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Comparing an S10 to a G3 (and even some EOS50e thrown in)

Picture of an S10 Picture of a G3 Picture of an EOS50e

You probably wonder how one can compare a PowerShot S10 to a PowerShot G3 at all, since they are different cameras from different generations. But since I just got an G3 after shooting with an S10 for almost 4 years, I decided to look at what I got for my money ;)

This page describes my findings sofar, the changes (good or bad) that I noticed and found worth mentioning. It should clearly not be taken as a G3 review, there are enough other sites for that (,, )

Since the S10, a lot of features have been added to even the entry-level cameras. So even though I may list some features as new for me, they're not necessarilly specific to the G3 (I recently played a little bit with a PowerShot A70 which is actually pretty close to the G3, feature-wise. A nice camera)

I mention the EOS 50e (known as Elan IIe in the US and EOS55 in Japan) since that's what I used before getting the S10. Going digital made me shoot a lot more pictures, since it is almost free once you have the camera (shooting film remains relatively expensive). I wouldn't mind having a digital SLR but those aren't affordable yet unfortunately...


Why upgrade, and why a G3

When the S10 came out in 1999, it was part of a new generation of 2 Mpixel digital cameras (Nikon Coolpix 950, Coolpix 800, Ricoh RDC-5000) that really started to offer decent image quality. The S10 is a compact, automatic camera with only limited control over the exposure.

Digital is great, but being used to SLRs the lack of control kept nagging me, and there are other things I wanted:

The G3 has always had (and still has) a very good reputation. It fits the bill pretty well with its F2-F3 35-140mm 4x zoom, and adding nice to have features like its orientation sensor, an infrared remote control (the 10-second self timer isn't always enough), the built-in ND filter, and the configurable shutter sound.

The recent introduction of the PowerShot G5 (which doesn't have any significant new features besides a higher resolution) caused to the G3 to drop in price, which helped making the decision.

The next sections go into a bit more detail on the following topics:


Light metering

The S10 defaults to center-weighed metering, but can do spot metering if you remember how to enable it (Set + OMNI-left/right at the same time) and only works when you activate the screen first. On the G3 there's a separate button for the light metering mode, and there's a 3rd evaluative mode as well.

AE-lock has become much simpler now that it has its own button. On the S10 you have to turn on the screen, half-press the shutter button and at the same time press the "Set" button. On the G3 you still need to turn on the screen, but then you just press the AF-lock button, and the camera will calculate the right exposure (and pre-flash if needed).

This is also a nice improvement compared to the EOS50, where you (also) need to half-press the shutter release before pressing the AE-lock button.

After locking the exposure, one can use the main dial to move through the list of valid {aperture, shutter} combinations.

The built-in ND filter (3 stops) can be used to obtain long exposure times even in very bright situations.

Lastly, there's an exposure bracketing option.



The internal flash of the S10 is not that strong (wide angle 3.3m, telephoto 2.3m), the G3's flash does a better job (wide angle 5m, telephoto 4m).

There are now settings for first or second curtain flash and for slow-sync on/off.

Red eye reduction is no longer accessible via the flash button which now only toggles between no flash, auto flash, and forced flash; you have to go into the menu to enable or disable red eye reduction. Strange, unless Canon thinks that most G3 users will use an external flash and thus don't need red eye reduction anymore?

Even though the manual doesn't mention it, the high-speed sync mode seems to work with Speedlite flashes. If you use the camera's Tv mode and select a shutter time faster than 1/250, the camera always resets the shutter time to 1/250 when the Speedlite is in normal mode. However, when the Speedlite is in high-speed mode the camera no longer resets the shutter time and will actually take the picture with times up to 1/2000.



The first thing one notices is the absence of noise when the lens extends or retracts. Also, real zoom that doesn't stop at 70mm but goes al the way up to 140mm.

You can configure the G3 so that it either only focuses when the shutter button is pressed, or have it focus continuously.

The addition of manual focus may come in handy, but mainly as a focus lock (half-press shutter button, press manual focus buton) which helps reduce shutter lag when you want to take a picture.

By default the AF-point is in the middle of the image, but you can move it around freely if you like. Probably handy when using a tripod and focusing on off-center subjects. Otherwise, you half-press the shutter button while focusing on the off-center subject, and recompose while holding down.

Focusing with the G3 seems to be a little slower than with the S10, but when the manual focus is used as focus lock, the speeds are identical. When both focus- and exposure lock is used, the shutter lag is reduced to almost 0s.

An addition compared to the S10 is the focus bracketing option. Don't know yet when I will need it, maybe it is handy for macro pictures or something.


Color processing

The G3 has some additional effects (Sepia among others) that I don't care much about. Maybe the "Neutral" effect will result on colors closer to those of the S10, didn't try yet.

There also are new white-balance modes: Fluorescent-H, Flash, and 2 custom white-balance modes which allow the user to set the white-balance himself.


Viewing the images

Compared to the S10, there are a number of improvements. The major ones are:


Image quality

Finally some images to show the difference between the 2Mp S10 and the 4Mp G3. All pictures taken at the maximum resolution and image quality.

To make sure you won't complain about the pictures being too dark, make sure your screen allows you to see the difference between these gray levels. You should be able to distinguish at least D from E:
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

First, the almost same picture at wide-angle (close to 35mm for both). The pictures are only scaled down, no other processing has been done.

S10 wide angle, only scaled down G3 wide angle, only scaled down
S10 G3

The color difference is normal, the G3's colors are a bit warmer. The sky is also less washed-out with the G3, it seems its dynamic range is a little better.

Here's the central part of the image, at 1:1 scale for both.

part of S10 picture at 1:1 scale part of G3 picture at 1:1 scale
S10 G3

The G3 not only has more pixels, but there seems to be more detail as well. Again, the colors of the G3 are a bit warmer.

Here's another image, first at wide-angle. Again, no processing besides the scale-down.

S10 picture, wide angle, scaled down G3 picture, wide angle, scaled down
S10 G3

Again, slightly warmer colors and more detail in the G3 picture (look at the reflections in the water).

Now, the same subject at max zoom (70mm for the S10, 140mm for the G3)

S10 picture, 70mm zoom, scaled down G3 picture, 140mm zoom, scaled down
S10 G3

This clearly shows what the extra zoom does, 140mm is a lot more than 70mm :)

Lastly, the center of the zoomed picture at 1:1.

S10 zoomed,  detail G3 zoomed, detail
S10 G3

Be careful here, since this is from the zoomed image. Still, the G3 looks better.


PC connection

Both the S10 and the G3 support USB1, so nothing new there (and not many people will complain about the loss of RS232 support). An improvement of the G3 is the addition of the Picture Transport Protocol, making it possible to connect the G3 to a Windows PC without the need for specific Canon software. Also, the G3 now uses a standard USB cable.

Another addition is the possibility of controlling the camera from the PC, taking pictures remotely. Not sure I'll ever use it though.



Lastly some miscellaneous remarks, some issues not mentioned above.


What could be better on the G3

Nothing major yet, but some gripes nonetheless:



Well, that's about it for now. Most of the important things have been mentioned above, but I skipped things I will probably never use (like printing from the camera, configuring startup images, on-camera movie editing, adding a sound-bite to a picture, ...).

Since I bought it I'm forcibly biased, but I do think the G3 is pretty nice and lives up to its (very good) reputation. It should be no problem to keep it for a couple of years, until digital SLRs are available for reasonable prices.

Comments are welcome of course, just mail me.

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