Canon Powershot G6/Selphy CP500

16 Dec 2004

Products: digicam and printer
Prices: €870 and €220 respectively
Japanese electronics companies are famous for cramming lots of technology into small devices and the Powershot G6 from Canon follows in this distinguished tradition.

Japanese electronics companies are famous for cramming lots of technology into small devices and the Powershot G6 from Canon (pictured) follows in this distinguished tradition. This new digicam is loaded with features but at the same time avoids being a weighty monster that is (literally) a pain to carry around.

The G6 is the successor to the popular G5 model. The two don’t look dissimilar except that the G6 is finished in silver instead of black. Inside, the main point of difference is the MP rating, which has risen from 5.0 to a whopping 7.1. Quite what the average hobbyist would need a 7.1MP camera for is unclear unless they are in the habit of having their images blown up to billboard size but, in the MP wars, size is everything and Canon now has two cameras that can boast the 7MP rating (the S70 is the other one). Canon claims some real improvements for the G6 over the G5, including 55pc faster autofocus, 30pc faster start up and 10pc smaller body.

In handling terms, the machine feels extremely solid, a little heavy even. The barrel grip fits snugly in the right hand. On the topside of the grip are the shutter button and the main dial, the latter designed as a quick and easy way to select certain menus and display images. Further back is a display panel — effectively a dashboard for what’s going on in the camera, from the remaining image capacity to battery level. Just behind this to the right is the on/off lever/button. Unusually, there is only an off button; the camera is turned on by turning a tiny lever clockwise for playback and anticlockwise for shooting modes — a design feature that will please some but possibly irritate others. On the back of the camera, the most notable feature is the two-inch LCD monitor that flips open in camcorder fashion and can tilt, twist and swivel on its mounting. While this is useful when shooting movie clips, it means having to flip open the monitor every time you want to shoot still images (unless you’re shooting using the viewfinder only). Again, this will not be to everyone’s liking.

The G6 works on rechargeable batteries only and comes with a Canon BP-511A battery plus external charger. Canon claims that this will be enough to shoot 300 images when using the LCD monitor or three times that number if not using it. The camera comes with a 32MB Compact Flash memory card, which is enough to be getting on with but would need to be upgraded if a lot of shooting is done at higher-quality settings.

Stylish and well engineered, the G6 looks and feels like a serious workhorse for the demanding hobbyist. While hardly svelte, it is as compact as could be hoped for given its innumerable features. Overall, despite the couple of quibbles alluded to above, the G6 represents another impressive digicam from the Canon stable.

Now on to the companion product for this review: the Canon Selphy CP500 photo printer. Although the cost case is still unproven, the convenience and flexibility of printing photos at home are driving demand for photo printers such as this through the roof. The Selphy range, which includes three other devices, is notable for its stylish design. With its eye-catching metallic finish and smooth lines, the CP500 does not disappoint in this department. Setting up the machine is just a little tricky however. This is because paper is fed into the machine via a tray attached to a side of the machine. The alternative — and to be honest more straightforward option — is a trayless top-loading system, although these printers tend to be bulkier. And therein lies the trade off.

The printer offers a choice of print sizes, from postcard format (100x148mm) to credit card size right down to mini stickers for the kids. An optional second tray will allow you to print out in wide format (100x200mm). The machine can print from camera or PC and contains the useful PictBridge function that allows direct printing from the G6 or other compatible cameras. The device builds up an image in individual colour layers, meaning it needs four run-throughs to complete a print. A single print takes about one minute — not bad but not super fast either. Apart from this, the machine is quite noisy — which is probably okay in an office environment but at home its high-pitched whine could be distracting to other family members watching TV or whatever. The quality of the prints was very acceptable — sharp and with good colour reproduction.

Summing up the advantages, the Selphy is small, light and easy on the eye. Overall, however, it seemed a bit too rough and ready and its performance did not quite live up to its killer looks.

By Brian Skelly