Armed with a 7X Canon professional-series zoom lens and an 8-megapixel CCD, the Canon PowerShot Pro1 takes pictures sure to please even the pickiest shooters. But its great images only partly offset the disadvantages imposed by some poorly implemented features and mixed performance.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.Like many enthusiast digicams, the Canon PowerShot Pro1 resembles an SLR, but its styling looks a bit cleaner and more attractive than that of most of its competitors. The black metal/plastic hybrid body feels very solid, is about the size of a compact film SLR, and weighs a relatively modest 1 pound, 7 ounces with battery and media installed.
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|Some photographers may prefer the button-dial combination that adjusts frequently used settings, such as exposure compensation and white balance, on other models to the Pro1's thumb-scrolling-through-menus design.|
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Canon conveniently places two custom-setting recall options on the Pro1's mode dial. And since the dial sits at an angle, it's very comfortable to operate with your thumb.
Although we find the Canon PowerShot Pro1's overall operation fairly efficient, its thumb-scrolling-through-menus procedures for settings such as white balance, exposure compensation, and ISO are a shade less handy than some competitors' two-handed button-plus-dial operation. Furthermore, the Flash and Macro buttons, which sit on the top left-hand side, seem more comfortable when used with a traditional point-and-shoot grip (index and middle fingers resting on top) rather than an SLR grip (camera braced on palm). And on occasion, we accidentally hit the somewhat exposed Off button. Advanced and enthusiast photographers will generally be pleased with the PowerShot Pro1's extensive feature set, though we're annoyed at some of Canon's implementations.
The 7X zoom lens gets Canon's L designation, reserved for the company's top-tier optics. Its versatile focal length range is 28mm to 200mm (the 35mm equivalent), and its variable maximum aperture is a decently wide f/2.4 to f/3.5.
The Canon PowerShot Pro1 has all the basics. Three scene modes--Portrait, Landscape, and Night Portrait--augment the four typical exposure modes: programmed auto, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and manual. You can choose among evaluative, center-weighted, and spot metering, as well as compensate automatic exposures by plus or minus 2EV in one-third-step increments. White-balance choices include auto, six presets, and two custom settings. The sensitivity ranges from ISO 50 to ISO 400.
Less common options include flash exposure compensation, an intervalometer, a 1.2-inch Super Macro focusing mode, and a built-in neutral-density filter. You can manually select a focus-point position from within a range in the center of the frame.
The Pro1 will capture JPEG-format images at three compression levels and five different resolutions. Contrast, in-camera sharpening, and color-saturation levels are all adjustable, and you can save images in either of two color spaces: Adobe RGB or the omnipresent sRGB. The camera also incorporates an orientation sensor, which tags vertical compositions for automatic rotation in software.
You can also capture RAW-format images, then use Canon's included ZoomBrowser EX software to convert them to RGB-TIFF. The program is more sophisticated than most entry-level RAW converters, offering better white-balance adjustments, as well as tone curves, noise filters, and other settings. In movie mode, the Pro1 can record 15-frame-per-second MJPEG video with sound at 640x480 pixels in clips of up to 30 seconds long.
A hotshoe supports external flashes, and the camera can perform auto flash exposure with compatible Canon Speedlites. A 1.5X telephoto conversion lens and a supplemental close-up lens are available for the Pro1. Mounting either lens requires a large and cumbersome-looking conversion lens adapter.
However, you'll venture beyond cumbersome and into the downright maddening when using some of the Pro1's features. The camera lacks a live exposure histogram in capture mode--a lamentable oversight--and the metering display in manual exposure mode appears only when you half-depress the shutter. Also, it isn't continuously updated, so every time you change a shutter speed or an f-stop, you must redepress the shutter release to get a new reading. This is shameful, especially from a company that's been making cameras since the 1930s.
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The Pro1's 1,390mAh battery lasted for more than 500 shots (50 percent with flash) during our battery testing.
The lackluster AF speed is the main culprit in subpar shutter delays of about 1.1 seconds in good light and just less than 2 seconds in low light. Start-up time is barely adequate at 4.2 seconds, but shot-to-shot time for JPEGs is a relatively sprightly 1.3 seconds. Better yet, the Pro1 has a buffer for RAW images, meaning its RAW shot-to-shot time is also 1.3 seconds (for up to four shots). Many of this Canon's competitors badly undermine the usefulness of RAW capture with interminable shot-to-shot times. In its fastest continuous-shooting mode, the PowerShot Pro1 can take a burst of four shots at about 2.5 pictures per second.
We found the Pro1's 2-inch LCD to be somewhat below average. It's sharp but not that easy to see in bright outdoor light. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is typical of recent megazoom digicams--better than the horrible ones we used to see but still not very sharp or colorful. Both the LCD and the EVF show 100 percent of the actual image.
The Pro1's unusually powerful flash has a maximum range of 16 feet (at ISO 100), and flash exposure compensation is available to plus or minus 2EV in one-third-step increments. By many criteria, the Canon PowerShot Pro1 produces the best images in its class. It aces most exposure and dynamic-range challenges, with colors that are accurate and just saturated enough to please users who want to send photos straight to a printer. We were also impressed with the camera's neutral skin tones.
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|Like its 8-megapixel competitors, the Pro1's images support very close crops.|
White balance is typical Canon: Under our indoor test lighting, photos look very yellow with auto, modestly cool using the Tungsten preset, and almost dead-on neutral when set manually. At ISO 50, our test photos have very little electronic noise. Noise creeps in and becomes visible, especially in shadows, at ISO 100. By ISO 400, noise is a bit worse than average--enough to spot an exposure shift from the ISO 50 shot--but photos are still usable.
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The Pro1's lens displays excellent edge-to-edge sharpness across the frame but tends to show more lateral chromatic aberration--magenta and cyan fringing--near the sides instead.
The Canon PowerShot Pro1's L-series lens is impressively well corrected, producing only very modest barrel distortion at its wide-angle end and virtually no pincushion distortion at telephoto. We saw a touch more classic green/magenta chromatic aberration than usual, and photos displayed worse than average purple fringing along high-contrast edges and in some backlit test shots.