G1/G2/G3/G5 Notes

$Date: 2004/01/10 07:17:45 $

New! Canon G5

Recently, Canon announced the much-rumoured Powershot G5, as a succesor to the G1, G2, and G3. The G's have been excellent sellers so far, and you can even buy a "black body" version of the G2 (The black seems standard for the G5 in the USA, though one Dutch advert showed both black and silver versions). This page recaps a few of the issues that are known about the cameras, and tries to suss-out just what those differences might mean to older-G shooters or people new to the Powershot line.

This doesn't cover all the differences between the G's, especially since the G5 is so new — just ones that seemed important to me (including some issues not covered by commercial reviewers). Like the G1, Canon has declared the G2 to be a "professional" camera in their advertising literature... the G3, though apparently an even better camera, only rates a "semi-pro" :) The G5, according to Canon Europe's press release, is "designed to meet the stringent needs of the most demanding amateur and professional photographers."

I would be completely remiss not to recommend Phil Askley's shakedowns of these cameras on DPReview:
Phil's G1 Review
Phil's G2 Review
Phil's G3 Review
Phil's G5 Preview

  G1 G2 G3 G5 Notes
Optics 3x zoom, f/2-f/2.5
(32-104mm equiv)
Same as G1 4x zoom, f/2-f/3
(35-140mm equiv)
Same as G3 Unclear as to whether the G2 lens coatings were altered to accomodate differences in the new CCD. Note that the G2 CCD is the same physical size as the previous CCD — the cels are more densely packed, rather than providing a larger CCD.

Since the lens is the same, all lens accessories — like the LensMate, B-300, etc — work without trouble on the G2, exactly as on the G1.

The G3 has a different flange of the face of the camera, so that adaptors like the Lensmate and Kenko no longer connect. In fact it looks like you may not be able to use non-Canon accesories (or any brand of filters) at all.

The G3 gives you a longer zoom reach, but less coverage at the wide-angle end and a slightly-slower lens overall. Considering the lack of third-party lens accesories, that's really too bad for those of use who like wide-angle shooting — one of the few sore points about the otherwise-good G3.

The lens found in the G1 and G2 has been identified as identical to the lens used in other cameras from Sony, Casio, Pansonic, Leica, and perhaps others. Will the G3's 4x zoom share the same fate?

CCD 2048x1536, CYGM
(same as Pro90)
2272x1704, GRGB 2272x1704, GRGB 2592x1944 The new color coding scheme means that the RAW file format is coded differently between G1 and G2 cameras. The new software (ZoomBrowser etc) is able to read both for owners of both G2/G1 or G2/Pro90 without having to switch between program versions.

The newer G2 RAW format also delivers greater bit depth — 10 or even 16 bits per pixel — and the new G3 format delivers two more bits internally, making those stored bit actually valuable for exposure adjustment

The specific chromatic response curves of the newest CCDs are, as yet, unknown. It may be particularly useful to know if the G2+, like the G1, delivers far better CA-free color under strobes than it does under continuous light sources. Daylit chromatic aberration is reported to be less than in the G1.

Signal-to-noise is reported as much improved at higher ISO ratings — the overall dyamic range may be a little greater too.

  • Spot/Center-Weight
  • No meter for manual mode
  • Spot/Center-Weight
  • Spot/Evaluative
  • Histogram
  • AE mode shift
  • Meter display in Manual
  • LCD stays bright when underexposed!
same (apparently) same (apparently) Evaluative mode is a welcome addition, especially in light of most CCD's overexposure sensitivity. You have to select center-weight or evaluative via the menu, then select spot via the usual button on the back of the camera. Odd that they didn't just put all the variations in the single button. In Phil's G2 sample images, a few of the the shots (backlit portrait comes to mind) really show the strength of the evaluative metering.

The histogram function requires flipping over to playback mode, but it's definitely worth having, especially outdoors where the LCD is hard to gauge for exposure

The G2 spot meter point can be tied to the selectable focus point.

The shutter now permits long exposures of up to 15 seconds, but the auto-exposure limit of 1 second is still maintained (noise reduction method essentially the same as the G1, rather than that of the Pro 90).

The "AE shift" reciprocity control should prove quite useful to a lot of people — just lock the AE with the "*" button and then use the arrow keys to shift from,. say, 1/30 at f/4 to 1/60 at f/2.8. Not super fast, compared to Av or Tv modes, but useful in situations where you can spend the time to read the meter displays.

An extra white balance setting "High Fluorescent," has been added for "bluer" fluorescents.

Apparently the LCD will stay bright even when using strobe to shoot at, say, 1/250 sec at f/5.6 when the room exposure would be more like 1/2 sec at f/2. This should be a huge boon to strobe shooters, who would be less dependant on the optical finder.

  • "Automatic" focusing is not particularly well-defined and at times hard to predict
  • No manual-focus zoom assist
  • Three selectable AF areas
  • Manual-focus zoom assist
  • Finer-grained focus zones
  • Distance readout in LCD
  • Good/bad focus lock indication in LCD and at optical finder LEDs
Same, plus "FlexiZone" for greater variation in focus-area selection, and focus bracketing Same as G3? Finally, they've moved the MF lock button to the back of the camera, likle the EOS models. This means that you can really use the camera in a much smoother manner than ever before — once you get the rhythm, it becomes second nature to hit the mf lock, shoot, shoot, lock, shoot.... I really like this improvement.

Obviously much-needed improvements, hopefully well-balanced and quick to use. The focus verification is big plus!

Some people love the improved focussing — a few have found that the improvements were largely superficial (I'd still rather use a 40-year-old rangefinder, but maybe that's just me, heh). YMMV.

Unknown to me: Is the focus indicator light used when focusing manually, too?

G3 loss — "Pan Focus" mode.

G3 gain: Focus bracketing (some EOS models have also had similar features — such as variable-focus multiple exposure, which you can now assembler from focus bracketed-images in photoshop.

Frustratingly, the G3 still turns the MF lock off if the LCD is closed. Most annoying and very UN-EOS-like! One can hope it's changed in the G5, but I'm not holding my breath.

Exposure Manual
same same but with
evaluative metering
same as G3 Fast is good. The speedups seem to come from both a bigger frame buffer (and bigger still because of the higher-res CCD) along with new DSPs for faster image processing.
"Motor Drive" 1.7fps 2.5fps 2.5fps 2.0fps Fast is good. The speedups seem to come from both a bigger frame buffer (and bigger still because of the higher-res CCD) along with new DSPs for faster image processing.

The slower G5 numbers indicate that the DIGIC chip isn't faster than the one in the G3.

B&W B&W mode is a variant of "P" with some annoying characteristics, such as forgetting if the flash had been disabled B&W + Sepia + "Vivid" & "Neutral" modes augment the original B&W Same Same I have a love/hate relationship with B&W mode — I've a longtime devoted B&W film shooter, and like seeing a more "WYSIWYG" display, but for quality, you're better-off shooting in color and resampling in Photoshop (or Gimp, whatever)
Grip Tiny rubber lip Molded grip New Molded Grip with EOS-like Dial Same as G3 Obvious improvement for many users (though I never had a problem with the original)
Flash E-TTL only partly supported — problems with Ringlight MR14-EX and ST-E2 Ringlight MR-14EX now officially listed as supported — no news about ST-E2 All including ST-E2
and 2nd-curtain sync
Same as G3 Still no official wireless/multiflash solution for the G2, but initial reports say: it works! ST-E2 control of 420EX units, with ratio control. Terrific news for people wanting to use flash with the G2.

Better still, Canon claims the G3 and G5 work with everything, and even second-curtain sync. This is great news in many ways.

It's still hard to know if third-party E-TTL strobes, such as the Metz or Sigma, will finally work correctly with the various G's

The problems with using E-TTL with "Av" mode have been largely corrected — the camera will set "Av" sync speed to 1/60sec (a funny choice, considering sync is the same 1/125 or 1/250 as the G1, but better than 3/4sec!) when a strobe is detected.

The G2 manual claims slow-sych function with the 550EX, and promises to let the 550EX control E-TTL exposure, rather than the settings on the G2 (likewise on the MR-14EX). Does this mean that you can set the f/stop to something other than wide-open when using E-TTL?

Canon's promotional machine is claiming non-TTL compatability with studio and other third-party units, but then again they said the same thing about the G1

Exposure Restrictions f/8 only available above 1/500 sec same, sort of — there's now a sliding scale of maximum speeds depending on the specific f/stop, ranging from 1/500 to 1/1000 sec. Better, now must shoot at f/4 or higher for 1/2000 sec, but otherwise free Same as G3 Could have real impact on G2 strobe shooters (see below) — better on the G3
Exposure Tricks f/8 flash trick permits E-TTL use at f/8 instead of only at f/2 Reportedly the same User-selectable internal ND0.9 filter Same as G3 Given the sliding range of f/stop and shutter speed combinations, more complex than the G1, this may mean either that the f/8 trick is gone or that it's become more complicated — maybe even more flexible if different speeds yield different f/stops
Exposure Bugs Wide-angle mistiming problem plagues users of third-party strobes — the aperture fails to close-down at the correct moment Unknown Unknown Unknown Hopefully fixed, though the shutter mechanism appears much the same in both cameras
Charger Bug Battery status incorrectly reported if battery is charged in-camera after a full discharge Unknown Unknown Unknown Should be an easy fix, if Canon notices it...
PC Control Remote Capture suppplanted by Chriss Breeze Video Out, remote live video features added Same as G2 plus
onboard intervalometer
Same as G3 For those of us interested in using the camera to make HDRI data, the more remote control we get, the better.

The G3's built-in interval timer makes that PC application a bit superfluous — the camera can just do the job itself.

Mac OS-X Support Yes Yes Yes Yes At first there was none, but now with Jaguar, there's plenty. Via Canon or iPhoto, good to go.

G3/G5 provide PTP mode for Mac OS-X (and XP) so that you can access the device directly.

Turning on the G1 connected via USB crashes my G4 when running old OS-X...
Maybe ACDSee?

Windows XP Support Yes Yes Yes Yes G3/G5 provide PTP mode for Win XP (and Mac OSX) so that you can access the device directly.

More G2 reviews:
Steve's Digicams
Imaging Resource
DP Now

More G3 prereviews:
Digital Camera Resource Page
Imaging Resource
Canon BeBit (Japan)

So... Is it worth it?

It's certainly obvious that many of the shortcomings of the G1 have been improved upon in the G2 through the application of improved technology (Less CA, for example). And indeed that some of the actual design flaws (Av flash mode, etc) have been re-thought and altered. These are certainly welcome improvements.

What bothers me currently is that to upgrade my G1 to a G2 means buying another camera to fix the problems in the first camera. The next cost then exceeds the cost of buying a better camera in the first place, back in November of 2000. And that does give me pause.

Now that the G3 and G5 are here, however, the balance has shifted — the features of an $899 G5 clearly surpass those of most year-old $2000 cameras, and that swank black body... if they could just make it faster to use I'd be at the store in a heartbeat.

©2001-2003 Kevin Bjorke
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