The G2 offers substantially more creative control than the typical
point-and-shoot camera. At the top is the Mode Dial with the familiar Manual,
Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, Auto, Portrait, Landscape and Night
Scene modes. The dial is similar to the Mode dial on my EOS 30 (Elan 7e) 35 mm
SLR. Surrounding the Mode dial is the Main dial which switches the G2 from
"shooting" to "off" to "playback".
One of the G2's best features is its 7-21 mm f2.0-2.5 zoom lens. The focal
length is comparable to a 34-102 mm zoom range on a 35 mm camera. I don't know of
an SLR zoom lens that opens to f2.0 at its wide end and f2.5 at its telephoto
end, and those that open to f2.8 tend to be quite expensive. I could often shoot
indoors without flash by setting the aperture to f2.0 or f2.5, the shutter to
1/30 second and the ISO to 400. This is something like shooting with an SLR with
a prime lens and loaded with 400 speed film, but with the added benefits of
having a zoom and not having to worry about whether the film is tungsten or
As with many point-and-shoot style cameras, the zoom lens telescopes outward
when you turn the camera on. The startup procedure takes about 4 or 5 seconds.
The 3X zoom (11X digital) is controlled via a lever that is moved left or right
with the right index finger. It works fine, but isn't as quick and precise as the
zoom ring on a typical 35mm SLR lens.
Controls and Displays
The Mode dial includes an interesting Pan Focus mode, which disables various
functions in order to provide the quickest possible shooting with the camera. In
Pan Focus mode, the zoom is fixed at its widest angle, the aperture is set to
f5.6, and the auto focus assist light is disabled. The depth of field is great
enough to make everything from 25.6 inches (65 cm) to infinity appear in focus.
Pan Focus may be good for parties and situations where you want to use a flash
and can get close to your subject.
The Mode dial also includes a Color Effect setting which allows the user to
select different color effects: Vivid, Neutral, Sepia and Black & White.
These settings work when recording in JPG format, not in RAW format. Of course,
if you choose one of these color effects, your image is permanently recorded with
that color effect. This may be useful for someone who doesn't want to play around
with color adjustments on the computer. However, it locks in your color decision;
so, for example, if you record an image in Sepia, you can't convert it to color
later. Most photographers will want to record images without color effects, and
then make adjustments more flexibly and precisely on a computer.
Stitch Assist mode helps to line up a series of overlapping frames into a
large panoramic image. Making a panorama with the included PhotoStitch 3.1
software is fairly easy, although my attempt resulted in some errors appearing in
two distant buildings. Fixing the errors would be very time consuming in
Movie mode is for 320x240 movies of up to 30 seconds or 160x120 movies of up
to 120 seconds. In Movie mode, the exposure, autofocus, white balance and zoom
settings are locked to the settings of the first frame. Don't expect Movie mode
to replace a video camera, but you may find it useful as a kind of video notepad.
Although the G2 records sound in Movie mode, it won't record audio clips without
video, so you can't attach voice memos to images as you can with Canon's cheaper
An extremely useful feature of the G2 is the swing-out LCD monitor. In this
respect, the G2 is often better than an SLR in that you can maneuver the camera
up, down and all around, even at arms length, and still see what you are
shooting. At the same time, an LCD screen just doesn't provide the finely
detailed image information of an SLR viewfinder. Although the LCD monitor is
about 1.5 inches wide and the resolution is quite good, it still feels cramped
out in the field. After shooting landscapes for a while, I couldn't help but wish
that the screen were bigger. Of course, you can't fit a much bigger screen on a
camera of this size. Also, I often find myself adjusting the LCD monitor until it
is at just the right angle. If the angle is a little off, the image starts to
appear too bright or too dark and the contrast is diminished.
A Menu button brings up
a menu on the LCD screen that is well designed. An often-used item on the menu is
the ISO setting, which offers four options: 50, 100, 200 and 400. Grain (or
noise) is much greater at 400 than at 50 or 100, though still very usable.
Generally, you will want to use the lowest ISO setting that suits your lighting
conditions. In Playback mode, the LCD gives you the option of seeing a shrunken
version of each image next to a cute little histogram of the image; any parts of
the image that blew out due to overexposure will flash from white to gray to
Shutter speeds range from 15 seconds to 1/1000 second.
However the 1/1000 second speed is only available with the aperture at f8.0 (the
smallest aperture of the lens) while the 1/800 speed is only available at f4.0 or
smaller. The G2 comes with a tiny but useful remote control, essentially a
wireless cable release, although there is a 2-second delay between when you press
the remote and when the shutter fires.
The zooming optical viewfinder is easy to look through for an eyeglass wearer,
but it only shows 84% of the image whereas the LCD shows 97%. And there is no
parallax correction in the viewfinder, so your framing is likely to be way off if
the subject is very close to the camera.
The display panel at the top of the camera is compact but adequate, showing
the number of frames left, the aperture and shutter speed settings, the flash
setting, the resolution and compression settings, the white balance mode, and
exposure compensation or exposure bracketing settings.
Autofocus and Exposure Metering
find that the autofocus is accurate with contrasty subjects in good light, but
error prone in low light and with low contrast subjects. The autofocus square on
the LCD appears green when the subject is in focus. The ability to choose
manually among three autofocus squares is a nice feature for off-center subjects,
but autofocus would be much better if the camera automatically chose from among
multiple autofocus points as on Canon's SLR cameras. Autofocus on my SLR is
distinctly better. The G2's dynamic range appears to be roughly similar to that
of slide film. Without careful metering, some images suffer from blown-out
highlights. The automatic exposure bracketing feature is very useful in this
regard. It works the same as on an SLR, offering the ability to adjust in 1/3 EV
steps in a range of -2EV to +2EV. The G2 also has an AE Lock button, designated
with an asterisk (*), allowing you to set exposure and focus separately. The G2
has a Macro AF button which allows the lens to focus down to 2.4 inches (6
There are four metering modes similar to those on better SLR's: Evaluative
metering, Center-Weighted Averaging, Spot metering on the center square and Spot
metering on the autofocus square. Although probably not as narrow as a true spot
meter, spot metering mode on the G2 is an excellent feature.
Perhaps the G2' biggest limitation is the photographer’s uncertainty as
to exactly when the shutter will fire. I understand from other reviews that the
G2 is better than its predecessor in this respect. However, after getting used to
the fast focusing and responsive shutter release of an EOS SLR, working with the
G2 can be frustrating if the subject is moving or changing expressions. Practice
with the G2 will no doubt improve your hit rate. Pan Focus mode is one way to get
around this, albeit with its own limitations described below. Another and often
better option is pre-focusing on the subject or another subject at the same
distance, and then holding the shutter down halfway until you are ready to shoot.
This improves your timing greatly.
The G2 has a continuous shooting mode which allows approximately 2.5 frames
per second in its high setting and 1.5 frames per second in its regular setting.
Do expect the camera to pause and record for a while after it shoots 4 to 6
continuous frames in RAW mode, or 5 to 7 frames at the high resolution JPG mode.
I could get as many as 8 continuous frames without a long pause in the Pan Focus
(JPG) mode. But be careful not to start shooting too early; you may find that the
camera is busy storing past action just when you need it to photograph current
Another important factor to consider with the G2, as with most digital
cameras, is the great depth of field of the lens. That's not so great for
portraits if your aim is to separate the subject from its background using
shallow depth of field. Of course, this can be liberating for landscapes where
you're more likely to want great depth of field; you won't be limited to small
apertures and longer exposures. For portraits, the G2's Portrait mode helps
somewhat by setting the lens to its widest aperture. If you zoom the lens to the
telephoto end and get close to your subject, you can get a somewhat blurry
background, though it doesn't approach the creaminess of a wide-open prime
telephoto on an SLR. If you get to within 2.3 feet (70 cm) of your subject, you
can switch to the Macro AF mode and get even greater background blur.
first I thought that the Pan Focus mode might be good for street photography, but
it isn't. In Pan Focus, the G2 defaults to using the flash - not a nice thing if
you are trying to remain unobtrusive. You can turn the flash off, but you have to
remember to do so every time you switch to Pan Focus mode. When the camera goes
to sleep after three minutes of inactivity and you wake it up by touching the
shutter, flash mode is back on and you have to remember turn it off again. To
avoid this, you could turn the Auto Power Down feature off so that the G2 doesn't
go to sleep, or ride the shutter button periodically to keep the camera awake.
But more importantly, you can't use Pan Focus at ISO 200 or 400; the G2
automatically chooses between ISO 50 and 100. This means that in shadowed
daylight you sometimes get shutter speeds as slow as 1/8 or 1/20 second, useless
for quick shooting on the street. For street photography, it's probably best to
stick with the Shutter Priority, Program or Manual modes, all of which allow you
to choose freely among the ISO settings, the zoom settings and the aperture.
Also, these modes remember whether you set the built-in flash to be on or off.
A valuable feature for many photographers is the G2's ability to communicate
with Canon EX flashes. For the time being, I have a flash from another brand as
well as a studio lighting kit with a powerpack and two heads, so I tried the G2
with those instead. For the studio flash, I used a hot shoe to PC cord adapter
(about $10 to $20). Some warn that these adapters may allow the flash's powerpack
to fry a digital camera's circuitry, so you may want to get one that is
guaranteed safe for this purpose.
Flash exposure for the G2's built-in flash can be adjusted in 1/3 EV steps in
a range of -2EV to +2EV. However, as with other compact cameras, the built-in
flash is limited in power and lacks the flexibility of an add-on flash. If you
add on a high powered flash that wants you to shoot with the aperture at f11 or
smaller, you can't - the smallest aperture of the lens is f8.0 - so you'll have
to turn the power down on the flash. Fortunately, the great depth of field of
lens means that you won't have the same need for a very small aperture as you
might with a 35 mm SLR.
Storage and Battery Power
The G2 currently comes with a 32 megabyte CompactFlash card -- too small for
many uses. You may want to consider getting a much bigger CompactFlash card or an
IBM Microdrive. I bought my camera with a 1 gigabyte IBM Microdrive which stores
359 RAW images at maximum resolution, or 512 JPG's at maximum resolution. In RAW
mode, this is equivalent to ten 36-exposure rolls of film and more than
sufficient for a day of active shooting. The rechargeable battery ran low after
about 2.5 to 4 hours of regular use with the LCD. It's a good idea to have a
spare battery if you are planning to use the camera regularly for a long period
away from an electrical outlet. To conserve battery power, you may want to turn
off the Continuous Autofocus mode in which the camera continuously focuses as you
move it around. With Continuous AF turned off, the camera will only focus when
the shutter is half-pressed. You could also take all of your photos with the LCD
monitor switched off, but that's no fun.
The key components of the G2 software package are ZoomBrowser EX and RAW Image
Converter. The RAW Image Converter converts RAW files to TIF or JPG and works
fine. However, I found ZoomBrowser unusable as it froze my computer repeatedly.
My computer is an older 333 MHz model with 256 megabytes of RAM; ZoomBrowser
should work better on a newer computer. Nevertheless, no other program has ever
frozen my computer as consistently as ZoomBrowser. Hence, I no longer even try to
use ZoomBrowser. Instead, I use BreezeBrowser which does an excellent job of
meeting a need where Canon seems to have left a gap. BreezeBrowser allows you to
view RAW, TIF and JPG files and to convert RAW files to TIF’s or
JPG’s without freezing your computer. Note that for the Canon G2 you will
need Breezebrowser 1.2 or later. A limited free version is available on
Breeze's site. With registration
($35) you get a code that unlocks the program and converts it to the unlimited
version. Breeze also offers a free Downloader for downloading images from camera
an accessory adapter at least to serve as a lens protector. Currently there are
two options: the Canon Conversion Lens Adapter LA-DC58 and the
LensMate. Each allows you to add on wide
angle, telephoto, and close up lens accessories. They have different diameters:
Canon's is 58 mm; LensMate's is 49 mm. Both the LA-DC58 (which I use) and the
LensMate (with readily available 49-58 step ring) let you add-on Canon
accessories. However, because of its width, the LA-DC58 blocks roughly 25% of the
optical viewfinder and part of the coverage of the built-in flash and the
autofocus assist light. The LensMate will cause less blockage because of its
smaller size. You can avoid blockage problems by using the LCD instead of the
optical viewfinder, and an external flash instead of the built-in flash. Note
that the LensMate now comes in a “champagne” model designed to match
the exterior color of the G2. With an accessory adapter, you have a permanent
protective housing over the zoom lens. Attach a UV or Skylight filter to the
accessory adapter just as you would to an SLR camera lens. The accessory adapter
provides other benefits: you can hold the camera more like an SLR or a
rangefinder and, hence, more steadily than a typical point-and-shoot, because the
camera sits cupped in your left hand with the fingers of your left hand around
the lens protector. The accessory adapter also allows you to add a polarizer, a
neutral density filter or any other filter that makes you happy, provided it has
the right diameter. Either accessory adapter will make your G2 a little bulkier.
If you decide to use the wide or telephoto lens accessories, allow yourself time
to screw them on; it's not as quick as bayonet mounting a lens on an SLR.
After shooting with the G2 for several weeks and then going back to my 35mm
SLR, I had several impressions. First, the G2 is a fun camera! It's fairly
compact and light, so I'm more likely to carry it around than my SLR (although
the G2 is bulkier and heavier than most point-and-shoot style bodies). The G2
offers very useful automatic and manual features similar to those on a fine 35 mm
SLR. As with other digital cameras, seeing results instantly is wonderful. And
with a large CompactFlash card or Microdrive, you can keep shooting and
experimenting without worrying about the cost of film and processing. These
features speed the active user along a faster learning curve than one is used to
with a film camera.
At the same time, a good 35 mm SLR feels much more agile and flexible. When
photographing my toddler son running and playing on the grass on a sunny
afternoon, the SLR could lock focus almost instantly. More importantly, I knew
exactly when the SLR locked focus on the subject and when it locked focus on the
background. Also, with the SLR, I could quickly adjust the ring zoom to exactly
the right focal length without fussing back and forth with a little finger lever.
In these respects, the G2 just doesn't match that crispy feeling of speed and
Part of my speed and comfort with the SLR is no doubt due to having used it
for a longer period of time. But even with further practice and familiarity, the
G2 will not replace my film SLR. When I want quick access to a broader range of
focal lengths or need to be more responsive to fleeting moments, I'll continue to
use the SLR. But when I want instant high resolution images and the freedom to
experiment without cost, the G2 is a good tool. Perhaps the SLR is the wrong
reference point, but Canon's advertising of the camera does invite the
comparison. It is fair to say that there are times when the G2 is preferable to
an SLR, and that a photographer with a good understanding of its advantages and
limitations can produce excellent results.
Nature photography with the G2 in New Jersey
Store windows at Bloomingdales
Getting close with Macro mode, a handpainted scarf and autumn leaf
Daylight photography at ISO 50
Low light photography at ISO 400
Flash photography with the G2
Candid photos in a park in Jersey City where the World Trade Center would
have been the background a few months ago
A portrait made using the G2's Portrait mode
An artist paints the Manhattan skyline from a park overlooking the Hudson
To say the least, the G2 is sort of confusing. It tries to offer what you
would expect from a semi-professional grade digital camera yet it's built on a
point and shoot body and looks like it's intended for beginners. It tries to do
both. A neophyte will make use of the presets and automatic modes, and someone a
bit more seasoned will quickly jump on the full manual control which gives just
enough breathing space to be creative.
That's nice, but it's far from being perfect...
Some of these extra control features don't deliver the meat as they should.
For instance, manual focus is quite cumbersome. To use it one has to hold down
the Manual Focus button which is awkwardly located on the high left side of the
camera all the while toying with the d-pad control located on the back. If you
think that's bad, wait until you try to actually USE the thing. You basically
have to sharpen a very, pixely, zoomed-in portion of your picture (focus point).
The pixels are so huge that you might have problems making out what you are
actually aiming at. The best trick one could give is to try and make the pixels
as sharp as possible. Problem is, the range in the steps go by a bit too fast so
you will probably find yourself going back and forth through the steps until you
get what you " think " is best. I'm not saying it's completely useless though, it
did save my pictures once or twice, but if I can, I try not to use it. It
requires a bit of time to so your subjects should either be patient, or trees and
There is also the question of image quality when using the
400 iso settings. If you are a perfectionist
like I am, you will probably never go above the
100 iso setting and always try to use
50 iso with
RAW which produces the clearest pictures
possible (the RAW image was under iso 50 as well). The rest, like other digital
cameras at this present time, will always give you noisy results. Please don't be
fooled, as digital noise and grain effect are two different things altogether.
Don't bother looking elsewhere by the way, as this problem plagues all digital
cameras on the market. The only difference will be how bad the noise will be, but
it will always be there.
Image at ISO 50
Image at ISO 100
Image at ISO 200
Image at ISO 400
Image at Raw
Talking about image quality problems, using the RAW setting gives you
something to consider - you can't really zoom in on your picture once it's taken.
The RAW pictures don't extrapolate upon enlargement so you only zoom on a
thumbnail preview that gives you big sprites, contrary to jpegs where you can
zoom up to 6x and really see the detail up close. Thus, you can't be sure if your
picture is actually sharp or not when you look at them through your LCD, and in
my opinion, that pretty much kills the biggest advantage of having a digital
camera. A little trick one might use here is to take a jpeg picture first, see if
it's nice and okay, and then go for the RAW setting… Unless you happen to
lug around a computer with you all the time.
If you insist on looking at this camera on the true professional point of
view, the biggest limits come from the fact that it's built on a point and shoot
frame. The lens, though it's good, has only 3x optical zoom and short focal
length producing images that seem equal to a 50mm. You need a special adapter kit
if you want to augment that lens, but you will only have the choice of
two special Canon
The user's manual is another thing. Fortune cookies seem to be clearer on what
they try to convey compared to what is explained in the little brick given in the
box. For a person who is not familiar with the many terms and abbreviations that
you find with photography, don't expect to learn anything in there. A manual
should at least try to explain up to a certain degree. A beginner will probably
be scared to hell, so find people who already have that camera and start asking
questions. If you can speak and read photography, pay attention to it.
I'm done complaining
That's pretty much where the negativity should stop though. The G2 will set
itself apart with it's nearly 4 mega pixel effective CCD and you will produce
some of the clearest, sharpest pictures you can get with a digital camera under
the $1,500 price tag. Think digital cameras can't make good enlarged prints?
Think again, I just received today my 10x15 version of
this picture I took not long ago and it
turned out great. Unfortunately, the G2 has not been around for too long (at the
time this article is being written) so it's very hard to find good picture
galleries out there. But can you bear with the thought that the G2 is an enhanced
version of the G1 and that i t's superior in almost every respect? If so, take a
look at Pekka Saarinen's G1
gallery . It will give you a good idea of what can be done with the G2. A
practical gallery too since Pekka is nice enough to share all the settings that
where used on each picture. I learned a lot about what my G2 could do thanks to
his site actually.
If you want to talk about bang for the buck, one might as well mention that it
comes with it's own rechargeable battery and kit that also works as a charger and
AC adapter. A very welcome addition after owning a Powershot A20 that gobbled up
batteries like they where crack flavoured Doritos per dose of 4 AA's. I just hope
this becomes a standard to all digital cameras since most of them will always
require you to buy rechargeable batteries anyway. The durability of this power
source is quite versatile too. I got to play photographer during a
Halloween party not long ago and took
exactly 276 pictures, mostly with the built in flash. Somewhere during the night
I got a low battery signal, something I expected because I did not fully charge
my pack before the party (shame on me since a full charge only requires 2 hours).
Within 30 minutes I got impatient and unplugged the camera to start shooting
again, and never got another warning. I know this has something to do with the
fact that most of the battery will be charged within only 40 minutes, but you
need more time to have it up to full. My Powershot A20 would have eaten three to
four packs of batteries for sure.
The inclusion of a 32 megabyte flash card is also a welcome, as most other
cameras in the same price range only offer 16 megabyte versions.
Having tried a few other digital camera's myself, I have to say that I much
prefer the user interface from Canon, but
that's just me. After comparing it with
the Nikon Coolpix 995, the Kodak DC3400 and the Fuji Finepix 2400Z, I have come
to appreciate the intuitive design of the menus and interface of the G2. To be
fair, these other cameras where not in the same league as mine but I compared
them when I had my (yes, I know I keep talking about it) A20 and it has a very
similar interface, so any Powershot users will feel right a home with the G2.
There are occasions though where I found myself having to push several a button
several times just to change one setting, the problem comes from having four
particular features accessible through only one button. That's probably the only
downfall. For the rest, I appreciated how one could easily (and quickly) change
shutter speeds and aperture sizes all with the use of the D-pad while in manual
So what's the deal?
It's still hard for me to tell people what this camera actually tries to do
and to whom it's intended for. I think it's safe to say that the Powershot G2
tries to be two things at once - a camera for the casual digital photographer
that is weary of image quality, and the more seasoned photographer who's had
enough of his limiting point and shoot camera and now needs more control over
what he's shooting. Knowing that all pro photographers will hide a point and
shoot somewhere in there gear just in case, the Powerhot G2 might be a good
choice if they choose to get a digital one.
Where to Buy
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