I got a Canon G10 over Christmas and it is definitely a great little camera. I was worried that the high megapixel count and small sensor would drop my approval rating compared to the DSLR I've been using up until now. After getting a first batch accepted, with no rejections for camera issues, I'm very satisfied with this camera, both for personal photos and for stock.
1. Image quality. There is a lot of buzz out there about this camera - it doesn't have the best lens, higher ISO isn't as good, and the per pixel size is miniscule even for a compact camera. But if you shoot in good light at ISO 80 you will be amazed by this camera!
2. Support for Canon flashes. The great thing about the higher end compacts is the support for off camera flash, or...
I should update this to say that while you CAN produce shots with the G10 that are acceptable for stock, I'm finding that it takes a lot of work to get it right. The G10 seem to crave detail - if there are any flat areas like sky it seems to block up a bit and need noise reduction or downsampling, even at low ISO. I still very happy with it as a 2nd camera, but I'm heavily favoring my DSLR for stock... That said, I've got some shots for stock that have sold that I wouldn't have made with a compact camera like this one - but nothing close to paying for the G10 :)
One of the things that comes with most high end DSLRs these days, but may be missing on the mid level ones is 14-bit capture. Some of the Nikons allow switching between 12-bit and 14-bit (sorry Sony, Olympus, and Pentax owners - I don't know enough about them). I've seen a lot of comments in reviews that it theoretically allows finer gradation in the shadows, etc. but had failed to produce an example of the difference it actually makes. Most people who have compared say they can't see a difference.
A comparison between the two on Earthbound Light does find a difference, but it also seems to explain why it won't make much difference for the majority of photos. My...
A very interesting and exhaustive article on the subject of noise can be found here: http://theory.uchicago.edu/~ejm/pix/20d/tests/noise/index.html I read most of it. I am an engineer and I am supposed to be passionate about it. It is a good read for the technical minded. Eventually the author reaches the same conclusion as you did. There is no difference for all practical purposes. See: Noise, Dynamic Range, and Bit Depth:
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