Canon G9 Review
Canon PowerShot G9 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Overall pleasing and well-saturated color, though strong reds and blues were a little oversaturated. Slightly reddish skin tones, but still good results.
Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the G9's skin tones were reddish, but not to an extreme. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Canon G9 produced a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, most visibly pushing cyan toward blue (for better-looking skies), red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Still, overall color was good. Hue is "what color" the
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual and Incandescent white balance settings, though Manual proved best overall. Even the Auto white balance results weren't too far off. About average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was slightly yellow in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent and Manual settings produced more accurate color. Of the two, however, the Manual setting looked best, with the most natural skin tones. The Canon G9 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers are quite dark and purplish. (Many digital cameras reproduce these blue flowers with a dark, purplish tint, so the G9 fell for the trap.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Generally good color and exposure, though high contrast and hot highlights.
|Manual White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
The Canon PowerShot G9 performed well under harsh outdoor lighting, though contrast was quite high. Overall color is good though, if slightly reddish, with the Manual white balance setting on the portrait (the Auto and Daylight settings were just slightly too cool). Though overall contrast is high, the shadows hold onto a fair amount of detail. On the outdoor house shot, the G9's contrast adjustment did do a fair job of toning down the hard lighting, so be sure to try lowering the contrast setting in bright exposures such as these.
High resolution, 1,700 ~ 1,800 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,800, arguably 2,000 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,700 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines (really almost 2,000 lines) per picture height horizontally, though some artifacts begin to appear around 1,700 lines. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to merge around 1,800-1,900 lines vertically. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images, with minimal edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Minor detail loss to noise suppression in the shadows.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with only minor
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
Marti's hair here.
Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot G9 captures good detail and sharp images. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows relatively little detail lost to noise suppression, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing slightly limited detail, though individual strands remain visible in the more moderate shadows before blending into each other. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the higher settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
|ISO 3,200 (1,600 x 1,200)|
Noise levels are fairly low at the Canon PowerShot G9's lower sensitivity settings, though noise is quite visible and details a little blurred at the ISO 200 setting. At ISO 400, noise is high, with considerable blurring, although its 12-megapixel images still make good-looking 8x10 inch prints. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise is very high, and fine detail all but lost. The camera's ISO 3,200 setting limits the resolution to 1,600 x 1,200, but results here are still quite blurry, even though the noise pixels aren't as bright.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but high contrast and hot highlights. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
The Canon PowerShot G9 produced high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very hot highlights with limited detail. Shadow detail is fair, though noise suppression does smudge detail in deeper shadow areas. The camera required about average compensation to get proper exposure of skin tones, at +0.7 EV, but unfortunately blows the detail in the shirt. Definitely consider reducing the G9's contrast setting, and be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible. (Sorry, we neglected to shoot examples of this subject using the G9's lower contrast settings. We'll try to get back to do this, but can't promise to do so, given our review backlog.)
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
The Canon PowerShot G9 performed well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level with almost the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). At ISO 80, the image at 1/16 foot-candle is dim. Alternatively, images captured at ISO 3,200 were only bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level because the camera limits its exposure times at that ISO setting, but noise is very high. Color balance was pretty good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked well also, as it was able to focus on the subject almost down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and down to the darkest light level with the AF assist enabled. (A useful trick when shooting under dim lighting is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy. The G9 should do quite well in such situations.)
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
A fairly powerful flash, with a pretty good range. Our standard shots required slightly lower than average exposure compensation. Coverage was pretty uniform most of the time, but uneven at wide angle.
|35mm equivalent||210mm equivalent|
Flash coverage was uneven at wide angle, with strong falloff in the corners of the frame, but more uniform at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Canon G9's flash underexposed our subject just a little at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get good results. (This is less adjustment than most cameras require on this shot.) The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results at the same exposure setting, albeit with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained fairly bright all the way out to a distance of about 16 feet. At full telephoto and ISO 100, the intensity remained the same to about 11 feet, and decreased only slightly with each additional foot.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 200
Auto ISO 200
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the wide angle shot above, the PowerShot G9 performs exactly as Canon says it will, producing a good exposure at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto (which selected ISO 200). At telephoto, results are also good at the estimated distance. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, good color, sharp 16x20-inch prints. ISO 400 images are quite good at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are good at 8x10, and ISO 1,600 shots look fine at 5x7 inches.
The Canon PowerShot G9 had enough resolution to make good looking 16x20-inch prints. Slight chroma noise is present at 80, which begins to increase at 100, and gets noticable at ISO 200. But remember, I'm still talking about JPEGs printed at a very large 16x20 inches. ISO 200 images are better at 13x19 inches, and the jump to ISO 400 eliminates the chroma noise with more noise suppression evident, but it really requires a drop down to 11x14 inches before detail is acceptable. ISO 800 looks good at 8x10 inches, and ISO 1,600 looks pretty darn good at 5x7. ISO 3,200, on the other hand, looks terrible even at 4x6. It should have been left out of the camera design.
Color saturation looks good, fading only the slightest bit as ISO increases. It's an excellent performance overall. Consider that you can process the RAW images in any number of software programs to get better results, and the Canon G9 is every bit the cool enthusiast camera that the Canon G7 should have been.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot G9 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot G9 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.