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General Electric G1 review: General Electric G1

General Electric G1

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Lori Grunin
LoriGruninNewHeadshot.jpg

Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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3 min read

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Stop. Do not pass Go. Do not give General Electric $200 for the G1. With so many mediocre snapshot cameras on the market, ya gotta wonder why anyone would feel compelled to offer another--unless the people behind GE's new camera line are drinking some doctored Kool-Aid.

5.6

General Electric G1

The Good

Slim design; decent face-detection.

The Bad

Inconsistent photo quality; sluggish with poor battery life; coarse LCD which washes out in sunlight; infuriating battery compartment.

The Bottom Line

Buy something else. The General Electric G1 has plenty of better, similarly priced competitors.

With its shiny black or silver plastic exterior, the slim, 4.9-ounce G1 definitely looks the part of a chic ultracompact. The mode dial, four-way navigation plus function/OK button, Menu, Trash, and dedicated face-detection mode buttons share the same look and feel as tens of other models; like the Cyber-shot DSC-W35 and its kinsman you grip with your right thumb resting on the dial. The lens and AF-assist light are so close to the right side, however, that you must be careful to keep the fingers of your left hand out of their way. The camera also has an odd-feeling, knurled zoom switch.

Parts of the operating interface can make you nuts, though. There's a Continuous Autofocus option which only seems to be available in movie mode, despite the assurances of the User Manual. And the battery requires a frustrating combination of finesse and brute force to remove.


The G1 supports face-detection autofocus--and does a surprisingly creditable job--but the creepy icon is so big and obtrusive that in many circumstances it obscures faces it doesn't detect.

The G1 provides the typical set of features for a budget point-and-shoot. It uses folded optics for a nonprotruding f/3.5-4.3 38mm-114mm 3x zoom lens. Shooting options include exposure compensation, a handful of scene modes, panorama guides, three metering options, and support for sensitivities up to ISO 1600. There are 5-shot and Last 5-shot continuous shooting modes, but they don't operate at 7-megapixel/best quality mode. The face detection quickly and accurately locates and tracks faces that are facing forward and relatively large in the frame.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the important stuff, performance and photo quality, the G1 doesn't fare very well. Its shooting speed matches that of comparable cameras--from 3 years ago. It takes 3.2 seconds from power on to first shot, likely the necessity of sliding its whopping 13 lens elements into place (the highest we've heard of for this focal range has been the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 with 11 elements). Its shutter lag--0.7 second under best conditions and 1.7 seconds in low-contrast lighting--are slightly below average at best. However, the camera's 3.4-second interval between shots, which rises to 4 seconds with flash, is unacceptably long. In practice, I was unable to shoot kids, dogs or people on the move, staples of snapshot photography. CNET Labs' test methodology requires timing continuous-shooting at best quality, which the G1 doesn't support, so we have no burst comparison numbers. Given its five-shot limitation, it won't be very useful anyway. Furthermore, the G1 has a coarse, narrow-viewing-angle LCD that washes out in sunlight. Though not uncommon for its price range, you can still do better.

Sample photos from the General Electric G1

The G1 can, on occasion, deliver decent quality shots. As long as there's nothing too dark or too bright in the scene, exposures look fine. And the automatic white balance works pretty well. However, the camera more often produces photos with soft edges and smeared details; at settings of ISO 400 and above they're just a big mess for anything but e-mail. Its MPEG-4 movie capture is similarly inconsistent. Despite setting the camera to capture at 640x480 30fps (frames per second), and despite the relatively high recorded data rate (994K/sec versus the more typical 696K/sec), one of my clips recorded at 16.8fps with dead stops at regular intervals throughout the video stream.

Most inexpensive digital cameras fill their basic function: they point, they shoot, they produce photos. From that standpoint, the General Electric G1 succeeds. But any product on our list of top budget cameras--and even some that didn't make the cut--succeeds far better.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Casio Exilim EX-S770
1.3 
1.2 
1 
0.4 
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd
2.5 
1.1 
0.9 
0.5 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55
1.4 
1.3 
1.5 
0.5 
Olympus FE-190
1.7 
2 
1.7 
0.7 
General Electric G1
3.4 
3.2 
1.7 
0.7 

5.6

General Electric G1

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 5Image quality 5