After six very successful
models, the Canon “G” series line of cameras, that started with the G1 of 2000,
has grown into the G9 of 2007. The latest model has kept all the good things
from the previous cameras, and although it lost its popular rotating LCD screen
somewhere along the way, it has gained a 12-megapixel sensor, a 3.0-inch LCD
display and RAW image capture - which was dropped from the G7- has returned.
Apart from this, its specifications are remarkably alike to the previous model.
The familiar 6x Canon zoom lens with optical image stabilisation is still
there, just like the excellent Digic III image processor, face detection of up
to nine faces and a wide range of automatic and manual functions.
Using the Canon G9
look of the camera brings back memories of traditional rangefinder cameras from
the seventies. Although it is shaped like a brick, its ergonomics are
excellent, with a no nonsense rubber strip on the front to act as a grip for
your right hand and a small thumb rest in the top RH corner at the back. In
true Canon tradition the G9 is built like the proverbial tank and we wouldn’t
be surprised if Don McCullin would again find it to be completely bullet proof.
your hand the camera feels like a quality piece of engineering, unlike some
plastic models other manufacturers try to force upon us. Its weight and rugged,
all metal construction inspire confidence and we feel this Canon will serve you
for years to come. Things like the metal tripod mount, the feel of all control
buttons and switches and strong doors for battery compartment and connectivity
slots are further proof of the level of engineering Canon have put into it.
back of the camera is dominated by the large 3.0” LCD screen with 230.000
pixels. Visibility of the screen outdoors is excellent from most angles and in
low light situations it gains up automatically so you can clearly see your
subject. It is nice to see that Canon has kept the optical viewfinder, directly
above the LCD screen. It is a decent size, features dioptre correction and is
eminently useable. Remember that it only shows about 80% of the frame, so for
precise composition you would have to use the LCD screen.
the right of the LCD is the traditional 4-way dial combined with a handy
control wheel surrounding it. The latter is used to select manual settings,
navigate the menu, or play back photos, plus a range of other settings
dependent on which programme mode you are in. The control wheel is a fast and
convenient solution to what most other cameras do by pressing the 4-way switch
a zillion times.
the 4-way switch we find options for setting Manual focus; flash; macro and
continuous shooting modes including self timer. The central SET/FUNC button
gives access to Canon’s familiar Function menu, with settings for image format
and quality; White Balance; My Colors options; flash compensation; metering
plus exposure and focus bracketing. The latter allows you to take three images,
one at the chosen focus setting and two a little closer and further away.
Most functions on the Canon G9 can be
assessed without having to use the menu system, as there is bound to be a
button somewhere on the camera for most functions you can think of. On the back
we find dedicated buttons for display options; camera menu; exposure
compensation over +/- 2 stops in 1/3 EV increments; playback; delete; focus
point and AE lock. A small custom button in the top left corner can be set to
control things like metering, white balance, AF lock or a 3-stop neutral density
Two nice additions to the camera’s
9-point AF system are the Flexizone focus option, in which you can choose your
own focus point from one of 375 spots across the screen, and face detection of
up to 9 faces. The system works extremely well and can be quite handy when
taking shots of a group of people. The focus area can be enlarged to regular or
small according to your needs.
Moving over to the top plate of the
Powershot G9 we find two large control dials, one for ISO settings (Auto,
80-1600, Hi) and one for the various programme and subject modes (13). The tiny
zoom switch is located around the shutter release button. A dedicated flash hot
shoe allows external flashlights to be used, either dedicated Speedlights or
third party flashes. Most Speedlight options are controlled automatically
in-camera and these offer more advanced possibilities than third party
We won’t go in to some of the typical
gimmick settings like Color Accent or Color Swap modes, which we personally
feel are only there for trivial image effects and should not be part of a
serious photographer’s vocabulary.
Although we realise that most people
hate to read any instructions at all, with the G9 it pays to sit down with the
manual an evening, to familiarize yourself with all the functions and get to
know all that this camera can do. The Canon G9 is a true photographic tool that
you really have to learn to use.
In the Canon G9 box
Nothing sensational here, as all the
necessary goodies are included with the G9. Or it would have to be that Canon
are one of the few manufacturers to still include a memory card with the
camera. The enclosed MMCplus 32Mb card won’t help you much though, as this tiny
gem will only store five images at the highest JPEG setting. Our advice as
always would be to get yourself a decent sized SD, SDHC or MMC card for serious
The NB-2LH, 7.4V 720mAh Li-ion battery
provides energy for about 240 images according to CIPA standards. We found this
a bit of a disappointment as many compacts nowadays manage to capture
substantially more images per charge than this one. It will take about 105
minutes to recharge and get you going again.
There is a small 32-page introductory
manual with the camera, but the G9’s full specs and functions are explained in
detail on the enclosed CD. As already mentioned, if you want to find out all
this camera can do, read it thoroughly and it will certainly improve your
photography with the Powershot G9.
The second CD is the familiar Canon
Digital Camera Solutions version 32.0, which includes Canon’s ZoomBrowser EX
6.0 and Photostitch 3.1 for MAC and Windows OS. Support for Windows 98SE seems
to have been discontinued as the supplied CDs are only compatible with
operating systems from Windows 2000 SP4 onwards. Zoombrowser EX6.0 is not only
used for downloading images to your computer and organizing them, but now also
supports full RAW editing capabilities such as exposure, white balance,
sharpness, colour and noise reduction.
Some accessories available for the Canon
Powershot G9 include a 0.75x wide-angle and 2x telephoto lens adapter; three
external Speedlight flashes that sync with the camera; an external slave flash
and a waterproof case to take the G9 up to 40 metres under water. A remote
control, which was supported on older G-series cameras, is not available for
the Canon G9. The camera does support remote capture however, by using the
Remote Capture Task built into the Browser software to operate the camera from
your PC, saving images directly to your hard drive.
The Canon Powershot G9 is equipped with
a fixed f/2.8-4.8/35-210mm (35mm eq.) 6x Canon zoom lens with optical image
stabilisation. The system is supposed to offer a gain of three stops over
conventional lenses. How much you really benefit is also determined by the
photographer’s individual handholding qualities, but we found the system to be
quite effective at providing sharp images at lower shutter speeds. It is
definitely advised to hold the Canon G9 with two hands to obtain sharp
pictures, as you may find the brick-like shape a bit lacking for single-handed
operation. Focusing is excellent and responsive in most conditions, although in
certain image situations or at the longer end of the zoom it can slow down a
little. There is hardly any hunting and the AF usually does a good job of
locking on to your subject quickly.
Image quality is excellent with just a
tiny amount of barrel distortion at wide-angle and almost perfectly straight
parallels at the tele setting. Vignetting at either end of the zoom is
practically absent and we could only find a slight hint of corner softness and
chromatic aberration at any lens setting at wide apertures.
Colours are vibrant but natural without
the over-saturated look of some other compacts. When reviewing images on the
LCD screen at the capture stage however, we found that most images appeared to
be extremely warm and postcard-like in appearance. It was not until our images
were downloaded to a computer that their true colours could be seen. Should you
prefer your own colour characteristics, the My Colors function allows further
control over sharpness, contrast and saturation.
Dynamic range is good although some
clipping of highlights could become evident in certain bright or contrasty
image situations. Capturing images in RAW would give you some room to correct
this, but don’t expect ZoomBrowser to perform miracles in this area as the RAW
function basically performs the same tasks as the in-camera processing does
with JPEG images. Other reviewers have remarked that other, third party RAW
software can coax more out of G9 images, but we have not been able tot test
For ultimate image quality with compact
cameras it is best to keep ISO levels as low as possible to avoid noisy or
grainy images. The Canon G9 is no exception in this area. Images taken at ISO
80 or 100 are simply superb with plenty of detail and nice colours, but when
you get to higher ISO levels, quality definitely starts to suffer. ISO 1600 or
3200 on the Canon G9, or any other compact for that matter, should only be used
when there are no other options available, such as using a tripod or
flashlight. It is not for nothing that the G9 will automatically lower its
resolution to 1600x1200 for images taken at ISO 3200.
As with all Canon models, exposure is
very good delivering nicely balanced images. The choice of three metering modes
ensures that in situations with prominent highlights or shadow areas you can
resort to centre-weighted or spot metering. The live histogram will be a big help
here if you know what you are doing. White balance outdoors was excellent but
in mixed lighting conditions or under fluorescent light, results were sometimes
a bit too warm or a pronounced colour cast became evident. Apart from AWB and
seven presets, two custom white balance settings can be user-set and stored
Canon G9 is a fantastic camera but it is not for everyone. Let me explain.
Although the Powershot G9 does have a green Auto mode, where all important
decisions are made for you by the camera, it is not really meant for the
point-and-shoot enthusiast. If you only take the odd holiday snap or shoot the
kids around the house, you would be well advised to look elsewhere as this
camera is really too advanced for snapshots only.
serious photographer though, will certainly find the Canon G9 to be a
worthwhile investment and a true photographic tool, as you can really create
photographs with it instead of snapshots. There are plenty of functions to try
out and the G9 enables you to use your creativity to the full. This Canon
Powershot G9 really is a camera that grows on you. Its strong points are
definitely its wide range of specifications, strong built quality and
responsiveness. On top of this we feel it would be ideally suited to act as a
handy addition to your DSLR kit with all the control of a DSLR, without the
discomfort of its size and weight.