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Compared to the Nikon Coolpix 990

We chose to compare the Canon G1 to Nikon's Coolpix 990 because they're both similarly specified 3 megapixel digital cameras aimed at the "Prosumer" market. Although specifications are similar there are some subtle differences:

  Canon PowerShot G1
 
Nikon Coolpix 990
 
 
Price Street US$ 1000 Street US$ 900
Body design Traditional Compact Split Body
Body material Front & Top Metal, Back Plastic All Metal Alloy
Lens 3 x optical zoom (34 - 104 mm) F2.0 - F2.5 3 x optical zoom (38 - 115 mm) F2.5 - F4.0
Lens thread 58 mm with optional barrel adapter 28 mm
CCD 3.34 megapixel 3.34 megapixel
CFA C Y G M C Y G M
ISO 50 / 100 / 200 / 400 100 / 200 / 400
Image sizes 2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480 2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480
Image ratio 4:3 4:3, 3:2
Exp. modes Auto, AP, SP, Man, 6 Scene modes Auto, P, AP, SP, Man
Meter Center-Weighted Avg, Spot 256 segment Matrix, Center-Weighted Avg, Spot, Spot AF area
Exp. Compen +/- 2EV in 0.3 EV steps +/- 2EV in 0.3 EV steps
Bracketing Yes Yes
AE Lock Yes (single button) Yes
Focus AF, Manual AF, 5-area, Manual (sharpened)
AF modes Single, Continuous Single, Continuous
AF lamp Yes No
Man. focus 30 steps 50 steps
Normal 70 cm 30 cm
Macro 6 cm 2 cm
Apert. W: F2 - F8 (13 pos) T: F2.5 - F8 (11 pos) W: F2.5 - F7 (10 pos) T: F4 - F11 (10 pos)
Shutter 8 sec - 1/1000 sec BULB + 16 sec - 1/1000 sec
Noise red. Yes at exp. longer than 1.3s No
Whitebal 5 position + preset 5 position + tuning + preset
Flash Internal & Hot-Shoe Internal & Nikon Sync
Burst 10 @ 1.3fps @ 2048 x 1536 9 @ 1.6fps @ 2048 x 1536
Uncompress RAW TIFF
JPEG Super-Fine, Fine, Normal Fine, Normal, Basic
Movie 320 x 240 QuickTime inc. Audio 320 x 240 QuickTime no Audio
Self Timer 10 sec / Remote 3 or 10 secs
Play Zoom 2.5 x, 5.0x 1.2x - 4.0x
Storage CompactFlash Type I/II (inc. Microdrive) CompactFlash Type I
Remote IR Included Optional wired (USB)
Supplied strg 16MB Supplied 16MB Supplied
LCD 1.8" Flip-out & twist 1.8"
Viewfinder Optical Optical
Connect USB & Serial (optional) USB & Serial (optional)
Other Audio recording SCENE modes, Best-Shot Select
Battery Canon Li-Ion battery pack & charger 4 x AA
AC adapter Included (charger doubles as AC adapter) Optional
Weight 470 g 450 g

Based on this analysis the Canon G1 is a clear leader, with a much better specification and features list than the 990, Canon have had time to analyse Nikon's offering and ensure that many of the things that users saw as "missing" from the 990 have been included in the G1. The only thing between them now is image quality... (Note: Coolpix 990 used was loaded with Firmware 1.1)

A few notes about this sample shot: Lighting - 2 x 800W studio lights with dichroic daylight filters bounced off a white ceiling reflector.

Canon have thrown me a curved ball. The G1 supports ISO 50 and 100, the 990 only ISO 100. This causes a little problem, do I shoot the test images at ISO 50 or ISO 100? Rather than try to decide I've shot at both ISO's so you can see the difference.

Canon G1 @ ISO 50 vs. Nikon Coolpix 990 @ ISO 100

Canon G1 @ ISO 50
 
Nikon Coolpix 990 @ ISO 100

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First off colour, the G1's images are more "pleasing", slightly more saturated with more accurate blues, greens and yellows. However as we saw with other CYGM CFA digital cameras reds don't always come out perfectly red, in the above samples the 990's red is better.

It's obvious that ISO 50 works, the G1 shows less noise at ISO 50 than the 990's ISO 100, yet captures the same amount of detail. Interestingly the G1's algorithms seem to want to "pull" dark pixels to black (more contrast), probably because this makes images look sharper, no loss or gain in detail. Both camera suffered from chromatic aberrations, but to different degrees. I think the G1 also showed a little more dynamic range than the 990 but it's really very very close.

Canon G1 @ ISO 100 vs. Nikon Coolpix 990 @ ISO 100

Canon G1 @ ISO 100
 
Nikon Coolpix 990 @ ISO 100

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Again, more contrast in the image from the G1, that said I don't think we've actually lost or gained any detail. Noise levels are pretty similar at ISO 100, maybe the 990 has the very slight edge but it's negligible. Colours better on the G1.

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