Advantages Does pretty much everything a good SLR should do, but cheaper
Disadvantages You can't change the lenses. Plus other little things. Read on...
|Range & Quality of Features|
|Ease of Use|
DIGITAL PROS:It’s a lot more beneficial than you might think to see an image preview. Takes almost all the gambling out of snapshots. The only downside is that a preview on a 2 inch screen, doesn’t always translate into a sharp final image. But, notwithstanding some shots that you feel you'd better keep in case they turn out to be great, you can certainly delete the obviously-bad ones, making space for more potentially-good ones!
The only limitation on the number of shots you take with a digital camera is the size of your memory card(s). This makes you extremely snap-happy! I’ve taken over 4500 shots in 2 years with my Konica! Imagine the cost of that at £3 or so per film, and £6-£7 a film for processing! Approx £1250 in D&P costs alone! Instead, I’ve printed about a hundred of the best photos I’ve got, got about 2500 more saved on my PC, and deleted about 1900 that I didn’t like!DIGITAL CONS:
For some inadequately-explained reason, the focal length of digital cameras is considerably shorter than for 35mm (you generally have to multiply the focal length on digital SLRs by approx 1.5 to get a 35mm equivalent). This means that it’s inherently difficult to buy a very wide-angle lens camera. Most digital compacts have lenses around the 35-105mm range, in 35mm terms. Some expensive ‘pro-sumer’ cameras go out to about 28mm at the wide end. I, on the other hand, have got quite used to my excellent 22-55mm zoom wide-angle lens on my Canon 35mm SLR. It’s excellent for really panoramic landscape shots.
So, having discovered the benefits of digital photography, I started seriously looking for a digital replacement for my Canon EOS50 35mm SLR. My initial thought was to buy an EOS300D, on the basis that it’s compatible with my current lenses and would be easy to use since I know how to work Canon SLRs. But, even my super-wide-angle 22-55mm lens would only translate into a 35-80mm lens on the 300D, so I’d be back to square one on that front.Unfortunately very wide angle lenses are very expensive. No doubt, increased demand for these as digital SLRs become more widely used will reduce prices over time. At present, though, if you want anything wider than 28mm equivalent, expect to pay a minimum of around £400 for the lens alone.
Therefore, as an SLR user who’s not (currently) making money out of my photography, it was simply not going to be justifiable on price grounds to replace my 35mm SLR with a digital equivalent.I looked at several cameras in the same class as the Powershot Pro 1. Ultimately, though, the Pro won (no pun intended!).
And I'm very glad about it. Having used it for four months now, I'm delighted with the image quality, the build quality, the features and the ease of use.IMAGE QUALITY:
It's outstanding.Colours are very impressive. Having bought the camera in September, I've only just got round to taking any decent-weather outdoor photos. If I had to be picky (as I know you will want me to be!), the colours come out everso-slightly richer than the subject itself. But, being a fan of films like Agfa and Fuji with my 35mm SLR, I like nice rich colours, so this suits me just fine.
Indoor, or outdoor, the camera doesn't seem to mind, and the adjustable white balance can compensate for most eventualities.Another good thing about the camera is that the flash isn't over-harsh. On my old digital camera (a much lower-spec model, to be fair), I was often torn between using the flash to ensure I got a sharp image, or not using it to avoid the colours being all washed out. With the Powershot Pro, I've only been disappointed with flash exposures once or twice - the vast majority are perfect, due to the 7-step adjustable flash output. If you take a photo and the flash is too harsh, just drop its output in the menu and have another go! Generally, this works fine for me - invariably the things where the flash is too harsh is because they're stationary and very close. It's not a limitation for the 'quick or you'll miss it' kind of photos.
There are five resolution settings:3264 x 2448
Plus a CCD RAW setting, which is uncompressed.8 megapixels gives plenty of room for detail, and in this respect the camera doesn't disappoint. While taking some macro photos of some small (1") pieces I'd made in coloured clay, I was staggered to get them onto my computer and find I could clearly make out my fingerprints in them! If you want to see an example of the Super Macro feature (slightly lower pixel count, but allows fantastic magnification), take a look at the photos on my Potterton Suprima op - they clearly show the cracks on a solder joint about 3mm across!
There are also three compression settings if you're not using RAW (which does eat up memory card space - only 54 images on a 512mb card!):Superfine
I always use 8 megapixel Superfine quality (ie best quality) for all my photos. Too often, I've found that I've dropped the resolution and unexpectedly taken a great photo - which I'll never be able to enlarge due to the poor resolution! On this setting, my 512mb card holds 144 photos. You can roughly double this by dropping the quality to 8 megapixel Fine. I don't find a huge difference between the two, but I think Superfine gives slightly smoother gradients. I'd say, though, that my insistence on using the absolute best quality is down to a point of principle for myself. If I was really struggling for space on my card, I'd be quite happy to drop to Fine if necessary.BUILD QUALITY:
Build quality is superb - although it's a plastic body, it feels very solid, and for a small camera, it's remarkably heavy. It sits very nicely in the hand, though.It comes with a high quality Canon L-series lens (their high-end optics, usually reserved for expensive separate SLR lenses). Although the lens can't be changed, it has a great optical zoom range of 28mm-200mm (35mm camera equivalent), plus digital zoom beyond that (as with all digital zooms, though, the quality begins to degrade the more you zoom in). Also, both telephoto and wide-angle adapters are available (albeit at a fairly steep price) if required.
FEATURES/EASE OF USE:Just about everything you can imagine can be parameterised. I can adjust the startup sound volume and tone, the self-timer delay, the white balance, the ISO setting - in short, everything I could adjust on my EOS50 mid-to-high-end SLR, and a good deal more. Battery life is also good (well over 200 photos before needing a recharge).
A slightly fiddly aspect of the camera setup is the filter/lens hood arrangement. Canon have opted for an unnecessarily complex design here, with a 'snap-on' hood. Or you can attach the filter adapter, to which you then attach 58mm filters. But then the hood won't fit!The joy of the Powershot Pro 1, however, is that you don't HAVE to do any of this. These are all parameters you can play around with once you get used to the basic features. The white balance setting, though, is particularly good at warming up indoor shots with tungsten light.
It also comes with a handy little remote control so that you can get yourself into the shots with ease (if you so desire!).One little curiosity of the Pro 1 is its motorised barrel zoom. It works like a good old-fashioned SLR, where you twist the barrel to zoom in and out. But this action activates a motor which then does the zooming for you. Some reviews I've seen complain about this as being a gimmick, but I quite like it because it allows for more adjustment than the in/out buttons normally found. The zoom also allows you to zoom in on photos during playback.
VALUE FOR MONEY:At launch, this was an £800 camera. I bought it four months ago for £539, and it can now be found for under £500. It's still an expensive camera, and one I'd recommend trying out before buying. But in terms of features, image quality and build, it still stands up as being competitive against newer rivals.
NIGGLES:Only a couple of small things have stopped the camera getting a perfect rating:
* The built-in flash is too close to the camera body to take fully-illuminated photos at 28mm focal length. You end up with a dark patch where the shadow of the lens protrudes into the shot.* It seems to be slightly fussy about the CF cards. I bought a 'generic' 1gb card, and the camera failed to recognise it. Could be a faulty card, but my suspicions lie more with the camera. With branded cards (Lexar, etc), it's fine.SUMMARY:
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