Canon G7 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Canon Cameras i Full Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon PowerShot G7
Resolution: 10.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.8"
Lens: 6.00x zoom
(35-210mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
ISO: 80-3200
Shutter: 15-1/2000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in.
(106 x 72 x 43 mm)
Weight: 11.3 oz (320 g)
MSRP: $600
Availability: 10/2006
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon G7 specifications
10.00
Megapixels
6.00x zoom
1/1.8"
size sensor
image of Canon PowerShot G7
Front side of Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera Back side of Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera Top side of Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera Left side of Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera Right side of Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera
Imaging Resource rating

4.5 out of 5.0

Canon PowerShot G7 Overview

by Shawn Barnett
and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 01/03/07

The Canon PowerShot G7, the first new G-series model in over two years, offers a look more reminiscent of the original PowerShot G1 than the models that followed it - perhaps due to the rather more subtle handgrip. Under the skin, the Canon G7 offers a CCD sensor resolution of ten megapixels, coupled to a Canon-branded 35 - 210mm equivalent 6x optical zoom lens. The lens features Canon's own optical Image Stabilization system, where a lens is actually moved inside the lens body to compensate for camera movement. Images are framed either via a real-image optical zoom viewfinder, or on a 2.5 inch LCD display. Optical viewfinders can be nice to have, allowing you to save battery life, or get the shot when harsh sunlight makes it harder to see an image on many digicam displays; the LCD will be the better choice when shooting scenes that will be affected by parallax error, or when precise framing is necessary - particularly if using the stabilizer.

Other features of the Canon PowerShot G7 include USB 2.0 connectivity, face detection auto focus, Flexizone focusing, Nine point AF, an AF assist lamp, a hot shoe for mounting an external flash, and SD/MMC card storage with support for the new SDHC card format. The Canon G7 went on sale in October 2006, priced at $600.

 

Canon PowerShot G7 User Report

by Shawn Barnett

There's a bit of a flap among the camera enthusiast community about the Canon PowerShot G7, so this User Report is interwoven with discussion along those lines. The controversy surrounding the Canon G7 is more poignant because the camera is entering a shifting market. Low-cost SLRs have largely pushed high-end digicams like this out of existence, so I strive to decide into whose hands I would place a Canon G7.

The controversy centers around a few major items that enthusiasts loved about the G-series that were not included in the G7. What's so odd is that Canon left all this stuff out of a camera with a body so gorgeous/ugly/cool that it can't help but attract the kind of photographer who's going to want most of the missing features.

What's missing? When you hear the specs on the G7, it's hard to believe one could want more: 10 megapixels, 6x zoom (35-210mm eq.), f/2.8 max aperture, optical image stabilization, 2.5 inch, high res LCD, super-quiet USM lens motor, flash hot shoe; what else could enthusiasts want?

For all five of the previous models (there was no G4), the G-series included the following three features now missed in the G7: The lens was f/2.0. That's a full stop of extra light for low light shooting. The screen articulated, meaning you could swing it out and up and down so you could shoot from many angles. You get used to that kind of convenience. The cameras could save images in a RAW file format. Shooting RAW allows you to tweak the image on a computer after capture. This is probably the biggest beef enthusiasts have with the Canon G7, and it's a legitimate complaint.

Explained as briefly as possible: When any camera captures an image, it's essentially in RAW form. The camera then applies its filters like saturation, contrast, and sharpening, and compresses it all into a JPEG file. All of the original data is permanently lost at that point, so you get only the post-processed images. Many photographers who are looking at the Canon G7 would prefer to have the option of tweaking that RAW data themselves on a computer, rather than accepting Canon's default settings.

The good news is that most who haven't experienced one of the old G-series won't care much. What you don't know really can't hurt, in this case -- unless you intend to use the G7 for professional work; then you're going to want something else. The images that come from the Canon G7 are impressive, and still good up to about ISO 800. When I say good, I mean when enlarged to about 11x14 inches. That's good. The G7 is not so great at ISO 1,600 or 3,200, which I'll discuss more later, but with Canon's optical Image Stabilization system at work, you're not going to need to jump to ISO 1,600 too much. I'm still spinning to decide for whom the G7 exists, but that, and more discussion of the controversy will come at the end.

Experience. With their SLR sales rising against cameras like the G6 and Pro1, Canon saw the trend and realized that they needed to make their next high-end digicam appeal to a photographer's sense of nostalgia. The Canon G7 reminds me of an old film camera. I'm not talking about a 1980's or 1990's SLR, but one of the rangefinders from the 60's and 70's, back when they were more metal machines than computers with plastic bodies.

Mode dial

It's natural to think of an old rangefinder, but the Canon G7 is smaller and flatter than most of those were. It also doesn't have the big, bright optical viewfinder I associate with a rangefinder. Still, the feel is there, as is the look; and with a 6x zoom, the parallax problem is still there too, if you're nostalgic for that.

Looking back to the year 2,000 they've returned to the mostly flat design of the original, 3.3 megapixel Canon G1. This camera didn't even have a small bulge for the grip, it only had a bit of plastic up front to give your fingertips a place to rest. But enthusiasts will remind you that even the G1 had an f/2.0 lens, an articulating screen, and RAW capability.

The Canon G7 looks and feels like a fine instrument. I mentioned this factor in the Pentax K100 review, where their special lenses just had the look and feel of precision. Early cameras were drafted by engineers on paper, crafted by machinists on lathes and mills, and assembled by skilled workers. They were treasures to own. The Canon G7 gives you a little more of that than most digital cameras, without the price tag of a Leica.

So many digital cameras today are just a collection of the same basic array of buttons that pop up menus and navigate around on a glowing screen. Gone is the unique dial that gave you the sense that you'd made a precise setting. But the G7 has that.

ISO dial

Dials and gauges. I'll start with the two dials on the top. The mode dial is common. No news there. I ding it a bit for not being as sure as the dial on the Canon A640. It feels and sounds great, but it can easily be nudged to rest between settings. So much for precise, but I still like it.

The ISO dial to the left of the hot shoe has the same problem, but thank the Maker that it's there. Of all camera settings, ISO is probably the most important to have here, since I do change it more often than anything else; worse, I forget to change it more than I remember. On most SLRs I use, the current ISO setting is hidden until I press the associated button to bring up a status screen (the new Rebel XTi is a notable exception). I appreciate the visual cue here, prominently placed on the top deck.

The only other obvious dial on the Canon G7 is the diopter adjustment dial left of the optical viewfinder. So why all the talk about dials and gauges?

Control dial

Fear not. The Canon G7 does finally bring back at least the feeling of analog to the world of digital with their onscreen slide-rule style display of shutter speed and aperture. The display pops up when in Program, Shutter priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual modes. Though it's not obvious when you look at the back of the Canon G7, that's no ordinary four-way navigator to the right of the LCD screen. That knurled ring surrounding the small, icon-speckled nav-disk is ready to spin at a thumb's notice. Called the Control dial, it can be used to rip through menus like an EOS SLR; though it must be used in concert with the four-way disk to switch menu tabs. There are other odd rules that apply to its use, but anything can be learned. A dial really isn't new to the G-series. It was out on the grip from the G3 on, but the elimination of that grip on the G7 meant it had to go somewhere.

EV adjustment. Pressing the AE Lock button brings up a graphical display of which combination of aperture and shutter speed are available to you while maintaining the calculated exposure.

Getting back to the gauges: In Program mode, you have to press the * button (aka AE Lock, FE Lock button) to lock the exposure and bring up the gauge at right, which shows you graphically which combinations of Aperture and Shutter will work to maintain this exposure. If you have the flash on, unfortunately, the Canon G7 will instead fire a test shot to lock that setting, and you won't get the cool gauge. Love of this gauge might encourage more people to shoot without flash, and that can't be bad.

In Shutter and Aperture priority modes, you only get a single rule for either setting. It's still helpful to see the continuum of options, especially when it's about to run out. In Manual mode is where it gets even more retro. You get not only the sliding gauge for the aspect you're adjusting, but you get a nice simulated match needle on the right side. Of course, we see these on digital SLRs in Manual mode, and it was present on the now deleted status display on all other G-series cameras, but it's nice to see in concert with the sliding scale back here where you're making your decisions, instead of on another plane altogether (the LCD status display was on the top deck). I'm also glad to see the onscreen image update as you make the adjustments, approximating what the actual exposure will capture. This is a benefit to digicams that I don't think I mentioned in my aging SLR vs All-in-one article. Sure, you can see what the exposure will look like after the capture on the digital SLR, but with a digicam like the Canon G7 you can see it change live before you press the shutter.

Focus & metering modes. Thankfully, you can also still lock the exposure to the AF point in FlexiZone and Spot metering modes. Those folks inexperienced with the G-series and a select few other PowerShots are scratching their heads: "FlexiZone?" There are essentially four focus modes on the Canon G7, and three metering modes. Meant for the patient, calculating photographer, FlexiZone allows you to move a green box around the screen until you pick out where you want the camera to concentrate its contrast-detect AF system. If you lock Spot metering to this point, the combination can be very useful.

With FlexiZone, we're not just talking a few predetermined points in the viewfinder, as we see on digital SLRs. The green AF box is big, so there's plenty of overlap, but I can move it to 29 separate positions left to right, and 17 positions top to bottom. That's an array of 493 possibilities. It's a shame you can't make the box a little smaller, but it's still pretty flexible, allowing you to keep your composition while placing the focus and spot metering point right where you want.

Most shooters will do well to stick to the 9-point AiAF system. It's always given me not only great feedback when shooting candids, but accurate AF. If I don't like its first try, I just release and half-press the shutter again and it'll quickly recalculate and re-select another arrangement of AF points. It's rarely wrong the first time, but if it is, it usually gets it right the second.

Face me. The hot ticket now, of course, is face detection, and the Canon G7 has that too. It can track up to nine faces and put a box around them. It's among the fastest I've seen at this task. It will ID each face with the boxes, but it puts a white box around the one it's going to bias its main focus setting on. It'll then do its best to keep the others in focus if it can.

Face detect has also enhanced the FlexiZone system. When you press the AF Frame Selector button to pick among AF methods (which you do by turning the big dial), the first message that comes up in FlexiZone invites you to press the Set button to select a face in the scene as your AF point. This is the most common reason I use FlexiZone, to make sure faces are in focus, so it's a great use of the technology, removing a lot of waiting while you move the AF point over to the nearest face. Just hit the Set button instead.

Finally, there's Manual focus, which is activated by pressing the MF button on the four-way navigator. This brings up a small square in the center where the image is magnified. In most cameras, I can't see much of a difference with this method, but the Canon G7's LCD is of sufficient resolution that I can see a change, especially close up. It's still fairly vague, but better than most. So far, I've seen no good reason not to stick with the Canon G7's AF system.

Handling. Though enthusiasts do have a few legitimate beefs, the Canon G7 really is a very nice camera, among the slickest produced for the money. The scant grip out front does have a raised, grippy plastic ridge to give your fingers extra purchase, and there's a small ridge surrounding the AF/AE Lock button that serves at a tactile guide to thumb placement. If you rest the right bottom corner in the palm of your hand, the G7 is easy to hold securely with one hand; though it's better to use two, as it's pretty heavy for its small profile.

Its heft feels very good, and helps stabilize shots. The right camera strap lug is recessed into the body so it doesn't bother you at all. Its location puts the strap a little close to the shutter release for my taste, however, so I don't use the G7 with the strap.

I was never fond of the odd dual-toggle power switch on recent G-series cameras (also found on the Canon S2 and S3), so I'm glad to see a simple silver button recessed into the camera's top deck. You can enter Playback mode with a similar button on the back of the camera, whether the Canon G7 is on or off.

Pressing the power button brings out the 6x zoom lens with a quiet motorized swish worthy of a science fiction gadget. While we tolerate loud whirring from our digital cameras, it's nice to hear one that whispers. With the various beeps and sound effects turned off, the G7 is a graceful companion, great for surreptitious shooting in public.

Initially I wasn't fond of the shutter button, nor its surrounding zoom toggle. I've grown accustomed to larger, wider buttons out on protruding grips. But this works just fine, and is a little easier to trip lightly.

When you press the shutter release, there's a very quiet "tick, tick," as the image disappears and reappears onscreen. Shooting the Canon G7 side-by-side with the Canon A640, I was impressed with how much better the G7's 2.5 inch LCD with 207,000 pixels showed the shot after capture. I could generally tell whether my attempt to shoot with a long shutter speed had worked, but the already soft display on the A640 left that discovery for later.

Adjusting settings on the fly is fairly easy, especially in Shutter or Aperture priority modes, which I've already covered. This easy manual adjustment via the big, bright LCD screen is a boon to more intermediate shooters.

It's also notable that the Canon G7 is a shooting priority camera, meaning that regardless what mode you're in, a half-press of the shutter button sets the camera into capture mode.

Playback. A quick press of the Playback button takes you to your pictures. The wide view LCD allows viewing from just about any angle, about on par with the Canon 30D and Rebel XTi. You can zip through images with the Control dial, or you can zoom out to either a 9-frame view or Jump nine frames at a time. Naturally, you'll want to zoom in on any important shot to check more closely; and there were a few shots where the image stabilization system had produced some smudging. The Canon G7's zoom lever quickly zooms in and the four-way moves you around in the images. The surrounding dial will also move between images while maintaining the selected zoom level, good for checking among several exposures to see which handheld low-light exposures were successful.



Connector door.

Doors. There's not much to say about the two doors, except that there's not a rubber door on the G7, which is nice. A big swing out door on the bottom is spring-loaded like most Canon cameras, and conceals the SD card slot and NB-2LH Lithium-ion battery. On the right of the camera, just beneath the right strap eyelet, is the AV OUT/Digital (USB) door. This slides to the rear before swinging out under spring pressure. I prefer this to the doors on most of Canon's SLRs, which swing freely.

Connectivity. Just install the software and connect the PowerShot G7 to your computer with the included USB cable and the Print/Share button will light up so you can quickly upload shots to your computer. All Canon cameras seem to follow the same convention of dropping the pictures into your Pictures or MyPictures folder (Mac or PC) filed in a subfolder the with the appropriate date for each shot (eg: 2006_12_28). I find it convenient enough that I let Canon's software upload data from most any camera I'm reviewing.

You can also print directly from the Canon G7 to a PictBridge-enabled printer with the included USB cable, producing anything from an index print to prints as large as 13x19 inches.

Viewfinder. It's good to have an optical viewfinder on any digital camera to help when the light is bright, or when you want to save battery. But I seldom use them. They are so small and so inaccurate it just seems a waste of time. It's also nearly impossible to prevent parallax error, especially when zooming out to 6x. And the G7 has some significant parallax error. Worse, the G7's own lens obscures the bottom left of the scene when at wide angle. It's also unusable when you have accessory lenses attached. It is nice that it has diopter correction, though as usual it's not sufficient for my eyes.

Accessories. Though it does make the smallish G7 rather monstrous, you would need a far more expensive SLR kit to compete with this small suite's optical capability. It spans 26-420mm, and includes image stabilization. By comparison, though, the Canon S3 IS gives you a comparable 36-432mm equivalent, though it's "only" 6 megapixels.

Accessory lenses. The Canon G7 has one significant contrasting design accent on its rugged black body, and that's its big silver knurled accessory ring surrounding the lens. Press the little crooked button to it's lower right and turn to the left, and you're ready to mount accessory lenses. The G7 accepts two, a 2x telephoto and a 0.75x wide angle. These take you out to the equivalent of 420mm, or as wide as 26.25mm.

Though there's a place in the menu to tell the G7 which lens you've attached, I'm not sure what purpose this serves. When you attach the telephoto adapter, for example, you get a small circle in the center of the LCD, with black all around. Talk about vignetting! Of course, that's because you've attached a telephoto lens, but the camera's lens is still set to wide angle. Seems like the camera would automatically zoom the lens to where the vignetting disappears, leaving a little space to avoid further vignetting when the image stabilization system is on. But it doesn't, and it didn't on the older G-series cameras either.

Sharp. (Click on the linked images above to open the interactive plots to see how the lens performs at various apertures and focal lengths.) Though the Canon G7 does apply some heavy sharpening after the noise suppression, the built-in lens is of pretty high quality, turning in images that maintain even focus across the frame. Very little softness in the corners, with one little bounce at f/2.8 and around 47mm. The Accessory lenses also did quite well. Both the standard lens and the combination lenses showed some seriously high chromatic aberration, at least compared to most SLR lenses. Still, our other test results don't show it as a significant problem, so cross check this data with the information under the Optics tab.

I used a Canon G5 and G3 back in their day for some portrait work and was quite satisfied with the quality of the telephoto lens. We've heard differently, however, from a few readers, so we decided to run them through DxO Analyzer and plot them with SLRgear.com's plotting software. They don't look bad at all. And the built-in lens is pretty darn good too. Downright flat across most focal lengths and aperture settings. Click on the graphics at right to load the plots. The first set is from the camera's 6x lens. The second set is a combination of the wide angle accessory lens at its widest, and then the long and short of the telephoto lens.

If you're unfamiliar with our SLRgear.com test charts, just click on the linked images above right, wait for the Java program to load all the files, and then you can adjust the sliders to see how the lens performs over several focal lengths at all the major available apertures. You can also see from the second set of charts that chromatic aberration is pretty dramatic, but that's expected at this resolution.


 

Wide adapter and 430EX flash.

The accessory lenses are far too big for you to use the on-camera flash, so you'll want to invest in something like a Canon Speedlite 430EX. This flash is sufficiently powerful for most close quarters work, including bounce flash, and it's light enough that it won't completely unbalance the smallish Canon G7 as the 580EX does. Like other Canon flashes, the 430EX works very well with the Canon G7, producing better images than flashes from ten years ago. Attach a 580EX and you can control several other flashes for some dramatic lighting effects.

The G7 could use a better grip to control all these big attachments, no question, so do think hard before investing in these accessories. If you think you'll need them, especially the accessory lenses, you might do better with an SLR.

Image quality. It's taken a long time to get to this review. We were inundated with SLRs in 2006, so the Canon G7 was elbowed out of the way by cameras deemed more current or of greater importance. But that's not the only reason.

When the G7 arrived, I was excited. It's been a long time coming, and my first glance at it left me intrigued; charmed, even.

I sat down with the G7 those first two nights after it arrived and spent some time. I took it out to shoot. I really liked it. It was built like a camera. Its aluminum skin felt similar to my old Olympus OM-1. Its lens mechanism was smooth and quiet, like it should be. Its screen was silky and sharp. Its extra ISO dial on the top deck was nostalgic as well as informative, and the presence of a hot shoe was somehow comforting.

My reverie was interrupted by the sample photos from the lab. We're cognizant of being pixel peepers, and we're well aware of how irrelevant ten megapixel cameras are making such practice, because the difference between a monitor and printed output is far greater than it was back in the 4 and 5 megapixel days. That's why we print our laboratory test images from each camera we review.

Peeping. Below you can get a sample of what I'm seeing. I expected the G7 to perform more like the A640 here, where it maintains better detail in the red swatch. You can also see that the G7 already has more chroma noise at ISO 80 in the shadows than the A640. If either camera had RAW you'd be able to get some of this processed out. Note the how the A640 preserves detail in the red leaf cloth while the G7 blurs it out. The G7 at ISO 80 is roughly equivalent to the A640 at ISO 400 in terms of detail. (I skipped ISO 100 to shorten this column.)
G7 at ISO 80
A640 at ISO 80
G7 at ISO 200
A640 at ISO 200
G7 at ISO 400
A640 at ISO 400
G7 at ISO 800
A640 at ISO 800
G7 at ISO 1,600

High ISO noise from the G7 was frankly ridiculous. Not at ISO 800, but at 1,600 and 3,200: just laughable. The images look like they're from another camera entirely, or else from an airbrush with a clogged nozzle that spatters paint all over the painting. That's not what got me, though. We see poor quality in most non-SLRs that try to reach too high.

What got me was the anti-noise suppression swimming through even low ISO images. This kind of low ISO noise suppression is precisely why I lean toward Canon when buying and recommending digital cameras: because they seldom exhibit the problem. You usually get clean, noise-free images from Canons at low ISO, without the paintbrush effect we see in other cameras. Not so with the G7.

You won't notice it at 8x10, so it's not going to be an issue for most. But it will be an issue for much of the G7's former target market, who will be looking closely. Apparently, Canon just couldn't control the noise on the very tiny pixels used on a 10 megapixel sensor, so they had to smoosh it out. Though I do miss the articulating screen most from the G7, this anti-noise processing is what most spoils it for me.

Suitability to task. I think the overarching trouble I've had with the Canon G7 is determining the intended market. I learned way back when shooting event photography that a digicam just wasn't suitable for shooting people moving onstage. I shot the Canon D30 SLR concurrent with the Canon G5, and left the G5 in the bag after the third missed shot. The Canon PowerShot Pro1 also left me cold, and more frustrated than before. Its AF system was not only extremely slow, it froze the screen while it focused. Thankfully, the G7 doesn't do that.

If you don't know any better, the Canon G7 can be used for portrait photography outdoors in natural light. Its images are very nice despite the anti-noise processing, and can handle enlargement up to 16x20. I love being able to move that large AF area to my subject's face and keep firing. The Face Detect mode is also helpful in these scenes. But I'm used to far shorter shutter/LCD lag than the G7 seems to deliver. I say "seems" because we don't measure LCD lag. Our prefocus shutter lag test numbers for the Canon G7 are 0.07 seconds, which is actually better than the Rebel XTi's 0.105 second. But when I shot them side-by-side, using the LCD to compose the images, the shots I got were far different from what I saw before I pressed the shutter, whereas the XTi shots were more in sync with what I saw through the optical viewfinder.

Out of reach of children. This combined shutter/LCD lag means that the Canon G7 is also not the best choice for photographing kids on the move. When you add in the AF lag numbers and compare them to a camera like the Canon Rebel XTi, full autofocus lag for the G7 is a little over a half second (0.54 average), while the XTi is less than a quarter of a second (0.20 average). That may not seem like a lot, but when you're taking pictures of wiggly kids, 3/10 second matters. Attach the 2x telephoto lens or a flash, and just forget catching kids on the move.

Ultimately, when seeking to shoot action, I suggest leaning on the Canon G7's movie mode. I'm not being sarcastic, I just think you'll be a lot happier. The movie mode is really quite good. My only problem with it is that it only offers digital zoom. You can't otherwise change the focal length once you've started recording. You can zoom in before recording to your desired focal length, then zoom in digitally from there, but you can't zoom back out. Canon does this because they know the movie will capture the noise of the zoom mechanism, like it does on the S3 IS. As it is, the sound of the springloaded plastic zoom lever gets recorded, as do many of the buttons.

Street shooter. Taking the Canon G7 out for gallery shots showed that it still has great utility as a street shooter. Its quiet demeanor and small size keep it from shouting, "photographer," and it slips away into a big pocket with ease. I can even get it into most of my shirt pockets, but that looks pretty geeky.

Why not an A640? I also shot the PowerShot G7 side-by-side with the Canon A640, which is an excellent digicam with a 10 megapixel sensor and a 4x non-stabilized lens that is almost as good as the G7's. The A640 also has the articulating LCD and handgrip that Canon left out of the G7, and it costs about $170 less. The Canon G7 has a hot shoe and IS on its side, a higher resolution LCD, a 6x zoom, and a higher-quality feel overall.

What the A640 has that the G7 doesn't is a different approach to noise suppression. The A640 does show a little more chroma noise in the shadows, even at the lower ISO settings, but it doesn't attempt to smoosh it out like the G7 does. Why is that better? Because I can more easily remove this chroma noise in the computer if I want to, and get more detail out of the A640 shots than I do out of the G7 images. It's not a big deal to basic snapshooters, mostly because the small print sizes conceal this color noise, but it's a very big deal to the people Canon usually targets with the G-series.

Reasons. I've struggled with the G7 for one simple reason: It's not for me. It's not for shooters like me. Two or three years ago, the Canon G7 would have been a very hot pick, even if it had the noisy 5 megapixel sensor that was available then. Two or three years ago, it would have also had RAW, and an articulating screen. They would have been required. But most shooters like me have already moved on. Back when cameras like the G7 were all that were affordable, we did what we could to make them work for us. Now a digital SLR better meets my needs.

I'm also looking at the G7 as an alternate take-anywhere camera, or a travel camera, and I'm a little disappointed. I expected it to be more like an SLR in terms of AF speed and shutter lag. I expected it because it's what I'm used to, and it seemed that if Canon wanted to sell a G7 to me, that's what they'd have to do with a camera that started shipping in late Fall 2006. But Canon isn't looking to sell one to me. They're looking to sell this premium digicam to those who haven't made the jump to a digital SLR as their main camera. The Canon G7 is a step up from the mediocre digicam to a higher level, as the G-series has always been.

The push. It does seem like Canon has abandoned the current G-series owners by removing some favorite features. It could be because there's another camera in the wings to meet their needs, but more likely they mean to push older G-series users to the SLR. Making the G7 more like the S70 and S80 telegraphs that this digicam is meant for those wanting a premium camera, not necessarily the most utilitarian camera.

To all of you who think it's just a cool looking digicam that takes great pictures, I think you're right. Much of the ruminating above is for the existing G-series owners, and those who, like me, have moved on but would still like a smaller, high quality digicam for different types of shooting. If your current digicam serves you well for kid pictures, portraits, or any other kind of photography, you'll find the Canon G7 a dream to use. It'll also take better shots than you're used to because the lens is pretty impressive. Printed output is very good, and you can look forward to cropping liberally without significant loss of quality.

Those SLR owners looking for a second or third shooter should give both the Canon G7 and the A640 a close look. In addition to IS, the G7 has the advantage of a long-lasting Lithium-ion battery, like you're used to with your SLR. But I have to warn you that you might be disappointed with the speed of the Canon G7 relative to your digital SLR. Once you're tuned to one type of shutter, it's very difficult to return to a slower mechanism, but not bad if you're already accustomed.

 

Basic Features

  • 10.0-megapixel (effective) CCD, delivering image resolutions as high as 3,648 x 2,736 pixels
  • 6x optical zoom lens, 35mm equivalent of 35-210mm
  • 4x maximum digital zoom
  • Real-image optical viewfinder
  • 2.5-inch color LCD monitor
  • Full Manual through Automatic exposure available, including Aperture and Shutter priority and 17 preset Scene modes
  • Built-in flash with five modes and an intensity adjustment
  • Topside external flash hot shoe
  • SD/SDHC/MMC memory storage (32MB card included)
  • USB 2.0 computer connection
  • Custom NB-2LH rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power (battery and charger included)
  • Canon Digital Camera Solution software CD for Mac and PC

 

Special Features

  • Image Stabilization technology to minimize blurring from camera movement
  • Continuous shooting mode and Stitch Assist (panorama) shooting modes
  • Movie recording with sound
  • Adjustable self-timer for delayed shutter release
  • Computer-controlled shooting option
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,500 to 15 seconds
  • Available automatic exposure and flash exposure compensation to ensure correct exposures (Safety Shift and Safety FE options)
  • My Colors menu for image saturation and color adjustment
  • Two Custom exposure modes for saving banks of user-set variables
  • Spot, Center-Weighted, and Evaluative metering modes
  • Adjustable AF area and manual focus option, plus two AF modes
  • Removable lens ring accommodates accessory lenses
  • Focus and Auto Exposure Bracketing modes
  • Auto ISO setting or 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200 ISO equivalents (3,200 option only as a special scene mode)
  • White balance (color) adjustment with nine options, including a manual setting
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing compliance, Canon Direct Print and Bubble Jet Direct compatible

 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera
  • Neck strap
  • NB-2LH rechargeable battery pack
  • Battery charger
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • 32MB SD card
  • Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk software CD
  • Manuals and registration information

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Extremely well built
  • Bright, attractive color that stops short of seeming overdone
  • Good skin tones
  • Auto white balance handles a wide range of lighting well
  • Better than average exposure accuracy
  • Excellent lens delivers good sharpness across the frame
  • Zoom is quiet
  • Good shutter response at both wide angle and telephoto
  • User interface makes sense
  • Analog-like gauges aid in setting Aperture and Shutter speed
  • Face detect autofocus is fast and accurate
  • Accurate LCD viewfinder
  • Good low light capability (In Shutter Priority or Manual exposure modes)
  • Capable of making 16x20 inch prints without a fuss
  • Average overall timing score, with a fairly fast prefocus shutter lag
  • Premium price
  • Inaccurate optical viewfinder
  • Chromatic aberration is somewhat high
  • Noisy sensor even at low ISO
  • Anti-noise processing is overagressive at low ISO
  • No RAW file format
  • Lacks articulating screen
  • Flash vignetting in the corners at wide angle
  • Too many manuals to find what you need when you need it
  • Auto rotation not recognized by many other standard applications
  • While the f/2.8 lens is bolstered by the image stabilizer, it is a full stop slower than the f/2.0 lens of recent G-series cameras

 

Despite the controversy about the missing items common to the rest of the G-series, the Canon PowerShot G7 is a well-built, attractive, and refined image maker. Though I'm bugged by its low ISO image noise and obvious anti-noise signature, there's no question that printed images from the PowerShot G7 look great, even when enlarged to 16x20 inches. Film never looked this good, especially at ISO 800.

After cogitating for too long to find a suitable customer for the Canon G7, I've concluded that it's for whomever wants a very tightly-constructed, high-quality digital camera with almost all the hot features. The Canon G7's 10 megapixels, high resolution LCD, analog gauges and dials, image stabilization, and sharp 35-210mm equivalent zoom add up to a digital camera that meets most casual and hobbyist photographer's needs, wrapped up in an appealing body.

The Canon G7 can accept accessory lenses and an accessory flash. To take full advantage of the Canon G7 for indoor shooting, I strongly recommend the Canon 430EX flash, since you'll be able to bounce light off the ceiling or nearby walls for more natural illumination. While of decent quality, the accessory lenses are a bit cumbersome to use. Still, getting the same results with an SLR would not only cost a lot more, but take up more space. This combination could fit in a slim briefcase, which you won't do with most SLRs combined with a ~400mm lens.

The Canon G7 is excellent for many types of photography, so long as there's time. It's a camera for contemplative photography, not candid or action photography. While the Canon G7 has a very fast 0.07 second shutter lag when prefocused, it gets longer when you add the LCD display lag, making rapid model or child photography difficult. Those intending to photograph children will do better with an SLR. The Canon G7's lack of RAW mode, an articulating screen, and other enthusiast features are a sign of the times. Canon built the G7 for a slightly different user than past G-series cameras. If your current photography includes using an articulating screen to capture low and high angle shots, the Canon A640 is a very good alternative whose images are more easily post-processed. But if you're shopping for a premium digital camera that will please you with its presence and its output, the Canon G7 is a great choice, and a certain Dave's Pick.

 

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