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An attractive enthusiast-oriented alternative to pricier 8-megapixel models.
There's no getting past the fact that the Powershot G6 is one big, chunky camera. If you're moving up the digital photography scale -- and given its feature set, this is more a camera for the aspiring consumer than the professional photographer -- and are used to small, compact and easy to discern cameras, then you'll initially find the G6 to be large, a tad unwieldy and seemingly spattered with buttons on every surface. Having said that, once you've ascertained the basic feature set of the G6, there's little to stop you from using it like a traditional consumer digital camera, with the added benefits of some professional features that'll help you to enhance your photography skills.
Moving up from the ultra compact digitals will involve some sacrifices, and one of the first things you'll have to sacrifice is having a compact stylish camera. The G6 is a perfect example of this, decked out in a plain silver metal and plastic trim, with the accent solidly on functionality over beauty. From the front, it just looks large, while the top and back show off the full range of the G6's features.
For a camera of its size, the designers at Canon have managed to produce something that's reasonably easy to heft around. There's a natural enough grip on the camera's right hand side that gives you quick access to basic shooting functions, although if you do want to play with more advanced settings you'll have to adopt some unusual holding positions while you use the functions of your choosing.
In raw power terms, the G6 features a 7.1 megapixel CCD, offering you shots of up to 3072x2304 pixels that are stored onto a compact flash card. Predictably, the bundled CF card is tiny -- only 32MB, good for nine shots at best resolution -- so you'd be wise to budget a little extra for some extra storage space. As it'll take all types of CF cards, though, that also means you can (funds permitting) slam in a 2GB card if you're particularly photo mad. The optical zoom on the G6 is 4x, with a further digital zoom that is thankfully by default disabled.
One of the accents on the G6 is on a good balance between automated shot taking and user control, with the balance pretty firmly in the automated camp. If you're a photo enthusiast, you may initially find this a touch irksome, but if you are simply expanding your photographic horizons, you'll find it a good hand-holding step, as there's little to stop you from simply taking shots. It's also entirely possible for someone to use the G6 without even dipping a toe into changing apertures, ISO settings or even the automatic flash option, and still come out with some solid photos.
The G6 performed well in our testing at multiple resolutions and using its existing preset camera modes for a variety of photographic chores. We did notice a few smaller irksome factors, like the optical zoom which can often seem like it's taking an age to move in and out. Of a more irritating nature is the fact that the G6's PC connectivity is only USB 1.1 compatible. That's not terrible if you're only using the bundled 32MB card, but if you plunked a 1GB card in there, you'd be sitting twiddling your thumbs for quite some time. It's especially baffling when you consider that it's also Pictbridge compatible, and therefore it's not impossible to say that you may be able to print photos with this camera about as fast as you can transfer them -- as long as you were using a nippier printer like the Olympus Camedia P-10.
There's certainly a market for cameras like the G6; while it's fair to say that many consumers will be happy at around the five megapixel limit for some time to come, if you're looking for a second digital camera -- or simply looking for a model with a little bit more under the photographic hood -- then the G6 is a solid purchasing option.