DigitalCameraReview.com
Canon Powershot G7 Digital Camera Review
by AKAJohnDoe -  3/5/2007

The Canon PowerShot G7 digital camera emulates the look and feel of a classic rangefinder camera; truly a classic and elegant design. But this camera is not just a looker, this camera incorporates many truly impressive features starting with Canon’s latest generation image processor; the DIGIC III, for improved image quality, faster response, and extended battery life. DIGIC III also supports Canon’s Face Detection AF/AE and iSAPS Technology – a unique scene recognition database for improved focus speed and accuracy.

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A fast f/2.8 (wide angle) to f/4.8 (telephoto) lens provides a 6x optical zoom (35-210mm in 35mm terms), with 4x of digital zoom, and Image Stabilization (IS) to reduce the effects of camera shake. Image Stabilization can permit use of shutter speeds up to 3 stops slower without noticeable image blurring.

For more specs, there is a Technical Specifications section at the end of the review for those of you so inclined. Next up is an overview of the Control Layout; however, if you are familiar with Canon digital cameras, jump ahead to the Handling and Performance and the Pro/Con sections of this Canon PowerShot G7 review but be sure to come back and read the Control Layout section afterwards.

CONTROL LAYOUT

When you pick up the G7 you know you have a camera in your hand, not some plastic toy. The specifications show it weighs a hefty 11.3 oz (320 g). The grip and control layout makes it a well-balanced package and very comfortable to hold and handle. I do recommend using the neck strap, however, as the finish is quite smooth.

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Across the top of the Canon PowerShot G7 are electronic controls that again are reminiscent of the analog controls of yore. There is an ISO dial which allows settings from 80 to 1600, plus Auto and Auto-HI settings. Hint: There is also a special 3200 ISO setting under the special scene shooting modes. Then there is a hot shoe! You can use an external flash with this camera! Canon EX flashes are recommended. Next is another dial that is used to set the shooting mode. In the Auto mode the camera selects the best settings based on programming. The Creative Zone modes (P, Tv, Av, M, C1, C2) are used when it is desired to provide direction to the camera in some way. The two Custom modes (C1, C2) are used to save two separate sets of personal settings for future reuse. The Image Zone modes (SCN, Stitch Assist, Movie) are used to invoke the extensive library of special settings and functions. There are 16 Special Scene modes, designed to be appropriate for scene. Completing the controls on the top are the power button and the shutter release and zoom lever. The zoom lever functions similarly in both shooting and playback modes. The Movie mode operates at up to 15fps at 1024x768 in VGA.

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Behind a door on the side are the terminals for A/V out and Digital.

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The left side of the back is dominated by the 2.5 inch LCD display. Above the LCD is a shortcut button, which can be used to invoke one frequently used function from a fairly extensive list of available functions. The shortcut button is also the Print/Share button in playback mode. Next is the viewfinder, with a diopter adjustment, and on the other side, the indicator lights and the playback button.

On the right side of the back are the main controls: AE/AE Lock; exposure compensation; control dial; display; menu. Within the control dial are: manual focus (MF); nacro; flash; continuous/self timer.

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The battery and memory card (SD) are behind a door on the bottom of the camera. Also on the bottom is a standard tripod socket.

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In addition to the lens, on the front of the camera contains: AF assist beam/red-eye reduction lamp/self-timer Lamp; viewfinder window; flash.

HANDLING/PERFORMANCE

The Canon PowerShot G7 Digital Camera has class and style. The G-Series are the flagships of the Canon PowerShot line. This newest addition is certainly worthy of that status. However, there are a number of significant changes introduced with the G7 as compared to prior G-Series models. When a digital camera reaches the level of performance of the PowerShot G7, the lines between a semi-professional camera and a point-and-shot begin to blur.

Observations

The obvious changes are the external ones. The PowerShot G7 no longer has the rotating, flip-out LCD of the G6 it replaces. I don’t mind that nor miss it, but is it worth noting. Also, the LCD is now 2.5”, which is 25% larger, with higher resolution. The ISO is now a dial on the top of the camera, which is a very welcome change. Altering the sensitivity on the fly is such a frequently used feature; moving it out of the menus and into the forefront of usability is amazingly convenient. The lens has a longer zoom range, both optical and digital, than that of its predecessor and has image stabilization, which the predecessor did not have. This PowerShot uses SD/SDHC/MMC cards instead of CF cards. The SD card format is physically smaller and has a less mechanical interface than the CF card format. Thankfully, SD and CF are both non-proprietary memory card formats. Be sure to get large capacity SD cards for this camera as they will fill up fast at 10MP! My advice with any digital memory media is to find the price/capacity sweet spot where the price per MB is lowest and buy those. This point changes as capacities increase, so check again if you have not for awhile. The camera comes with a 32MB card; I used a 4GB card.

The Canon PowerShot G7 uses the new DIGIC III image processor to deliver 10MP, with face detection, a significant change from the G6 at 7MP.

The PowerShot G7 does not support RAW format. Perhaps at this price/performance level the DSLR would be a more appropriate choice if that feature is needed.

The NB-2LH battery is smaller and lighter than the BP-511A used on most Canon cameras. I believe that this may be the same battery used on one of the Digital Rebel models. This appears to be more evidence of the blurring of the lines between P&S and DSLR. My advice with any camera, digital or film, has always been to have more than one battery available; this camera more so than others as the specifications show only 220 shots per charge.

Real-World Use

Finding color during winter in the Pacific Northwest can be a challenge. Although the willows are already turning yellow this year and the ubiquitous conifers are always green and I have mowed my lawn twice already since 2007 began, gray is still the predominant color.

Embracing this challenge, I put on Gortex and went to a wetlands to see what I might find, figuring that the plants, birds, turtles and such might provide a workout for the optical and digital zoom and perhaps the IS and macro as well of the Canon PowerShot G7.

It was early and chilly and partially overcast when I arrived, so I tried both auto and cloudy white balance settings and toyed with the built-in “my colors” settings a bit. While I still find that I prefer tweaking in the computer, the internal capabilities of this camera are quite robust. I was able to capture the stark coldness of frost on last year’s reeds easily and use the computer to enlarge, crop, and warm another image in contrast.

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Further along the path, and a bit later in the day, I came across a heron standing on a fallen tree. I had no tripod with me so the images I took were all hand-held. These three images have been cropped in Photoshop to present roughly equivalent framing and resized, but no other alterations were made.

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(view large image) 2.3x digital zoom

In spite of my shivering, the IS worked quite well, especially on the first image. All three images were captured at 1/250th of a second with varying apertures.

The 9-point AiAF really shines in difficult situations, demonstrated by this image of a stark tree against the gray sky. I probably would have gone to manual focus on an SLR for this, but the PowerShot G7 managed it quite admirably.

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The Canon PowerShot G7 has a built-in neutral density (ND) filter. The ND filter is generally used to drastically reduce the amount of light coming into the camera to allow for a much slower shutter speed. Since ND filters are commonly used to obtain the silky waterfall picture we have all seen, that is exactly what I sought. For reference, all of these were taken at ISO 400. I could have slowed it down further to ISO 200 or even ISO 100, but it was starting to rain and this was not my camera! Mounting the camera on a lightweight tripod, a picture in “P” mode without the ND filter was taken to have a baseline. A tripod is essential for these slow shutter speeds; they are below the ability for most people to hand-hold, even with IS. Generally, 1/60s or 1/125s is the slowest hand-holdable shutter speed for most people. The camera chose this to be exposed at 1/100s, f/3.5, which could possibly have been a hand-holdable shutter speed.

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I took additional shots, closing the aperture to the minimum permissible of f/8, and selecting varying shutter speeds of 1/25s, 1/13s, and 1/40s with these results.

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All in all, I am pleased with the results. Given more time or better weather, I would have experimented with slower ISO speeds. Digital is an excellent medium for this, providing instantaneous results and not having to waste the non-keepers. The ND filter is a nice feature.

As I said, finding color during the rainy season can be a challenge. Thankfully, there are nurseries with flowers in bloom! With Canon PowerShot G7 in tow I was off to Molbak’s Nursery in Woodinville in my quest for color. Molbak’s grows all their own plants, so I know I will always find the best there. I appreciate their permission to use these images.

Flowers are natural subjects (pun intended) for flash, macro, close-up, wide-angle, and many other types of photography. I found the Vivid color setting and the Positive Film setting were ideally suited to the healthy and bright flowers found at the nursery. Turning on these can add a punch to your pictures without appearing unnatural. Rather like using the old Kodachrome or Velvia slide films, which I adored.

The range of the built-in flash is shown quite well in this picture. Remember that if the built-in flash is not enough, or you want off-camera flash, that the PowerShot G7 has a hot shoe, too.

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By the way, all of these flower images were taken hand-held, further demonstration of the effectiveness of the image stabilization (IS).

In macro mode, and in ordinary close-ups, the delicacy of flowers can be shown to their full extent. The PowerShot G7 does this well, while maintaining superb color saturation and balance. While the smallest aperture available is f/8, note the depth of field in these pictures; really quite impressive.

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Some people have preferences for how they see things through a camera lens and so naturally gravitate towards that perspective. Lenses have been grouped accordingly. A normal lens sees as we do; roughly the same perspective and field of vision as our eyes. A wide-angle lens sees a broader field of vision and alters the perspective. Telephoto, then of course, sees further and narrower than we do, and also appears to compress perspective.

The Canon PowerShot G7 has a zoom lens that spans the range from the high end of wide-angle to the high end of telephoto, not extending into either super-wide angle nor into super-telephoto ranges. Still, 35-210mm (in 35mm terms) is a substantial range.

At the wide end of the spectrum the lens exhibits some barrel distortion as is to be expected. It is not all that apparent with flower pictures as the straight lines are at a minimum for that subject matter. Keeping the camera level, rather than pointing up or down, can minimize the effects of this in images that do have straight lines. Using the option to turn on the grid lines that can be superimposed on the LCD screen can assist with this. Another nice feature.

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Again, check out the color saturation. If you were a slide film shooter you really owe it to yourself to try those color settings mentioned earlier.

When shooting the wide-angle pictures I noticed that the lens extends out to where it may be seen through the viewfinder. It is not seen through the LCD and of course not in the image, but it is a bit annoying when trying to compose using the viewfinder.

This image, taken at 13mm (65mm in 35mm equivalence) might have benefited from an external flash placed slightly off-camera to provide a bit more shadow and depth, but otherwise is a good example of the performance of the lens in the normal range.


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Finally, the Canon PowerShot G7 shows what it can do at both ends of the telephoto range in these images taken at 22mm (~100mm) and 37mm (~185mm). I’m particularly fond of telephoto photography as it allows for optical extraction; picking a section of the overall subject for special attention. While this can be done in the computer via cropping, starting with as much of the image as possible in the full frame is preferable to blowing up the image in the cropping process. On the large version of these images I can zoom in on my lowly laptop screen far enough to see pollen. That’s what 10MP can do for you!


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The digital noise, or grain, observable in the images taken with the Canon PowerShot G7 follows the predicable pattern grain has always followed; it increases with film speed. Quite simply, it is more noticeable at ISO 1600 than it is at ISO 100. Below ISO 400 it is quite clean, at ISO 400 it becomes noticeable if you are looking for it, at ISO 800 it is there to be seen, and above that it is apparent. How apparent really depends on the medium the image is viewed upon, the size of the image, and the original size of the image capture. To demonstrate, I took 6 images, all at the largest capture settings, varying the ISO setting through the values available. I did not include the special HI-ISO setting of ISO 3200 in this test, but did include the Auto setting. The standard Macbeth Color Checker chart was used as the subject to document any color shifts.


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The white balance settings also appear to maintain consistent color appropriate for the light source. The Special Scene modes are quite useful in this regard.

A nice touch that has not been mentioned yet: When scrolling through the options, selecting either with the control wheel or the dials, the LCD screen display scrolls along with you via animation that increases in font size with the selected value.

CONCLUSION

For the person who wants a digital camera with top performance and extensive features in a stylish, retro-rangefinder package, the Canon PowerShot G7 is an excellent choice. The AF speed of the DIGIC III processor, external flash hot shoe, and intuitive controls position it well as a bridge, or potential backup, to a DSLR. The zoom range could be better on the wide end, going down to 20mm or 24mm (in 35mm terms) would be ideal. The camera can print directly with PictBridge compliant printers (no computer necessary).

Pros

Cons

 

IN THE BOX

SPECIFICATIONS