Canon G10 Review- Still A Powerhouse Compact
November 2012, Carl Garrard
Canon Powershot G10 Best Current Used Price
Canon G10 Review- Introduction
Just like any camera, I guess all of that can be true if one doesn't take the time and patience to use the G10 to its full advantages. Needless to say, I completely disagree with this reputation and many of the opinions of the G10. To me the G10 is a capable camera, bar it a compact or not, and at all ISO levels available to it (that provide full resolution). Although the G10 came out in 2008 and sensor technology marches on, that doesn't negate this camera as being a competitor in the current marketplace at all. I've tested every G series camera starting with the G6 through the G15, and not one G series camera can match the detail the G10 can achieve on screen or print- for example.
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The G10's core strength is not as simple as it just having a 14.7mp resolution sensor either (the highest of any G series camera including the large sensor G1X). Not only does the G10 out resolve every other G series made, the G10 is also just as capable at all of its ISO settings as its successors as long as you follow a couple of easy rules. How the sensor performs along with it's lens, has more to do with the final output. In other words, how good you are at shooting with it, and how well you post process its images.
|That big fat battery is a godsend, and SD card memory is the standard if you ask me.|
And besides performance of the sensor, the G10 has the best feel in hand, and the best battery life of all the G series. Both score huge points with me. I cannot reiterate enough that wanting to pick up a camera and use it as well as it being comfortable and ergonomic, are a major plus shooting day in and day out. Then the kicker, a big fat battery that lasts seemingly a lifetime- the G10 is always ready when you are. I've had this camera with me in sub freezing back country conditions in the High Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the battery life did not suffer as a result. That's a reassuring promise I can make you, and one the G10 delivers on.
So why the heck am I reviewing the G10, now? Canon Powershot G10 Best Current Used Price
We'll... on occasion I'm known to go back and look at past camera's that I think got a bad reputation from press or, that they didn't quite get the attention they deserved. Sometimes some cameras get an unfair shake or not enough attention at all. That's the way of it sometimes and so I think there's still room to discuss the G10. In this review I'll show you with just a few good habits how to get the most out of the G10 in two key types of photography, and examples to back up my conclusions. I can't cover every type of photography for obvious reasons, but rest assured the G10 can be used for nearly every kind if you know how to use it properly.
|A classic if I have any say. The G10 becomes more beautiful the more you learn how to use it properly.|
This article will focus primarily on Landscape and Macro photography, two types of photography I think the G10's overall design is best suited to excel in. The G10 is a pretty loaded camera though and bar action photography, there's really not much the G10 cannot do in capable hands. Here is a list that I've drawn up of stand out features that I consider valuable on the G10.
- 1 1/7" Sized 14.7mp CCD Image sensor and a digic IV processor
- 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 5x lens w/macro
- Bayonet mount for filters and axillary lenses
- 550 shot battery life (or more, best of G series)
- Metal build, tough as nails
- Included optical viewfinder
- 1/500th flash sync speed
- ISO 80-1,600 Range (3200 1/2 resolution)
- Illuminated power button and ISO/EV markers
- AF assist lamp
- Raw + Jpeg simultaneous recording (or either singularly)
- Customizable menu system, and one customizable button
- Optical image stabilization
- Customizable display
- Interval shooting mode
- -2ev to +2ev three shot auto exposure bracketing
- Built in audio only recorder
- Full resolution Panorama assist mode
- Multiple in camera image color effects and some in camera editing of Jpegs
- Custom 1 and Custom 2 settings on mode dial (memorize your settings)
- 3" 460K dot screen with 180 degree viewing
- Built in auto retracting lens cap
- Fast start up and shut down (always ready)
- SD card memory
- Live histogram
- External controls galore
- Excellent handling and styling
- Excellent flush mounted strap lugs (I hate when they dig into my hand, UGH!)
- Remote tethering to computer
Canon G10 Review- The Marketplace and the "CRS" Camera
The motivation for this article stems from a personal dissatisfaction I have with the current and past digital compact rangefinder/rangefinder style (CRS) offerings from manufacturers. There always seems to be some sort of deal breaker on all other designs, less the G series. Whether it is ultimately price, or lack of a core feature(s), there is only one manufacturer that seem to get the CRS camera just right. Let it be said that I don't believe photographers should have to spend above a grand in order to have the experience this type of design offers, especially when they aren't even getting a real rangefinder. In order to do that, you have to buy a Leica, and we all know the price you pay for that.
I chose the G10 to write about because I like its CCD output and excellent resolution, but any G series camera from the G9 forward is quite an excellent compact rangefinder style (CRS) camera in my book. Thus many of my comments can translate into any of these models for the most part since many of them have similar traits. I'm a fan of the execution of the G series Powershots from the G9 to the latest iteration, the G15- for many a good reason.
|Canon Powershot G10. A near perfect compromise of size, weight, comfort, performance, and control. It's the best built G series yet with top, front, back metal panels|
When I say the G9-G15 cameras are executed well, I'm talking about a short list of items that make them very appealing. First of all, the design alone turns heads and begs you to use them. This intangible trait cannot be measured in a review or a spec sheet, it has to be experienced in real life. Hold one, learn how to use one, and you'll know. The CRS G series cameras are bristling with external controls that command their design that ultimately become their style, and give the user command of it. This, without having to dive into menus nearly as often as other types of cameras. I find this the first and most endearing and appealing aspect of the G series mentioned.
Secondly, the range the lens gives you 28-140mm f/2.8-f/4.5, it's optical performance, and the overall image quality output makes this a very compact and powerful design- it really is a small package when you take all that into consideration. The image quality of these models is quite good if you take care to shoot properly.
And by good I mean they hold up well against compact system cameras with interchangeable lenses, and even some DSLRS. Yes, they do. You can obsess about 100% enlargements on your screen, cite sensor test data, and spew review worship all day long to try to convince me otherwise. But I make prints, and I process raw images, and I see the results in my hands and on the wall compared to much larger sensor cameras- so you won't convince me they are all that much better or worth the added fuss of changing lenses, higher price, or compromised features. Canon Powershot G10 Best Current Used Price
|G10, all of the controls you'd access frequently are there, including a button you can customize|
Lastly, the design is all encompassing and leaves little to be desired. It gives you a hot shoe, built in flash with excellent sync speed, optical finder, AF assist lamp, excellent battery life, durability, comfort and ergonomics, great macro shooting, and much more. At the end of the day the CRS camera just pleases the enthusiast. There are legions of G series owners out there and for good reason. No other camera maker (bar Nikon perhaps) has been able to make such a well balanced product like the G series cameras, and nowhere near the price when they have come close.
Canon G10 Review- Getting the Most From Your G10
Sensor and Processor Notes:
Keeping it simple, if you want the most from the G10 in terms of sensor output image quality at all times, keep the ISO set at 80, shoot raw, and use a tripod. The G10 gets its most DR from its base ISO, which is how it should be with all cameras, but that's neither here nor there. It's easy to remember, and that's all you need know. Process your images through a high quality raw converter and finish your post processing in capable software. Photoshop Elements 10 can handle everything you'll need it too for the most part, and it's quite affordable and capable. If you'd rather use higher ISO's process them as I've mentioned in this article. I personally have no qualms using any hard ISO setting on the G10 at all.
If you want to complicate things and insist on shooting Jpeg only, I recommend using the custom color setting of the G10, and reducing the sharpness to as low as it goes. You will need to sharpen later, however. Color and contrast are set to taste but I don't suggest over doing it (clipping happens fast with Jpegs in general, the G10 is no different). And don't forget to get your white balance set as accurately as possible prior to making your final exposure (bring a white card with you and adjust manually is my advice).
Here the G10 is a bit more complex. It's sharpest aperture is a bit of a moving target depending on what optical characteristics that are most important to you. There are many optical characteristics, so let me repeat, settings depend on what is most important to you.
F/2.8 for example, will give you the least amount of diffraction interference and sharpest center overall, but, f/4 and beyond will give you much sharper corners, no vignetting, and less chromatic aberration. Go beyond f/5.6, and the G10 starts to show visible amounts of detail loss on screen and print due to diffraction. There is really little to no benefit of gained depth of field for landscapes using higher f/stops than f/5.6 for most circumstances anyways.
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Remember, this isn't a full frame film camera, its a tiny sensor and in order to calculate your depth of field, remember that the equivalent f/stop from the G10 at f/2.8 is 4.6x greater than the depth of field for a FF DSLR or film SLR. You can use that math at all f/stops. So f/4 is equivalent to roughly f/18 on a FF camera etc etc.
So use the G10 from f/2.8-f/5.6 if you want the best optical performance. Pretty easy, but not always easy to remember depending on what mode you like to shoot in. I prefer Manual and Aperture priority to keep the most control over shooting, and things simpler. If you shoot other modes just pay attention to your aperture and ISO value, and shoot within the specified sweet spots I've mentioned if you want the most from the G10.
Otherwise you see some deterioration of Image Quality the greater you stray away from base ISO or the optical sweet spot. Of course the G10 is useable at all settings as I will show, but its more fun to see what we can extract from the G10 that compares greatly to camera systems costing much more money and headache. In some respects, the G10 out performs other camera systems (as do other G series CRS cameras as well).
Now that you know what parameters to keep in mind for shooting, there are other tricks you'll employ that will put the icing on the G10's output. This area is more advanced, so take each step one at a time until you feel comfortable with the next. In order to proceed with this portion of image quality gain, you'll need good software to post process your images you make. Adobe Photoshop, any including and beyond CS2, are recommended.
You'll need to learn or incorporate the following: Shooting with exposure and focus bracketing, and later in post processing- stacking several images. I recommend stacking at least 3 images to get the most out of the G10- after 3 images the point of diminishing returns happens quickly. Time and other issues become a factor very quickly.
Exposure bracketing and stacking will increase the final output DR, color depth, and tonality of your images if you choose to employ it. Prints bear out a visible advantage. There are times when I use a tripod that I absolutely use stacking of both types, but a single raw exposure will get you by in most circumstances.
Focus bracketing and subsequent stacking the images will increase the depth of field of your macro images to taste, with a side benefit of also giving you a slight increase of image quality. How? We'll since noise is random, stacking several images at any ISO fills in the gaps of each single exposures noise related deterioration. In essence its like stacking pieces of swiss cheese on one another- eventually if you stack enough slices together, there will be no more holes in the cheese you can see through.
Metaphorically speaking, this is how stacking works anyways. So anytime you are stacking images you stand a chance at improving image quality as long as the stacking was done correctly.
Yes I know its time consuming, but once you get in the habit of doing it, you get faster and more efficent at the process. Both when you are shooting, and in post process. Just think of every shot you want needing 3 exposures (or more). This has the side benefit of creating better shooting habits because you are more likely to take your time with each composition and exposure you make. Habits, you're supposed to be getting yourself into anyways if you want to be a photographer.
Canon G10 Review- Shooting Landscapes and Macro with the G10
To get the most detail, dynamic range (DR), color depth, and tonality out of the G10 you first need to know where it excels most. This means understanding the optics, sensor, and processing performance of the G10 and how to extract the most from this wonderful beast. I've made it easy for you by sharing my experience in this article I've had with the G10 in the field and in nearly all kinds of conditions for nearly 4 years now. And recently, I've acquired two more G10's to replace the one I sold to a close friend a bit ago. Why did I do that? Read on, and the answer will become self evident.
|Honest processing keeping highlights and shadows in the histogram, but great contrast and detail from the G10 here from raw.|
Landscapes- My favorite type of photography of all. I've always desired the "perfect" compact to take with me during mountain bike excursions/training, and hiking. I need a compact because I'd rather not lug a DSLR most of the time during exercise missions. However, I don't want to compromise image quality in case I arrive at a scene that has wall hanger written all over it. The G10 offers such a balance. It will give me most of my dynamic range needs in one shot, if I need more I bracket, and plenty of detail to make big gorgeous prints. The focal range isn't perfect but meets 95 % of all my landscape needs. Even at full telephoto, the detail is quite good overall even in not so ideal conditions. Canon Powershot G10 Best Current Used Price
|G10 140mm f/4.5, ISO 80 on a hazy mid day afternoon (heat distortion, haze, and all... still great!)|
Using the methodology I'll explain later in this article, I've found a way to extract the most image quality from the G10 possible in one shot. And stacking a bracketed series only makes things better (at that point, nobody can tell the difference from the G10 or a large sensor DSLR on print or otherwise). Most of the time I only need one good raw image from the G10. In tough lighting scenes, I'll bracket two or three shots and stack them later in Photoshop- more work but gorgeous results. Here is a sample of the detail rendering from one single raw shot. I chose lots of foliage so you can see how sharp and distortion free the G10 is from corner to corner- nearly zero lens flaws at f/4.
|G10, ISO 80, ACR conversion. Easily matches the output of DSLRs with near the same resolution- but without the bulk, weight or hassle.|
Here is an example of the good manners of the G10's lens. Note, high detail from corner to corner, no vignetting, low overall distortion (barrel), excellent contrast, and thus great color. What little barrel distortion there is, is easily correctable with capable software (even Elements 10 has it). This is a nearly flawless performance at f/4. Remember, with a full frame DSLR you'd have to stop down to f/20 to get this kind of depth of field meaning- you need to carry a tripod or raise your ISO values enough to hand hold sacrificing possible detail.
And just to show you the real detail of that image, I prepared a 100% section crop in the center. Note that you can make out the man you can't even see at the resolution I provided above. Is that enough detail for you? If not, go fly a kite. Doesn't matter what kind of camera we are talking about, nor what cost, this is a stellar performance. Hard to match at any price.
|Details details, normally they bore. Not when you make a print from the G10 however.|
So detail is one thing, dynamic range, color, and tonality are another. I know, image quality is quite a long definition if you consider all aspects including noise grain quality- but we won't get into that. The G10 has very nice grain structure at all iso's without any banding and that's all that need be said. Here is a very tough lighting challenge for dynamic range I shot just for this review. I'm under the shade of oaks looking back towards the sun in mid day. Ultra high contrast and range of light in this scene.
|From Raw. Note much more color and much more realistic to the naked eye as seen in real life. I even had exposure latitude to spare so if scenes get more tricky than this, the G10 can handle it just fine.|
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For perspective, I've offered a before and after raw processing sample. The second sample is what the camera saw (even with contrast backed off on the Jpeg one notch below standard), and the first is what I produced from raw bringing up the shadows quite a bit on the fill light slider. I barely had to pull back the exposure slider, maybe 1/6th of a stop total (which shows how careful I am to expose right the first time).
|Ew, yuck. Nuff said.|
The second crappy shot is what Jpeg shooters would typically be stuck with- blown out highlights, blocked up shadow regions (areas with no detail), and low color saturation as this shot clearly shows. So again, if you are careful to expose properly, even one single exposure can yield plenty of dynamic range in which to work with if you shoot with raw on the G10. Jpeg shooters, you're out of luck in extreme lighting.
Note, even though I had to bring up the shadows in raw quite a bit, there is very little if any added noise penalty on the first shot- even though this scene has a pretty dramatic range of light. Not bad for an old crappy-little no good sensor, right? Sure this scene won't win any Pulitzer's but its a good example showing what the G10 can do in harsh lighting if you just take your time. Personally I think Jpeg shooting is what most reviewers and/or critics used as a basis for their opinions. Not a good idea.
Back to sharpness for a bit. When using 35-90mm equivalent and f/4-f/5.6 on the G10, this camera flat out rocks most cameras I've used, including DSLRS. It's the combination of the lens and sensor that makes this so. Specifically, getting corner to corner detail/sharpness this good in a DSLR requires very expensive lenses, and usually they are very big and heavy. Even my Sony A57 with the very nice 18-135mm would have trouble showing the kind of detail I can get out of the G10 at base ISO. A real head scratching situation here. Take a look:
|Simply superb detail. Base ISO at 65mm equivalent (a 40mm lens on an APS-C DSLR)|
Macro Photography- My second favorite type of photography. The G10 does not disappoint. In macro mode, the G10 has 3 sweet spots in the focal range, and it tells you all the information you need to know to find those sweet spots. A lot of compacts when entering macro mode will show major distortions and weaknesses, but not the G10- and not an any of the three sweet spots. First lets show off what the G10 can do, no words needed.
|"Look into my eye.." Well, go ahead. And while your there check out that awesome detail. DSLR macro lenses eat your heart out. And to think, this is just a taste of what you can do with the G10.|
The lens zooms in small steps, and if you flick the zoom toggle real quick, it will adjust in each small step through the range with each quick flick. First put the G10 in macro mode (flower icon). The first sweet spot is at full wide angle. You can literally touch the lens element on your subject and it will achieve focus. The bad side is shading from the camera itself on your subject- and I rarely use 28mm for macro. The next sweet spot comes with six quick flicks off the zoom toggle.
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The minimum focus distance is displayed on top of the LCD screen, which will read 1.9" (unless you prefer metric increments). Here you can get a little working room from your subject without shadows from the camera intruding into your scene. I don't find this the optimal setting personally, but its better than 28mm practically speaking because although you lose some max magnification, you gain distance from subject. No use in having great magnification if half the image you take has a shadow from your lens in it.
|Frozen grape, Macro Mode G10 f/5.6 ISO 200. Awesome detail and subject isolation. You can see the ice crystals that have formed due to condensation freezing. Note nearly no image noise.|
Moving on further in the focus range you'll find my favorite macro focal length, which is at the end of the 3.9"minimum focus distance (about 4 more flicks of the zoom toggle). If you see 7.8" you've gone too far. More working room here, more magnification, and almost no distortion that I can see. Typically this is the spot I like to use for macro when I want the most magnification. If I want more out of focus backgrounds and foregrounds, I go to the next sweet spot at three flicks into the 7.8" minimum focus distance. So yes, good bokeh (but not stellar) is available with the G10.
|Out of focus backgrounds are available, if you use the right sweet spot according to your subject size.|
Macro results are just spectacular. And in essence the G10 gives you the equivalent of 3 different macro lenses because of the variable focal length determined sweet spot- at least that's my interpretation of its excellent lens. In fact, the G10's macro mode is so good I have no desire to seek auxiliary lenses or macro filters to use in conjunction with its built in lens, and there are many available. I'd rather not hassle it and the results are always hit and miss with those depending on the quality of the lens you purchase. No thanks, not needed anyways. One more just to hit the point home.
|Detailed enough for you? How about a 50% crop to really show of this lens capability. And just think you can focus bracket and stack images for an awesome depth of field if you prefer!|
And here is the 50% crop from that image. Remember even if you crop your image by half, you are still yielding a nearly 7.5mp image, with enough detail to make a really nice 11x14 or even 13x19 print if you do your job right. Take a look at the fine detail the G10 is able to produce, it's just stellar.
|Dang. Careful, those are sharp.|
Canon G10 Review- Shooting Higher ISO's
The G10 has had some- scratch that- a lot of criticism regarding its noise performance. Some of the criticism was true to a certain extent, however that part of the criticism only tells part of the story. The other part of the story that I'll tell includes what you need to do to get good looking higher ISO images from the G10 (400 and up). And in fact if you use the G10 properly, and convert from raw, this camera does excellent up to 1600 ISO. My advice- don't obsess over chart measurements, just look at the images and believe your own eyes. Raw processing was simple:
- No sharpening at all, back off all sliders
- Exposed to histogram, highlights to the very right edge without over exposure (very important)
- Luminescence NR to 5, Chroma to 10, luminescence contrast and detail and chroma detail to zero (for 1600 adjust Chroma to 35 to combat color shift if you wish)
Note: My style of processing means keeping noise reduction to an absolute minimum, and to not introduce sharpening artifacts. Both destroy fine detail. These images below follow that standard. Sharpening is done after the raw processing, and very light handed. Printed results show over sharpening like an eyesore, so I'm very conservative. Noise grain is not an issue with a properly exposed/processed image from the G10 on a final print using these methods. The higher the ISO the more grain will show the larger the print, but it's never an "issue" per se.
|ISO 80, f/4, 6 second exposure|
|ISO 200, f/4, 2.5 second exposure - Clean and detailed|
|ISO 400, f/4, 1.3 second exposure- Still clean and detailed|
|ISO 800, f/4, .6 second exposure- Tad more noise but plenty of detail|
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Good results, right? Not the frankensensor that boogie men have made it out to be. Unfortunately, there wasn't much light shed on how to get the most out of the G10 at the time the G10 came out, and to boot, raw converters have improved since then. In reflection back to 2008, I think the enthusiast and press crowd were way too quick to cast judgment (and rely on Jpegs, ew). It seems most had become a bit self obsessed with horsepower or peak gadget performance comparing results too quickly amongst camera models without taking the time to see what each camera is really capable of. Pity that.
The fact is that the G10 will expose your photographic weaknesses real fast. This, is a good thing, not a bad thing. Isn't the goal to become a better photographer and take command and advantage of the gear you use? We'll, the G10 simply stated, will let you know when you make under or over exposure mistakes and punish you with noisy images or blown out highlights. But, if you do what you are supposed to do correctly, the G10 will reward you thus. The G10 doesn't have what I/we call much exposure latitude so you have to have your game hat on. But don't be afraid, it's not that hard.
If you overexpose, you can usually rely on the G10 to have an additional half to three quarters of a stop of highlight space to bring back in a raw file. And this is where I believe the criticism stems. Because the G10 isn't so forgiving with highlight latitude, many photographers fell into the trap of setting exposure compensation too low in order to make up for clipping errors. Bad idea with the G10. Don't do that.
The good news is that the G10 has plenty of shadow recovery, almost a full stop and a quarter. So if you expose correctly the first time, high ISO images can look pretty darn good. Right up with the best of the G series cameras at the same ISO level. So what I'm getting at, is the criticism should only come down to the fact that the G10 has less wiggle room than its successors for highlights, not, that it's a noisy machine. If you want to play it safe like me, use your histogram and shoot in raw.
When you expose, make sure that no highlights in the scene, extend 1/3rd of a stop beyond the right side of the histogram, but getting them 1/3rd in is actually ideal if you use raw. When you process later, you'll pull those back without having blocked up your shadow areas no problem.
Canon G10 Review- Conclusion
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I bought a G10 myself recently. Why? Simply, the G10 is capable of stunning images in raw. I intend to use the G10 for multiple aspects of my personal photography, even replacing one of my DSLR's in the process. I've used and/or owned every G series camera since the G6. The G10 isn't perfect, nor does it have some of the new features of the G11/12/G15, especially the video quality. Contrary to that I find using it as a still shooter I find it the best G series to date for landscapes and macro. There's no denying the level of detail the G10 can bring to the party, and it has more resolution than any G camera. It's a bit unique too, having the full metal body, tethering ability, and a built in sound recorder that the other G series do not have.
I'm the kind of photographer that likes a camera to do all that's needed while still remaining simple and intuitive to use, without compromising most needs. Truly that is a hard balance to strike for camera makers. But I find that the G series cameras do this better than all other compacts on the market overall. The G10 happens to be a favorite of mine for reasons mentioned.
Call me silly but I do like the fixed screen, and the quality is just as good as the best LCD's today. I found with the G12 that although the variable screen was convenient and handy, I also spent some time fiddling and adjusting it in angles even when I didn't really need too. Sometimes I found those screens to be a distraction to my core photography habits. Certainly they aren't a deal breaker as my G12 review certainly points out- but you get my drift by now.
So yes, I can live without a vari-angled LCD just fine. Sure it's handy but a fixed one is more than enough for me especially one that is 3" wide and has such a wide viewing angle and detail. A fixed screen simplifies the shooting experience and forces me to rely on my core photography habits. There's also the fact that the screen doesn't cramp the backside or force the size of some controls to be smaller as a result. Speaking of controls, I also like that is has more controls on the upper deck than the G15.
Now, after critical evaluation both on screen and print, I like the image output more than other G series cameras for most shooting situations that I encounter. The G10 approaches DSLR image quality (APS-C) for most of my shooting circumstances without any of the pitfalls inherent with toting around a DSLR. Truly there is magic in the G10 raw files if you are patient with it. The G10 is a straight forward and honest still shooting camera that is the best of the CRS cameras from any manufacturer.
During the writing of this review I've certainly had a change in perspective of the G10 from the last time I've used it- especially the raw files. Hey, it happens sometimes, and I reserve the right to change my mind.
No the G10 is not perfect and it lacks some modern video features and G series refinements. But there is no such thing as perfect, and certainly no such camera. It's really like this- sometimes using a chef knife is much more rewarding than using a swiss army one, and that's the closet way of explaining the G10 to other camera's I've used.
As usual be safe, and happy shooting.
Check Canon Powershot G10 Best Current Used Price
|ISO 800, no luminescence NR at all|
|Flash exposure (just a tad hot on the face, but not bad considering)- and Humor|