Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Perfect 10?

Canon will almost certainly announce a new Powershot G camera in the next month or two. Since the G9 is not a perfect camera, wishes and speculations about its successor have been raging almost since the G9 was released. Especially recently, on DPreview , it’s a slow day if a new “When is the G10 coming out?” thread is not started. Those threads quickly become a variation of wishes and specifications followed by technical debates. The wish list typically includes wider angle, longer telephoto, add an articulated LCD – no, make the camera smaller, faster lens, etc., etc. The wishing and debating always includes a discussion of noise at high ISO. It’s enough to make you feel sorry for the Canon marketing department; no wonder Canon makes so many near-similar digicams!

There is even a website specializing in rumors about Canon that includes a set of “specifications” for the next Powershot G.

Against my better judgment, I can't resist making my own prediction about the upcoming addition to the Powershot G series. Fair Warning: As Yogi said, “I’m not so good at predicting – especially the future” and I have absolutely no proprietary information from Canon or anyone else. My prediction will almost certainly be incomplete and perhaps even entirely wrong. I just feel like making a prediction, seeing where it falls and later discussing how and why it was wrong.

Although some call the next Powershot G the “G11”, I’ll refer to the next Powershot G as the “G10” and even predict that G10 is the name. The “G4” and “G8” product names were skipped because, supposedly, those would have been unlucky names in some parts of the world.

I predict that the G10 will essentially be a G9 with few more megapixels, specifically 14MP. Apparently, Canon uses Sony CCD sensors in the Powershot series and this is the sensor that is available. Will this 14MP sensor have more noise than the current 12MP sensor? At this point, only the Canon and Sony engineers know for certain but, based on simplistic physics, more noise seems likely. On the other hand, one can always hope that design and manufacturing improvements will actually reduce noise.

What about the CMOS sensors that Canon was to produce for their digicams? I can’t find any new information about this manufacturing plant and it seems unlikely that Canon would not publicize it. Therefore, I assume that these sensors are not ready for the 2008/9 Powershot series of cameras.

In fact, I suspect that the G10 is the last of the G series of Powershot cameras. For that reason, I don’t expect any hardware changes: no new lens, little change in body style, etc. I do expect some software tweaks, including HD video. The G10 will be the camera for those photographers who wanted a G9 but didn’t get it and would still like one. Nothing wrong that that – the G10 will probably be a nice camera.

I’d sure love to be wrong about the G10, especially the CMOS sensor. But I do expect Canon to drop the “G” series after the G10. Although I expect a completely new product name, for now, I’ll call the G10 replacement the “G11”.

The G11 will use a CMOS sensor that might be a little larger than the current CCD sensor. The G11 will be Canon’s opportunity to reduce pixel density (they can brag about the ‘new’ CMOS technology in the marketing campaign) and really improve the noise at high ISO. Perhaps we’ll see 8 or 10MP in the G11 but you can bet that the pixel count will jump again with the “G12”!

So that’s my prediction: The G10 will be more similar than different from the G9. There will be little reason for G9’ers to upgrade to the G10. Sure hope I’m wrong.

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