Canon's G-series is designed to be the back-up camera that serious photographers can keep in a pocket when the dSLR gets too heavy. The 14.7-megapixel, £380 G10 is a chunky beast by anyone's standards, but when you consider just how much power is packed in it starts to look very compact indeed.
Although it's hefty, the G10 is still pocketable thanks to its flush-folding lens. It's a military-grade black brick with a dizzying array of wheels and dials. This is clearly not a camera for the casual snapper. But in fact, the dials make operation a straightforward process. A dial on the left shoulder gives quick access to exposure compensation, while another dial to the right of the hotshoe, allows for quick adjustment of ISO speed. Set atop that is a typical scene modes wheel.
Modes include automatic, manual, program, aperture and shutter priority, and two user-defined custom modes. Having one-touch access to these settings is extremely handy, although we would have preferred a dedicated shutter speed dial rather than exposure compensation.
There are other assorted buttons, including focus lock and a flash-firing button. A four-way clickpad is surrounded by a scroll wheel, which should be familiar to EOS users. Menu, display, metering and focus point adjustment buttons are arranged around the wheel, but have a strange angled surface that makes them difficult to press.
At the back of the camera is a large 76mm (3-inch) PureColor LCD II screen, with a high 461,000-dot resolution. An optical viewfinder sits above the screen, with a diopter and playback button on either side. The viewfinder is large and clear, but doesn't display any shooting information.
As well as the physical controls, the G10 benefits from an onscreen sidebar, meaning all the shooting options you'd ever need are easy to access. This is just as well, as the G10 is packed with features.
The lens is a wideangle 28mm equivalent to a 35mm camera, which is wider than the 35mm lens on the Canon PowerShot G9. The cost of this is a slightly shorter 5x zoom, but that's fine with us.
Optical image stabilisation, face detection and a 15-second long shutter are complemented by assorted scene and colour modes. These include panorama stitch assist, portrait, landscape and aquarium. New features include servo autofocus, which continually adjusts focus on a subject in motion, and i-Contrast. This is claimed to boost dynamic range in high-contrast images to bring out detail in darker areas, without blowing out highlights.
The G10 shoots raw images as well as JPEGs. Sadly, video is no-frills: it hasn't improved over the G9's 30fps VGA-resolution footage, and you can't use the optical zoom while filming.
The G10 is a joy to shoot with, the features and controls allowing you to grab your photography by the scruff of the neck. This is reflected in the images, which look the business. Colour is well-reproduced and skin tones are natural. The option to tweak the flash, combined with subtle exposure and ISO control make this great for low-light shooting, particularly social situations where a dSLR may be too much.
In darker situations you do have to keep a close eye on the ISO speed. Noise isn't an issue at ISO 400 but clearly registers at ISO 800. Any higher than that results in a severe loss of detail, but that's to be expected. We were pleased to see that there was only the faintest trace of purple fringing in high-contrast images -- overall, they're crisp from corner-to-corner. There is a hint of distortion at the wide angle, but it isn't too noticeable.
The G10 is fast enough when snapping normally -- it's ready to shoot in less than 1.5 seconds and with less than two seconds between shots, even in tricky light. In burst mode, however, things were not so snappy, with a lumbering 1.5fps even while shooting JPEGs, but at least it will snap indefinitely.
We love the Canon Powershot G10: it looks and feels like a serious camera should, yet makes operation easy with a selection of controls that aren't as intimidating as they may initially appear. The Nikon P6000 adds GPS and wireless connectivity to similar specs, while the Ricoh GX200 is smaller and cheaper. But both would have to go some way to beat the Canon's image quality.
Edited by Marian Smith