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2008.09.18

Yesterday’s announcements from Canon included one for the new G-series flagship, the Powershot G10. This 15 megapixels digital camera (well 14.7 mp, but who’s counting), features a 5X wide-angle optical zoom equivalent to 28-140mm, a 3″ LCD with 460k pixels, plus most features from its predecessor, the Powershot G9. Notably absent from the G10 is an outstanding movie-mode. Although I personally prefer the new wide-angle lens, some will argue that it is a step back from the 6X, 35-210mm, optical zoom of the G9. Neither is truly better, it only depends on your subjects.

The G-series Powershot cameras represent advanced compact models with added external controls and above-average build quality with a few less common features added for good measure. Particularly, the presence of a hot-shoe and RAW capture are directed at advanced photographers. At the same time, the most recent G-series models were always released with the top marketing numbers in their class. The G10 continues this tradition with the most megapixels and widest zoom among Canon fixed-lens cameras. Arguably the higher megapixels count is a double-edged sword and, until a thorough review gets published, we will not know if Canon has managed to counteract the effects of small pixels using advancements in sensor design and noise reduction.

Since the G-series targets a relatively small market, it finds itself with little competition, allowing Canon to set a high-price for technology which is not really advanced. For example, the G9 and the lower-cost A650 share the same senor and lens. The A650 even had superior battery life, the advantage of using standard AA batteries and better ergonomics. The G9 was basically left with a larger more sturdy LCD, higher resolution movie mode, a few more external controls and a hot-shoe. Some users even prefer the A650’s LCD because it is movable. This time, Canon shared the same sensor with the ultra-compact Powershot SD990 IS which does not compete in terms of features with the G10. The 5X wide-angle optical zoom lens is still unique among Canon cameras.

Competition from other manufacturers is quite interesting. The G10 faces the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, the Nikon Coolpix P6000, the Sigma DP1and some models from Ricoh, like the Caplio GX200. The Panasonic and Ricoh cameras are characterized by wider lenses, both starting at 24mm. The LX3’s lens is also a full stop brighter at its widest and more at its maximum zoom. The Sigma DP1 is unique in its use of a relatively large and low-resolution Foveon sensor which delivers full-color at each pixel. As a consequence, the DP1 features a fixed 28mm F4 lens. This provides superior image quality among compact digital camera at the expense of framing flexibility. The Nikon P6000 actually has the most similar feature set with a 28-112mm lens, 13.5 megapixels sensor, hot-shoe and RAW mode. Its unique trick however is a built-in GPS for automatic geo-tagging of images.

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