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Canon PowerShot G7 Review

Many people had written off the G series of high-end PowerShots after the G6 (which debuted in 2004) was not upgraded last year, so the release of the G7 came as something of a surprise.

Having a long and illustrious history at the top of Canon’s PowerShot line, the G series offers SLR-like performance in a robust, compact chassis, as well as premium features such as quick lenses and external flash capabilities.

Even while the G7 follows the tradition by integrating all of Canon’s latest gizmos (such as the new Digic III engine, face identification, and image stabilization), there has been considerable debate over some of the company’s decisions, specifically the removal of raw mode and the use of a slower lens.

In order to determine if the new model is a suitable successor to the G6, or whether Canon has truly squandered the legacy of one of the most renowned cameras in the brief history of digital photography, we must first determine whether the new model is a worthy successor to the G6.

Because two years is a relatively long period of time in the world of digital cameras, it should come as no surprise that the G7 is a considerably different beast from the model it succeeds, both visually (there is no grip, which allows the body to be substantially smaller) and inside.

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Interestingly, many of the adjustments are steps down rather than up; several of the fundamental characteristics and features that set the G series apart from Canon’s previous small camera ranges have been deleted or relegated to a lower level of functionality.

Of course, there are several places where the specification has been ‘tweaked’ in comparison to the G6, but not all of these changes will be welcomed by those considering an upgrade.

Body & Design

The G7 is an undeniably handsome and serious-looking camera with classic ‘rangefinder’ styling and build quality that puts most digital SLRs to shame. It only bears a passing resemblance to the G6 (in fact, at first glance, it appears to have more in common with the G5 in terms of its appearance), but it is nonetheless comparable to the G6.

The external skin of the body is nearly all-metal (only the top plate is plastic), and the attractive matt-black finish exudes quality. This impression is reinforced by the weight; at approximately 356g with the battery and card, the G7 is one of the heaviest compacts available on the market and is, for lack of a better word, nicely ‘dense.’

Because Canon eliminated the finger grip on the left-hand side in order to produce a slimmer profile and make the camera look a lot more attractive, it also feels a lot smaller than the G6. This is primarily due to the fact that although it makes the camera look a lot prettier, it does not improve the handling in any way.

Within your grasp

As was noted earlier, the G7 has a reassuringly substantial feel to it, which is somewhat of a rarity in today’s world. Additionally, due to its design and the materials that were utilized, it almost begs to be picked up and used.

When put to use, however, it becomes abundantly clear that certain concessions have been made in order to maintain the ‘traditional’ design. If you attempt to use it with one hand, it is not very simple to use the controls since there is not a significant hold on the front of the device, and there is a concentration of buttons on the back of the device. As a result, it does not feel very safe.

My research revealed that the only way to do this was to replace the neck strap with a wrist strap on the right side and then wrap this around your wrist. As soon as you start holding the camera with both hands, everything starts to ‘fall into place,’ and the camera as a whole becomes much more steady.

Body elements

The G7 is powered by an NB-2L Li-Ion battery, which is concealed on the bottom of the camera by a plastic door concealing it. This door is the only component of the camera that seems even somewhat fragile. This battery, which comes with an external charger, is the same one that’s used in the Canon EOS 400D (XTi) and in several small cameras from the S series (takes around 90 mins).

The battery life of the 720 mAh pack isn’t very good; the CIPA standard puts it at roughly 220 shots. However, considering that replacement batteries start at around £10 or $20, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The slot for the SD card is found in the same compartment as the others. The G7 is compatible with ordinary SD cards that have a capacity of up to 2 gigabytes, as well as SDHC cards that have larger capacities (which we were unable to test because we do not yet have any).

It is annoying because when the camera is mounted on a tripod, the door to the battery compartment cannot be opened, and as a result, the memory card cannot be changed. Grrr. The optical viewfinder is reasonably bright, but it is extremely tiny and not that clear (despite having a dioptre adjustment), and to tell you the truth, I found it to be almost worthless in the majority of situations.

Even though there is a limit to what you can anticipate from an optical “tunnel” finder given its 6x zoom (and 210mm long end), we were blown away by how well it handles parallax and how precise it is for framing. The button for configuring quick access is located on the left (which also doubles up as a direct print button in play mode). One of the most contentious changes made from the G6 to the G7, and the one that I found myself mourning the most, is that the screen is no longer a ‘vari-angle’ thing that can tilt and rotate in different directions. However, it is quite a bit bigger (2.5 inches), and in addition to being vivid, clear, and contrasty, it also functions very well in bright light since it has an anti-reflection coating.

Sadly, the coating is one of those that reveal every fingerprint and may fast wind up appearing like an oil slick if care is not taken (so much so that I ended up going everywhere with a microfiber cloth).

The shutter release is housed within a small circular zoom rocker, and if I were to have one little complaint, it would be that there is an excessive amount of motion and that the halfway point is located too close to the fully depressed position. What this means in practice is that until you get used to it, you will discover that you are firing off bullets when all you were attempting to do was pre-focus. This will continue to be the case until you get used to it. At the wide-angle end of the zoom range, the built-in flash of the G7 has a reach of 4.0 meters (13.1 feet), while at the maximum telephoto setting, it only reaches 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).

Standard flash modes, front/rear curtain slow synch, flash AE-compensation, and three-step output control in manual mode are just some of the many controls that are available (16 steps when using an external flash). Additionally, we discovered that the flash functioned wonderfully in the macro mode down to a distance of around 11 inches. The G7 is distinguished from the vast majority of other small digital cameras by its use of a completely dedicated flash hot shoe that is compatible with Canon’s 220EX, 430EX, and 580EX guns. This is one of the key distinctions between the G7 and other compact digital cameras (and several dedicated flashguns from independent suppliers).

You will be able to acquire most of the capabilities that you would get with an SLR if you use a flashgun from Canon, including power zooming. When shooting in manual mode, another option for activating a studio flash is to utilize the “hot shoe,” which is located on the camera. The lens of the G7 has an outstanding optically stabilized 6x zoom range, with a focal length equivalent to 35–210 millimeters, which puts it on par with “super zoom” models such as Canon’s own S3 IS.

What it does not have, however, is the extremely wide aperture that was a hallmark of every model in the G series that came before it. The F2.8-4.8 range is nothing exceptional, and it does require you to rely on higher ISO settings than you would want, particularly at the longer end of the lens. However, this range does not prevent you from taking decent photos. When the power is turned off, the zoom is completely retracted inside the body.

It stretches by around 3 centimeters when zoomed all the way out, and approximately another centimeter when zoomed all the way in. Both a 2.0x teleconverter (model number TC-DC58C) and a massive 0.75x wide converter (model number WC-DC58B) are presently available as add-on lenses for the G7 from Canon. The wide converter narrows the angle of view to around 26mm equivalent. Turning the bayonet on and off the lenses (after the removal of the cosmetic chrome ring). The primary mode dial enables you to set two different unique modes for yourself to use.

The controls on the back. Another brand-new control method has been implemented by Canon for the G7 (though it has similarities to the S80). A revolving ring that adjusts exposure settings and navigates menus are located around the traditional four-way controller (which is now utilized in record mode solely to change macro, flash, focus, and drive modes).

It will take some time to get accustomed to (particularly if you have experience with a camera that has a traditional 4-way controller), but after that, it will go pretty quickly. The ISO dial is located on the top of the camera, which is a pretty uncommon design and a great touch to the device.

Under a plastic cover on the side of the camera is where you’ll find both the high-speed USB 2.0 connector as well as the AV port (viewed from the rear). There is no DC-in port; nonetheless, you are able to operate the G7 with a mains adaptor; however, this needs the purchase of a separate adaptor of the “dummy battery” kind.

Image Quality

A Perfect White Balance

There are a total of seven different white balance settings available on the G7, including an automated option as the default. There is also the possibility to establish a manual white balance, often known as a custom white balance, by pushing the SET button while pointing the camera towards a subject that is white (or gray).

The automatic white balance looked to operate well outside and not too poorly under fluorescent illumination. However, based on the results of prior Canon digital cameras, it appeared to perform less well in incandescent lighting, producing a distinct orange color cast.

Performance in a Flash

The built-in flash unit has a specified range of 4.0 meters at a wide angle and 2.5 meters at telephoto (when the ISO is set to auto). This is fine for social snaps and the occasional bit of fill-in, but it is hindered by the relatively small maximum aperture as you move up the zoom range. When the ISO is set to manual, the built-in flash unit has a range of 4.0 meters at a wide angle and 2.5 meters at telephoto. When put to use, we discovered that the flash worked really well, with the majority of interior flash photographs exhibiting ideal exposure.

The FUNC menu has a setting for Flash Exposure Compensation, which ranges from -2.0 to +2.0, and the AF illuminator assists with focusing in low-light situations. We observed that the red-eye mitigation was most effective when used at closer distances, but that its effectiveness decreased with increased distance and zooming in.

When utilizing a flash, the shutter latency rises to around half a second (due to the pre-flash metering), which is something that should be taken into consideration. On a more upbeat note, the flash may be used in a mode known as continuous or burst shooting.

Macro Focus

The macro performance of the G7 has been improved in comparison to that of the G6. The minimum focus distance at the broad end of the zoom (35mm equivalent) has been decreased to a very amazing 1 centimeter, which enables you to capture an area that is almost an inch across.

Macro performance at the far end of the zoom range is equally as critical as macro performance at the close end of the zoom range. Of course, there are times when getting that close is neither possible nor desired. At the equivalent of 210mm,

The G7 can focus as close as 50 centimeters, catching an area that is slightly larger than 10 centimeters square. Although there is a little bit of corner softness at the long end, the amount of distortion is really minimal.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the G7’s output, and considering its place at the top of the PowerShot line, I would have been surprised if it hadn’t been up there with the best if it hadn’t been up there with finest.

Once you approach ISO 200, the effects of noise and noise reduction start to take their toll on fine detail, and at ISO 800 and above, quality is substantially impaired. Of course, you will get the greatest images around ISO 80 and 100. There is nothing strange about that.

Although the output is a little soft (you get the feeling that this sensor needs a lot of ‘work’ done on it to produce clean results), edge-to-edge performance is good across the zoom range once you close down the aperture a stop or two, focus very reliable, and color superb. The color is just punchy enough to produce attractive results out of the box without looking unnatural or over-processed.

It goes without saying that the numerous in-camera controls for color, contrast, saturation, and sharpness enable you to fine-tune the output to your own preferences and requirements. This is especially significant considering the lack of support for raw file formats.

The metering is easily fooled by scenes that are very bright and/or contrasty, and I found that I had to keep a -0.3 or -0.6 EV compensation dialed in almost permanently in order to avoid the consistent overexposure and highlight clipping that shooting at the wide end of the zoom outdoors tended to produce. This is because the metering is easily fooled by scenes that are very bright and/or contrasty.

This is one of those cameras that, when left at its default settings, is quite sensitive to exposure problems, and one that benefits significantly from a little bit of user intervention. The somewhat steep preset tone cure and the narrow dynamic range don’t help matters, either.

Turning down the contrast and using the histogram to expose somewhat ‘to the left’ both provide a tiny bit of assistance in this situation.

Ironically, I found the G7 to be one of the worst cameras I’ve ever used for camera shake. I believe this is due to the long zoom and image stabilization encouraging me to take shots at way too low shutter speeds. This problem was compounded by the physical design of the camera, which makes it difficult to hold it steady.

Because there has been so much discussion about what the G7 is not, I believe it is only fair to look first at what it is; a superbly built, comprehensively featured, and a highly desirable camera that packs a lot of the functionality of a digital SLR into a solid, compact body, along with an image stabilized 35-210mm lens. There has been so much talk about what the G7 is not that I think it is only fair to look at what it is.

In addition to this, there is almost any competition for it; there are super zooms on the market with comparable feature sets, but they are all significantly larger and heavier. Image quality is fantastic at lower ISO settings as long as you don’t expect to generate poster printers – and you know what you’re doing exposure-wise; this is not a camera for the newbie. Image quality is excellent at lower ISO settings as long as you don’t expect to produce poster printers.

Canon’s rather “hands-off” approach to luminance noise reduction gives results at ISO 200-800 that, although not a patch on any SLR’s results, at least don’t lose all of their detail for a “smooth” result. These results may be seen in the image below.

Having said all of that, you still can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment with the G7. You get the feeling that Canon could have taken a few more risks rather than producing what is, essentially, a souped-up A series camera with a couple of token nods to the G series’ tradition and a CCD that is stuffed to the gills with pixels to such an extent that it compromises image quality.

The loss of raw capture (which, even if I only use it for “special occasions,” may be a real lifesaver), as well as the variable-angle screen, is another thing that makes me very sad (which I found myself missing on more than one occasion).

Canon PowerShot G7 Specifications

Street price• US: $480
• UK: £330
Body MaterialMetal/Plastic
Sensor• 1/1.8″ Type CCD
• 10.0 million effective pixels
Image sizes• 3648 x 2736
• 3648 x 2048
• 2816 x 2112
• 2272 x 1704
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480
Movie clips• 1024 x 768 @ 15fps
• 640 x 480 @ 30 / 15fps
• 320 x 240 @ 30 / 15fps
• 160 x 120 @ 15fps
• AVI Motion JPEG with WAVE monaural audio
Lens• 35-210mm (35mm Equiv)
• F2.8-4.8
• 6x optical zoom
Focus• TTL autofocus
• AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point)
• Single / Continuous AF
• Manual focus
• Focus lock
• 1-point AF (center or flexion)
• 1 cm minimum focus range (macro)
Metering• Evaluative
• Center-weighted average
• Spot (Linked to the center or selected AF point)
Shutter speed• 15-1/2000 sec
Aperture• F2.8-F8.0 (wide)
• F4.8-F8.0 (tele)
Shooting mode• Auto
• Program AE
• Shutter Priority AE
• Aperture Priority AE
• Manual
• Custom (2 modes)
• Stitch Assist
• Movie
• Special Scene
Sensitivity• Auto
• High ISO Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
White Balance• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Flash
• Underwater
• Custom
Image parametersMy Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, B&W, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Continuous• Normal: approx 2fps
• AF: approx 0.8fps
Flash• Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye reduction
• Second curtain sync
• Range: 30cm – 4.0m (wide) / 2.5m (tele)
• Hot shoe
Storage• SD / SDHC / MMC card compatible
• 32 MB card supplied
Viewfinder• Real-image zoom
• Dioptre correction
LCD monitor• 2.5-inch P-Si TFT
• 207,000 pixels
• Adjustable Brightness
• 100% coverage
Connectivity• USB 2.0 High speed
• A/V out (NTSC/PAL switchable)
Power• Rechargeable Li-ion battery NB-2LH/NB-2L
• Charger included
• Optional AC adapter kit
Other features• Orientation sensor
• DPOF
• PictBridge
• Index view
• Histogram
• 4x digital zoom
• Sound memo
• Direct print (Canon & PictBridge)
• 2 and 10-sec self-timer (plus custom)
• 25 languages
Optional accessories• Speedlite 220EX/ 430EX/ 580EX
• Tele-converter (2.0x) TC-DC58C
• Wide-converter (0.75x) WC-DC58B
• Lens adapter/Hood set LA-DC58H
• Waterproof Case WP-DC11
• Waterproof Case Weight WW-DC1
• Soft Case DCC-600
• High Power Flash HF-DC1
• AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC20
• Rechargeable Li-ION battery pack NB-2LH
• Car Battery Charger CBC-NB2
Weight (no batt)320 g (11.3 oz)
Dimensions106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5 mm
(4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)

Final Verdict

Because there has been so much discussion about what the G7 is not, I believe it is only fair to look first at what it is; a superbly built, comprehensively featured, and a highly desirable camera that packs a lot of the functionality of a digital SLR into a solid, compact body, along with an image stabilized 35-210mm lens. There has been so much talk about what the G7 is not that I think it is only fair to look at what it is.

In addition to this, there is almost any competition for it; there are super zooms on the market with comparable feature sets, but they are all significantly larger and heavier. Image quality is fantastic at lower ISO settings as long as you don’t expect to generate poster printers – and you know what you’re doing exposure-wise; this is not a camera for the newbie. Image quality is excellent at lower ISO settings as long as you don’t expect to produce poster printers.

Canon’s rather “hands-off” approach to luminance noise reduction gives results at ISO 200-800 that, although not a patch on any SLR’s results, at least don’t lose all of their detail for a “smooth” result. These results may be seen in the image below.

Having said all of that, you still can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment with the G7. You get the feeling that Canon could have taken a few more risks rather than producing what is, essentially, a souped-up A series camera with a couple of token nods to the G series’ tradition and a CCD that is stuffed to the gills with pixels to such an extent that it compromises image quality.

The loss of raw capture (which, even if I only use it for “special occasions,” may be a real lifesaver), as well as the variable-angle screen, is another thing that makes me very sad (which I found myself missing on more than one occasion).

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • The traditional ‘rangefinder’ design looks fantastic, and the quality and workmanship are outstanding.
  • Massive array of functional components
  • Prints of typical sizes can be created at ISO 200–400, albeit noise and noise reduction effects will be noticeable.
  • Capable of producing extremely nice results even when set to a low ISO.
Need Improvements
  • The lack of grip combined with the so-called “traditional style” does not provide for excellent handling.
  • Even with ISO 80, there is noticeable noise from shadows.
  • ISO 1600 is so noisy that there is no purpose in using it, while ISO 3200 has a very low resolution.

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