The GE G100 ($179.99 direct) promises to deliver a lot of features at a modest price, including a 15x zoom lens, a 14-megapixel CMOS sensor, 1080p video, and fast burst shooting. Unfortunately, what you actually get is a camera that captures blurry images, is plagued with a sluggish start-up time, and records video that wobbles like a rubber pencil. It’s part of GE’s top-end Power Pro series, but the model doesn’t live up to its designation. If you’re looking for a solid low-price point-and-shoot camera, and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Olympus SP-620UZ is a good choice for a long-zoom model, while the Canon A2400 IS will work well if you’re looking for something to easily slide into your pocket.
Design and Features
The G100′s exterior is impressive—its body is metal and the camera can be had in black, red and black, or silver and black color schemes. It’s a bit chunky compared with most point-and-shoots, but is in line with superzoom designs. It measures about 2.7 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.7 ounces, not that far off from the 2.4-by-4.2-by-1.3-inch, 8.2-ounce Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, an excellent camera with a 20x zoom lens, that’s now selling for far less than its original $350 asking price.
The 15x zoom lens should set the G100 apart from others in this price range thanks to its 28-420mm f/3.9-5.6 zoom range, but the quality of images it captures are anything but impressive. GE’s own X600 uses the same 14-megapixel image sensor, but images captured by its 26x (26-676mm f/3.2-5.6) zoom are much sharper.
The rear LCD is 3 inches in size and packs an impressive 460k-dot resolution. It’s bright and sharp when navigating through menus, but because of the camera’s subpar lens, the live view feed appears to be soft and washed out. You’ll be hard pressed to find a sharper resolution in this class, however, most inexpensive cameras have rear displays that top out at 230k dots.
Some thought has been put into the camera’s control layout. On the top you’ll find a Mode Dial as well as buttons to control the Drive Mode and Exposure Compensation. On the rear is a control dial that integrates with buttons to adjust the Flash output, Macro focusing mode, Autofocus mode, and Self Timer. There’s also a Menu button and a dedicated button to start video recording. Unfortunately, using the camera in a manual mode is a frustrating experience. Settings will change in between shots, seemingly at random—sometimes the G100 will remember what focus area you have selected, but at other times it will revert back to a center focus point. The Self Timer setting always resets between photos, and the ISO always reverts to Auto when you power the camera off—even if you’ve set it manually. These won’t be a concern if you stick to the Automatic mode or any of the preset Scene settings—it’s just a shame that a point-and-shoot with such a well laid out control scheme doesn’t liken itself to shooters who would like to exert such control.
The Menu system is quick to operate, but doesn’t put everything in one place. Hitting Menu on the back of the camera gives you quick access to the Metering mode, image resolution, optical stabilization setting, a toggle for Continuous AF, and an in-camera HDR mode. The HDR mode takes three exposures in succession and blends them for one shot that preserves both highlight and shadow detail—it actually works well, but it takes about 7 seconds for the image processing to finish. For some reason, ISO can only be changed by hitting the EV Compensation button on the top of the camera—it’s not in the standard menu as it is on most point-and-shoots. It can only be adjusted if you’re in Program or Manual mode.
Performance and Conclusions
The G100 is a head-scratcher when it comes to performance. It requires a full 5.9 seconds to start up and take a shot, but can rattle off a burst of 9 shots at 11.4 frames per second before slowing, and its shutter lag is just over 0.1-second. The Canon SX260 HS is a more balanced performer—it starst and shoots in 1.8 seconds, notches a 0.2-second shutter lag, and can fire photos at 2 frames per second for as long as you feel like holding down the shutter button.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the G100′s zoom lens. The camera had issues with focusing on our test chart and delivered inconsistent results. At its best it recorded 1,460 lines per picture height, but other test shots—shot on a tripod from the same position—dipped as low as 1,000 lines. We use 1,800 lines as the cutoff for a sharp photo—even at its best, the G100 is well below that. The lens showed some severe decentering at its widest angle—the right side of the image was much sharper than the center, and the left side was fuzzy and displayed a lot of color fringing. Zooming in to a 2x (56mm equivalent) setting evened the performance out across the frame, but the camera could only manage 1,264 lines there. Distortion is an issue at the widest setting—most point-and-shoots correct for this via image processing, but the G100 shows 3.3 percent barrel distortion when used at 28mm. This will make straight lines appear to curve outward.
Imatest also measures noise, which can rob a photo of detail and make it appear grainy when the sensitivity to light is increased. The G100 is tuned to keep noise at 1.5 percent or below through its top ISO 3200 setting, but it does so via some very heavy handed noise reduction—which erases what detail its soft lens is capable of capturing. This is evident as noise dips from 1.5 percent at ISO 400 to 1.2 percent at ISO 800. Normally our recommendation would be to keep the ISO set to 400 or below, but as the G100 resets the ISO setting to Automatic when the camera is powered off, you’ll have to take special care in monitoring this setting. Other cameras in this price range handle noise in the same manner—the budget compact Canon A2400 IS should also be used at ISO 400 or below for best results.
Video is recorded at 1080p30 or 720p60 quality in QuickTime format. The camera can zoom while recording, and the sound of the lens moving in and out is not audible on the soundtrack. The video quality is limited by the G100′s lens, and also exhibits some severe rolling shutter effect. This causes lines to skew like the rubber pencil optical illusion when panning—it’s really noticeable at 30fps, but is reduced by shooting in 720p60 mode. The G100 includes a micro HDMI port for HDTV connectivity and a micro USB port to connect to a computer or to charge the battery using the included USB AC adapter (there’s no dedicated battery charger included). Standard SD, SHDC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.
On paper the G100 impresses—a compact shooter with a CMOS sensor, 15x zoom lens, in-camera HDR, and an excellent control layout, all for $180. In reality it’s anything but impressive. Even though it can shoot quick bursts of shots and records a short shutter lag, the camera takes forever to turn on, doesn’t remember your shooting settings, and its image quality is downright poor. Instead, you can get a budget superzoom like the Olympus SP-620UZ for around $200, and if your timing is right you may even be able to snag the very capable Canon PowerShot SX260 HS for around the same price. Either one is far superior to the G100.
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|Dimensions||2.7 x 4.2 x 1.3 inches|
|Interface Ports||micro USB, micro HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.09 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||15 x|
|Boot time||5.9 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||28 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||1460|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||420 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.1 seconds|
|Sensor Size||6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc