Canon Powershot G7 Review
Date: December 21st 2006
Author: Gavin Stoker
Ease of Use
Canon's G-series compacts have long been the preserve of the enthusiast, choc full of features that mean they're worthy of being described as a bridge camera, just a step down from a fully fledged DSLR. The question is, why opt for the Canon Powershot G7, with its 6x optical zoom not quite stretching to 'super zoom' status, when for a just a little more you could be the proud owner of an interchangeable lens EOS 400D DSLR?
For starters, the G7, despite its boxy dimensions, slots handily into a coat pocket. It therefore suggests itself as possibly the most over-qualified spur-of-the-moment snapshot camera out there. But its pretty reasonable price makes that a possibility. Though there are add-on tele and wide conversion lenses available, the advantage the G7 has over similar bridge cameras and super zooms is that its admittedly modest yet thankfully image stabilized 6x zoom (a still respectable 35-210mm range in 35mm terms) is stored flush to the body when not in use.
But the build is one of the camera's aspects that immediately impresses. It feels like it could be dropped, bashed around a bit (possibly shot at) and still come back for more, like some war photojournalist's trusty Leica. Basically it doesn't feel like Canon has cut any corners to bring the camera to market at this price (£450 RRP in the UK), with a black finish denoting a serious intent. Although, as the lengthy spec list shows, Canon has crammed a plethora of photographic controls onto the camera body, everything within the layout feels in its rightful place and is easily and intuitively accessible in an instant.
Up top, and located to the far left (if the camera is viewed from the back), is a very useful dedicated dial for rapidly changing light sensitivity settings, from auto through to ISO1600. Immediately to the right of this, square over the lens, is a hot shoe for supplementary flash, and to the right again, a familiar mode dial. Starting at full auto setting, and moving clockwise around the dial are shooting options including pre-optimised scene modes (that feature a high speed ISO3200-equivalent option), stitch assist for framing panoramic images, movie clip mode (an advantage over a D-SLR for some), followed by six 'creative zone' modes. These are the regulars of program, shutter speed priority (Tv), aperture priority (Av), manual, plus a choice of two readily accessible custom settings.
To the right of this again I told you the camera was veritably crammed with functionality are a forward-situated zoom lever encircling a raised, and very springy feeling shutter button, behind which sits a slightly recessed rectangular on/off button. It's to Canon's credit that despite all of these controls falling immediately at your fingertip, nothing feels cramped, compromised or unnecessarily miniaturized for the sake of 'fashion', which, to be frank, is a breath of fresh air for a compact user.
The rear of the camera is dominated by a (fixed) 2.5-inch LCD screen; with a round window for the optical viewfinder ranged immediately above. Having previously tested the same company's PowerShot A640, I missed that camera's vari-angle LCD (also a feature of the G6), as, to be honest, I found myself reverting to using the G7's screen for shot composition in the main. This has a couple of advantages: firstly, you can see the live on-screen histogram to check exposure as you go, and secondly, a compositional nine-area grid provides added assistance when framing landscapes and attempting to get your horizon level. Screen visibility is also universally good, in contrast to the optical viewfinder appearing murky when used indoors under artificial light.
|Rear Controls||Top Controls|
Though the G7 can be operated with one hand, using both feels more comfortable, even though, with a lack of a grip to the left hand side of the body if viewed from the rear again it's easy to smear the side of the LCD with thumbprints. Top right of the monitor are a self-explanatory playback button, with a customary Canon direct print button for PictBridge compliant printers top left that, if wanted, doubles up as a shortcut button. Immediate right of the LCD are four buttons ranged at compass points around a control dial that features a scroll wheel (for sifting through captured images and navigating menus) encircling a function set button.
These buttons include one for deleting images that doubles up as a means of switching between AF options (face detection, AiAF standard auto plus FlexiZone AF), a second for adjusting exposure on the fly (-/+2EV), a third for switching the display on or off (including the aforementioned nine-zone grid and histogram), while the fourth is a singular menu button for calling up just that on-screen. Finally for the camera back, top right of this is a button for adding voice annotations to images in playback that doubles up as an AE and FE (Flash Exposure) lock button. On the right flank of the camera again if viewed from the back is a sturdy sliding flap protecting USB and AV out ports, above which is a handy mount for a neck or wrist strap. On the left hand side is an identical strap mount, below which is a speaker.
Turning our attention to performance, the G7 powers up just less than two seconds, the LCD bursting into life and the lens barrel simultaneously and quickly extending to maximum wide angle. Not bad at all. A half press of the shutter button and, if AF is set to continuous mode, you immediately notice the sound of the lens hunting for critical focus. In truth it's reasonably quiet and nowhere near as distracting as the 'insect buzz' of the Nikon Coolpix range. That shutter button however is so springy that you have to be reasonably gentle with your half press, but personally I liked its more tactile nature, which, as with the camera's other features, allows the user and not just the camera itself to feel more in control.
Going on to take a shot, there's no discernable shutter delay, while, as long as you're not taking more than three single shots in quick succession, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it wait of around a second before you can take the next image and at maximum resolution, Fine image quality setting too. Via the LCD, the user can display the aforementioned nine zone compositional grid, shots remaining, selected shooting mode, flash setting, plus metering mode. To this is usefully added the histogram display if you move out of point-and-shoot auto mode and opt instead for program, shutter speed priority, aperture priority or manual shooting mode.
A press of the 'function set' button at the centre of the control dial brings up an L-shaped toolbar running up the left hand side and across the bottom of the screen. As with other Canon compacts, you scroll up and down this to select and affect various key functions on the fly. In auto mode, most are disabled and all the user is allowed to do is change file size and quality large and super fine being the best (least compression) option. Flick the shooting dial around to program however and you get the added options of being able to adjust white balance which includes both an underwater and custom setting plus access the familiar, but often unused, 'My Colors' menu, bracketing options, flash strength, metering mode, and, rather more interestingly, switch a neutral density (ND) filter on/off for those contrasty landscapes.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
These myriad options remain for the other main shooting modes, with various features obviously subtracted when shooting video clips although you still get white balance, My Colors, and use of the ND filter if required which adds the options of being able to shoot at 640x480 or 320x240 pixels, and at 30fps or 15fps depending on end usage. Turning the mode dial again to access the scene modes, you're presented with a range of icon-illustrated options via a virtual mode dial onscreen. Among the usual suspects, these include pre-optimised settings for snow (like you, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas), fireworks, aquariums and underwater, plus the aforementioned ISO3200 mode, the results from which invariably resemble more a Pointillist painting than a realistic photo.
Press the menu button on the G7's back and you get a choice of three familiar Canon folders. The first, illustrated with a camera icon, allows users to turn on or off the digital zoom, and additional flash settings such as flash synch, slow synchro and red eye reduction not otherwise available by pressing the dedicated flash button (why anti red eye isn't automatically included on the latter I don't know). You can also adjust the AF mode from single to continuous (the latter being the one which hunts), and disable the bright green AF assist beam if wanted.
Like Canon's high-end IXUS models, image stabilization can be activated at the point of taking a shot or likewise set to continuous. There's also a panning mode and it can, if wished, be disabled entirely. You can also customize the information displayed in this menu. The second folder, illustrated by the familiar spanner and mallet, is the set up menu, where operational sounds can be handily muted, LCD brightness tweaked, clock set, memory formatted, and all settings returned to default if someone else has been playing with the camera. The third folder allows you to change start up sounds and images, a feature included on all Canons but largely unnecessary I find.
Press the camera's playback button and a full resolution captured image appears in just over a second. A further press of the display button brings up basic shooting information, such as file number, the time and date the image was taken and which file size (e.g. 'L' for Large) and quality setting was selected. Press the display button a second time and you get more detailed information, including size of the file in MB, white balance and metering mode, aperture and shutter speed, plus shooting mode and a retroactive histogram just like a baby D-SLR in fact.
Hit the menu button in playback and you're offered a choice of four folders two for variously tweaking set up and camera sounds and images as before, plus an initial review folder containing options for slideshows, erasing or protecting images or adding sound, plus a second folder of print settings, particularly useful if you're hooking the camera up to one of Canon's PictBridge-enabled standalone printer ranges. Despite the chunky range of options that matches its equally chunky yet still compact frame, everything here seems logically placed, with controls falling easily under the finger or thumb, and the menus being bright, clear, thoughtfully laid out and easy to navigate once you get used to the scroll wheel.
It's built like a tank, it's packed full of features, its performance is fast and responsive, so how does the Canon Powershot G7 cut the mustard when it comes to image quality? Let's find out
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Canon Powershot G7 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.