Canon PowerShot G10 £449
5th Dec 2008 | 11:42
No matter how small they make them, you can't fit a DSLR in your pocket. But is the brand-new PowerShot G10 is the next best thing?
We reviewed the PowerShot G9, this camera's predecessor, last year.
The Canon PowerShot G10, then, has been over a year in the pipeline and yet on the face of it, the new camera isn't so very different from the old one.
But there are some significant differences. The one that's likely to grab the most headlines is the G10's increase in resolution, offering a 14.7 megapixel sensor where the G9 had 12 megapixels.
Actually, though, that's probably the least important difference. Numerically, it's not very much at all and, besides, pixel densities this high bring serious noise (and noise reduction) issues as we've seen so many times before.
Instead, one of the most useful improvements in this camera is the switch from the old camera's 35-210mm equivalent 6x zoom to a shorter-range 28-140mm lens.
Yes, it's a drop from a 6x zoom to a 5x zoom, but you get a proper 28mm equivalent wide angle rather than the half-hearted 35mm equivalent of the old lens.
There are other differences on the top of the camera. The G9 had an ISO dial at the far left, but on the G10 this has now been placed under the main mode dial to the right.
On the far left there's now a handy EV compensation dial. And it really is handy. The ability to adjust the ISO and the EV compensation so readily is like a breath of fresh air.
There are two other things worthy of special attention. One is the RAW mode... and it's not just the fact that the G10 has one, but that this camera can shoot and save RAW files as quickly as a DSLR.
On other compacts, RAW modes are rare and, when they are available, they tie up the camera's processor for so many seconds they're practically unusable. The other improvement is in the LCD.
The size is the same as the G9's, at 3 inches, but the resolution is doubled at 461,000 pixels. It's very crisp, saturated and vibrant, and with a wide viewing angle too.
In fact, the LCD is almost too good. You can take a shot on the G10 and marvel at its richness and depth when you look at it on the screen, but then when you get it back on your computer, you find it's rather ordinary.
Mixed picture quality
The G10's display does inflate the saturation and contrast of its images, and quite apart from anything else this does make it tricky to assess whether you've just grabbed a great shot or a lacklustre one.
And a few too many of our test shots were on the lacklustre side. The G10's default contrast and saturation settings are pretty conservative, which is OK if you habitually enhance every image later on, but not so good if you depend on getting vibrant results straight from the camera.
You shouldn't expect dramatically enhanced detail rendition from the high-resolution sensor, either. We've passed the point where megapixels are the limiting factor and sensor size is what counts now... and the 1/1.7-inch sensor in the G10 is several times smaller than that of a DSLR.
It shows in the way fine, textural detail is resolved less clearly and in the rapid deterioration in image quality as the ISO is increased. The G10 is good, but there's a limit to how good it can be.
Canon's superior build
If you must have a camera you can it in a coat pocket, this is currently the best there is.
The image quality scarcely sets new standards, but the Canon PowerShot G10 itself is a cast-iron beauty that's a pleasure to use.
Other makers might know a thing or two about image quality, but Canon certainly knows how to make cameras.