Number nine on our list for this season is a Most Excellent Gadget and another Canon, the Canon G10...the camera that proves that even Canon can't please everybody.
In a sense the G10 is a throwback to an earlier era of digital photography. This sort of small-sensor but fully belled-and-whistled zoom compact was a very important market segment in the early- to mid-2000s, when Sony, Nikon, Canon and Olympus all competed tooth-and-nail.
A short digression: one thing I really don't understand in the current economic debate is that everybody bemoans failing industries, but everybody assumes the only choices are all or nothing*, and nobody talks about the failure of one competitor being good for other ones. If Chrysler and GM went out of business, wouldn't that be good for Ford? Wouldn't more Americans shift their business to Ford, energizing the company and giving them a shot in the arm and a well-deserved reward for going into the recession as the strongest of the Big Three? Isn't bailing out the weakest competitor tantamount to penalizing the strongest? Similarly, people talk about the "end of newspapers" as if all newspapers are inevitably going to go out of business. But if two thirds of newpapers went out of business, wouldn't that make the remaining one-third more important to us all—and potentially improve those papers' profits enough so they could survive?
Anyway, that's more or less what's happened here. As the G-series' competitors stopped trying so hard and gradually began to give up on this segment, Canon took the opposite tack and revitalized its line with the G7 in 2006. Then it actively addressed complaints and criticisms of that camera with carefully targeted improvements in the G9 and G10. The current camera—arguably the best G[x] yet—doesn't have an articulated viewing screen as many of the earlier models did, and is still often criticized for packing too many pixels on to the tiny sensor, leading to some image quality problems. Here, however, Canon's caught between an enthusiast and a hard place. The enthusiasts want fewer pixels and better high-ISO performance (as things stand, you should stick to ISO 400 and lower); but, as Canon knows, many of the people who actually plunk down their dollars for the G10 are still swayed by the more-megapixels mentality. The reality is, everybody has their own pet features and want list. It's impossible to please everybody. What's a poor camera manufacturer to do?
After eight tries**, this is Canon's best effort to please the most people maximally. And they did a pretty good job: speaking of plunking down dollars, people still do. Without giving too short a shrift to Nikon's quite nice also-ran, the P6000, it can't be denied that Canon has gradually come to own this segment of the market, which obviously still has some life in it yet.
And that brings us to another reason for liking the G10, alluded to in the first sentence: it's a pleasing, even rather jewel-like device. It's solid and heavy for its size and seems to be mostly made of metal, and the finely-made, smooth-acting controls, most of which seem to exude a sort of ergonomic just-rightness, make handling and using the camera a pleasant experience. Why Canon can't bring similarly pleasing "object-quality" to its larger cameras is a mystery. But the G10 is functional, and fun—and fine. Despite a relatively high price, it remains a good choice for people who don't want to deal with the bulk of even a small DSLR.
* "In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." (Mark Twain, from Life on the Mississippi.)
** There was no G4 or G8.