I’ve been a long time user of Canon’s first G-series digital camera, the G1 and I’ve certainly been impressed with its performance over the years, despite the fact that its 3.34megapixel CCD has now been eclipsed by the rest of the ‘G’ range. But as many photographers will tell you, the number of pixels is not the be all and end all and to this day I can still produce great postcard-sized prints from my old camera. The only problem comes when you want to produce larger prints or have the need to work with high resolution images.
Cue the £423 PowerShot G6, the latest camera in the G-series designed to succeed the 5megapixel G5. With a 7.1megapixel 1/1.8-inch CCD lurking behind the shutter together with quite a radical change in design, the G6 has made a large leap from its predecessor, while at the same time retaining many of the key features that made this line of cameras so popular.
First of all, let’s make it clear that all of Canon’s G-series digital cameras are relatively big and if you’re looking for something small to pocket on your travels, you may well find these cameras a little on the bulky side. However, the G6 is the most compact out of the range, representing a 30g saving in weight and around a 10 percent reduction in size over the G5. That said, when I first unboxed the camera and showed it to some friends they all commented on how chunky looking it was. This is largely down to the beefy rubber-coated grip, which provides a very well balanced and comfortable hold on the camera. The controls have also been reorganised thanks to some clever mounting technologies and fall neatly under my thumb and forefinger - but only if you’re right-handed.
As with the other G-series models, Canon has kept the “flip-out and twist” LCD screen which allows you to comfortably take shots at waist height or at ground level, above the heads of people in a crowd or even your self portrait. The latter is possible because the live picture on the screen is flipped over when the screen is twisted around to face you. The G6’s LCD is also bigger than the G5’s measuring in at two inches in comparison to the G5’s 1.8 inch screen.
You can of course use the optical viewfinder to frame your subjects rather than the LCD. This only offers picture coverage of 80%, but it is bright and clear with a sliding dioptre adjuster located underneath it. This replaces the dioptre dials found on the older models, but in my opinion its notched resistance makes it a little clumsy to set. One of the big improvements is the position of the viewfinder. In the G3 and G5 the lens barrel was actually visible in the lower left corner of the viewfinder, but this time around Canon has addressed this issue.
The lens itself shares the same zoom range as the G3 and G5 – a 4x optical magnification equivalent of 35-140mm in 35mm format. Its actual focal length is 7.2 – 28.8mm with a bright focal ratio of f2.0~3.0. Embedded within the recording menu is an option to turn on the digital zoom which basically interpolates the image by a factor of 4.1x.
In terms of construction the G6 feels solid thanks in part to the metal casing used at the front of the camera. The rear, like the G5, is plastic although the LCD is housed in metal ensuring that it’s well protected. As regards the silver finish, this seems to be a bone of contention among those here in the office. I personally would like to see it in black for that more professional look, but others prefer it as it is. Knowing Canon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it release a black version as the company seems unsure which route to take. Just look at its history. A black G5, SLR lenses – some white, some black and some silver, not to mention the 300D which is now available in black. Needless to say, it’s got a lot to do with personal preference.
A very slim flash is built-in too offering red eye reduction, along with a slow synchro and rear curtain option. If this is not powerful enough a fully-functional hotshoe designed for Canon EX Speedlight flashguns is also present on the top, although with one of these guns in-situ the G6 does become somewhat top-heavy. Also fitted to the top is a detailed LCD status panel which is invaluable for checking exposure, battery level and shots remaining without powering up the main colour screen. It also comes complete with an orange-coloured backlight triggered by the button to its right – a new feature for the G6.