All photos by Mike Stensvold unless otherwise indicated
There are currently five 8-megapixel consumer digital cameras on the market,
all employing the same Sony image sensor, and all selling for around $1000.
We reviewed Nikon’s Coolpix 8700 in the June 2004 issue and Minolta’s
DiMAGE A2 in the August issue, and have not yet tested the Olympus C-8080 or
the Sony DSC-F828. This month, we check out Canon’s PowerShot Pro1.
Like the Minolta and Sony, the PowerShot Pro1 has a built-in 28–200mm
(35mm-camera equivalent) zoom lens, but the Pro1’s is a bit faster at
the 28mm end, f/2.4 vs. f/2.8 (all three have a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at
the 200mm end). The Nikon has a 35–280mm zoom, and the Olympus a 28–140mm.
The Pro1’s lens is a pro-spec Canon L-series optic; with an aspherical
element, fluorite and ultra-low dispersion glass, and a quick and quiet Ultrasonic
motor for zooming the lens, it can produce very crisp images.
Autofocusing is Hybrid AF, combining the precision of contrast-detection AF
with the speed of triangulation AF. The Pro1 provides two AF modes. The default
continuous AF is a bit different than continuous AF with an AF SLR: With the
Pro1 (and the Nikon Coolpix 8700), continuous AF means the camera focuses continuously
until you press the shutter button halfway, at which point it locks. Don’t
carry the camera around switched on in this mode, or it will wear the battery
down fairly quickly.
You can, via the LCD monitor menus, switch to single-shot AF. In single-shot,
when you press the shutter button halfway, the camera focuses on whatever you
have aimed the viewfinder’s AF frame at, then locks focus there until
you take the shot or let go of the button. The finder image briefly freezes
as focus is established, but you then have a “live” image again
to fine-tune your composition.
The focusing frame in the center of the finder turns green when focus has been
achieved, and yellow if focus cannot be achieved. You can move the focus frame
(and thus the active focusing area) to any of 180 positions in the finder (18
steps left/right by 10 steps up/down) by pressing the SET button and using the
up/down/left/right arrows on the omni selector. In spot metering mode, metering
can be linked to the selected AF point or the center of the picture area.
PowerShot Pro1 is great for those “found” scenes and
moments you just happen across, because it can handle them, and
is easy to carry ‘most anywhere.
You can (in the “serious” shooting modes—program AE, shutter-
and aperture-priority AE and manual) activate focus bracketing, which shoots
three images, one with the focus at the manually selected distance, one focused
slightly closer and one focused slightly farther. The left and right arrows
on the omni selector allow you to select how much closer and farther the bracketed
images will be focused.
To focus manually, you press the conveniently located MF button with your right
thumb, then rotate the lens’ focusing ring until the image appears sharp
in the finder (or on the external LCD monitor, if you’re using that).
When you engage manual focusing, the center of the image becomes magnified,
making it easy to see when the image is sharp. The focusing ring has a more
natural feel than some other digicams’ manual-focusing methods for the
experienced photographer, and is simple for the novice. Manual focusing is electronic,
not direct-mechanical as with AF SLRs, but the ring has a good feel, and focus
stops precisely when you stop rotating it.
Two macro modes let you get serious close-ups. Standard macro focuses down to
4 inches from the front element of the lens, while super macro mode lets you
move in to 1.2 inches away, albeit at a maximum resolution of 4MP instead of
the 8MP available in standard macro. In manual-focus mode, you can focus down
to 4 inches at the wide end of the focal-length range, and one foot at the tele
end, without using macro mode. We did most of our macro shooting in manual-focus
The Pro1 provides three metering systems: evaluative, center-weighted, and spot.
You can toggle through them by repeatedly pressing the metering-mode button
next to the shutter button. Evaluative metering divides the scene into several
zones, takes a number of factors including subject position into consideration,
and is the best mode for most shooting situations. Center-weighted metering
places most emphasis on the central area of the scene. In spot metering mode,
you have two choices: center, which reads the small area in the center of the
finder; or AF point, which reads the area in the active AF frame.
megapixels and a great lens mean you can blow-up those scenic
Photo by Lynne Eodice
Pressing the AE-lock button locks the exposure, after which you can refocus
on another subject if desired without changing the exposure. You can apply ±2
stops of exposure compensation, in 0.3-stop increments, by pressing the top
of the omni selector to engage exposure compensation, then using the left arrow
to decrease exposure or the right arrow to increase it by the chosen amount.
And because it’s a digicam, you can see the effects of the exposure compensation
in the viewfinder or on the LCD monitor—no excuses for poorly exposed
photos here. There’s also three-shot automatic exposure bracketing, in
increments of up to two stops (selectable in 0.3-stop increments).
The Pro1 offers a bunch of exposure modes. For serious shooters, there are shiftable
program AE, shutter- and aperture-priority AE and metered manual modes, all
easily selected by simply rotating the mode dial to the appropriate icon. You
can save two sets of frequently used modes and settings, and return to them
instantly by rotating the dial to C1 or C2.