Canon Powershot G9


Camera Type: Compact Digital
Manufacturer: CANON
Manufacturer's Suggested Price: $502

Effective Pixels 12.1
Digital Media Type SD
ISO Min 80
ISO Max 1600
Min Shutter Speed 15
Max Shutter Speed 1/2500
Min Aperture 2.8
Max Aperture 4.8
Optical Zoom 6.0
Zoom Range In 35mm Min 35
Zoom Range In 35mm Max 210
Digital Zoom 4
Continuous Shooting 1.5
LCD Size In Inches 3
Weight In Ounces 13.1
Width 4.2
Height 2.8
Depth 1.7
Aperture Priority Mode Y
Shutter Priority Mode Y
Auto Focus Y
Manual Focus Y
Image Stabilization Y
Macro Mode N
Built In Flash Y
Flash Hotshoe Y
Viewfinder Y
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I shoot the G9 in raw mode all the time and Photoshop the results, often finding I don't need to do much. You can adjust the aperature until the histogram looks good and then fire. The better endorsement than mine is the point-and-shoot retireee I met in Circuit City who was just thrilled to death by the G9. He was not an SLR guy. That means somehow some highly sophisticated features and quality are easy for the average consumer to achieve. Our pro photographer on staff thinks the G-9 can do most of what our magazine needs most of the time, although he uses a $7,000 Canon.
Pros: Super quaity and rugged, unlike some of the less-rugged predecessors like the S2 IS and S3. It has IS!
Cons: Wish the zoom had the same magnification factor as far as the S3/S5, and that it would go wider. I am also discovering that high quality means huge files when making a movie in the highest quality mode. You won't be e-mailing those until you have done some file reduction, usually after you return from a trip--not during.
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Dec 2, 2007
David Schloss, Technology EditorI have often said that the Canon G7 —the company’s compact yet powerful digital camera, which features such pro-friendly amenities as manual priority mode and CompactFlash storage—is almost the perfect pocket camera for pros.

Every shooter I know wants a small digital camera that can perform as well as their pro bodies can, offering great image quality and a set of features that can enable the capture of quality photos, rather than the snapshot-focused images churned out by many compact digital cameras.

In the days of film there were a few options, notably some bodies from companies like Ricoh and even the expensive and poorly-received Nikon 35Ti. Since the type of film used in the camera determined image quality, the insides didn’t matter as much. Now, with digital, the small sensors in most compact cameras are often noisy and produce poor images. Every system I’d tested before the G7 hit the stands failed when it came to regularly creating images that looked good due to the lack of any real camera controls.

However, the G7 was designed with the pro in mind. It features a full complement of dial-based controls, and included the ability to operate in fully-manual, aperture priority or shutter priority modes. It gave the photographer creative control, and for that reason, it was one of the most highly anticipated cameras when it was announced in August of 2007.

Despite the excitement surrounding its release, when the G7 actually shipped, photographers were disappointed to learn that Canon decided not to include the RAW shooting mode of its predecessor (the G6), which is a feature often sought-after by pro shooters. Many photographers who had been ready to fork out the nearly $800 price tag suddenly decided to wait out a version.

That new version arrived in the form of the Canon G9 last month, an updated (but largely identical) camera to the G7. (For this reason, it seems a bit odd that Canon decided to skip the G8 name, but then again this is a company that thinks that the EOS-1D Mark IIn is a good name for a top-of-the-line news and sports camera, as un-trippingly as that rolls off the tongue).

The G9 features a nearly identical physical chassis, and finally brings photographers a RAW shooting mode. The camera also includes a large, highly-visible, rear LCD screen that does double duty as both a review/composition tool and as the main display for camera settings. Fortunately, the complement of manual-style dials makes is easier to dial in settings on the G9 than it does on nearly any other camera in the market. (Those who moved from the dial-based Nikon F4 to the push-button heavy F5 will remember the joy that was found in dialing in the perfect exposure.)

The button layout is a bit crowded as the G9 aims to pack full professional controls onto a body not much wider than a pack of cigarettes and about twice as thick. The camera is massively solid and feels both reassuringly good and a trifle overbearing in your hands.

That’s not to say that it’s an uncomfortable camera to use, though my personal preference would be for slightly more grip on the front. If I were to keep the test unit for any longer, I’d also likely try to add a camcorder-style hand grip on it, as I think that would be particularly well-suited for its shooting style.

As with any good digital camera there are a wealth of shooting modes, including custom settings and full program. Dials are easy to manipulate and the read-display provides feedback as to the shooting modes. Of course, it can also be left off during shooting, necessitating frequent glances at the settings, as there are no indicators present in the teeny viewfinder.

Personally, I’d opt for a slightly larger body if it provided me with a larger viewfinder; I’m not a big proponent of hand-extended composition, and I think that’s the case with many users. Still, the LCD screen provides excellent coverage, and sharpness and details in macro shots was easy to pick out on the screen.

The G9’s focusing lamp casts an unusual green light instead of the red beam found on most cameras—I suppose this is because green is visible farther away, but it’s not a color I’m accustomed to. It in no way hinders performance, but it does scare the heck out of the cats I photographed!

The built-in flash is extremely bright. It’s hard to provide great illumination in a compact body, but this is easily one of the most powerful strobes I’ve seen in such a device. In fact, it was necessary to dial back the power of the strobe by at least 1/3 a stop in most situations, something that’s easy to do thanks to the fully-adjustable nature of the body.

The only operational quirk is that the menu-based auto-sensitivity control overrides the top-of-camera ISO dial, something that confused me during night shooting on a tripod. I kept expecting the camera to shoot a long exposure at the ISO 200 I had set, but watched as it kept bumping up the speed.

High ISO noise is no worse than other compacts, but it’s not a lot better either. It certainly performs better than any mid-level point-and-shoot I’ve seen, but creates a lot of artifacting in low light/high ISO combinations, so it’s best to pull out the higher-end Canon SLRs if you’re planning to shoot a lot in the dark.

At the widest setting, the G9 is a f/2.8 lens, stopping down to f/4.8 at the longer range. That was one of my larger issues with the G7, but it’s just physics at work here since it’s nearly impossible to put a straight 2.8 lens into a body like this. I would like it if the camera’s widest setting was a bit wider since landscapes feel a bit scrunched, but a screw-on adapter is available.

The G9’s macro mode is surprisingly good, and using it is one of the few times when having an LCD is a benefit over looking through a viewfinder. (A rotating screen would be killer here as well.)

My only real gripe about the G9 extends across most of Canon’s cameras—the detents used on the control dials have no locks, and aren’t particularly good at keeping the dial from turning when put in a pocket or camera bag. As a result, every time I’ve ever used a Canon compact camera, I’ve ended up shooting in the wrong mode because the dial turned in my pocket. It’s frustrating to miss a scene because the camera is suddenly in manual mode instead of aperture priority.

In an especially welcome move, Canon has dropped the price of the G9 from that of the earlier G7 to $499, which puts it well within the range of the advanced consumer. This perhaps makes the G9 the world’s best “training” camera, as it provides both the small-form-factor most consumers like along with the tools needed to develop creative control over composition and exposure.

The G9 brings photographers one step closer to the having the perfect compact digital and is by a long shot the best compact digital on the market today. It’s the only device that provides the real control photographers demand while being small enough to transport anywhere.

Better dial detents, a faster aperture across a wider lens and a viewfinder that doesn’t look like the view through a straw are the only things keeping the G9 from being the penultimate photographic device.

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