Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Final thoughts on the G10

The borrowed G10 I've been playing around with the last two weeks is going back tomorrow. It's been a lot of fun to use — tons of manual controls, wide angle (for a compact), great macro mode. It's a well-designed camera that mostly just gets out of your way and lets you take nice photos.

I love the screen on the back. You can zoom way in your pictures and see nice, sharp details. But there were a few times I thought a picture looked amazing on the screen, then was less enthusiastic once I was looking at the 14.7-megapixel file on my computer. I suspect the screen is a little more contrasty than real life, and of course being so much smaller any flaws in the photo are hidden. This is a very minor quibble, obviously. The screen really is nice.

Charlotte looks so serious!

It has a "My Menu" setting that comes in really handy — you set the five functions you use most often so you don't have to dig around the menus so much. However, this isn't the first thing that comes up when you hit the menu button; it requires another click to the left to get to it. And you can't add "format memory card" to My Menu! Geez, that's the first thing I do after I download all my pictures.

Nor can you assign formatting the card to the little print/bonus button in the upper left-hand corner. You have to drill through the wrench menu every time to get there.

The viewfinder is a joke, it's like one you'd find on an old Polaroid Land Camera. You can even see the lens barrel when you're at 28mm! And obviously, there's no feedback visible. I'd have to be in some serious sunlight to even think about using it.

Those are minor flaws, though. The G10 is a powerful photographic tool. In nice light, it will surprise you with how much detail it records. The shot below is a pretty tight crop:

Not quite a 100% crop, but close.

In light that's not so nice, it reminds you that it's a point-and-shoot. The limitations of cramming 14.7 million pixels onto a 1/1.7" sensor really start to show at ISO 400.

Noise is pretty evident at ISO 400.

Since you can only stop down to F/8, there's a Neutral Density feature for slowing down your shutter speed in daylight. It works well! You can go for silky water shots.

You can read dpreview if you want to learn about all the available features; the sheer number of them boggles the mind. It's pretty amazing what cameras can do these days. The G10's not really for me, I like to shoot in available light and use shallow depth of field a lot. You can't do either of those things with the G10, or any other compact for that matter. It goes to show you that in the end, for all its bells and whistles, it's still a point-and-shoot camera.

That said, I could have a hell of a fun time with the G10 if I were trekking around Europe or something. It's a fabulous daylight landscape camera. And it's a lot of fun to play with, which has to count for something, right?

My pros:
  • lots of manual controls
  • exposure compensation has its own dial
  • wide angle (28mm equivalent)
  • IS works great
  • feels good in my hand
  • macro mode and virtual ND filter work great
  • wonderful screen
  • captures amazing detail in good light
  • hotshoe; works great with 430EX II flash
My cons:
  • noise is irritating starting at ISO 400
  • lens isn't fast enough
  • can't assign "format card" to a shortcut
  • useless viewfinder
I'll pass on the G10, but you could do a whole lot worse if it were your only camera. It's far and away the best compact I've ever used.

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