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Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot Pro1
Canon PowerShot Pro1 Review
Date: May 4, 2004
The Canon PowerShot Pro1 is a digital
camera targeted to advanced amateur photographers.
It has 8 megapixel resolution on a 16.7 mm (2/3
in.) CCD image sensor and the first 'L-series'
lens ever incorporated into a compact Canon digital
camera (Canon reserves the 'L-series' designation
for its very best EF lenses in terms of optical
quality as well as mechanical design).
The L-series lens is a 28-200 mm (35mm format
equivalent) f/2.4-3.5, 7x optical zoom. According
to Canon, the use of two aspherical elements,
two UD-glass elements, and one Fluorite crystal
element promises to reduce chromatic aberration
and spherical aberration, and to improve sharpness
and colour fidelity.
We find the overall image quality of the Canon
PowerShot Pro1 to be simply excellent.
|7x Optical Zoom
There are only a few digital cameras that provide
a 28mm wide-angle coverage, with most stopping
at the 35mm focal length. In the above pictures,
we show the coverage for 28mm, and then delienate
the areas covered by 35mm and 200mm. Sometimes,
that little extra coverage a 28mm lens provides
can make a noticeable difference in landscape,
real estate and interior design photography.
The 7x optical zoom reach adds very much to the
desirabilty of this digital camera. Though you
may be able to handhold it using a fast shutter
speed, a tripod is necessary at slower shutter
Another professional feature of the Pro1 that
is directly related to image quality is the ability
to record images in RAW file format. It takes
about 7 sec. to save a RAW image. Fortunately,
the Pro1 has an internal buffer and I am able
to take 4 (sometimes 5) pictures in a row (either
manually one after the other, or set to Continuous
Shooting Mode at 2.5fps) before the camera freezes
and starts writing to memory card. You don't have
to wait for all the RAW images to finish writing;
as soon as one RAW image is written to memory
card, the busy signal disappears from screen and
you can shoot the next picture.
[Updated June 8, 2004: Now that I've had a chance
to review almost all the other 8MP digital cameras
(except for the Sony F-828, which does not have
RAW buffer capability), I can confidently say
that the Pro1's RAW internal buffer is the fastest
of them all.]
It takes about 14 sec. to transfer a RAW image
from the camera to my PC. Each RAW image is 3264x2448
pixels, so you definitely need a large memory
card. The camera indicates space for 26 RAW images
on a 256MB CF card, but your mileage will vary
depending on the images captured. In my indoor
tests, I was able to record 34 RAW images on a
256MB CF card.
If you are recording in jpeg format and suddenly
realize you really should have adjusted white
balance -- and there's no chance to retake the
shot of a lifetime -- quickly press the FUNC button
while the image is still being saved to memory
card, and the Pro1 gives you the option of saving
the image to RAW file format for that shot. A
potential disaster averted!
[The RAW file format records the image as captured
by the camera's CCD without further processing,
and allows you to precisely adjust white balance,
contrast, sharpness and saturation in an image
editing software without any loss of quality.]
Since the Pro1 uses an electronic viewfinder,
the image disappears from screen while shooting
in Continuous Shooting Mode. [If you have one
eye glued to the EVF, keep the other eye open
and you'll be able to somewhat follow your subject.]
The Pro1 has a built-in ND filter for those times
when it is too bright and you want to use either
a large aperture and/or a slow shutter speed.
According to the user manual, the ND filter decreases
standard brightness by approximately 1/8. You
set the ND Filter via the Rec. Menu.
vs. Super Macro
|Standard Macro (10 cm / 3.9
||Super Macro (3 cm / 1.2 in.)
A lot of people like to take close-ups and the
macro capability of the Pro1 is quite good. Press
the Macro button and you are in Standard Macro
mode which allows focusing as close as 10 cm (3.9
in.) from the front element of the lens (set at
the wide-angle focal length).
You can also use the Super Macro mode to get
even closer to your subject, as close as 3 cm
(1.2 in.). Image resolution is automatically reduced
to M1 (2272x1704 pixels), which is not bad at
all. However, you need to navigate deep into the
Rec. Menu (I counted 18 presses of the Down Arrow
on the Omni Selector!) to set it.
What is neat is that you can still zoom while
in Standard Macro mode. A yellow bar displays
under the zoom bar on screen to indicate the allowable
zoom range while in standard macro mode. Inside
this range, the camera is in macro mode; outside
of this range, the camera cancels macro mode.
The Super Macro mode is fixed at the wide-angle
The AF frame can be manually moved on the screen.
You simply press the SET button and use the keys
on the Omni Selector to move the AF frame. I find
this especially useful when taking macro shots
since the razor thin depth of field means that
it is not quite feasible to prefocus by depressing
the shutter button half-way and then reframing;
even a slight mm off can throw your main subject
I usually also set the 2 sec. self-timer on
so as to avoid camera shake when taking macro
shots. Or, you can use the handy wireless remote
controller Canon includes as standard!
|Auto White Balance
||WB = Tungsten
As the above two pictures show, the auto white
balance sometimes tends toward the warm colours
indoors under tungsten light. Under mixed light
conditions (fluorescent + natural light), it tends
toward the cool colours. In our tests, AWB seems
to work flawlessly under sunny and fluorescent
light. (See the Canon
PowerShot Pro1 Photo Gallery for appropriate
image samples). We recommend that you take an
extra shot with the white balance set to the appropriate
light source to ensure accurate colour reproduction
indoors. Fortunately, the Pro1 allows you to set
a Custom White Balance. Of course, if you record
in RAW mode, you do not need to worry about white
balance since you can precisely adjust it after
The 100% crops
above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate
the noise at the available ISO Speeds of 50, 100,
200 and 400. At ISO 50, as we would expect, noise
is not apparent and barely noticeable even in
the shadows. At ISO 100 noise becomes visible
but is still acceptable. Upward, noise is noticeably
You have to look hard to find any fault with
the image quality of the Canon 'L' lens in everyday
shots. We found minimal CA at the corner delimited
by the red square at top left (reproduced at 100%
crop at bottom right).
|10.6mm, Manual, Spot, 8 sec.,
F5.6, ISO 50
Tungsten WB, Super Macro, 2 sec. Self-Timer,
The Pro1 allows the use of a long shutter speed
of up to 15 sec. therefore allowing night photography.
Generally, with CCD image sensors, noise usually
becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds.
The Pro1 has special noise reduction algorithms
that automatically kicks in at shutter speeds
slower than 1.3 sec. and you'll notice a slightly
longer processing time before the next picture
can be taken.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided
to take a low-light indoors shot. Let's make it
also a Super Macro shot so we can more clearly
see any noise present.
At only 3 cm (1.2 in.) away from the subject,
the camera lens focuses on Bamm-Bamm's eyes. Even
though we use a small aperture to maximize depth
of field, his nose still comes out blurred. For
a cheap DIY backdrop, we use a black fuzzy sweater.
Normal tungsten light bulbs from the ceiling are
the only source of illumination. We experiment
a bit to obtain the optimum exposure, eventually
settling on 8 sec. at F5.6. Even at this long
shutter speed, the Pro1's noise reduction seems
to be working great, producing a nice smooth blurring
effect of the background.
The last feature we will mention is the histogram.
The histogram is in Playback Mode only. You can
see the histogram by pressing the info button
until the histogram displays. The histogram is
invaluable to give an indication of under- and
over-exposure (don't rely on the LCD/EVF since
the brightness is adjustable and may be misleading);
in addition to the histogram, overexposed areas
of the image blink.
The pictures in the Canon Pro1 Photo Gallery
page provide a good sample of what the Canon PowerShot
Pro1 is capable of. I have provided samples at
800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in
Remember that this version is of slightly lesser
quality than the original 3264x2448 version.
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels
in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended
to the file name.
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious