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Testing / Performance
**We tested the GE G1’s color accuracy by photographing an industry standard GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart. The ColorChecker chart is made up of 24 color tiles that sample colors from around the spectrum, focusing on commonly photographed colors such as green foliage, blue skies, and flesh tones. We then ran these images through Imatest, which compared the ideal colors of the chart with the actual colors the camera reproduced. The modified chart below shows the camera’s reproduction in the outer portion of each color tile. The inside square within each tile is the ideal color of the chart corrected for luminance. The small vertical rectangle is the ideal.
The G1 was most accurate about ½ of a stop underexposed, which is why the small rectangle looks brighter than the outer square. Looking at the inner square compared to the outer square, you can see several of the colors are off the mark. This color error is quantified in the graph below, which shows the actual colors of the ColorChecker chart as squares on the color spectrum, and the colors the camera reproduced as circles. The line connecting the squares and the circles corresponds to the color error.
The graph shows significant color error in blues, greens, and yellows. Blues are often shifted to enhance skies, while yellows and greens remain more accurate. Unfortunately, the GE G1's 9.19 mean color error is not very good, so unless you like the way the colors are shifted, you will not be able to shift them back to their original shade.
White Balance ***(3.89)*
*We test white balance accuracy by photographing the ColorChecker chart under various types of lighting: cloudy outdoor, fluorescent, and tungsten, using both the Auto white balance setting and the appropriate white balance presets. We also shot the chart using the G1’s flash, but it lit the chart so unevenly that we couldn’t score the white balance confidently. The Auto setting in the other three types of light was not very accurate. It was mediocre in fluorescent light, poor in outdoor cloudy light, and downright terrible in tungsten light.
*Like its Auto setting, the G1’s white balance presets performed horribly. Both the cloudy and fluorescent settings performed worse than the Auto setting under the same light. The tungsten preset was just as terrible as the Auto setting, but in the opposite direction; it turned images blue instead of yellow. Stick to using Auto white balance with the G1 and hope for a miracle.
**Still Life Sequences
***Click on the thumbnails below to view the full-resolution images*
Part of the first-ever line of GE cameras, the G1 carries solid specs for today’s camera market, including the 7-megapixel sensor. We put its imager to the test by photographing an industry standard resolution test chart at various apertures and focal lengths. We ran the images through Imatest to determine how much detail it could resolve. Imatest reports resolution in terms of line widths per picture height (LW/PH), which corresponds to the number of alternating parallel black and white lines the camera could discern before they began to blur.
Click on the chart above to view the full-resolution image*
*The G1 did not fair well in this test. Its sharpest image was shot at ISO 80, using an aperture of f/4.3, and a focal length of 19 mm. The G1 resolved 1475 LW/PH horizontally with 18.3 percent undersharpening, and 1385 LW/PH vertically with 38.5 percent undersharpening. Most point-and-shoots generally benefit from slightly more aggressive sharpening to make the photos look good right out of the camera.
Also worth noting is the amount of lens vignetting apparent in the image. Lens vignetting is when the edges and corners of the frame are darkened, as you can clearly see in the test chart image, which was uniformly lit. This suggests a poor optical system and will require users to manually brighten the corners of photos to correct it.
******Noise – Auto ISO (1.21)
We shot the ColorChecker with the G1 set to Auto ISO, and ran it through Imatest to calculate the noise. The G1 chose an unusual ISO of 99 under our bright studio lights. Usually, shooting at an ISO around 100 will yield low noise, but in the G1’s case, noise was still very much abundant. We measure noise as a percentage of the image that is drowned out by it, and even at ISO 99 this value was 1.76 percent. This is a poor score.
**Noise – Manual ISO ***(2.63)*
**We also evaluated the camera’s noise levels over its entire ISO range. The graph below plots the G1’s sensitivity settings on the horizontal axis, with the corresponding noise levels on the vertical axis.
Most remarkable about this graph is that noise dips very low at ISO 800. Because ISO is a measure of sensitivity, it is natural to have higher noise levels at higher ISO. Such a significant drop in noise after ISO 400 points to considerable noise reduction being applied. This is confirmed by viewing an ISO 400 image compared to one shot at ISO 800, as shown in our still life image chart above. Notice that the stripes on Randy’s jacket are visible in the ISO 400 shot, but are almost completely obscured by smoothing in the ISO 800 image. This is the tradeoff when noise reduction is applied; noise levels are lowered, but sharpness is drastically decreased. The high noise levels at low ISO suggest that without noise reduction applied, noise levels at ISO 800 and 1600 would be astronomically high. The GE G1 has stretched too far to include high ISO sensitivities, and this is evident in its very poor score. **Low Light (7.29)
**We dimmed our studio lights to test the limits of the G1’s low light performance. We shot the ColorChecker chart at light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux, and ran the images through Imatest to gauge the color accuracy and noise levels. These light levels correspond to a room softly lit with two lamps (60 lux) down to very low light that requires squinting (5 lux). All shots were taken at ISO 1600.
Noise levels were quite low in low light, but are strongly smoothed over, greatly reducing detail. Color accuracy isn’t great, but didn’t drop too far at low light levels. At 5 lux the camera could not expose properly without going into Slow Shutter mode. In its slowest long exposure - 2 seconds - the camera overexposed at 5 lux. Clearly, the G1 has limits in low light.
We also tested long exposures up to 30 seconds, which you can see in the graph below. All long exposures were shot at ISO 400. Noise levels remained essentially the same for all long exposures, with perhaps a little decline after 10 seconds, which hints at increasing noise reduction. However, color accuracy dropped significantly on long exposures, from a mean color error of 13.7 at 2 seconds, to 20.9 at 30 seconds. The slow shutter option is a fun addition to the G1, but don’t expect to take nice looking shots with it.
Dynamic Range ***(5.51)***
We test dynamic range, a measure of the total tonal range of a camera, by photographing a backlit Stouffer test chart. This chart consists of a long row of rectangular tiles, each a slightly different shade of gray, varying from brightest white to darkest black. The more tiles a camera can expose, the better its dynamic range. We tested the G1 at every ISO sensitivity to see how the dynamic range maintained over the entire range. The results are shown in the graph below, with dynamic range plotted in units of Exposure Value (EV). The G1’s dynamic range at ISO 80 is only about 6 EV, which is quite poor. After falling steadily with increased sensitivity, the dynamic range takes a jump back up at ISO 800. The reason for this rise in dynamic range is because of the noise reduction being applied that we noted in the noise section above. Noise levels significantly limit dynamic range by making it harder to distinguish different tones. Smoothing over noise allows some more tones to show through, but with the tradeoff of reducing sharpness. In other words, noise reduction is good for dynamic range, but bad for resolution. The G1 ends up with a mediocre dynamic range score that is saved by the good dynamic range at high ISO. **Speed/Timing***Startup to First Shot (6.3)
*The G1 took 3.7 seconds to start up and take its first shot. If you're trying to capture a quick shot, this is an eternity. *Shot-to-Shot (5.3)
*The G1 will not shoot a burst in Best Quality mode. It will, however, shoot continuously in Full Quality mode, where it will take 2MB shots every 0.7 seconds. The G1 can shoot continuously until the card is filled, or can be set to only take five shots before stopping. However, this is tricky to set on the camera, and counterintuitive. When the "Cont. Shot" menu is set to "Off", and the drive button is set to burst, the camera will shoot continuously. When the menu is set to "5 Shot", the camera will only take five shots. The last option, the "5 Shot (Last)" mode, shoots continuously, but only records the final five images.
*The G1 takes 0.1 seconds to shoot when the shutter is already held halfway down and prefocused, and 0.6 seconds without being prefocused.
*It takes 2 seconds to process 3.5MB shots taken in Best Quality mode at ISO 80.
Bright Indoor Light – 3000 lux
We tested video noise levels and color accuracy under bright studio lights in the same manner we tested the still images above. In bright light, the G1 had extremely poor color accuracy, with a mean color error of 22.2, though the saturation level was good, at 104 percent. Noise levels were quite good, however, at only 0.47 percent.
*Low Light – 30 lux
*We also tested video performance in low light, where the camera performed worse. Color error was still very high at 21.9, and noise levels jumped to 2.41. The footage was also extremely underexposed, as you can see below. *Video Resolution
*Similarly to our still resolution test described above, we shot video of our resolution test chart at 1700 lux. The G1 resolved 193 LW/PH horizontally with 33.6 percent undersharpening, and 505 LW/PH vertically, with 94.1 percent oversharpening. These extreme sharpening levels indicated the image artifacting apparent in the video. Sharp edges had bright lines next to them, where there shouldn’t have been any. This is the second worst video resolution performance we've seen this year, just behind the Olympus 770SW. (100 percent crops)*
*To get a look at how the G1’s video mode handled motion, we stepped outside of the lab to shoot moving cars and people on the street. The overall frame looked very hazy and washed out, with ugly smearing caused by highlights. Yet the worst of it was the motion. Aside from making moving objects look very jerky, even when in the middle of the frame, the exposure changed so much that the video seemed to blink and flash, possibly even dropping some frames. This headache-inducing effect makes the video barely watchable, unless you have a large jar of Tylenol nearby.
GE is a newbie in the digital camera market, and as such probably doesn’t have a loyal following of consumers who are hooked to their optical viewfinders. The GE G1 leaves out the optical viewfinder and instead opts for the 2.5-inch LCD screen’s live preview. For users who wish to have framing guidelines, a grid can be turned on and off in the photo menu.
**LCD Screen ***(6.0)*
The GE G1’s LCD screen measures 2.5 inches diagonally and has only 153,600 pixels – much less than most digital cameras with similarly-sized screens. Most models with this screen size have 230,000 pixels and thus have a smoother view. That said, there are still several models on the market with a similar screen size that have 115,000 pixels. So while it could be worse, it could be a lot better. The G1’s low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD has a wide viewing angle when held to the left or right of eye level, but can’t be seen when held above or below the head at all.
In the setup menu there is a 10-level LCD brightness adjustment. There is a live preview of the brightness as users scroll through the options. This doesn’t help users view the screen outdoors, however, as glare is still a problem.
The screen’s refresh rate isn’t that great. It doesn’t even seem to hash out 30 frames per second, so all moving subjects look jerky – even when the exposure is locked. Some cameras have sub-par refresh rates when viewing but look much smoother when the shutter release button is pushed halfway, but not the G1.
Viewing the LCD screen outdoors under the bright sun is nearly impossible. It doesn’t matter what angle the camera is held at: the contrast between subjects and backgrounds can hardly be seen at all and the glare bounces off the screen to burn your eyes. While at the beach, I tried taking pictures of my son building sandcastles with his cousin. There was a stroller in the background, and more than once I mistakenly snapped pictures of the stroller thinking it was my son. The photos from the beach came out awful: overexposed with lots of heads cut off because I couldn’t see anything!
Overall, the screen size is great. The resolution isn’t as great, but isn’t as spotty and pixilated as some other models. If you want an LCD screen that will function as a viewfinder and review screen, but don’t care to have your friends crowd around for slide shows, then the G1’s LCD will be fine. However, if you want multiple people to view the LCD or are used to crystal clear resolution, it isn’t for you. Another drawback is that the LCD can’t be seen under harsh lighting, so if you primarily shoot at the beach or in the sun you may want to consider a camera with a better LCD.
The flash unit is placed directly left of the tiny lens on the front of the camera. Despite the off-axis placement, the flash coverage is fairly even. If subjects are close to the camera though, the flash casts a stark shadow to one side. The flash doesn’t look very natural and it overexposes if too close to subjects, so users should turn it off when the Macro mode is in use.
According to the specs, when the camera was set to ISO 400 the flash was only effective from 0.98 to 10.8 feet (0.3-3.3 meters) with the lens zoomed out. It was only effective to 8.86 feet (2.7 meters) when the lens was zoomed in.
The following flash modes can be found by pushing the left side of the multi-selector: Auto, Red-eye Reduction, On, Off, Slow Synchro, and Red-eye Reduction + Slow Synchro. Even the On setting seems to have a few preflashes before it. All of the red-eye reduction precautions are quite necessary because the lens and flash are so close. I still ended up with a few test shots that had red eyes.
There is a Red-eye Reduction setting in the Playback menu. It didn’t work on my test shots, though. The closest it got was eliminating one red eye (one of two, of course) from a picture, but that almost looked scarier.
Overall, the flash component itself is decent, though weaker than many other ultra-slim digital cameras.
The GE G1 has a small 3x optical zoom lens placed in the upper right corner of the front. This isn’t a very practical placement for the lens: it is easily covered by fingertips that wrap around the camera there. I snapped several shots of my lovely fingertip and even captured it in several movies.
The lens isn’t very wide. It measures 6.4-19.2 mm and is equivalent to 38-114 mm in the 35 mm format. It has max apertures of f/3.5 (wide) and f/4.3 (telephoto). While that figure is unimpressive at the lens’ widest, the max aperture in the telephoto end of the lens fares better than most comparable models. Many small cameras with internal lenses have apertures that shrink to f/5 or sometimes smaller. The f/3.5 aperture, however, doesn’t let much light in through the lens for low light situations.
The lens is constructed from 13 elements in 10 groups and backed up by electronic image stabilization. This isn’t to be confused with optical image stabilization, which is far superior and involves elements of the lens that actually compensate for shaking hands.
The Zoom control on this camera is perhaps one of the most annoying ever conceived. It is located on the right edge of the camera’s top – where the shutter release button should be. It gets worse. The control looks like a round dial with its bumpy shape and grooves in the edge – the G1’s included user manual even called this a "zoom scroll wheel." There is no scrolling involved, though. It looks like something that would gently rotate left and right (um, scroll), but instead the entire bump is pushed right and left. This wouldn’t be a huge problem except for the fact there’s really nowhere to go on this small camera. There are only tiny spaces on the right and left sides, but they hardly allow any give. There is no tactile feedback: you can’t really feel the bump sliding left and right. The only way you know the zoom is moving is if the digital zoom display is moving and the view on the LCD screen changes.
The digital zoom display consists of a vertical line on the right side of the LCD screen with a "W" (wide) on bottom and a "T" (telephoto) on top. The bottom of the display is white and represents the optical zoom; the top is yellow for the digital zoom. A small horizontal line moves up and down along the vertical line to show where users are within the range. If users are ever-so-gentle, they can finagle eight stops of focal lengths.
The camera offers 4.5x digital zoom, but like all other digital zoom mechanisms it degrades image quality quickly.
Overall, the lens isn’t very impressive. It has a narrow 38 mm angle, a small max aperture of f/3.5 that won’t let in much light, and a control that is so hard to maneuver you’ll curse GE every time you use it.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(6.25)*
The GE G1 is flat and sexy with its slight frame and shiny surfaces. The slick surfaces aren’t good for handling, but they look great. The front’s glossy panel resembles a refrigerator door – especially with the GE logo, which is more expected on a fridge than a digital camera.
The glossy surfaces are marred by fingerprints that are especially visible on the vast space on the front and the LCD on the back. Another unfortunate characteristic of this glossy surface is that it scratches easily. After only two trips in my book bag (covered with the plastic it came in), a few tiny scratches showed up on that sex bomb of a surface. Just think what it will look like in a few months. The printed G1 logo and other text will easily rub off.
The G1 is made to be trendy. We reviewed the black-colored model, but it also comes in red, white, blue, and silver. Overall, the G1 looks great, but it won't age well.
Size / Portability*(8.0)*
The GE G1 is light; really light. It’s so light you almost wonder what is inside: are there really gears and motors and digital imaging technology, or is it all just magic? Without the battery loaded, the GE G1 weighs just over 4 ounces (115 grams). With the battery in the camera, it doesn’t weigh much more. You could put the battery in your pocket and not feel a thing.
The ultra-slim camera has miniscule measurements. It is larger than most Casio Exilim Card-series cameras, but is generally smaller than most other models. The GE G1 measures 3.6 x 2.5 x 0.8 inches (92 x 62.5 x 20.9mm). This makes it perfectly pocketable and even light enough to wear as a bracelet. It comes with a cheap gray wrist strap that takes away from the trendy look, but keeps the slippery G1 from falling overboard or to the ground.
The GE G1 is designed to easily slide in and out of a back pocket and snap pictures here and there. It doesn’t have a comfy hand grip for long photo shoots; it’s much too small for that. Convenience and style are the camera’s main draw, but the G1’s surfaces are very slippery and there isn’t much to keep it from hitting the pavement. There is a wrist strap that can be attached to the right side, but that doesn’t necessarily keep it in your palm. The only handling considerations that GE seems to have paid attention to are the slight curves on the left and right sides of the front, perhaps to ease the sharpness where fingers are supposed to grip the camera. This doesn’t make the GE G1 that much easier to handle though. Overall, the handling just isn’t desirable on this model – particularly when the questionable zoom control is considered - though many cameras this size struggle in this area.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(2.75)*
The camera’s small size doesn’t lend much to the handling or controls. Generally, the controls are intuitively placed. There is a major exception to that, though: the Zoom control is placed where the shutter release button should be, and the Zoom control almost looks like it could pass as the shutter release.
The rest of the controls are intuitively placed, but not necessarily properly spaced. The small size of the camera and the relatively large size of the LCD screen leaves about an inch-wide space for the controls. The mode dial’s grooved edge sits at the top of the G1. The mode dial can be turned with the thumb. It isn’t too hard, but the positions/modes on the dial are placed so far apart that it’s possible to be "stuck" between positions. The camera doesn’t malfunction, but if you’re in the middle there’s a 50 percent chance you won’t be in the mode you actually want.
Below the mode dial are two small buttons colored the same as the background, which makes the eye search for them for an extra few milliseconds. The face detection Auto focus button is on the left side and the Menu button is on the right. Below those buttons is the multi-selector that consists of a central Func/OK button and a ring around it. The ring navigates and does so fairly well. Like many other similar cameras, it has a number of functions. Pushing the left side changes Flash modes. Pushing the bottom turns on the self-timer. Pushing the right side activates the Macro mode. Pushing the top adjusts the exposure compensation. At the bottom is the delete button with a trash can icon on it. The labeling on the buttons is just as it should be.
The prize for the most annoying control of the year goes to the G1’s Zoom control, which looks like it should function as a dial but is instead pushed like a lever and can hardly be felt at all.
The GE G1 has a split menu system similar to other digital cameras, such as Canon PowerShot and Fujifilm FinePix models. In the center of the multi-selector is a Func/OK button that accesses a short menu consisting of frequently used options.
There are large live previews of the white balance and color options in this menu, which are always helpful. These options aren’t repeated in the main menu, which is accessed easily with the designated button. A menu appears on a blue screen with gray bars behind the white lettering. There are two menu headings at the top: Photo and Setup. The Photo menu consists of the following.
When users scroll through the menu with the multi-selector, the text background turns yellow and the font changes from white to black so it is easier to read. The Setup menu shows the following:
Overall, the menu system isn’t the most elaborate or beautiful, but it is still intuitive. The menu items are properly ordered and the few live previews are helpful.
Ease of Use*(5.0)*
The mode dial and properly labeled buttons make the GE G1 generally easy to use. It does have some flaws that make it annoying to use, though: the tight Zoom control, the tiny buttons, and the slim shape that is nice for portability but a pain to actually handle. The user manual is 81 pages (and the pages are about 5x7 inches with big print), and there isn’t an alphabetical index or even explanations of most of the features on the camera; that certainly doesn’t help things.
The GE G1 has a fully automatic shooting mode. It is represented by a red camera icon on the mode dial. This mode shortens menus so that the Func/OK menu is limited to size and quality options and the recording menu omits the Auto Focus mode, Continuous Auto Focus mode, and Slow Shutter options. Face priority Auto Focus is still an option with the designated button, and the functionality of the multi-selector can also be accessed (exposure compensation, for example). When the Auto mode is accessed, the camera returns to the default settings, so if an option was previously changed it will have to be changed again.
The GE G1 records MPEG-4 videos. These video files generally take up lots of memory space, but can be edited more easily. The G1 can record up to 30 minutes at a time, which isn’t much compared to other cameras, but when you see the quality you won’t want to record anything for even that long anyways.
The resolution is great. It looks good on a television with its 640 x 480-pixel resolution and top frame rate of 30 fps. There is also a smaller size of 320 x 240 pixels that can record at either 30 or 15 fps. The slower frame rate is also available at the top resolution but should be avoided because it makes everything look choppy.
The slow frame rate isn’t the only factor that degrades the quality. If users record to the slim amount of internal memory, then the video is "subject to degradation," according to the included user manual.
The GE G1 has a sub-par electronic image stabilization system that only works when the frame rate is set to 15 fps. That is unacceptable! Everything is choppy anyway, so what are a few more bumps in the video going to matter? It’s ridiculous.
To make matters worse, the optical zoom can’t be used while recording video. There is only 1.5x digital zoom available, which is just enough to make everything look a little fuzzy.
The resolution and frame rate options are located in the Func/OK menu, and the Standard menu only offers Continuous Auto Focus (it does actually work in this case; it doesn’t work with still images), Metering, and Stabilization.
The audio is terrible. Most digital cameras have monaural audio like the G1, but there aren’t many that sound worse than the G1. This digital camera’s microphone isn’t even visible; that might be part of the problem. I recorded a video of my son dancing to some music next to my computer. I was sitting about four feet from the computer’s speaker, which wasn’t blaring to the point that it hurt my ears but was definitely loud enough to feel comfortable dancing to in the living room. The camera hardly picked up the music at all. It picked up a few of my comments – although even my voice was muffled a bit.
In the Playback mode, movies can be played back with VCR-like control. They can be fast-forwarded and rewound, and the volume can be changed from 0-3 levels, although even the loudest volume isn’t sufficient. Movies can be played back in slow motion and users can adjust the speed. Editing is possible too - nothing fancy, but the typical file splitting is available. Users can cut the beginning or end of a clip and then save it.
Unless you like silent movies, avoid the Movie mode for anything that’s important.
Drive / Burst Mode*(5.5)*
If you can find it, the GE G1 has a Burst mode The Burst mode doesn’t automatically activate in the sports/action mode in the Scene menu. Users have to push the bottom of the multi-selector (which is labeled only with a Self-timer icon) and cycle through two and 10-second self-timer options to get to the continuous burst icon. Once this is in place, users then have to enter the menu and activate an option from the Continuous Shot option: five shots, five shots last, and time lapse. None of this is explained in the user manual.
Once the burst is actually functional, it automatically reduces the image quality to Fine rather than Best compression. Pictures are still 7 megapixels, but the compression is greatly compromised. This must reduce the file size significantly as it takes only about a second to write a five-shot burst to the memory. The specs indicate a 2.1 fps burst and this sounds about right. For more detailed and scientific inspection of the Burst mode, check out the Testing/Performance section of this review.
The GE G1’s time lapse function enables the camera to snap a picture every 30 seconds, 1, 5, or 10 minutes. For this to work properly, users need not only have that selection chosen in the Photo menu, but also on the bottom of the multi-selector. This mode takes a picture, sends the camera into Sleep mode that deactivates the LCD screen, and then wakes up to take another picture.
Overall, the Burst mode is a bit disappointing. The speed itself isn’t too bad: 2.1 fps is respectable, although not blazing fast. It's the inaccessibility that is disappointing. Having to activate the burst option through a separate control and menu is too confusing. The imposed compression is also a bit of a disappointment. It would have been nice if GE had included a slightly slower burst at the camera's maximum image quality as well.
This Playback mode is very similar to other cameras’ Playback modes. It is found on the mode dial, so there’s no quick access via a button. The setup is typical: the last image that was taken pops up first. Users can then scroll through images with the multi-selector. Images can be deleted one by one with the button on the back of the camera or deleted in batches or all at once in the Playback menu.
Images can also be viewed as index screens of four, nine, or 16 images per frame. The index screen is accessible by pushing the wide end of the Zoom control; pushing the other way magnifies images from 2-8x. Up to 60 seconds of audio can be added to each image file by pushing the shutter release button.
Many of the Playback mode’s features are described fairly well in the Playback menu.
The GE G1’s slide shows aren’t anything elaborate, although they do have two transition effects that look like horizontal blinds and vertical French doors. The Red-eye Removal option didn’t seem to work well. It eliminated only one red eye from a few pictures I had, which made the photos look quite odd.
Movies can be played back normally or in slow motion. They can also be edited by cutting the beginning or end and saving it. Audio playback is very disappointing. It can be adjusted to three levels but even the loudest isn’t loud enough – and everything sounds muffled because of the terrible recording.
Overall, the Playback mode is decent but nothing special; there are no special effects or music to jazz up the images. Still, it’s functional.
**Custom Image Presets ***(7.5)*
The GE G1 has a host of custom image presets scattered around the mode dial. Most of them are located in the "SCN" position: Sport, Children, Indoor, Leaf, Snow, Sunset, Fireworks, Glass, Museum, Landscape, Night Landscape, and Night Portrait. When users scroll through the Scene menu icons, explanations for each appear. For instance, the Children mode is described as "For kids and pets. Flash is disabled for eye protection." Portrait, Panorama, and Image Stabilization have their own real estate on the mode dial. The Panorama mode allows users to take three pictures either left to right or vice versa, and the camera automatically stitches them together. This isn’t very common; most cameras require external software to actually bind the pictures together. The Image Stabilization mode simply activates the digital image stabilization mode, which makes the preview on the screen look less jittery but doesn’t do much in the way of reducing blur. The Scene mode selection isn’t as elaborate as those included on a Casio, for example, but is certainly healthy enough to provide a specific exposure mode for most situations.
Manual Control Options
There aren’t very many manual controls on the GE G1 despite the camera icon with an "M" next to it. GE calls this a Manual mode, but it’s not. Perhaps they picked up this bad habit from other camera manufacturers who seem to have changed their definition of "manual." Anyway, in this mode the most manual controls are available. There isn’t full exposure control, although slow shutter speeds can be manually selected. The following paragraphs describe the available manual controls.
The GE G1 has a nine-point Auto Focus system that is fully accessible in the "multi" AF mode, but can also be set to "single" so the focus remains in the center at all times. The camera can focus as close as 60 centimeters normally and can get even closer when the Macro mode is activated. The Macro mode is set with the right side of the multi-selector: it can focus as close as 5 centimeters when the lens is zoomed out and 25 centimeters when zoomed in. The Macro mode works well, although it doesn’t automatically disable the flash like some cameras. Users must be sure to disable the flash manually because it overexposes anything too close to it. An Auto Focus assist lamp can be turned on and off in the Photo menu. This shines from the front of the camera as a beam of orange light.
There is a Continuous Auto Focus mode in the Photo menu, but it isn’t accessible in the still image exposure modes. It has options to turn on and off, but they couldn’t be selected. I tried different things to make it accessible: turning off the Macro mode, turning off the assist lamp, changing the Metering mode, tweaking the Burst modes, etc. I consulted the user manual, as those often dispel such mysteries. Alas, the G1’s incredibly basic user manual only stated what I knew: that there were on and off options. Wow. The Continuous Auto Focus can be turned on and off in the Movie mode and only the Movie mode. That’s it.
Someone at GE figured out that face detection is this year’s hot must-have feature. However, the GE G1’s is a very primitive version. There is a designated Face Detection button on the back of the camera. When it is pushed, a scary smiley face appears: its eyes look like frowns and it has lines around the mouth that make it look like it has chubby cheeks. It’s a frightening graphic if you ask me. Once that appears, it takes a few seconds to find the faces in the frame, if it can find them at all. If it’s a big group picture with several faces far away, good luck. The camera has a hard time with small faces; it does best when the face takes up at least a quarter of the screen. It also had a hard time with groups. I could only get it to recognize one face at a time, although the user manual has an example photo with four kids’ faces framed. Once the camera recognized a face, the scary smiley would disappear and a box would appear around the face. The G1 tracked the face well but if it loses it the scary graphic comes back. To add on to these inconveniences, after a picture is taken with the face detection the camera disables the setting. So if the user wants to snap more than one picture with face detection, they will have to reset the button before each shot.
The GE G1 does not have a Manual Focus mode.
The GE G1’s sensitivity options are available in the Func/OK menu. The Auto option will probably be the most frequently used setting with the point-and-shoot crowd, but there is a healthy selection of manual settings too: ISO 80 to 1600 (in full stops). Check out the Testing/Performance section of this review to see how the ISO setting affects this camera's dynamic range and noise characteristics.
**White Balance ***(7.0)*
In the Func/OK menu is a decent list of white balance options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Fluorescent CWF, Incandescent, and Manual. As users scroll through these, a live preview shows how the scene is affected. The manual white balance is easy to set; there are on-screen directions that prompt users to push the Menu button to set the white balance.
The exposure cannot be entirely manually adjusted. There is a slow shutter option that lengthens the exposure time in the Manual mode, but there is no control over the aperture and shorter shutter speeds. There is an exposure compensation option available by pushing the top portion of the multi-selector. When pushed, a scale appears with a +/- 2 scale in third increments. Pushing the right and left sides of the selector moves through the scale and changes the live preview as well. An exposure histogram can be displayed by selecting that option in the Photo menu. The histogram is small and located in the middle of the right third of the screen. If shooting under bright sunlight or white subjects, the histogram is hardly visible – this is unfortunate because that’s the best time to use it. The histogram is surrounded by a white rectangle and yellow shows the graph portion.
There are three metering modes available in the Recording menu. AI AE, or Artificial Intelligence Auto Exposure, is the default metering mode that measures from spots around the entire frame. The Center-Weighted Average mode gathers exposure information only from a group of spots in the middle. The Spot mode meters from a very small portion of the center. Some other digital cameras can move the spot metering around the frame, but the G1’s spot metering is fixed to the center.
For being a slim point-and-shoot digital camera, the GE G1 has an impressive shutter speed range. It can snap as fast as 1/2000th of a second or as slow as 30 seconds. There isn’t any control over the shorter shutter speeds, but there is a Slow Shutter option available in the photo menu that allows users to manually choose a shutter speed from 2-30 seconds. The Slow Shutter can be turned off. In the Automatic and other preset modes, the exposure time is limited to 4-1/2000th of a second. This is the typical range of most automatic compact digital cameras.
The GE G1 doesn’t have an impressive lens. The largest aperture possible is f/3.5 when the lens is zoomed out and f/4.3 when it is zoomed in. The smallest the aperture goes is f/5.7 wide and f/7.1 telephoto. Many digital cameras have wider f/2.8 apertures, although most internal lenses settle for sub-par f/3.5 maximum settings. The lens does fare better at the telephoto end, where many competitors shrink even smaller than f/4.3.
**Picture Quality / Size Options ***(7.5)*
The size and quality of the images can be selected from the Func/OK menu, where a long list of options resides. These choices appear for size: 7M, 6M (3:2), 5M (16:9), 3M, 2M, 1M, and 0.3M. That translates to 3072 x 2304, 3072 x 2048 (3:2), 3072 x 1728 (16:9 – 5M), 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels. The quality can be changed to Best, Fine, and Normal compressions to fit more pictures on the card: Best is recommended, of course. In the Playback menu, images can be resized to 1024 x 768 and 640 x 480 pixels to enable easy uploading for computer screen backgrounds, e-mails, and blogs.
**Picture Effects Mode ***(6.5)*
Color options are located in the Func/OK menu: Off, Black & White, Sepia, and Vivid. As users scroll through those options, a live preview appears. The Black & White mode shows lots of contrast, which looks good. The Sepia mode looks too orange-pink, rather than a brownish hue. The Vivid isn’t subtle; it really brings out colors and wouldn’t look good for most pictures. It may look decent for landscapes, but is too much for portraits. There aren’t many picture effects in the Playback mode. The only way to manipulate the image is the Red-eye Removal option. This doesn’t seem to work very well – at least it didn’t work on any of the test images that had red eyes in them.
Connectivity / Extras
The G1 comes with a CD-ROM with ArcSoft PhotoImpression, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and QuickTime software. I installed PhotoImpression version 6 on my computer in not much time at all. It isn’t a very flowery program: it doesn’t have huge icons or colorful backgrounds. It aims for function instead. On the top are a few small and simple icons with text that access functions such as Get Photos, Edit, Slide Show, Creativity, E-mail, Print, and Archive.
On the left side are three ways to find photos: folder, calendar, and search. Below this search box is a place in the window that displays detailed explanations on how to navigate or hide folders.
Like other photo software, browsing is done on the main portion of the window as thumbnails or a list – although there is no Preview/Filmstrip mode like in many programs. The size of the thumbnails can be changed with a sliding bar on the upper right corner of the window.
There are three ways to edit pictures, all available from the Edit icon on the top of the window. There is an Easy-Fix Wizard that asks, "What fixes would you like to make to this photo?" Responses are simple. For example, "Sharpen it," "Fix Red-Eye," and "Straighten it." There are seven quick fixes.
The second way to fix photos is with the Photo Editing Tools option. This has a decent palette of tools from the basic sharpening and color balancing to smudging and blurring and all kinds of selection tools.
The third option to fix photos is listed in the Edit submenu but might cost some cash to actually use. It’s a link to the ArcSoft PhotoStudio Darkroom that can be downloaded from the company’s website. It adds features like batch processing, vignette, and purple fringe correction, among others. A free trial can be downloaded, but it will eventually cost you.
There are also links throughout the menu to other programs. ArcSoft’s Scrapbook Creator and Panorama Maker software are linked through the Creativity icon. There are also options to add frames, edges, text, and clip art.
Overall, the GE G1’s software is very impressive. Most digital cameras include primitive browsing and organization software, but have only enough editing features to count on one hand. The included PhotoImpression software provides everything from smudging tools to text inclusion, and the detailed explanations provided make it easy to use.
Jacks, ports, plugs*(5.5)*
There is a single port on the bottom of the camera covered by a tiny rubber flap. Beside the flap is a very small divot meant for fingernails to pry it open. However, the divot is so small that it isn’t very functional. It takes a lot of finagling to actually pry the cover open. There is a single jack that connects to the included USB 2.0 and A/V-out cables. The USB mode can be set to PC, PC (PTP), and Printer via the Setup menu. There is also an option to choose the video function to output in NTSC or PAL standard.
Direct Print Options*(6.0)*
From the Playback menu, users can select images to attach to print orders. The DPOF option allows users to choose all images at once or scroll through them one by one and add them to the print order that way. Each image can be printed 0-9 times. The GE G1 sports a DPOF version 1.1 system and is ExifPrint and PictBridge compatible. Users have to access the USB mode from the Setup menu before connecting to printers to ensure it is properly recognized by the camera and the print order is transferred. This isn’t hard, but adds an extra step many cameras don’t have.
The GE G1 digital camera runs on an included GB-20 lithium-ion battery. The battery isn’t very powerful. It packs 3.7 volts and 750 mAh and gets only 200 shots per charge. Included with the box is a charger that consists of a platform and a cable that connects it to the wall. Good to know: the camera "forgets" your settings and returns to all of its defaults. For instance, I turned off the loud and annoying beeping noise in the menus and the flourish that sounds when the camera is turned on, but both of those features returned once I popped the battery back in after charging.
*The G1 has 26MB of internal memory, but that’s enough only for six pictures at full resolution. Beneath the camera is a plastic door that opens to reveal a card slot for SD and SDHC media. Up to 4GB cards are supported. In the setup menu, the G1 has an option that allows users to copy images from the internal memory to the card, but this cannot be reversed – you can’t copy images from the card to the internal memory. This is too bad. Many cameras have that option so that users’ favorite images can be stored on the camera at all times.
Panoramic Stitching – The Panorama mode is located directly on the mode dial. It allows users to snap three pictures either right to left or left to right, selectable by pushing the Func/OK button and the right and left portions of the multi-selector. The GE G1 aids in lining up the three pictures by showing a somewhat translucent sliver of the previous taken image on one side of the screen. Once the three pictures are taken, they are automatically stitched together in the camera. It does this quite well, and most images wouldn’t need any further post-production adjustment if lined up carefully, but in some of my pictures the white balance varied from image to image and looked odd when all stitched together. Most digital cameras that have a Panorama mode allow users to snap images and even aid in lining them up, but don’t actually do the stitching work themselves. Most cameras just include software for computers that can stitch them once the images are uploaded. Canon and Olympus digital cameras stitch only with software (and Olympus requires their specially branded xD-Picture card as well). Some Kodak EasyShare digital cameras have an in-camera stitching process similar to the GE G1’s. The G1’s total panoramic image size comes out to 3888 x 1046 pixels, so while it isn’t big enough to enlarge to a huge poster, it would make an interesting and oddly-shaped postcard.
The GE G1 sells for a budget-friendly $199, but it isn’t worth it. Pictures in bright light were often overexposed, and it was nearly impossible to see anything on the LCD screen because of the horrible glare. Images in low light were either speckled with noise or infused with unnatural lighting from the flash. The GE G1 is one of the lowest priced digital cameras in the trendy ultra-slim market, but there are cameras that take better pictures for less. They may not look as glamorous on the outside, but the pictures will turn out better and be worth the homeliness.
Canon PowerShot SD1000 – Selling for about the same price as the GE G1 is the SD1000 with 7.1 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom lens. The lens folds out externally and has a wider f/2.8 max aperture. This auto-oriented digital camera has 14 exposure modes, including a stitch assist mode that doesn’t actually stitch the images together in the camera, although it does allow more than three images to be lined up. The Canon SD1000 has an ISO range from 80-1600 and shutter speeds reaching from 15-1/1500th of a second. Like the G1, the longer shutter speeds are manually selectable: on this PowerShot they are adjustable from 1.3-15 seconds. Both cameras have face detection and red-eye correction technology, although Canon’s face detection works faster and more effectively than GE’s – not to mention it doesn’t have that flashing creepy smiley face. The Canon PowerShot SD1000 has an optical viewfinder along with the 2.5-inch LCD screen with its superior resolution of 230,000 pixels. It does have a less powerful flash and a faster 1.7 fps Burst mode. Its battery is equally unimpressive, as it only gets 210 shots per charge.
Casio Exilim EX-S770 – The Casio S770 has a stainless steel body that comes in similarly bold colors of silver, red, and blue. It is heavier at 4.5 ounces unloaded but still very compact, and aims for a slightly different audience: consumers who will use the Movie mode frequently. The 7.2-megapixel digital camera’s Movie mode records at great resolutions of 704 x 384, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 pixels, has a smooth 30 fps frame rate, and a designated movie button that starts shooting video no matter what still shooting mode is selected. There are plenty of those: 34 scene modes along with a Standard Automatic Exposure mode. There are also lots of picture effects and color filters in both the Recording and Playback modes. There is also movie editing in playback. The Casio Exilim S770 has different physical components, with the most notable being the 3x optical zoom lens that folds out externally. It has a wider f/2.7 max aperture when zoomed out but shrinks to a much smaller f/5.2 aperture when zoomed in. The S770’s flash fires to only 12.8 feet at best and is effective to only 6.6 feet when the lens is zoomed in. There is a wide 2.8-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels on the back. The camera has limited ISO sensitivity with a 50-400 range and is horrific in low light. It underexposes images and sometimes has trouble focusing. It is more expensive at $299, but its LCD screen resolution is much better and its videos are much higher quality.
HP Photosmart R827 – This manufacturer is also a jack of all trades. HP doesn’t make refrigerators, but they do make everything from printers and computers to televisions and paper. The R827 sells for the same $199 retail price and has 7.2 megapixels. It has an in-camera 3x optical zoom lens. The metal body is heavier and thicker at 0.93 inches but contains very interesting features. The HP Photosmart R827 has 14 exposure modes, including two Panorama modes and a host of picture effects. In the Playback mode, borders and other artistic effects can be added along with a red-eye fix that is similar to what the GE G1 has. The HP trumps the G1 in that the R827 has an option that provides photo advice. The Photosmart has a 2.5-inch LCD screen and 32MB of internal memory that can be expanded with SD media up to 2GB.
Kodak EasyShare V603 – This 6.1-megapixel digital camera fits into the same trendsetter group as the GE G1. The Kodak V603’s 3.6 x 2 x 0.9-inch body comes in red and black and sports an external 3x optical zoom lens on the front. On its back it has a 2.5-inch LCD screen with much better 230,000-pixel resolution. There are 23 shooting modes that are mainly automatic and a few basic color modes such as black & white and sepia. The shutter speeds range from only 8-1/1448th of a second and aren’t manually selectable. There is a truncated ISO range from 80-400 and a series of white balance settings that doesn’t include a manual adjustment. The 640 x 480-pixel Movie mode records 30 fps and allows full use of the optical zoom and digital image stabilization, unlike the GE G1. In the Playback mode, videos can be split and pictures’ exposure can be automatically fixed with the included Kodak Perfect Touch technology. The Burst mode shoots at a quick 3 fps but doesn’t last long. The battery wears out easily with its 150-shot per charge rating. The Kodak EasyShare V603 retails for a little more at $229, but can be found online for around $150.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 – The 8.1-megapixel T20 has a similar slim body with tiny controls. It has the same 2.5-inch LCD screen but with much better resolution at 230,000 pixels. The body comes in four colors: silver, black, white, and pink. It has the same trendy look as the slim G1 and even has an internal 3x optical zoom lens. The lens has similar maximum apertures of f/3.5-4.3, but its minimum aperture shrinks down to f/10. The T20’s lens is supported by an optical image stabilization system that works much better than the G1’s and is even functional in the Movie mode. The Sony T20’s shutter speeds aren’t very impressive: 1-1/1000th of a second with no manual control over longer exposures whatsoever. The Cyber-shot has Program, Auto, Movie, and nine scene modes and a Playback mode that can play slide shows with music. These slide shows can be played on the big screen if users also purchase an optional high definition cable to hook the camera to the television. The T20 has a nine-point auto focus system along with face detection technology that works quickly and more effectively than the GE G1’s. A 2.1 fps Burst mode, 80-3200 ISO range, and 380-shot lithium-ion battery are also nice features to have around on the Sony T20. This slim digital camera has a lot more features and its pictures look much better, but it costs about a hundred dollars more with a retail price of $299.
Who It’s For
Point-and-Shooters – This camera has automatic exposure modes, few controls, and a simple interface that appeals to point-and-shooters. The slim and convenient body makes the G1 a good camera for these consumers.
Budget Consumers – The poor quality of pictures doesn’t even justify this camera for budget consumers. There are better, similarly-priced options out there.
Gadget Freaks – There is face detection technology, but not much else for gadget freaks to salivate over. Perhaps the GE brand has some appeal to these consumers though: just the association between washing machines, toaster ovens, and digital cameras does it for gadgeteers.
Manual Control Freaks – This camera claims to have a Manual mode, but it is more of a Program mode with a few manual controls. The GE G1 won’t satisfy the manual control freak.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists – There isn’t a chance that pros will put down their Hasselblads for the GE G1.
It is surprising that GE chose to enter the digital camera industry after research firms have claimed that digital cameras have reached their peak household penetration and the industry bubble is about to burst. If a manufacturer enters this late in the game, I would expect them to offer more than the typical digital cameras.
I don’t know about GE’s other cameras, but the G1 is disappointing. It isn’t anything different than the standard digital camera. It has 7 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom lens, and a 2.5-inch LCD screen with sub-par resolution. That’s all been done.
The GE G1 does have face detection technology, but it is slow and requires you to look at one of the scariest graphics ever created – and you have to activate it before every picture you want to take using it. The camera has a decent burst speed, but the feature is buried (and the owner’s manual doesn’t give any hints on finding it), and the image’s compression is compromised so enlargements will look awful.
The G1 does have some interesting highlights: great software that provides a lot more editing than most included software, a $199 price tag, and a Panorama Stitching mode that stitches everything together in the camera. However, these don’t justify the overexposed or grainy pictures. In the end, the GE G1 just isn’t worth it.
*Click to view the high-resolution images. *
Specs / Ratings