Another new toy… Canon PowerShot G1

I’ve been really missing my old Canon PowerShot cameras this past year… I/we have had an A40 (sold); an A95 (dropped on the floor); and an A720IS (dropped in the sea). We settled on a cheaper/simpler Panasonic Lumix FS10 after the last accident. And what a frustrating experience it has been.

Although the Lumix takes nice photos in good light, as soon as you have difficult situations you can’t do anything because it has a gazillion “scene modes” but no actual manual controls. On top of that it’s lithium battery invariably goes flat when you are miles from a power point. Oh for the simplicity of AA’s…

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been scouring eBay for older high-end PowerShots – and I’ve ended up with this little beauty…Canon PowerShot G1Back when this was released in Y2K it would have cost about £800 of your finest Pounds Sterling. I just got it for under £30 posted.

When I first got my hands on it I must confess that I was laughing with delight. It is a proper machine. None of this flimsy touchscreen and jog-dial nonsense that has polluted electronics for the last few years – this beasty has BUTTONS. And lots of them. It’s great.

G1 from behindIt also has a flip-out screen; a good quality F2.0-F2.5 3x zoom lens; a decent optical viewfinder; and a flash hotshoe. Basically the really useful stuff that gets left off a lot of contemporary cameras.

I call it a beasty with good reason… it’s BIG. Actually it feels great in my big hands. It’s also rather heavy, which is not so great, but it’s well made. In Japan.

Quick comparison with the Lumix…

G1 vs FS10G1 vs FS10 from the sideG1 vs FS10 from behindHardly looks like a fair fight, does it?

OK, enough gushing about the camera itself… what about the photos? Well, I haven’t had the chance to get outside and take some shots in good light, but after a few experiments indoors I’m sorry to report that the low-light and fast-shutter performance is not quite as good as I was hoping. Fortunately there are plenty of settings for me to work with to try and get better indoor shots. Although the lens is good, and I doubt that lens technology has changed much in the last 10 years, the sensor, although relatively big, may be a shade primitive.

The camera is also a bit slow to start up and recycle between shots. The small screen makes you realise how useful the big screens on modern cameras are. You are also limited to centre-point auto-focus, which is not a big problem because you can hold the focus and re-frame, but there is no cross hair or box on the display to show where the focus is.

One other frustration is the software, which is very outdated and puts my Vista machine in a strop. The camera is also from the era where you couldn’t just plug it in via USB and use it as a mass-storage device, you have to use Canon’s software. Or stick the card in a reader, like I’ve decided to do. Much simpler. Wasted 2 hours tonight on the software for the camera and my Selphy CP710 photo printer (which is also troublesome on Vista, fortunately there is some newer software on Canon’s US website which works).

Having said all that, I’m quite pleased with this shot where I tried to exploit the shallow depth of field of the F2.0 lens… the clown is a bit scary mind you…

Clown scene in the living room

Overall it should be a good camera to learn some new techniques; I’m already on the lookout for a flashgun, and if I get some good shots that I couldn’t have got with the Lumix I’ll be doubly pleased. Mind you, the G1 does have one of thise pesky lithium batteries which is sure to go flat when I least want it to…