This 20-Year-Old Camera Will Surprise You

Cameras are constantly improving. Keeping up with the latest model and its arguably better performance can instill a need for a perpetual upgrade and a bad case of G.A.S. Well, I'm here to turn back the clocks and look at a 20-year-old compact digital camera that is a lot more capable than we might give it credit for. Read on to remember, reflect, and be surprised by this forgotten gem. 

The G2 and its CCD sensor showing off the amazing colors it produces.

Not quite digital, not quite film 

Being the dedicated film shooter that I am, it can be frowned upon to dabble in the dark side known as digital. Ergonomically and practically, the Canon Powershot G2, originally released in 2001, feels a lot more like using a film camera than it does a digital one. The chunky design, the slow response of the shutter and zoom, and basically all the other functions make you pause and slow down. These are two of the consistently cited reasons why film shooters tell you they choose this format over digital. So, as you can see, there are some similarities here.  

This puts the G2 in a category of its own. The resurgence of vintage digital cameras has blurred the lines between analog and digital and made it possible to yield results that not only look filmic but can also provide a film shooting sort of experience. Pair this with the high prices of film, a global recession, and an ever-increasing societal obsession with nostalgia, and you’ve got a pretty solid reason to get involved in the vintage digicam trend.  

Throughout the month of September, I chose to give my bank account a break and leave my film in the fridge, turning to a small collection of early model digital cameras that I own. This was an interesting exercise in which I learned a lot about myself as a photographer and uncovered the reasons why I gravitated towards film in the first place. More on that in another article, though. Let’s get into the specs of this chunky Canon G2 and have a look at the photos.  

4 Megapixels in 2022? 

Okay, so you are likely screwing your face up or already heading to the comments section to blast me for even broaching the subject of using a measly four-megapixel camera over all the latest and greatest offerings from every camera company right now. I admit this isn’t going to tickle everyone's fancy, but how can you deny at least the novelty aspect of using something that is so big, and chunky, and well, old? My initial feeling when unboxing the G2 was that it would be a kitsch experience and a bit of fun. However, seeing the photos really made me take this camera more seriously, and I used it quite consistently throughout September.  

Released in 2001 and marketed as a prosumer compact camera, the G2 featured a 4-megapixel CCD sensor and a surprisingly fast zoom lens, ranging from f/2 - f/2.5, which even today would be decent on a compact camera. A fellow photographer told me they remember paying nearly $1,000 for this camera when it was first released, which is pretty crazy to think when you look at it now in 2022. The fact that it holds up today justifies that price point back then, and following some buzz online in certain communities, this camera is now increasing in value on eBay. "How the world turns," is maybe what some of the mature readers are saying to themselves.

The pink and green in this shot blew me away! 

I was so pleased with the way the G2 rendered colors and think they are comparable to film results. 

Megapixels are not the only thing that contribute to image quality. The lens is obviously a huge factor, as well as the image recording medium, which in this camera's case is a CCD sensor, something that is becoming quite sought after in the film community, as it is said to produce more film-like colors than modern CMOS technology. In these examples here, you can see the way it’s rendered the pink and green as well as the orange of the chair, which, to me, an avid film shooter, looks pretty similar to the look and feel I’m accustomed to in comparison. The images I’ve been seeing produced by vintage digital cameras with CCD sensors appeals to me more than the objectively better, but arguably more clinical and less interesting modern digital cameras being produced today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of modern Fujifilm cameras such as the X100V, but the amount of post-processing that happens in camera to make their images look like film, to me, has less charm and novelty than the native, straight-out-of-camera looks you can get from a camera like this.  

If you are printing your work, then you will likely want more than four megapixels, and depending on your genre of photography, this may also not be enough. However, with so many of us sharing our work predominantly online, these shots will more than suffice for a platform like Instagram or even a website.  

Another point to consider is when these early digital cameras first hit the market, we were viewing them on much lower resolution and smaller screens than we are accustomed to today. I find it interesting that as we revisit this technology, we are evaluating them with an entirely different level of viewing technology than what was available. To me, it’s similar to the difference between using a high-resolution film scanner to review a decadesold negative, versus looking at an original print made optically from the same negative around them time it was taken.  

This shot of my son and I was taken with the built-in flash in the late afternoon, and I love the look it's given. Image courtesy of Lux Lumen. 

Pros and Cons  

Anything old is going to have its limitations when comparing it to gear being released today. Whether you embrace those limitations and use them to your advantage or not is up to you. It’s worth mentioning that the ISO is pretty limited on this camera. While you can go up to 400, it performs best at ISO 50-100. Having that limitation really is similar to the film experience in many ways, so for me, it was actually a pro. I aim to shoot a lot in bright, sunny conditions or use harsh on camera flash as an effect to make subjects pop. But for you, that might not be appropriate for your style or shooting conditions. As photographers, restraints are often used and viewed as creative tools to challenge ourselves. We so often hear quotes from great photographers or even in the comments section here in the Fstoppers community about the gear and camera not making you a great photographer. Picking something like the G2 up and seeing what you create with it, regardless of your opinion on vintage digital, trends, or snobbery around gear, could really be eye-opening as an artist.  

A huge pro for me and perhaps for you too, were the amazing JPEGs coming straight out of camera. The G2 does shoot in raw, but honestly, the shots SOOC looked so great I won’t bother in the future with anything else. Similar to some of the Fujifilm cameras of recent years, the G2 has an LCD screen that can be turned around and tucked away from sight, allowing you to use the optical viewfinder and really get in the zone without “chimping” every two seconds. For me, this is very much a pro. Without a decent viewfinder, I am truly lost, and although this one wasn't totally accurate every time, it was close enough. There is also an LCD screen on the top of the camera that will display all your essential settings, eliminating the need for you to go back into the menu on the rear of the camera as often.  

It goes without saying that this camera is pretty slow. It takes a second to turn on and makes a delightfully nostalgic Windows 2000 type jingle that will make anyone smile. If it doesn’t, you are truly a monster. The zoom response is also pretty slow, as are any of the functions you choose to change. This could either sound like a living nightmare for you as a photographer, or an endearing and nostalgic quirk that slows you down and reminds you how far technology has come. Clearly, I am in the latter category.  

The Canon G2 is quickly becoming a regular carry-around camera for me, helping to save money on film costs.  

Final Thoughts  

So there you go, a 20-year-old digital camera that you most likely forgot about. Even if you have no interest in hunting one down on Facebook marketplace or in a thrift store, I hope part of you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I find trends to be fascinating in any genre. Often, I feel they are huge indicators of the state of society on a global level, especially when looking at youth culture.  

The digicam trend is on the rise, and while there are so many out there that maybe aren’t even worth picking up and putting batteries in for the Fstoppers readers, I would urge you to consider trying the G2 or a similar model from this era, as it’s capable of so much more than you might give it on face value.   

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11 Comments
Stvart Klœ's picture

You’d probably like Gordon Laing’s Dino Bytes channel, he’s been reviewing various old point and shoots like this.

Lucy Lumen's picture

Ohhh sounds like a great channel I will have to check it out.

Stvart Klœ's picture

It’s a fun walk back in time! And you can tell Gordon really enjoys doing it. His day job is testing the more modern stuff over on Camera Labs, which I’m sure you might find less interesting, but Lux would probably be into it if he doesn’t already watch it lol

Paul C's picture

Thanks Lucy - I agree, "The digicam trend is on the rise" - often because that is all those new into photography can afford.

To me, the real challenge with using older small sensor cameras is compositional; with such deep depth of field we have to find other ways to gain "separation" in our pictures. This acts as an antidote to the trend (often a lazy trend) to isolate the subject at F1.4 or less and put the rest of the image into "bokeh".

The pictures you posted show the success of finding Contrasting Colours & Contrasting Brightness for separation. Now try two more techniques - Edge Lighting & Motion Blur !

I think it is this presure to find better solutions to composition than just bokeh, rather than slow shooting with small sensor digicams, that makes them such a great exercise for established photographers.

Lucy Lumen's picture

Wow great suggestions and points here Paul. I agree, I think whilst bokeh is sometimes necessary or part of ones style it can be, like you say a lazy option to create a "good" image. I personally love quite a flat image and often shoot at f16 with everything in focus. I think there may be a good article in the points you have brought up here Paul! Thanks for reading, have a great day :)

Lucy Lumen's picture

Wow that is so cool it would stitch them together to make a oano shot! Thanks for sharing your image and for reading :)

Tom Reichner's picture

.

If I remember correctly, dedicated underwater housings were made for Canon's G series that were extremely affordable, like just a couplefew hundred bucks. Compare that to $3000 to $4000 for a DSLR housing and I can see how the G series would fill a niche.

Also, were't the G series cameras able to record RAW files?

Lastly, I am not familiar with the term "digicam". Could someone please tell me exactly which types of cameras this term includes? Thank you.

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Lucy Lumen's picture

Hey Tom, thanks for reading. I didn't know that about the underwater housings!

Yes the G2 does shoot in RAW but the JPEGS looked so good I didn't bother really. As far as a definition of digicams, I think any compact digital camera from the early 2000's up to maybe 2012 would count. I am not the authority on this though and many people would say it's only cameras with CCD sensors or other specific features.

If you are interested I would suggest typing in digicam in the YouTube search bar and you will get an array of videos explaining the trend and also another trend closely linked to it called "indiesleaze". There was an article about a year ago that reported digicams to be very popular in Japan amongst young people who can't afford film. I find it really interesting! Have great day :)

Tom Reichner's picture

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Lucy,

Thanks so much for the complete and detailed reply!

The term, "indiesleaze" is hilarious!

I had a Sony H5 that I bought new, and I used it a lot in 2005 and 2006, when I first got interested in digital photography. That H5 was what some people call a "bridge camera", and would probably qualify as a "digicam". It produced some nice pics but definitely had serious limitations.

I really enjoyed that camera because it had a HUGE zoom range and was super easy to use.
But I could not get the images I took with it to pass the nit-picky review processes at stock agencies, or accepted via submissions I made directly to publishers. So, regrettably, I had to move on to interchangeable lens cameras.

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Peter Byford's picture

Bought the g2 in 2002 bundled with the 1gb IBM Microdrive for £800, the latter costing £295 to buy as a single item....phew !!!!!! It was the European Digital Camera of 2002. I'm a Canon fan ( AE1, A1, T90 ) but even so the G2 outlay was a considered buy lol ! As alluded to in your article, 4gb resolution is laughable today, but at the time, the g2 took excellent images IMHO. The lens was designed specifically for digital and many pro photographers wished it was carried through to later Powershot G cameras. I progressed to the G5. G6, G7, G9, G15, so maybe a bit biased towards Canon ! I still have that camera in my collection. The images posted here were taken in March 2003 from a holiday in Belgium. I still have a Fuji Finepix F10 compact with the Super CCD HR which also takes good images and a delight to use, as is the G2,