an updated version of Canon's extremely popular Powershot G3 prosumer camera. The Powershot G5 shares many of the same features with the G3. But the G5 has a 5.0 megapixel imager. It has a large handgrip and the control layout was designed for easier access to key functions. The zoom lens is 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 G5 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 (2592 x 1944) image size, SuperFine JPG quality, auto white balance, continuous AF on, flash off with a 1GB 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 G5 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 G5 (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 G5 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 G5 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 G5. 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 wide angle which is normal for most zooms but there's virtually no pin cushioning 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 settable 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 G5 has a very good one. And the G5 has 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 wide angle.
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 White Balance 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 G5 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 Remote Capture software is a feature that may not be frequently used, but will prove invaluable in the right circumstances. Remote Capture allows you to exercise complete control over a tripod-mounted G5 attached to a PC via USB cable. You can preview the image, zoom, adjust camera settings, and release the camera's shutter from your PC. The image is then immediately uploaded, making it available for editing and printing without removing the CF card or initiating a batch upload process. If you've ever had the need to take a series of portrait shots and offer prints to your subjects within minutes, you will love this application.
The Powershot G5 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 G5 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 or less (as of June, 2003) PowerShot G5 will collect no dust on dealer's shelves.
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G5 Sample Photos
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