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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 


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 Range
28mm 35mm 200mm
28mm 35mm 200mm

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 speeds.

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.

Standard Macro vs. Super Macro
Canon PowerShot Pro1 Standard Macro (10 cm / 3.9 in.) Canon PowerShot Pro1 Super Macro (3 cm / 1.2 in.)
Standard Macro (10 cm / 3.9 in.) 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 focal length.

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 out-of-focus.

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
AWB 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 fact.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 50
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

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 present.

Chromatic Aberrations

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).

Long Shutter Speed
10.6mm, Manual, Spot, 8 sec., F5.6, ISO 50
Tungsten WB, Super Macro, 2 sec. Self-Timer, Tripod Used

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 Photoshop Elements). 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 bandwidth. Thanks!



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