*The front of the G1 open (above) and closed (below). *
**Back**The back of the G1 is dominated by the large 3.5-inch LCD screen. In fact, when the camera is closed, this is the entirety of the back. The controls are hidden under the screen until you slide the front cover out. The controls on the left are (from top to bottom): the zoom control, the movie/still mode button, playback, flash mode, macro focus & playback zoom, image size & delete, and the self timer button. The zoom control falls naturally under the thumb when you pick the camera up. **Left Side**The left side of the camera only has one major feature: a headphone socket. This is a rather unusual feature for a still camera and it underlies the hybrid nature of the device since it can also double as a camcorder. **Right Side**The right side of the camera is home to another set of controls. From the top, we have the display button (which turns the on-screen display of things like settings on or off), the joystick (which is used to navigate menus), the back button, the menu button (for accessing the on-screen menus), and the home button, which takes you back to the main screen. **Top The top of the camera is the home to a few features: from left to right are the microphones (two to capture stereo sound, an unusual feature on a still camera), the open latch, the illuminated power button, the shutter, and the wireless LAN button. The latter is used to start and stop the wireless features of the G1.
*A view from the top with camera open (above) and closed (below). * Bottom**The tripod socket of the G1 is rather oddly located right at the edge of the camera, and that might make it awkward to use with some tripods. The two sets of small holes are for the stereo speakers, while the rectangular socket is for the tripod dock. Next to this is the cover for the battery and memory card compartment.
**Viewfinder**No viewfinder is present on the G1. You have to use the LCD screen to compose and shoot your images. This isn’t a great hardship, though. The LCD screen is very attractive, and the absence of a viewfinder is almost standard practice on point-and-shoots. **LCD Screen**The LCD screen on the G1 is a monster at 3.5-inches and 921,000 pixels. It is one of the highest resolution screens that we’ve seen and probably one of the highest in any camera, ever. And it shows – although it is hard to judge a screen in the garish and migraine-inducing lighting of a trade show, the prototype G1 we looked at displayed bright, sharp images with deep blacks and rich colors. The live preview of the image to be captured was acceptable, although there was some flickering evident. However, until we can test it under different lighting conditions, it remains to be seen if this was merely the camera getting a headache from the lighting or if it is a real problem. The glossy coating of the screen tended to pick up fingerprints. When the camera is closed, the LCD takes up the entire back of the body.
FlashThe flash of the G1 is small and located too close to the lens for comfort. This could produce serious red-eye problems. Sony claims a range of 0.3 to 9.2 feet at the wide end of the zoom and 0.8 to 7.2 feet at the telephoto end. They also claim that pushing the ISO up to the maximum of 1000 increases the wide range to 16.1 feet and 13.1 at the wide and telephoto settings respectively, but we weren’t able to test this at PMA. This is a rather short range, and this could prove to be a problem as there is no way to connect an external flash, and Sony does not list an external flash amongst the available accessories. One interesting feature is that the camera does include a flash power control, where you can increase and decrease the power of the flash within a limited range. ** ****Zoom Lens**The G1 has a 3x Carl Zeiss optical zoom lens, with an aperture range of f3.5 to f4.3 and a focal length of 6.33mm to 19mm. The 35mm film camera equivalent focal length is 38 to 114mm, which is a pretty average range for a point-and-shoot, but it is a bit disappointing at the wide end. A few less millimeters there would make for better group shots. What the G1 does include though is Sony’s Super SteadyShot image stabilization, an optical image stabilization system that moves one of the lens elements to account for camera movement. Again, we were not able to test this feature, but our tests on previous Sony models have shown mixed results. The zoom control was suitably responsive, allowing for zooming all the way in and out, in just a few seconds. Pushing it to the left zooms out and to the right zooms in.
**Model Design/Appearance**The G1 has an interesting design, with an unusual wedge-shaped aluminum case. It’s certainly a break from the more angular design of other Cyber-shots, and the overall design works well. **Size/Portability**The G1 is on the bulky side. The body is too thick to easily fit into a shirt pocket, but it isn’t overly large. Tthe case is not much bigger than the screen, thanks to the interesting way it hides most of the controls when the camera is closed. Sony claims a weight with the battery of 8.2 ounces, and we don’t see any reason to doubt this. For the size of the camera, it feels pretty light. **Handling Ability**The G1 feels surprisingly comfortable in the hands. Typically, cameras with large screens don't have much room left for the hands. But that doesn’t seem to be a problem with the G1. The left hand fits around the screen, while the right hand has plenty to hold onto around the controls and the front of the camera. But this isn’t a camera that can be easily used with one hand, and it really requires two hands to be comfortably used. **Control Button/ Dial Positioning /Size**Most of the controls on the back of the G1 are large enough to be comfortably used, although you do need both hands. The shutter button falls naturally under the index finger, and the zoom control lands under the thumb. The controls on the side of the camera are a bit more awkward, though: I found myself turning the camera while trying to work out which button is which. Most likely this will improve with time and familiarity, but it’s a bit of a pain. The joystick is the exception; it is used for navigating the on-screen menus and is easy to use while keeping an eye on the screen. **Menu**The menu system is accessed through the home button on the right hand side of the camera body and will immediately be familiar to owners of Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PSP gaming consoles. It’s the same crossbar style menu that both of the popular game consoles use. In fact, Sony is adopting the same menu style for most of their products, so you can expect to see more of this if you buy Sony products in future. That’s a good thing, as the menu is quick and easy to use, providing speedy access to the features of the camera such as the camera mode (photo or movie), playback, music and video playback, and the wireless features. To access the camera specific controls, you hit the menu button, which brings up a scrolling menu with the following options: *Camera Mode
In Auto mode, only the first three options are available. An additional screen of controls is available through the camera settings menu; The menu system works well overall. All of the options have both text and icons, plus a short bit of text on screen that explains what the control is for. *Ease of Use**The G1 is a very easy to use camera. The menu is well-designed, and there are a good number of buttons without being overwhelming.
**Auto Mode**The auto mode places command of the settings in the hands of the camera. The user only gets to set the exposure compensation and the AF mode. That’s a pretty standard auto mode. **Movie Mode**The G1 records videos in MPEG-4 format, which produces small, high quality video files. The maximum resolution is 640 x 480 pixels, and this can be reduced to 320 x 240 pixels. This is pretty standard, but some way behind the 1280 x 720 high definition video that the Canon PowerShot TX1 shoots. We don’t have any information on the bitrate of the captured video, but both modes are recorded at 30 frames per second, and MPEG-4 videos are typically of a higher quality than most other formats. The 2GB of internal memory should also allow for a good amount of video to be captured. The zoom control is usable while recording movies, and the various focus modes can also be used. However, you can’t use the other controls while recording. **Drive/Burst Mode**Only one burst mode is available on the G1, and Sony claims it is capable of capturing 7 images at a frame rate of 3.3 per second. That’s pretty fast among point-and-shoots and even exceeds the continuous capture rate of some entry level DSLRs. A 10-second self timer mode is also available. **Playback Mode**The playback mode is accessed either through the home menu or by pressing the play button. The playback options are pretty standard. Images can be viewed singly, in groups of 9 or as a slideshow. Music can also be played back while a slideshow is playing. A red eye correction feature is also included, but we were unable to test the efficacy of this feature.
**Manual Control Options**The G1 has no manual mode. Tere is no way to set shutter speed and aperture directly. The manual focus control is also curtailed, making this a pretty disappointing camera for manual control enthusiasts. **Focus Auto Focus*In our limited testing on the PMA show floor, the auto focus of the G1 seemed to be suitably responsive. We weren’t able to precisely time the focus, but it took less than half a second to find the right focus spot, and it didn’t swim in the limited low light testing we were able to do. Three focus modes are available: the multi-AF mode uses 9 focus points around the frame, the center mode uses an area of about a third of the image, while the spot focus mode uses just the dead center of the image. That pretty much covers the basics, but there are none of the fancy focus features that other cameras are starting to include, such as face detection. Manual Focus*The G1 has limited manual focus features, and that is an unusual thing to find in a point-and-shoot camera. You can set the camera to a limited number of focus points: 0.5 meters, 1 meter, 3 meters, 7 meters and infinity. There is no way to set the focus on points in between, though, and it seems like an odd way to go: why not go the whole hog and provide a true manual focus control? ISO**The G1 provides a reasonable range of ISO settings, from 80 to 1000 with 4 stops on the way. There’s also a full auto ISO mode. It doesn’t however, provide the ISO boosting high sensitivity modes that we see on many other lower-cost cameras. **White Balance**The usual suspects are there for white balance: there’s a full auto mode, plus presets for Sunlight, Cloudy, Florescent, Tungsten and Flash lighting. There is no evaluative mode or way to manually enter a white balance preset directly, though. **Exposure**2 stops of exposure compensation are available, in 1/3-stop steps. But there is no way to control the exposure settings more precisely than this. The live preview reflects the exposure compensation, which is useful for estimating the correct setting. **Metering The standard metering modes of evaluative, center weighted and average are available in the program mode. Shutter Speed**The G1 has a shutter speed range of 1/4 to 1/1000 of a second in auto mode, and 1 to 1/1000 of a second in program mode. That’s a little disappointing at the long exposure end. This camera wouldn’t be good for very low light shooting.** ****Aperture**The aperture range of the 3x Carl Zeiss lens is f3.5 to f8 in both auto and program mode. That’s a pretty normal range for a camera like this but slightly smaller on its maximum opening. This will affect low light shooting slightly and force the camera to default to higher ISO speeds to compensate.
**Picture Quality/Size Options**There are 6 settings for image size; 6 megapixels, a 3:2 aspect ratio setting the crops down from the 6 megapixel size, 3 megapixels, 2 megapixels and VGA. There is also a 16:9 aspect ratio setting that crops down from the full 6 megapixel size. There are no settings for image quality, and all images are captured as JPEGs. **Picture Effects Mode**The G1 eschews the common gimmicky special effects modes. You can’t put on picture frames or turn your images into sepia toned monstrosities. That’s a good thing, as these effects are better achieved on a PC; at least then you can change your mind when you realize how awful these effects often look.
Connectivity*Software*Sony claimed at the PMA show that the software bundle for the G1 was not yet finalized, but their site lists it as coming with the usual selection of Picture Motion Browser for Windows. This is a basic, but adequate application, but it remains to be seen if they include a special version to support the wireless LAN capabilities of the G1. *Jacks, Ports Plugs*The G1 comes with a dock that connects to the bottom of the camera, but this was not available for examination at the PMA show. Sony claims the camera will come with USB, A/V and power connector cables, but it is not clear if these will connect directly to the camera or to the dock. If it’s the latter, this is a pain; if you are on the road, you’ll need to take the dock with you to recharge the camera. *Direct Print Options*
The usual selection of direct print options are supported. The G1 is PictBridge compatible, so it can connect directly to a supported printer. It also supports the DPOF format for flagging images for later printing; no surprises there. In theory, the support for the DLNA format should allow it to print wirelessly to printers that support it but none of these are available yet. *Battery*The G1 comes with a 1220 mAh lithium-ion battery. Sony don’t make any claims for battery life on this yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it on the short side since that large, bright screen must drain the battery. *Memory*An impressive 2GB of RAM is built into the G1, and that is enough to shoot a picture-intensive weekend trip at 6MP without worrying about memory cards. More storage space can be added in the form of a MemoryStick Pro Duo card which are available in up to 4GB capacities. That’s an impressive combination, and the G1 also allows you to copy images between the two quickly and easily. **Other Features***Wireless image transfer – Using the built in 802.11g wireless LAN interface, two G1s can swap images. This can happen in two ways; collaborative shooting or image gifting. With collaborative shooting, images captured on one camera are automatically transferred to the other, a process that takes a couple of seconds. The process works both ways, and it could be useful if you want to keep backup copies of images. In image gifting mode, the user on one camera selects images and sends them to the other. In the demo at PMA, this process took about 5 seconds an image. Unfortunately, the process of connecting the cameras in either mode is a little ungainly. You have to set both to the appropriate mode, then press the WLAN button on the top of the camera at the same time. The linking process then takes between 10 and 15 seconds. This has to be done every time the cameras are turned on; you can’t leave two cameras permanently connected. It also has to be redone if you switch from collaborative shooting to image gifting mode, which is a real pain since the process of setting up the connection takes too long and involves too much hassle. In the end, the recipient is more likely to say "just email it to me later". The wireless image transfer should also allow images to be wirelessly transferred to an appropriately equipped PC, but we were unable to try this feature out at the PMA show. We’ll test it further when we get a review unit in. SteadyShot – The G1 includes optical image stabilization, where an element of the lens moves to compensate for shaky hands and the like. We weren’t able to test the effectiveness of this feature at PMA.
**Value*At a wallet-busting $599, the G1 is far from cheap. In fact, it's the same list price as Nikon's D40 DSLR with a kit lens. But the G1 does have that incredible screen and the wireless features. Whether those features are worth the sacrifice in resolution and zoom length depends upon what kind of user you are. **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters* – Those who like to shoot then show off their images will love the G1; the big, bright screen will have your audience oohing and ahhing over your snaps.
Budget Consumers – Unless we’re talking about big budget consumers, no.
Gadget Freaks – Those who want the biggest and the brightest will dig the screen. But those who want the longest, highest resolution should look elsewhere.
Manual Control Freaks – There are no manual controls, so those who insist in tweaking their shutter speed and aperture for motion effects and depth-of-field will quickly get frustrated with the G1.
Pros/Serious Hobbyists – If you get paid to shoot, the G1 isn’t the sort of camera that you’d want to whip out on a supermodel shoot. It’s not sophisticated enough and compared to the emaciated waifs that pass for supermodels these days, it’s a bit on the chunky side. Oh, it also lacks manual control.
**Conclusion**The G1 is an intriguing camera with a lot of things on its side. For one, there is the excellent screen; it is high resolution, bright and has a great viewing angle for showing your photos to the world. If you’re a proud parent looking to show your newborn to friends and family, it will show off the apple of your eye at maximum cuteness. And the unusual design is surprisingly effective; the G1 is easy to operate and closes into to a convenient package. But it’s not a compact camera since it won’t fit into a shirt pocket or small handbag. The wireless features really aren’t that useful. We’ll have to wait for the final camera to judge how well it connects to a PC, but the camera to camera tools are really just gimmicks. The DNLA support is an intriguing feature, but it’s hamstrung by the lack of other DLNA devices. As this new standard becomes more popular, this could be a big selling point, but right now there are only a handful of devices it can connect to. It is also expensive compared to higher resolution cameras with longer zooms going for a couple of hundred dollars less, you have to really want that screen to justify the extra expense. We’ll have to wait until we can run some more tests on the image quality before we draw any real conclusions, but if you’re looking for a large screen to show off your photos, the G1 looks to be the one to beat right now.
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Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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