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Huh? Canon's $500 G10 matches a $40,000 Hasselblad?

Side-by-side comparisons of 13x19-inch prints showed Canon's enthusiast compact model matching a professional medium-format camera. Wow.

Canon's PowerShog G10 camera
Canon's PowerShog G10 camera CNET Networks

Updated 4:22 p.m. Oct. 25 with a link to Reichmann's comparison..

Sure, Canon's $500 14.7-megapixel PowerShot G10 is better than your average compact camera, but is it as good as a $40,000 Hasselblad H2 with a 39-megapixel Phase One P45+ sensor?

Well, yes, with some caveats, concluded high-end photography buff Michael Reichmann, who tested how well people coming to his studio could distinguish between 13x19-inch prints of the same scenes taken with the two cameras. Though it was only one test, and Reichmann qualified it plenty, the result is startling.

"In every case no one could reliably tell the difference between 13x19-inch prints shot with the $40,000 Hasselblad and Phase One 39-megapixel back and the new $500 Canon G10," Reichmann said in a blog post about the G10 vs. Hasselblad/Phase One comparison. "In the end no one got more than 60 percent right, and overall the split was about 50-50, with no clear differentiator. In other words, no better than chance."

The difference between the cameras was apparent, however, when zoomed in to show each pixel. "Though on prints up to 13x19-inch differences are almost impossible to see, on-screen at 100 percent one can fairly easily tell which files are from the G10. There are artifacts visible at the micro detail level and one can easily see other hints of what one is paying for," he said.

And the test was only of some fairly busy nature shots. "Landscape and nature shots are one thing--models in a studio with fabrics, delicate skin tones, and other challenging subjects are likely to be quite another, Reichmann said.

There were seven testers, including "experienced photographers, people from the commercial print industry, and other trade professionals, Reichmann said. "Between them there was at least 200 years of photographic industry shooting and printing experience."