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Conclusion - Pros

  • At base ISO and in high contrast conditions, this is the highest resolving compact we have ever tested
  • Capable of very good results at lower ISO settings (Below ISO 400), and very usable for standard sized prints (noise and NR effects are visible on screen however)
  • Very little vignetting and good edge-to-edge sharpness across the zoom range
  • Very low lens distortion (none at the long end)
  • RAW mode (and RAW+JPEG option) surprisingly fast - and useful
  • Classic 'rangefinder' styling looks great, fit & finish superb
  • Improved handling (much better grip) - one of the best handling compacts currently available
  • Improved grip makes one handed operation quite comfortable (and secure), and generally fun-to-play-with gadget that encourages the user to take pictures
  • Huge feature set
  • Real, usable photographic control
  • ISO and EV dial on body and external access to all important controls
  • My Menu for quick access to most used menu options
  • Higher resolution, sharper screen that works pretty well in bright light
  • Higher capacity battery
  • Rugged, solid construction and excellent build quality
  • 28-140mm focal length range is all you need in most everyday situations
  • Effective image stabilization with 3-4 stop advantage
  • Fast and responsive overall performance (slightly slower than G9 due to larger files)
  • Optional teleconverter
  • Well designed optional underwater housing
  • Software bundle now includes a full (powerful) version of Digital Photo Professional
  • Flash hot shoe for dedicated flash units
  • Built-in flash performs well
  • Two custom modes and customizable shortcut button
  • Wide range of image color and sharpness parameters
  • 1cm macro mode
  • Excellent movie quality

Conclusion - Cons

  • Rather slow lens (in terms of aperture) by traditional G series standards
  • No articulated LCD (another traditional G series feature)
  • Price is very high considering other cameras in its class and low end DSLRs
  • Some noise visible even at ISO 80, Noise Reduction effects start to creep in and smear detail from about ISO 200
  • ISO 800 and 1600, though improved from the G9, are still so noisy (and soft) they're almost pointless, ISO 3200 very low resolution and complete waste of time
  • Focus sometimes hunts in low light at longer focal lengths and in macro mode
  • Continuous mode slightly slower than the G9
  • Highlight clipping and metering issues in bright conditions (though to some degree fixable in RAW)
  • Some chromatic aberration visible at wide end of zoom in all shots
  • Focus speeds and shutter lag (when using LCD) could be better

Overall conclusion

Canon has taken a camera which we liked, and added more megapixels, more external controls, a wider angle lens, a higher capacity battery and a better hand grip. This was done without sacrificing operation speed, and in some ways improved the usability. All this took a camera which already had a lot of gadgetty appeal and made it better.

The G10 is a camera you don't want to put down once you have picked it up. It encourages users to take pictures, and turn the dials: to experiment and have fun. This is one heck of a fun camera to use. In the hand, it inspires confidence with solid construction and secure and comfortable hand grip. The G10 quickly becomes second nature to use, which is not something that can be said of many compacts.

But the problems arise when the user gets back to a computer and downloads the images from the G10. In trying to keep ahead of the megapixel race, Canon has produced a camera that in the real world can't deliver on the promise of the styling and control layout. In the studio it produced some incredible results at base ISO, but out in the real world and as ISO settings increased, the loss of fine detail and increase in noise really let it down. A camera is ultimately about taking pictures, and that is why we put so much emphasis on the image quality output.

Compared the the G9, there is actually improvement in the G10, showing that Canon is not sitting idly by or just making a cosmetic upgrade. But the market has moved on since the G9 was introduced, and the Panasonic LX3 shows what is possible with a more conservative approach to resolution in a small sensor, in a lighter more compact package and at a lower price.

The other thing that has changed in the camera market since the introduction of the G9 is the reduction in price caused by the model war at the low end of the DSLR market. Around the same price of the G10 you could get a Canon Rebel XS (1000D), a Sony A200 or a Nikon D40. Any of these would give the user better image quality, better ISO performance, and the flexibility that a DSLR brings. With pressures from both sides, Canon really had to hit a home run with the G10, and in the image quality department it rounded second, maybe even a standup third, but just could not quite get to home plate.

This is also an interesting time in the high-end compact segment, as the three camera we have compared in this review (the Canon G10, Panasonic LX3 and Nikon P6000) all have different sensors of different resolutions but at about the same size. The G10 has shown what is possible with resolution in a controlled high contrast image at base ISO, but LX3 showed what is possible with current sensor technology in a compact. In the real world, try as you might, it is just not possible to shoot at ISO 80 all the time, and in these conditions the LX3 performed better than the G10 with fewer pixels. The LX3 also has a faster lens which enables it to use lower ISO settings most of the time. The question arises: how good could the G10 have been if Canon had put a LX3 like sensor in it?

That is not to say the news is all bad in the image quality department. As stated earlier, at base ISO and in high contrast conditions, 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. Also if you were to only make small prints, view the images on computer monitors, or the images are mainly for web use, the the G10 would be a great choice. If cameras were to exist in a vacuum, the G10 would certainly get our highest rating, and if no other cameras of this sensor size could do better then we could have said 'maybe it is just not possible with current sensor technologically'. The Panasonic LX3 shows that this is not the case.

Considering the wider market, with pressures coming from the cheaper LX3, and with low end digital SLRs getting cheaper all the time, it is hard to see who the G10 audience will be. Mainly those who own higher end DSLRs (especially Canon ones) looking for a compact second camera? Perhaps, but these users would certainly be discriminating about image quality, and the G10 might not live up to their expectations. So the G10 is in the 'flawed gem' category that, while great fun to take pictures with, is surpassed in image quality by other cameras in the same price range, and the same market segment. At its price the G10 just cannot overcome the image quality shortfalls to achieve our highest rating.

The G10 leaves that lingering question. Just how good could this camera have been, had Canon taken a more conservative approach to resolution and put as much effort into optimising image quality as it did into making such an impressive camera body?

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.5
Ergonomics & handling 9.0
Features 9.5
Image quality 8.0
Optics 9.0
Performance (speed) 8.5
Value 7.0

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