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Canon Powershot G10
14.7MP | 28-140mm (5X) ZOOM | $430 US / £340 UK

The G10 is the third incarnation of Canon’s flagship ‘prosumer’ compact since the G series was reinvented with the G7 in 2006. When we reviewed its predecessor, the G9, last year, we praised it for the styling, handling and build and for its excellent output at low ISO settings. The G10 builds on this by adding handling and control refinements, improving the LCD resolution, and, most importantly, adding a wider lens starting at 28mm (equiv.). It also retains the rangefinder styling and solid build quality, and reduces the amount of silver accents on the camera. All the external controls have been carried over, and a new one has been added (a very useful exposure compensation dial).

The G10 is one of a dying breed - what used to be called 'prosumer cameras' - high end models designed to offer an alternative to a digital SLR with top quality optics, solid construction and lots of control. At one time there would have been at least one equivalent model at the top of every manufacturer's compact camera range, but since the arrival of the affordable digital SLR they have become increasingly rare beasts.

  • 14.7 effective Megapixels
  • 28-140mm equiv lens with 5x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom
  • 3.0 inch LCD with 461,000
  • ISO sensitivity up to 1600
  • 8 shooting modes, 18 Scene Modes
  • Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual Exposure Mode
  • Exposure Compensation and ISO dials
  • DIGIC IV Processor for enhanced Face Detection AF and Intelligent Contrast
  • Print/Share button with ID Photo print Option
  • Available in Black
  • Optional accessories available, including tele-converter, waterproof case and compatibility with Canon’s full range of Speedlite flashes.

Click here to view the full review - November 2008 (opens in new window)

Overview

The G10 is an evolution of the G9 Design, maintaining the metal construction and essentially the same body shape. The exposed body is nearly completely metal (only the battery door and the ports cover are plastic), and the matt-black finish gives it a stealthy, classic look.

Upgrading from almost any other compact to this camera will come as a very pleasant surprise; it feels very comfortable and stable in the hand, with the extra grip texture on the handgrip helping the secure feel. Metering and focus point selection and the AE Lock button are all within easy reach of the right thumb, but the location of the exposure compensation dial means it will usually be operated with the left hand. The dedicated ISO dial sits around the mode dial and in addition to all the external controls there is also Canon's FUNC menu which provides quick access to a number of shooting parameters. There is no doubt that the G10 is as close as you'll get to an SLR in terms of operation.

The G10 is Canon's flagship compact camera and this is clearly reflected in the spec sheet. The camera offers full manual control for photographic purists but the DIGIV IV processor also provides all the usual digital helpers such as face detection and dynamic range optimization. Images can be reviewed and composed on a new 3.0 inch screen that offers 460K pixels of resolution. Alternatively you can use the optical viewfinder, which is small (although no smaller than the competition's) but can still be a welcome emergency solution when shooting in bright sunlight. The lens now finally offers a 28mm wide angle, and with 140mm at the long end offers an extremely useful zoom range. It's not as fast as some of the older G-series lenses but F2.8-4.5 should still be up to most jobs.

The G10 is comparatively bulky for a 'compact' camera but it's built like a tank and handles very nicely.
The G10 has more dials than we've seen on any other compact camera. Apart form the usual mode dial there is an ISO dial and one for setting exposure compensation.
On the camera back we find a variation of the usual Canon controls - a combined four-way controller-dial and a number of direct buttons.
Finally Canon's flagship compact camera has got a proper wide angle. The lens now covers a very useful 28-140mm (35mm equiv.).
Like most Canon compacts the G10 features the very useful FUNC menu. In addition you have a large number of hard buttons and dials for the most important shooting settings.
If you hold down the AE lock button with the shutter half-pressed you get a program shift function, with a very pretty display of aperture and shutter speed combinations.

Image quality and performance

Overall performance of the G10 is roughly the same as the G9, which is generally speaking a good thing - in most respects the G9 was a very speedy camera. Focus performance doesn't leave anything to complain about in good light; with 0.2 sec at wide angle and 0.4 sec at the tele end of the zoom the G10 is certainly one of the fastest performers in the compact camera arena. As usual the AF slows down a little in low light and, even with the focus assist lamp activated, it can have problems focusing at all in very low light (but this is the same with almost all compacts).

Shutter lag with LCD live view activated is quite good (0.17 sec), but we are still far from DSLR territory. Even though this is a top of the range compact, it is certainly not a camera to use if you want to capture the decisive moment, or shoot action; you'll still need to lug your DSLR around for that.

The G10 produces very large files and therefore, unsurprisingly, the shot-to-shot times are not amongst the quickest in this comparison. However at 2.0 seconds they are still well within acceptable limits. On the plus side the wait between shots only increases by 0.3 seconds when using the flash (0.7 if anti-red-eye is activated). The G10 also remains one of the few compacts on the market with a RAW mode that is usable (and not just a gimmick).

Obviously at this level image quality is of premium importance, and if you want to find out more about the G10's output in detail, check out our full review here or read on for the potted version. At base ISO the G10 can produce detail and resolution that is astounding (better than some DSLRs). If your main use is in good lighting conditions outdoors, and you are prepared to take care with correct exposure, this camera is almost as good as it gets in compacts, with superb resolution, excellent optical performance and very appealing color. But all those pixels come at a price, with noise reduction smearing low contrast detail, something that gets gradually worse as you move up the ISO range. After ISO 400 the output is, frankly, poor - particularly given the pricing and positioning of the product. You can shoot raw and deal with the noise yourself, but you can't perform miracles.

At normal print sizes the G10's output is great; but then so is the output of the majority of cameras we've tested in these group tests, and Canon's claim that it chose to up the G10's resolution to 14.7 megapixels to allow cropping or huge enlargements is somewhat difficult to believe when you look at the smearing of fine detail, fringing and visible noise. Even less forgivable is the all too prevalent highlight clipping (often caused by mild over exposure), something that will ruin even the smallest print. Low light focus isn't great, but flash exposures are uniformly reliable.

Although it's capable of capturing more detail than any other camera in this group the G10 isn't without problems and you really need to shoot raw to get the most out of it. Most of the problems can be traced back to the decision to go for more, rather than better pixels, meaning that, like the G9, it can't live up to its own hype.

Color is great, the lens excellent, but the images - up close - suffer from smearing of fine detail, fringing and highlight clipping.

Summary

As a serious photographer it's hard not to fall for the G10's obvious charms; it's built like a tank, has a superb feature set and is for the most part very responsive. As we mentioned many times in our full review, it's one of those cameras that really makes you want to get out and take pictures and to actually use all the controls - because they're genuinely designed to be used, rather than hidden away in menus. And in optimum shooting conditions the output is superb, with excellent resolution, color and sharpness.

But look a little closer at the images and you'll see that they suffer from all the same problems as every other small sensor camera, and that you're essentially buying a sheep in wolf's clothing. This is a serious, feature-laden camera that simply can't deliver on what external appearances might promise. It's a joy to use, everyone who uses it loves it, and it's solid enough to double as a weapon should anyone be foolish enough to try to take it from you. Just don't expect the results to be in a different league to any other half decent camera on the market, because they aren't.

  • We like: Superb build, feature set, lens, RAW mode, great screen

  • We don't like: Image quality not what it should be, low light focus a bit flaky, expensive for what it is, shutter lag could be better
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