Overall Image Quality

On the whole very good, sharpness, resolution and colour balance are all as good as our current benchmark 3 megapixel the Coolpix 990. One thing I did find was that Canon's metering system did have a tendency to overexpose in certain circumstances (dark outdoor scenes) so the use of a -0.3 or -0.7 EV compensation would normally fix that. I'm unhappy to report that the G1 also suffers from chromatic aberrations (reported below).

"Flat looking" / "Where's the black?", that's something that many people will say when they first see a G1 original. But I have a different spin on this.. Analysing what's going on here Canon have deliberately not corrected the black point (or even pushed it up the gray scale) which can give images a "flat" look, but what it in effect does is help to preserve detail in shadows, if you want your images to look more contrasty then all that's required is a simple level correction in Photoshop or the use of the "high contrast" setting built into the camera. At the end of the day I prefer this to cameras which attempt to select the black point and end up destroying the bottom end of the gray scale. A subnote is that G1 images also appear to print better straight out of the camera as shadow detail isn't turned completely black when printed.

The new ISO 50 also helps to capture very "smooth" looking images with very little or no noise. Images are also less contrasty than some of the competition, it looks as though Canon are trying to maintain as much dynamic range as possible, which may mean a little simple level correction to get "black blacks". Skin tones are good if a little cool, other colours performed well, especially primary reds and blues. It's worth noting that the G1 uses a CYGM colour filter over the 3 megapixel CCD compared to the normal GRGB used by other cameras.

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

Sad to report, the G1 certainly suffers from Chromatic Aberrations. I noticed them almost from day one, and they're certainly pretty obvious in the two samples below. The first an "every day" shot which has been slightly over exposed (thanks to the G1's metering), the second our standard chromatic aberrations test card - thick black card with a pattern cut in it against a window, camera set at wide angle and shot over exposed by about 2 stops.

Some visible chromatic aberrations in every day shots.
Our now standard chromatic aberration test shot.

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

As we'd expect barrel and pincushion distortion is almost identical to that found on the DSC-S70 (which kind of strengthens my theory about the lens design). Barrel distortion at wide was 1.1%, which for the 34 mm equiv. is about right, at full tele you'll not notice the pincushion distortion.

Barrel Distortion, 1.1% @ Wide Angle Pincushion Distortion, 0.5% @ Full Tele

White Balance

The G1 offers a range of different preset white balances as well as manual preset, a simple task of aiming the camera at a white subject and hitting the * button. Samples below give an impression of the Auto, Preset and Manual white balance performance.

Outdoors, Auto Outdoors, Sunny  
Incandescent, Auto Incandescent, Incandescent Incandescent, Manual
Fluorescent, Auto Fluorescent, Fluorescent Fluorescent, Manual

Night / Long Exposures

I've already been over Canon's noise reduction system (which kicks in for exposures longer than 1.3 seconds) so I won't go over that again, here are a couple of long exposure samples from the G1 for comparison to similar shots taken with other digicams. Overall pretty good, I didn't have chance to try my "cold camera" trick as the weather here wasn't cold enough at night (believe it or not for September...) and I'm not putting the G1 in the fridge!

All images below shot at ISO 50, self timer, infinity focus, incandescent white balance. Obviously because all are longer than 1.3 seconds the camera's internal noise reduction system will have processed them.

8 sec, F4.5
5 sec, F3.2
2.5 sec, F2.2

Not a bad performance. It's a shame Canon weren't brave enough to give the G1 even longer exposures (up to 30 seconds would be nice) and with no BULB mode I can't see many amateur astro photographers choosing the G1 (we've proved that noise can be removed by gently cooling the camera).