Canon G1 Review
Welcome to a new addition to our reviews, it's where we get a second opinion on the camera from our new contributing editor Neil Turner. Neil, a pro photographer for 13 years, currently shoots Kodak DCS 520's for The Times Supplements here in the UK. Neil is able to give us a professional photographers view of some of the more interesting cameras we get our hands on, and offer another perspective to that formed in the rest of the review.
Four Days With the Canon G1.
"....and remember to have fun with it" were Phil's words still ringing in my ears when I unpacked the G1 from it's box. Ahead were four days to shoot as much as I could with it and write a personal review. I shoot every day with Kodak DCS520s, and I was treating the G1 as a serious "third camera". I'd had a quick tour of the G1s features and I was off.
My first task was to see how well the camera worked with external flash, so I set it up on a tripod and shot some self portraits. The room that I was in was lit by a sixty watt bulb so I set the camera to full manual (f8, 1/10th of a second 100 asa) and tried it with a 550ex and a 380ex. Both flashes overexposed dramatically. Then I tried aperture priority automatic and on f8 the camera set itself to 1/2 a second. The exposures with both flash units were absolutely perfect, but the flash was now working in something of a fill-in flash mode and the longer exposure meant some noise in the image. Finally I tried both units in program mode which gave a noiseless but less interesting image because the shutter speed went up to 1/30th with the aperture on f5.6 allowing less available light. Getting all confident I tried to use the wireless slave ETTL capability of the 550exs. This was not very successful at first because the second (slave) 550 overexposed by about two stops, no matter which light balance was selected on the first (master) 550. With a bit of fiddling around I did get some good results with the slave at -2 stops and the flash exposure compensation on the camera set at -1. This was a lot of patience used up, I was off to bed.
Off to Brighton to shoot at nursery school with my DCS520s, the G1 had yet to earn my confidence so I just shot a few frames at the end, trying some bounced flash with a 550ex with the camera on aperture priority. Again this was fill-in flash as the camera was exposing the scene correctly anyway. Not bad, but the sun was out and I was off to the sea front with a chicken salad baguette and the G1. The camera was on full program mode and set to 50 asa The contrasty light helped to produce some superb images. In less than an hour I had filled my 64Mb CF card and it was time to go back to work.
On my way home I decided on the real test - some night shots. I live near a dog racing track and I shot some pictures of the neon sign outside as well as some images of moving traffic. The fully manual mode is excellent for this. You select your apertures and shutter speeds using the four way switch on the back and watch the LCD screen until the scene looks correct. I bracketed a little too, but the LCD was a very good guide indeed.
Finally I tried the screw on macro lens, first with a close up of my own eye and then with a pile of coins. To light the coins I used a 380ex with a Canon Off Camera Shoe Cord 2 and a Sto-fen Omni-bounce. This was successful, although I did have to dial in -1 stop on the flash exposure compensation to get a perfect shot. Time to charge the batteries on the G1 and have my dinner.
Early start to get to a portrait in Cambridgeshire. I shot some images with the G1 on the way there and on the way back. The camera was growing on me. The saturation of the colours on this sunny morning was very good, especially when I was deliberately underexposing a little. The red of a traditional telephone box really came through. I traveled on to Oxford for a portrait of a professor, shooting with the G1 over lunchtime. I tried the wide angle and telephoto converters and found them very fiddly to fit and remove. They also obscure a lot of the viewfinder so you have to use the LCD screen to compose the picture. The telephoto converter is a 1.5x and works pretty well. The 0.8x wide angle converter distorts badly, so you cannot use it if you want straight lines on the edge of the frame to stay straight. It can be fun though, and my hour went by quickly. I managed to fit in a few frames during the afternoon portrait session on the G1 using it on manual with Lumedyne flash units and it really impressed again.
(The second image above was actually used in print on 13th October, click here for more info)
It's Sunday today and we've been to a Christening, so the G1 has been used for entirely social purposes. I have shot picture of children in poor light and of cakes on kitchen tables. Today has tested the G1s abilities more than the other 3 days put together. It has done well, but certain features began to annoy me. The shutter delay was the biggest problem and it seemed to get worse when shooting with flash. I know that this is a consumer model and doesn't have the quick reactions of an SLR, but I missed several photographs because of it.
My first impression of it was that it looked stylish and I still think that, except that the black rubber finger grip is far too small. The G1 sits fairly well in my medium sized hands and the viewfinder is easy to use with either eye. The controls are pretty well laid out although the "menu" button gets pressed by accident when picking the camera up if it is already switched on. It took a while with no instruction manual to get to grips with the various functions and settings, but after about 250 exposures I now have the measure of it all. The rubber cover for the USB and AC connections will surely break off and the lens barrel feels a little exposed when the camera is switched on. The LCD is very good and it's swivel and rotate capabilities are superb. Fitting an external flash is easily done, but even the 380ex makes the camera feel very unbalanced. The card slot is well designed and easily accessed, and the battery is equally well stored. The shutter lag was my biggest disappointment
On 50 asa I was very impressed with the overall image quality and even at100 asa only the deeper shadows showed any noise. 200 asa was a different story and I was disappointed by the fall off in quality that the extra stop made. Underexposing in bright sunshine by up to one stop made for superb colour saturation, and underexposing using flash seemed to also help. The quality of the night shots was very good and, although there was some noise on longer exposures, the G1 performed very well in the dark. Only when shooting against the light did the quality of the images fell below excellent, these photographs displayed some moderate fringing and the lens experienced quite a lot of flare. No digital camera and very few conventional consumer models handle this situation well, so I was not surprised when the G1 came in with these results.
I really liked this camera, and I would love to own one. It performed very well in almost every situation and I loved the way that you could shoot with such a high degree of anonymity when you looked like a tourist. Four days isn't long enough to produce the definitive review - Phil's took a week. I think that I have explored the G1s boundaries and found it's weaknesses. This has not been a comparison test with any other camera, just the reactions of a working photographer to a camera at the very top end of the digital consumer market.
by Neil Turner.
You can find more of Neil's work at his website: www.dg28.com
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