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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot Pro1

Canon Digital Cameras


Canon PowerShot Pro1 Review

Review Date: May 4, 2004

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Canon PowerShot Pro1


Store Mannequins: 1/10 sec., F3.5 and ISO 50
Store Mannequins
Levels adjusted and image sharpened in Photoshop Elements
50.8mm, Program AE, Evaluative, 1/10 sec., F3.5 and ISO 50

The Canon PowerShot Pro1 comes in a professional black finish with a body made of a combination of magnesium alloy and high grade plastic. It has excellent build quality and with dimensions of 117.5W x 72H x 90.3D mm (4.63W x 2.84H x 3.56D in.), excluding viewfinder and protrusions, you notice right away that it is quite smaller than most of its other 8MP competitors.

It is this compactness that I find so appealing in the Pro1. It is about the same size as the PowerShot G5 but weighs about 135g more. Though the Pro1 at first feels a bit hefty, in fact, it is one of the lighter 8MP digital cameras. Fortunately, Canon includes a nice neck strap.

35mm equivalent focal lengths are engraved on the lens.First impressions out of the box is that the Pro1 is a beautifully proportioned camera constructed with lots of attention to details. The handgrip provides a good comfortable grip, the lens barrel is large with a very distinctive red line around it and a shiny, attractive metallic rim. Another nice touch is that 35mm equivalent focal lengths are engraved on the lens.

Most controls fall within reach of the fingers of the right hand. The handgrip is rubberized and provides a comfortable grip. The left hand holds the camera under the lens and rotates the Zoom Ring. Since the Pro1 is a compact camera, your ten fingers can easily get in each other's way. I experiment a bit and eventually settle on having only my index finger and thumb of the left hand turning the Zoom Ring, and the rest of the fingers of the left hand acting as a support more or less under the camera.

A lot of thought seems to have been given to the placement of the control buttons. As you imagine, the large 2-in. LCD takes quite a bit of real estate on such a compact camera, so Canon engineers have been very clever in where the control buttons are placed. Most control buttons are cleverly recessed to avoid accidentally pushing them. The only exception is the Manual Focus button -- which I turn on inadvertently all the time just by picking up the camera.

The shutter release button is, of course, slightly angled on the handgrip. Right behind it is the Main Dial, probably the most used control on this camera. It allows for fast operation without removing the eye from the viewfinder. As an example, to select an exposure compensation value, press the Up Arrow on the Omni Selector (using your thumb); rotate the Main Dial to the desired value; press the Main Dial to select the value. Quick and easy.

To turn the camera on, you switch the Mode Lever to the right (Shooting Mode). Switch it to the left to go into Playback Mode. A very tiny Release Button is embedded in the Mode Lever and you naturally press it as you switch the Mode Lever. Unless this Release Button is pressed, the Mode Lever will not accidentally switch to one or the other mode. To turn off the camera, slightly press the OFF Button in the middle depression of the Mode Lever.

It takes about 3 sec. for startup, with the lens extending 2 cm (3/4 in.). At full telephoto, the lens extends quite a bit, about 5.5 cm (2 in.).

The Pro1 has a Zoom Ring which also serves as a Manual Focus Ring in Manual Focus mode. This is not a mechanically linked ring but implemented using a small Ultrasonic Motor (USM), which permits high-speed zooming operation (see next paragraph). It is quite well implemented and allows precise zoom control. It defaults to a Zoom Ring, but depress the Manual Focus button and, while keeping it depressed (with your thumb), turn the ring to manually focus. If you have enabled MF-Point Zoom in the Rec. Menu, the AF frame area is magnified for a clearer view. Zoom first, then manually focus.

While a mechanically-linked zoom ring may feel more precise, Canon Pro1's USM allow you to zoom in and out rapidly. Just hold the Mode Lever in the Shooting Mode and turn the zoom ring. Instead of needing 3-4 turns of the ring to go from wide-angle to max. telephoto, it takes only one turn and barely 2 sec. It's a blazingly fast way to go to either end of the focal lengths.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has 235,000 pixel resolution, and is so clear and detailed that I find I use it all the time. To those who, like me, wear glasses, there is a Diopter Adjustment Dial that is not only easy to rotate but, get this, really works!

Kudos to Canon for including a large (5 cm / 2 in.) high-resolution (235,000 pixels) LCD monitor. The LCD monitor conveniently tilts and swivels 270° to permit taking shots without arkward body contortions. I find it especially useful when taking macro shots close to the ground.

A Monitor Selector Button placed to the left of the EVF toggles between the viewfinder and the LCD. When you close the LCD, the viewfinder switches on. When you open the LCD, the viewfinder switches off, and the LCD turns on. On power on, the camera defaults to the last monitor used.

If Reverse Disp. is set ON via the Rec. Menu, intelligent orientation reverses the image when the LCD is flipped over to face your subject (otherwise the LCD image would be upside down). The LCD has two brightness levels (Normal and Bright), adjustable via the Set up Menu.

Canon's new hybrid AF system allows for high-speed autofocus. It consists of the standard TTL contrast-detection AF and is now supplemented by an external "triangulation" AF. There are two possible focus modes: Single (AF is engaged only when the shutter release is pressed halfway) and Continuous (AF is continuously engaged). There is slight shutter lag, but in low-light conditions, the AF will hunt a bit to obtain focus lock. Inexplicably, there is no AF-assist on the Pro1! [This from the camera manufacturer who set the example by equipping one in each and every digital camera up to now.]

Canon Pro1's usability extends to mundane things like the CF Card/Battery compartment. The latter has a large cover that takes up the whole right side (viewing the camera from behind) of the hand grip. The door slides out slightly and swivels open revealing a wide space to easily insert battery and CF card. The Terminal Cover also swivels open to allow unimpeded access to the terminals.

I have not found any major design faults on the Pro1. At first I felt that the Mode Dial was a bit too stiff and would have preferred to be able to operate it with the thumb of my right hand alone (it takes index and thumb to rotate it), but got used to it pretty quickly. As usual, we profer a number of improvements that we feel would make the Pro1 even more enjoyable to use:

  • Move the Flash and Macro buttons to the side of the body (i.e. lens barrel) just behind the lens. They are currently on the top of the body and not easily reachable with the fingers of the left hand. The left side of the lens barrel is a natural resting place for the thumb of the left hand.
  • Implement the Super Macro mode using the Macro button. There is a Super Macro mode that allows you to focus as close as 3 cm (1.2 in.). This mode is unfortunately reachable only via the Rec. Menu and it takes 18 presses of the Down Arrow on the Omni Selector to reach it. Not sure why it was not implemented as a toggle of the Macro button.
  • Switch the position of the Manual Focus and AE Lock buttons. I feel that AE Lock is more used than Manual Focus. The Manual Focus button is also raised and it's too easy to inadvertently set it on.
  • Dampen the popup flash. The on-board flash pops up with too LOUD a thud.

The feel and construction of the Canon PowerShot Pro1 is excellent, and the camera handles very well. In choosing the 8MP digital camera that is right for you, do not discount the compact size of the Pro1.

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