Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review

Canon PowerShot G2 test

| Canon PowerShot G2 in Compact Cameras

Successor to the popular PowerShot G1, the G2 costs around 750, and is one of several 4-megapixel (Mp) cameras recently released.

Some aspects of the G2 that make it stand out from most of its rivals include its swivel LCD display, software for remote camera control and image capture via USB interface and RAW image mode.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot G2
Main features
  • 1/1.8 inch CCD. Approx. 4.1Mp (4.0Mp Effective 2308x1712)
  • f2.0/f.2.5, 7.0-21.0mm (35mm equivalent: 34-102mm) lens
  • 1.8inch Low-temperature Polycrystal line Silicon TFT Colour LCD
  • JPEG and RAW image formats
  • BP-511 Li-ion battery and AC adaptor
  • Takes CompactFlash Type I & II
  • Approx. 425g (excluding batteries and CF card)

What you get in the box:

  • PowerShot G2
  • Neck Strap
  • Wireless Controller
  • Compact Power Adaptor
  • Battery Pack
  • AV Cable
  • Interface Cable
  • Manual
  • 32Mb CompactFlash Card
  • Software CD-ROM

We have mixed feelings about the ergonomics of this camera. It has great points, like Handling the superbly flexible LCD display (shown to the right) that can be swiveled for use a wide variety of angles, but we found the camera uncomfortable to hold with one hand. This is because it's heavy and the hand grip is too small. We go into more detail about this in our Olympus C-4040z test which is far more comfortable to hold. Hopefully most people use two hands to ensure a steady hold. Handling, however, is very subjective and you may not have any problems - our advice is simply to try before you buy.

Menu system
The menu system on the G2 is plain and functional. Rather than separating the settings into different areas they've been grouped together, making navigating quicker.
There are no custom presets, but when turned off the camera saves the settings you last used.
Menu Function settings
Menu Resolution, Compression, File format, ISO speed, Digital Zoom, AF Mode, Light Metering, Spot AE Point, Continuos Shooting, Review time, File Number Reset, Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation
Rec Menu  
Rec Menu Beep, LCD Brightness, Shutter Volume, Auto Power Down, Date/Time, Format, Language, Video System
Rec Set up  
Rec Setup Protect, Rotate, Erase all, Slide Show, Print Order
Play Menu  

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot G2There is a simple but great system of setting of setting Exposure, White balance, Auto exposure bracketing and Flash exposure compensation all from one button. All together the menu system like any other takes some time to get used too but works well.

If you do find the menu and camera settings complicating, there's a comprehensive manual with over one hundred pages, that's noticeably better than some of the competition's.

Camera modes
Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Camera ModesThe G2's mode dial is, at first, slightly daunting, as there are twelve settings to chose from. Luckily they are all defined by easy to remember icons showing what they should be used for. The modes are (starting from M working anti-clockwise): Manual Exposure, Aperture-Priority AE, Shutter Speed-Priority AE, Program AE, Auto, Pan Focus, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Colour Effects, Stitch Assist and Movie. All these modes are intuitive to operate and are great for expanding the creative options available. Traditional photographers will feel at home instantly.

Using the outer dial you can turn the camera off, or select between capture (camera icon) and playback (arrow) modes.

Viewfinder and LCD screen

The viewfinder comes with diopter adjustment, great for us glasses wearers and it works well. However, most people will want to use the excellent LCD display, which has a great swivel action shown earlier in this test. As we've found with some other cameras you really need to view the LCD perfectly straight on to get the best picture from it and with the swivel feature this is made easy. It's also better for shooting from low or high viewpoints. Another advantage of the swivel LCD is that it can be protected when not in use by facing the screen into the camera.

Two brightness levels for the LCD are available in the menu, though we found the standard setting sufficient.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Viewfinder and LED screen

Instead of the more common USB cable supplied with many cameras, Canon are using their own type. This cable allows the camera to be operated remotely through software on the PC, a really great feature to include on a consumer orientated camera.

The standard video out, and DC in connections are available with cables for both also being provided.

Compact Flash I & II are available meaning you can use a high capacity storage devices such as the 1Gb IBM Microdrive.

On top of the camera is an external flash hotshoe, excellent for the serious photographers who wan't more than the built-in flash can offer.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Connections


As we'd expect from the provided Li-ion battery, performance is good. Lasting a weekend of average use shooting.

Extra Li-ion batteries are expensive at around 50 each and would only really be essential for long trips away.

It takes approximately 3 hours 20 minutes to fully charge the battery, but you have to charge the battery inside the camera. This makes it impossible to go out taking photos while the spare is charging. Worth bearing in mind if you are a heavy user.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Battery

Extra features
We touched earlier on the remote capture software that's provided with this camera. Below is a screen shot of the interface, which provides you with several settings and functions. From here you can control the camera from the computer and see what's in the viewfinder on the computer screen (top right image). You can adjust the zoom, select resolution, flash, white balance and exposure compensation before taking a photo. Then, when you take the photo the result appears bottom left with all the exposure data to its right. Images are stored directly onto the computer's hard drive. This feature is usually only available on pro spec SLRs and is ideal for product or studio photography.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Extra Features

Because you are using your hard drive to store the images you can take a phenomonal amount, in this case there is space for over 2700 remaining. Another advantage of the software is you can use it in timer mode, or time lapse mode which are both configurable.

Other good software packages are included, Photostitch 3.1 a panorama program and ZoomBrowserEX for creating a database of your images. If that wasn't already enough Canon have also included Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE and their own PhotoRecord software.

Relating to the Panorama program is the stitch assist mode mentioned earlier. This is really useful for correctly aligning photos you take as it displays a small version of the previous image, allowing you to frame the second one to overlap slightly.

Canon provide a remote control in the box which adds more value to the package - most manufacturers have these as optional extras.

Canon PowerShot G2We also like the way over exposed areas are displayed in playback mode. They flash black so you can quickly see any problems and retake the shot if necessary, in addition there is a histogram.

Also worthy of praise is the speed that you can scroll around a magnified image in play back mode. Some cameras chug the image slowly across the screen, so it takes ages to check if a particular area is in focus. This attention to detail makes the camera vastly superior when image quality is all important.

Image quality
Overall we found it hard to fault the G2's image quality, colours are accurate, detail levels are high, the lens is sharper than most other cameras at this level and noise levels are very low in most shots. Our biggest concern is theconstruction of the lens. The outer lens casing is wobbly and can be moved several milimetres, but the internal elements do not move which would indicate that the optical path is not as precise as it could be. This is a letdown and not something we'd expect to see on a 750 Canon product.

Sample Pictures

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Sample Pictures
The G2 shows the lens's sharpness capabilities here, fine hairs on the squirrel are captured well. The squirrels were moving around fast, perhaps annoyed we weren't feeding them. The swivel LCD display excelled in getting the camera low enough for the shot and speeded up the picture taking process. On a manual zoom camera you can quickly zoom out to full wide angle, however in this shot the power zoom was too slow to get the whole squirrel in the frame. This is a common problem with consumer level digital cameras. It's fine for static subjects but on fast moving subjects you may find it frustrating.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Sample Pictures
Taken at almost 6pm the light was fading fast, holding the camera still was hard, and the flash ruined some of the subte shadows shown in the flashless shot. In its favour the flash has done a good job of lighting the statue evenly, and the camera has managed to keep even the closer parts quite well exposed.

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Sample Pictures
Looking at this image magnified proved there is very little noise to be seen anywhere. Exposure has been accurately measured, and again the photograph appears crisply sharp. Photographs taken throughout testing showed accurate, rich colours, this car shot is no exception. The vibrant red of the car is displayed well, and the more subtle shades of the trees in the background are visible

Canon PowerShot G2 Digital Camera Review: Sample Pictures
Framing this kind of shot with the G2's LCD display is not easy, as it does not update quickly enough, luckily the viewfinder worked well not having to rely on any electronics. The aperture and shutter modes are great for more creative shots like this, and the flash has done a good job of helping to light the subject.

The PowerShot G2, has a lot going for it, and very little against it. The handling problems are subjective, and may not bother many people. The features available and the resulting image quality are exemplary. You are really getting value for money compared to some other cameras, that leave out the extra features and don't always have this level of image quality either.

This is one of the best 4 megapixel cameras around, with the remote capture software it will appeal to people wanting studio type functionality on a budget. The external flash capability will appeal to those who are used to a SLR and don't want to sacrifice too much moving to digital. However some people will not need these extra features, and could save money by going for a camera like the Canon PowerShot S40. This shares a lot of the G2's features but is smaller, lighter and cheaper.

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