PowerShot G9 ($499) is a high-end fixed-lens
camera offering almost every feature you could imagine.
It replaces the PowerShot G7, which was a disappointment
compared to previous models, in this reviewer's opinion.
The new G9 takes care of many of the issues that
people had with the G7, with the most notable change
being the addition of RAW image support. However,
the rotating LCD that made the G-series famous is
still nowhere to be found.
Here's the full list of what's new
on the G9 compared to its predecessor:
- 12 Megapixel CCD (vs 10MP)
- 3.0" LCD display (vs 2.5",
though it still doesn't rotate like on previous G-series
- RAW image format supported
- Auto ISO Shift
- In-camera redeye removal
- Improved battery life + battery
level indicator on LCD
There are a few other features that
I'll cover in the body of the review. So what hasn't
changed? The G9 features the same 6X optical zoom lens,
image stabilization system, manual controls, SVGA movie
mode, and classic design of its predecessor.
Will the PowerShot G9 live up to its
heritage, unlike the G7 before it? Find out now in
Since the two cameras have much
in common, I will be reusing portions of the PowerShot
G7 review here.
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot G9 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 12.0 effective Megapixel PowerShot
G9 IS camera
- 32MB MMCplus memory card
- NB-2LH rechargeable lithium-ion
- Battery charger
- Neck strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital
- 273 page camera manual (printed)
Canon includes a 32MB MMCplus memory
card in the box with the camera. Odds are that this
is the only time you'll ever see an MMCplus card, as
they're pretty rare. Anyhow, that card will hold just
five photos at the highest JPEG quality setting, so
you'll want to get yourself a larger memory card, and
fast. The G9 supports four types of flash memory: SD,
SDHC, MMC, and MMCplus, and I'd probably stick with
the first two. I'd recommend a 2GB, high speed card
for best camera performance.
The G9 uses the same NB-2LH battery
as the G7 before it. This small battery packs 5.3 Wh
of energy, which is about average for a camera in this
class. Here's how that translates into battery life:
life, LCD on
|Canon PowerShot A650
||4 x 2500
|Canon PowerShot A720
||2 x 2500
|Canon PowerShot G7 *
|Canon PowerShot G9
|Fuji FinePix F50fd *
|Kodak EasyShare Z1275
||2 x 2100
|Nikon Coolpix P5100 *
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7
||2 x unknown
|Pentax Optio A40 *
|Samsung NV20 **
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
** Number not obtained using the CIPA standard
Battery life numbers are provided by
The good news is that the G9's battery
life is about 10% better than its predecessor, though
it's still way below what the "old" G6 used
to get (300 shots). Despite the improvement, the G9's
numbers are still below average in the group as a whole.
I always like to complain about proprietary
batteries like the one used by the PowerShot G9, so
here goes. For one, they're expensive, with an extra
NB-2LH costing more
than $45. Secondly, if your G9's battery dies,
you can't pop in an off-the-shelf battery, as you could
with a camera that uses AAs. If you're interested in
such a camera, you'll see some of them listed above.
The PowerShot A650 in particular has a lot in
common with the G9.
When it's time to charge the battery,
just snap it into the included charger, and plug the
charger directly into the wall. It takes about 105
minutes to fully charge the NB-2LH.
There's a built-in lens cover on the
G9, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with. As
you can see, it's a fairly bulky camera.
The G9 supports quite a few optional
accessories, and I've compiled them all into this chart
||Why you want it
||Brings the wide end of the lens down by
0.75X to 26.3 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
||Boosts focal range by 2X to
an ultra zoom-like 420 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
|Conversion lens adapter
||Required for conversion lenses; threaded for 58 mm accessories
|Ring accessory kit
||Includes three lens rings of different
colors, so you can replace the black one that comes on the
|Boost flash range and reduce redeye; you
can use most third party flashes as well, though these sync
with the camera
||Lets you control two separate groups of
external flashes, wirelessly
|External slave flash
||Doesn't integrate with the camera; fires
when the onboard flash does
||Take your camera up to 40 meters underwater
||Power the camera without wasting your batteries
|Car battery charger
||Charge your battery in the car!
|Soft camera case
||Protect your camera from the elements
|* Prices were accurate when review was published
That's a pretty extensive list, if
you ask me. The only thing missing here is a remote
control, which was supported on older G-series models.
CameraWindow in Mac OS X
Canon has given their bundled software
a refresh, with the ImageBrowser (Mac) and ZoomBrowser
(Windows) products now up to version 6. The Mac version
is now Universal, so it runs at full speed on Intel-based
The first part of the Browser software
that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window, and
you'll use it to download photos from your camera.
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
Once that's done you'll find yourself
in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, depending on
your computer. Here you can view, organize, e-mail,
and print your photos. If you categorized any photos
on the camera (more on this later) then that information
is transferred over to the Browser software.
ImageBrowser edit window in Mac OS X
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll
bring up the edit window. Editing functions include
trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust
levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone
curve. There's also an auto adjustment option for those
who want a quick fix.
RAW Image Task in Mac OS X
If you're viewing a RAW image, you
can edit it using the totally remodeled RAW Image Task
in the Browser software. The RAW Image Task appears
to be derived from Canon's Digital Photo Professional
software that comes with their digital SLRs. It lets
you edit virtually any RAW property imaginable, including
exposure, white balance, sharpness, color, and noise
reduction. I found the RAW Image Task to be both easy-to-use
In the near future you'll also be
able to use Adobe Photoshop to process the G9's RAW
images -- Adobe needs to update the Camera
Raw plug-in first though.
In case you wondering why RAW support
is a such big deal, I'll tell you. A RAW image contains
unprocessed data directly from the camera's sensor.
That means that you can adjust any of the properties
I just mentioned without affecting the quality of the
image. Think of it as a second chance to take the photo:
if you botched the white balance, RAW lets you fix
it. The downside with RAW is that 1) the file sizes
are huge (16MB) and 2) you must process the files on
your computer in order to get them into more common
formats (e.g. JPEG). It's not a feature that the average
point-and-shoot user needs, but enthusiasts will definitely
take advantage of it.
RemoteCapture Task in Mac OS X
But wait, there's more. The G9 also
supports remote capture from your Mac or PC using the
RemoteCapture Task build into the Browser software.
You can operate nearly all of the camera's features
from your PC, and when you take a photo, the image
is saved onto your hard drive. This is a feature rarely
found on fixed-lens cameras, so kudos to Canon for
PhotoStitch in Mac
A totally separate program called
PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos
into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the
process takes minutes, and the results are impressive,
as you can see. You can use the G9's Stitch Assist
feature to line up the photos side-by-side with just
the right amount of overlap.
Canon has changed the documentation
slightly on the G9. Gone are the separate quick start
and user manuals -- now it's just one book. The manual
is very detailed, with every feature and option covered.
At the same time, it's not terribly user friendly.
Still, as camera manuals go, it's better than most.
Canon also includes separate manuals describing direct
printing and the software bundle.
Look and Feel
From most angles, the PowerShot G9
looks identical to its predecessor. In fact, the only
real differences on the G9 are its larger LCD screen
and black lens ring. And that's fine, as the G7 was
a very well designed camera. Canon has gone with a
a retro "rangefinder camera" design with
the G7 and G9, and it gives the cameras a professional
The G9 is built like a tank, made
almost completely of metal. It doesn't really have
a right hand grip (unless a small strip of rubber counts),
though it still fits comfortably in your hands. The
camera has more than its share of buttons, though you
shouldn't have to read the manual to figure out what
most of them do. My one ergonomic complaint is the
same as it was for the G7: the zoom controller and
shutter release button are too small.
Now, here's a look at how the G9 compares
with the other cameras in its class in terms of size
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon PowerShot A650 IS
||4.4 x 2.7 x 2.2 in.
||26.1 cu in.
||300 g |
|Canon PowerShot A720 IS
||3.8 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.
||16.8 cu in.
||200 g |
|Canon PowerShot G7
||4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in.
||20 cu in.
||320 g |
|Canon PowerShot G9
||4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in.
||20 cu in.
||320 g |
|Fujifilm FinePix F50fd
||3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
||7.5 cu in.
||155 g |
|Kodak EasyShare Z1275
||3.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 in.
||10.5 cu in.
||161 g |
|Nikon Coolpix P5100
||3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 in.
||15.6 cu in.
||200 g |
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7
||3.9 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.
||12.7 cu in.
||184 g |
|Pentax Optio A40
||2.2 x 0.9 x 3.6 in.
||7.1 cu in.
||130 g |
||3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in.
||6.4 cu in.
||152 g |
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200
||3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 in.
||9.1 cu in.
||142 g |
As you can see, the PowerShot G7 and
G9 have the same dimensions and size -- not too surprising.
The G9 is by far the largest camera in this group,
though that certainly didn't bother me. While it won't
fit in most of your pockets, it's still easy to carry
around in a jacket or camera bag.
Enough about that, let's dive into
the details now, with a full tour of the PowerShot
The PowerShot G9 has exactly the same
F2.8-4.8, 6X optical zoom lens as its predecessor.
The focal length of the lens is 7.4 - 44.4 mm, which
is equivalent to 35 - 210 mm. I'm probably not the
only one wishing that the focal range started at 28
mm instead! While the lens itself is not threaded,
you can add conversion lenses or 58 mm filters by removing
the ring around the lens (by pressing the button at
the lower-right) and attaching the optional conversion
Somewhere inside the G9's lens is
Canon's optical image stabilization (OIS) system. If
you currently own a digital camera, chances are that
you've taken more than your share of blurry photos.
Quite often, this blurring is caused by "camera
shake", which is created by the tiny movements
of your hands. Sensors inside the PowerShot G9 detect
this motion, and one of the lens elements is shifted
to compensate for it. Image stabilization is not a
miracle worker: it won't stop a moving subject, nor
will it allow you to take night scenes (like the one
later in this review) without a tripod. It will, however,
let you use shutter speeds that were unusable otherwise.
Want to see how well the OIS system
works? Check these out:
Image stabilization on
Image stabilization off
The photos above were taken at a very
slow 1/3 second shutter speed. As you can see, without
stabilization, the resulting photo was quite blurry.
Turning on OIS (in "shoot only" mode here)
produced a nice, sharp photo. If you need another example
of what image stabilization can do, check out this
To the upper-right of the lens you'll
see the G9's built-in flash. The flash range has improved
slightly compared to the G7, though only at the wide
end of the lens. Canon lists the range as 0.3 - 4.0
m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.5 m at telephoto (both
at Auto ISO), which really isn't that great considering
that this is supposed to be a "high end" camera.
If you need more flash power then you can attach an
external flash to the hot shoe that I'll show you in
Moving left from the flash we find
the optical viewfinder, followed by the AF-assist lamp.
The AF-assist lamp, which also serves as the visual
countdown for the self-timer, is used by the camera
as a focusing aid in low light situations.
While Canon didn't bring back the
rotating LCD on the G9, they did up the size from 2.5" on
the G7 to 3.0" here. The resolution of the screen
is 230,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp.
Outdoor visibility is excellent on this "PureColor
II" screen (though see my issue below), and in
low light situations the screen brightens automatically,
so you can still see your subject.
|Normal LCD view
||LCD view with polarized sunglasses
What I'm about to write may sound
a bit strange, but since I've never encountered this
before, I'm going to mention it. Most digital camera
LCD screens are polarized (which improves outdoor visibility),
and most people will never notice. That is, unless
you're wearing polarized sunglasses, which are fairly
common these days. On most cameras, the LCD gets dark
only in the portrait orientation. However, the G9's
screen is completely black in the "normal" landscape
orientation when you have polarized sunglasses on.
Taking off your sunglasses solves the problem, but
in my case I couldn't see anything, as they are prescription
lenses. Thus, if you wear prescription polarized sunglasses,
keep this in mind.
Directly above the LCD is a large
optical viewfinder, which shows 80% of the frame. Optical
viewfinders seem to be pretty rare these days, and
I'm pleased to see that Canon hasn't done away with
it, especially considering how little real estate is
available on the back of the camera. I noticed that
you can see part of the lens in the lower-left corner
of the frame when it's at the wide-angle position.
A diopter correction knob on the left side of the viewfinder
is used to focus what you're looking at -- a handy
feature for those of you without perfect vision.
To the left of the viewfinder is the
shortcut (custom) button, which doubles as the Print/Share
button when connected to a printer or computer. You
can assign almost any function to this button, including
the handy Auto ISO Shift feature that I'll cover later
in the review. When you're hooked into a printer or
PC, just press this button to make prints, transfer
photos, or even choose a picture to use as a desktop
Moving to the right of the viewfinder
now, we find buttons for entering playback mode and
for Auto Exposure+Flash Exposure lock. The AE/FE lock
is also used to add voice captions while in playback
Jumping now to the right side of the
LCD, we have four buttons, the four-way controller,
and the control dial. First, here are the buttons:
- Focus point selection + Delete
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to
+2EV in 1/3EV increments) + Jump (quickly moves through
photos in playback mode)
- Display (toggles what's on the
LCD, and also turns it off)
- Menu (does what it sounds like)
The camera gives you a nice visual aid when adjusting
the aperture and shutter speed
I'll cover the focus options when
I get to the menu discussion later in the review. Now
I want to tell you about the unique four-way controller
/ command dial combination. In the center is a traditional
four-way controller, though it's on the small side.
Surrounding it is a dial which you can use to select
manual settings, navigate the menu system, or playback
photos. When you're adjusting manual exposure settings,
retro-looking graphics are shown on the LCD (see screenshot).
You can also use the four-way controller for those,
and it can also do the following:
- Up - Manual focus (on/off)
- Down - Drive (Single-shot, continuous,
continuous AF, continuous LV, 2 or 10 sec self-timer,
- Left - Macro mode (on/off)
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, flash
on, flash off)
- Center - Function/Set
Manual focus (center frame enlargement not shown)
Turn on the manual focus feature and
you'll use the command dial to set the focus distance.
The center of the frame is enlarged on the LCD, which
also displays a guide with the current focus distance
There are three continuous shooting
modes available on the PowerShot G9. The "regular" one
will keep shooting JPEGs at 1.4 frames/second until
you run out of memory. You can shoot in RAW mode as
well, though the frame rate is quite slow (around 0.5
fps). While there's a bit of lag, the LCD keeps up
fairly well, so you should be able to track a moving
subject. The continuous AF mode focuses before each
shot is taken, which drops the JPEG frame rate down
to 0.8 frames/second. If you're in manual focus or
fireworks mode, there's also a continuous LV mode,
which lets you see the photo before it's taken, rather
than after (like the regular continuous mode).
By pressing the center button on the
four-way controller, you'll open up the Function menu.
This menu has the following options:
- White balance (Auto, daylight,
cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, flash,
underwater, custom 1/2) - see below
- My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral,
sepia, black & white, positive film, lighter
skin, darker skin, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid
red, custom) - see below
- Bracket (Off, exposure, focus)
- see below
- Flash exposure compensation (-2EV
to +2EV in 1/3EV increments) + flash output (1/3,
- Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted,
- ND filter (on/off)
- Compression (see chart later in
- Resolution (see chart later in
One of the many manual controls on
the PowerShot G9 is for white balance. You can use
a white or gray card as a reference, so you'll get
accurate colors in mixed or unusual lighting. The camera
lets you store two different custom white balance settings.
The G9 has the same My Colors features
as Canon's other PowerShot cameras. Most of the items
listed above are self-explanatory, but I do want to
describe the Custom Color option. This lets you adjust
contrast, sharpness, and saturation, plus red, green,
blue, and skin tone levels (-2 to +2, in 1-stop increments).
There are two other My Colors features that I'll describe
in a bit.
There are two bracketing modes available
on the PowerShot G9. The first one, exposure bracketing,
takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure
value. The interval between each shot can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV,
or ±1EV. There's also a focus bracketing feature
which works in a similar way. The camera will take
three shots in a row: one at the chosen focus setting,
another a little closer, and the third a little further
The neutral density filter is a feature
that dates back to the PowerShot G3. Simply put, the
ND filter reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor
(by three stops) without affecting color. This allows
you to use slower shutter speeds or larger apertures
than you could otherwise.
And that's it for the back of the
There's plenty more to see on the
top of the camera. First up is the "retro" ISO
dial on the left side of the photo. There are two Auto
ISO modes on the camera, with the "Hi" option
using higher sensitivities. I'd only use this if you
know that you'll be making small prints. More on the
camera's ISO performance later in the review.
Next up we have the G9's hot shoe.
Here you can attach one of the three EX-series Speedlites
I mentioned earlier, or any third party flash. The
Canon flashes will integrate with the camera's metering
system, so everything operates automatically. If you're
using a third party flash, chances are that you'll
have to select the camera and flash settings manually.
The G9 can sync as fast as 1/250 sec with an external
Continuing to the right, we find the
mode dial, which has the microphone to its upper left.
The items on the dial include:
||More on this later
||Helps you line up photos
for later stitching into panoramas
|Special Scene mode
||Pick the situation and
the camera uses the appropriate settings.
Choose from portrait, landscape, night scene,
sports, night snapshot, kids & pets,
indoor, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks,
aquarium, underwater, ISO 3200, color accent,
color swap. More below.
||Fully automatic, most
camera settings locked up
||Automatic shooting, but
with access to all menu options. A Program
Shift feature lets you select from various
shutter speed/aperture combos
|Shutter priority (Tv) mode
||You choose shutter speed
and the camera picks the aperture. Shutter
speed range is 15 - 1/2500 sec; do note that
the fastest shutter speeds are only available
at small apertures
|Aperture priority (Av) mode
||You choose the aperture
and the camera picks an appropriate shutter
speed. Range is F2.8 - F8.0
|Full manual (M) mode
||Choose both the shutter
speed and aperture yourself; same ranges
||Store your favorite camera
settings in these two spots
Not surprisingly, the G9 has full
manual controls, plus two custom spots on the mode
dial. In Program Mode you can hold down the "*" button
to activate a program shift feature, which lets you
select from various shutter speed/aperture combinations.
Buried deep within the scene menu
is the camera's ISO 3200 option. The G9 lowers the
resolution to 1600 x 1200 to minimize the damage from
noise and noise reduction, but the resulting
images still border on useless in my opinion, even
when printed at 4 x 6.
Also in the scene mode list are two
of the other My Colors features on the G9. The Color
Accent feature lets you select a color to highlight,
and then all the other colors are turned to black and
white. Color Swap does just as it sounds -- it swaps
one color for another, though not terribly well.
To the right of the mode dial is the
power button, with the shutter release button and zoom
controller above that. The zoom controller and especially
the shutter release button are far too small, in this
writer's opinion. The zoom controller moves the lens
from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.7 seconds.
I counted fourteen steps in the G9's 6X zoom range.
The only thing to see on this side
of the camera is the speaker.
On the other side of the camera you'll
find the I/O ports, which are behind a plastic door
of decent quality. The ports here include A/V out and
USB -- there's no DC-in port since the optional AC
adapter uses what's called a DC coupler (basically
a battery with a power cable coming out of it). As
you'd expect, the G9 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed
standard, for fast data transfer to a Mac or PC.
The G9's 6X lens is at the full telephoto
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom
of the camera. Here you'll find a metal tripod mount
(hidden in this photo) and the battery/memory card
compartment. The door covering this compartment is
of decent quality. In the "what were they thinking" department,
you can't swap memory cards while the G9 is on a tripod.
That's pretty disappointing, considering that this
is Canon's flagship PowerShot camera.
The included NB-2LH battery is shown
Using the Canon PowerShot
It takes just over one second for
the PowerShot G9 to extend its lens and prepare for
shooting. That's pretty darn quick.
There's a live histogram on the G9
Focus times were the same as they
were on the G7 -- very good. Typically, it took the
camera between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds to lock focus, though
you may wait as long as one second for focus lock at
the telephoto end of the lens. Low light focusing was
excellent, thanks to the G9's AF-assist lamp.
I did not find shutter lag to be a
problem, even at the slower shutter speeds at which
it can occur.
When shooting in JPEG mode, shot-to-shot
delays were minimal, with a delay of about one second
before you can take another shot. If you're in RAW
mode, the delay is about two seconds, and it's just
slightly longer if you're shooting RAW+JPEG. Adding
the flash into the mix didn't seem to slow things down
You can delete a picture after you've
taken it by pressing the delete photo button on the
back of the camera.
Now, here's a look at the image size
and quality choices available on the camera:
||Approx. file size
||# Images on 32MB card
|# images on 2GB card (optional)
4000 x 3000
4000 x 2248
3264 x 2448
2592 x 1944
1600 x 1200
640 x 480
As I mentioned back in the software
discussion, the PowerShot G9 now supports the RAW image
format. You can take a RAW image by itself, or along
with a Large/Fine JPEG. As the chart shows, RAW images
take up a ton of space on your memory card, so be sure
to buy a large one!
Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where
x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even
if you replace and/or format memory cards.
Now, onto the menus!
The G9 uses the standard Canon menu
system. It's attractive and easy-to-use, with no confusing
icons or abbreviations. You can use both the four-way
controller and the command dial to navigate the menu
system. And now, keeping in mind that some of these
options may not be available in all shooting modes,
here's the full list of record menu options:
- AF Frame (FlexiZone, Face Detect,
AiAF, Center) - last option is only available in
Auto modes; see below for more
- Flash control
- Flash mode (Auto, manual) - the latter lets
you adjust the flash strength; only available
in the manual shooting modes
- Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV,
in 1/3EV increments)
- Flash output (Minimum, medium, maximum) - only
available with flash mode set to manual
- Shutter sync (1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain)
- Slow synchro (on/off)
- Safety FE (on/off) - whether the camera adjusts
the shutter speed or aperture to avoid overexposure
when using the flash
- Digital Zoom (Off, 1.5X, 2.0X,
Standard) - see below
- Redeye reduction (on/off)
- Custom self-timer
- Delay (0-10, 15, 20, 30 secs)
- Shots (1-10)
- Spot AE point (Center, AF point)
- what area of the frame is metered when in spot
- Safety shift (on/off) - camera
will adjust the shutter speed or aperture as needed
to obtain a proper exposure when in the priority
- Auto ISO Shift (On, Print/Share
button, off) - see below
- MF-Point Zoom (on/off) - enlarges
the center of the frame in manual focus mode
- AF mode (Continuous, single) -
- AF-assist beam (on/off)
- Review (Off, 2-10 seconds, hold)
- post-shot review
- Review info (Off, detailed, focus
check) - see below
- Record RAW+JPEG (on/off) - here's
how you turn on RAW+JPEG mode
- Save original (on/off) - for the
My Colors feature
- Auto category (on/off) - photos
are automatically categorized based on the scene
mode they were taken in; more on this later
- IS mode (Continuous, shoot only,
panning, off) - see below
- Converter (None, wide, telephoto)
- for when you're using a conversion lens
- Custom display settings - you can
have three sets of these settings:
- Shooting info (on/off)
- Grid lines (on/off)
- 3:2 guide (on/off)
- Histogram (on/off)
- Set Shortcut button (Off, metering,
ND filter, white balance, custom WB 1/2, digital
teleconverter, AF lock, display off) - define what
this button does
- Save settings (C1, C2) - save your
favorite camera settings to the two custom spots
on the mode dial
You can adjust the size of the focus points on the
Lots to talk about before we move
on. First up, the AF frame options. AiAF is your standard
9-point autofocus. FlexiZone lets you use the four-way
controller to select the area in the frame on which
to focus -- which comes in handy when the camera is
on a tripod. For either of these two modes, you can
set the size of the focus point(s) to "regular" or
|The camera has detected three
faces here. You can select the "primary" face
using the four-way controller. You can also get
a count of how many photos the camera has detected
by pressing the Display button
||Here, the camera has locked focus
onto all six faces.
The G9 also supports one of the "must
have" features of 2007 (according to camera manufacturers,
at least): face detection. Canon's implementation of
this feature is among the best out there, with the
G9 locking onto all six faces in our test scene with
A quick note about the G9's digital
zoom features now. Canon calls the 1.5X and 2.0X options
a "digital teleconverter"
-- it's basically just fixed digital zoom. The Standard
option is what you'll find on every camera. The Safety
Zoom feature warns you when you pass the point where
image quality is degraded. When you're shooting at
the highest resolution that starts as soon as digital
zoom kicks in, but if you're using a lower resolution
you can more of it. At the M3 (1600 x 1200) picture
size you can get a total of 15X zoom without any loss
in image quality.
The Auto ISO Shift feature, which
has been on Canon's other models for a while now, is
a handy one. If the camera thinks that a photo will
be blurry, you can press the Print/Share button (which
will be blinking) to automatically boost the ISO to
a setting that will result in a sharp photo. You can
also have the camera boost the ISO automatically, if
you desire. Keep in mind that this feature can add
a lot of noise to your photos, so use it wisely.
There are two AF modes to choose from
on the camera. Single AF focuses only when you halfway
press the shutter release button. In continuous AF
mode, the camera is focusing constantly, which means
less waiting when it's time to actually take a photo.
The downside is that continuous AF puts an extra strain
on your battery.
Reviewing faces using the focus check feature
The Review Info option is new to the
G9, and it lets you choose what information is shown
on the LCD after you take a photo. You can have it
just show, the picture, display shooting data and a
histogram, or perform a
"focus check". This last option works differently
depending on what AF frame option you're using. If
you're using something other than face detection, the
camera will enlarge the area around the focus point(s)
that were used. If you did use face detection, it'll
show you each of the faces, and you can move from one
face to another by pressing the Function/Set button.
The Auto Category feature assigns
one of the standard photo categories (people, scenery,
events) to a photo based on what scene mode you used
to take the picture. You can edit these -- or manually
assign a category -- in playback mode.
What are those three IS modes all
about? Continuous mode activates the OIS system as
soon as you halfway press the shutter release, which
helps you compose the photo without camera shake. The "shoot
only" option doesn't turn it on until the photo
is actually taken, which improves the performance of
the OIS system. The panning mode only stabilizes up
and down motion, and you'll want to use this while
tracking a moving subject horizontally. You can also
turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if you're
using a tripod.
There's also a setup menu, which is
available in both the record and playback mode menus:
- Mute (on/off) - quickly turn off
the camera's beeps and blips
- Startup volume (Off, 1-5)
- Operation volume (Off, 1-5)
- Self-timer volume (Off, 1-5)
- Shutter volume (Off, 1-5)
- Playback volume (Off, 1-5)
- Mic level (Auto, manual)
- Level (-40 to 0 dB) - if
you selected manual above
- Wind filter (on/off)
- LCD brightness (-7 to +7, 1-step
- Power saving
- Auto power down (on/off)
- Display off (10, 20, 30 sec,
- Time zone (Home, world)
- Clock display (0-5, 10, 20, 30
secs, 1, 2, 3 mins) - hold down the Func/Set button
while turning on the camera and the G9 becomes an
- Card format
- File numbering (Continuous, auto
- Create folder
- Create new folder - on the
- Auto create (Off, daily, weekly,
monthly) - this new features will automatically
create new folders on the memory card at set
- Auto rotate (on/off) - camera will
automatically rotate portrait photos on the LCD
- Distance units (m/cm, ft/in)
- Lens retract (1 min, 0 secs) -
how quickly the lens retracts when you switch to
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Print Method (Auto, PictBridge)
- Reset all - back to defaults
An additional "My Camera'" menu
allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps,
and phony shutter sounds that your camera makes. The
software included with the camera lets you use your
own photos and sounds as well.
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now.
The PowerShot G9 did a superb job
with our macro test subject. Colors are vibrant, and
the subject has the trademark Canon "smooth" look.
That doesn't mean that the image is soft -- in fact,
the G9 captures plenty of fine details, such as dust.
One thing that I wasn't terribly impressed with was
the G9's custom white balance feature -- it produced
a green cast under our quartz studio lamps. I ended
up just using the tungsten preset, which produced the
accurate colors you see above.
In macro mode you can be just 1 centimeter
away from your subject, which is about as close as
you'll find. Do note that macro mode is unavailable
near the telephoto end of the lens.
The G9's night shot has a bonus feature
-- the moon over the San Francisco skyline. The photo
quality here is very good, with the camera taking in
plenty of light (thank you manual shutter speed control).
The buildings are nice and sharp, as well. There's
some noise to be found here, which shouldn't come as
a surprise, considering the 12 Megapixel resolution
of the PowerShot G9. Purple fringing was not a problem.
There are two ISO tests in this review.
The first one uses the night scene above, so you can
see how noise levels look at high ISOs in low light.
Here we go:
The ISO 100 shot is just slightly
noisier than the one at ISO 80. At either of these
settings, a large print is a no-brainer. Noise reduction
noticeably kicks in at ISO 200, and you'll especially
notice this in areas of solid color, which appear mottled.
Still, a midsize print is still possible at this setting.
Detail loss is quite noticeable at ISO 400, so I'd
save this one for small prints or desperation only.
The ISO 800 and 1600 settings are too noisy to be usable
in low light situations.
We'll see how the G9 performs in better
lighting in a bit.
There's moderate barrel distortion
at the wide end of the PowerShot G9's 6X optical zoom
lens. This can make straight lines appear curved, as
the building on the right illustrates in this
example. Vignetting (dark corners) was not a problem,
and blurry edges/corners were minimal.
By the way, this chart illustrates
the poor custom white balance that I mentioned above
-- notice the greenish cast.
The G7 had a big redeye problem, and
there was nothing you could do about it (without resorting
to software on your PC). The PowerShot G9 still has
a big redeye problem, but now there's a tool in playback
mode that removes it. Here, have a look:
Now that's a whole lot better! It's
too bad that you can't have this feature run automatically
when you take a flash photo. I should add that you
can remove redeye from multiple faces in a photo at
the same time.
And now it's time for ISO test number
two, which is shot in my "studio". You can
compare this test with those in other reviews on this
site. While the crops below give you a quick view of
the differences at the various ISO sensitivities, it's
a good idea to view the full-size images as well. And
The first three crops are very clean,
with no major noise or noise reduction artifacting
to be found. Noise reduction starts to smudge details
at ISO 400, but a midsize print is still a piece of
cake at that setting. ISO 800 is my recommended stopping
point for shooting in good light, and it's really only
for small prints. At ISO 1600 details are gone, and
I don't think it's usable. There's also the ISO 3200
scene mode, but as I mentioned earlier, it's not worth
As long as you keep an eye on the
ISO sensitivity, you'll get very good results from
the PowerShot G9. The camera took well-exposed images
(except for some blown highlights in our torture
test), with accurate and vivid color. As I mentioned
in the macro section, the G9 produces very smooth looking
photos, and I don't mean soft -- it's more like a digital
SLR than anything else. Considering the resolution
of the G9, its low noise levels are impressive (at
the lower ISO sensitivities, at least). There's not
much noise because the camera is applying lots of of
noise reduction, which really starts to eat away fine
details starting at ISO 200 in low light, and ISO 400
in normal light. The G9 is no substitute for a digital
SLR when it comes to high ISO shooting! Purple fringing
appeared here and there, but it was never bad enough
for me to consider it a problem.
Don't just take my word for all this,
though. Have a look at our photo
gallery, and maybe print a few of them if you can.
Then you'll be able to decide if the G9's photo quality
meets your expectations.
The PowerShot G9's movie mode has
changed slightly since the G7, and that's fine by me.
You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound
until you run out of memory, or the file size reaches
4GB (which takes 32 minutes). If you want longer movies
without lowering the resolution, you can use the new "long
play" mode. In this mode, you can record for a
full hour before you hit the file size limit.
Another way to extend your recording
time is to drop the resolution to 320 x 240 or 160
x 120. The former can record at either 15 or 30 fps,
while the latter can only do 15 fps (and for only 3
The G9 offers a high resolution 1024
x 768 movie mode, though the frame rate is a sluggish
15 fps. Here too there's a 4GB file size limit, which
also occurs after 32 minutes or so.
There's also a time-lapse recording
mode, which will take a photo every 1 or 2 seconds
(for up to two hours) and then compress it into a 8
or 4 minute long movie (respectively). If you want
to take pictures of the grass growing, here's how to
do it -- just remember to buy the optional AC adapter.
You cannot use the zoom lens during
filming (it will be locked when you start filming).
You can, however, use the digital zoom. The G9's audio
controls let you manually adjust the mic level, or
apply a wind filter.
Movies are saved in AVI format, using
the M-JPEG codec.
Here are two sample movies for you,
taken at both the 640 x 480 (30 fps) and 1024 x 768
(15 fps) settings. Enjoy!
to play movie (22.5 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
to play movie (17.5 MB, 1024 x 768, 15 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Playback mode on the PowerShot G9
is very good -- and nice and fast, too. It offers slideshows,
image protection, voice captions, thumbnail view (which
is nicer than on most cameras since it enlarges the
photo you're looking at), and zoom and scroll. This
last feature lets you enlarge the picture up to 10X,
and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. When
you're zoomed in you can press the Func/Set button
and then move from photo to photo at the same magnification
setting using the command dial. There's also has a
separate print menu lets you tag photos for printing
to a PictBridge-enabled photo printer.
Most of the My Colors features can
be used in playback mode, save for Color Accent, Color
Swap, and Custom Color.
In terms of editing features, you
can rotate and resize a photo, though you cannot crop
it. Here's also where you'll find the redeye removal
tool that I raved about in the previous section. If
you're viewing a movie clip, the camera lets you trim
unwanted footage from the beginning or end of it.
Assigning a category to a photo
The My Category feature lets you assign
photos to any of seven possible categories (events,
people, scenery, to-do, and custom 1-3). If you have
Auto Category turned on in the recording menu then
this will be done automatically for some of your photos.
There are three custom categories, though I don't see
a way to give them a name instead of the generic "My
Category 1". You can select images by their category
and display slide shows of them, or delete/protect
|Scrolling through images with
the command dial
||The jump menu
You can use the G9's scroll wheel
to quickly breeze through photos. In addition, the
jump feature lets you move forward/ back by sets of
10 or 100 photos, or by date or category.
The G9 also offers a dedicated sound
recording feature. A single audio clip can be as long
as two hours, and you can select from three different
sample rates (11, 22, or 44 kHz).
By default you won't get much information
about your photo while in playback mode. But press
the Display button and you'll get more info, including
a histogram. You can also use the focus check feature
that I described earlier.
The G9 moves between images fairly
quickly, with your choice of two transitions. Like
with most Canon cameras, when you rotate the camera
90 degrees, the photo on the LCD rotates too.
How Does it Compare?
There were two key features missing
on last year's PowerShot G7 that turned off both myself
and the Canon G-series faithful: the lack of a rotating
LCD, and no support for the RAW image format. On the
new PowerShot G9, Canon has rectified the second issue,
but I think there are still plenty of people holding
out for a G-camera with that handy rotating LCD. The
PowerShot G9 brings several new features with it, most
notably a larger LCD display and RAW support. It offers
a host of nice features, but it has more than its share
of flaws. Still, for a full-featured fixed-lens camera
it's pretty good -- as long as you don't let the ISO
get too high.
The PowerShot G9 looks a whole lot
like its predecessor, with the only noticeable changes
being its larger LCD and different-colored lens ring.
It's not a small camera by any means. In fact, it's
sort of the antithesis of Canon's stylish and curvy
Digital ELPHs. The G9 is square, heavy, and not what
I'd call pocketable. The G9 is well built, with a rangefinder-style
body made mostly of metal. While it doesn't have much
of a grip, the camera is still easy to hold, even with
one hand. My only ergonomic complaints are that the
zoom controller and shutter release button are too
small, and that you cannot swap memory cards while
the camera is on a tripod.
The G9 uses the same 6X, 35 - 210
mm lens as its predecessor. Inside the lens is Canon's
image stabilization system, which does a good job at
preventing blur due to "camera shake". On
the back of the camera you'll find a large and fairly
sharp 3-inch LCD display. It's outdoor visibility is
excellent, assuming that you're not wearing polarized
sunglasses, in which case you can't see anything at
all (see my examples earlier in the review). Low light
LCD viewing was also very good, as the screen brightens
automatically in those situations. Thankfully, Canon
didn't get rid of the optical viewfinder when they
put the larger LCD on the G9 -- it's really an expected
feature for a high-end camera. If you ever want to
expand the G9's capabilities, it's ready to go. You
can add wide-angle and telephoto conversion lenses,
an external flash (via a hot shoe), an underwater case,
The PowerShot G9 has almost every
feature you could possibly want on a camera. On the
automatic side, you've got a point-and-shoot mode and
numerous scene modes. One of those scenes is the requisite
high ISO mode, which is essentially useless. One feature
that I do like called Auto ISO Shift, which lets you
boost the ISO at the push of a button, in order to
get a sharp photo. There are plenty of manual controls
on the G9 as well, including white balance, shutter
speed and aperture, and focus. The camera lets you
store two sets of your favorite settings to spots on
the mode dial, and one of the buttons on the back of
the camera is customizable. And, as I mentioned, the
camera now supports the RAW image format, and the newly
enhanced RAW Image Task software is fully capable of
editing these images. About the only manual features
missing on the G9 are white balance fine-tuning and
a bulb mode. Regardless of your skill level, you'll
appreciate the G9's movie mode and redeye removal tool
-- and trust me, you'll need the second one.
Camera performance was generally very
good, except for battery life. Startup time was great,
with the G9 ready to go in just one second. Focusing
times ranged from 0.2 seconds at the wide end of the
lens to around a second at the telephoto end. Low light
focusing was excellent. Shot-to-shot delays were minimal,
ranging from 1 second when shooting JPEGs to 2.5 seconds
when shooting RAW+JPEG. The G9's continuous shooting
mode isn't the fastest out there (topping out at 1.4
fps), but it will let you shoot until your high speed
memory card is full. While battery life has improved
since the PowerShot G7, it's still below average in
the ultra-high resolution class.
As long as you don't let the ISO sensitivity
wander too high, you'll get very good quality photos
from the PowerShot G9. They were well-exposed, with
colors that are both accurate and vivid. The one time
colors weren't so accurate were when I was using custom
white balance -- the resulting photos had a greenish
color cast. Photos have the "smooth" appearance
that has become a trademark of Canon cameras. While
noise doesn't become a problem until the highest ISO
settings, artifacting caused by noise reduction kicks
in a lot earlier. You'll start seeing noticeable detail
loss at ISO 200 in low light, and ISO 400 in good light.
While purple fringing wasn't much of a problem, redeye
was. Thankfully, there's now a tool in playback mode
to get remove this annoyance from your pictures.
The PowerShot G9 is a solid high-end
camera, though it won't be replacing your digital SLR
anytime soon. It offers a full set of features, both
automatic and manual, and throws them into a well-built,
expandable body. If you keep the ISO as low as possible
you'll get some nice photos out of the camera, though
a D-SLR will wipe the floor with the G9 at higher sensitivities.
Though I still miss the fast lens and rotating LCD
of the older G-series models, I can still recommend
the PowerShot G9 to anyone who wants a high-end camera
without stepping up to a digital SLR.
If you want to save some money, you
may want to consider the PowerShot
A650 IS ($399) or PowerShot
A720 IS ($249). Both have 6X zoom lenses, image
stabilizer, and manual controls as the G9, with the
former having a rotating LCD display.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality if ISO
is kept low
- 6X zoom lens with optical image
- Cool rangefinder-style body; built
like a tank
- Huge 3-inch LCD with excellent
outdoor and low light visibility (though see issue
- Full manual controls, plus plenty
of scene modes
- RAW image format supported; capable
editing software included
- Very good performance in most respects
- AF-assist lamp, good low light
- Handy redeye removal and Auto ISO
- Built-in neutral density filter
- Well implemented face detection
feature; user can automatically check faces (for
open eyes, smiles) after a photo is taken
- Support for conversion lenses,
external flash, underwater case
- Custom button and spots on mode
- Nice movie mode
- Supports remote capture from a
Mac or PC
- USB 2.0 High Speed support
What I didn't care for:
- Lots of noise reduction above ISO
200 (in low light) and ISO 400 (in good light); useless
ISO 1600 and 3200 settings
- On the expensive side for a fixed-lens
- Redeye still a big problem (though
you can remove it in playback mode)
- Custom white balance didn't perform
well in our studio
- LCD cannot be seen when wearing
polarized sunglasses (only mentioning this because
- Below average battery life
- Lens visible through viewfinder
- Tiny shutter release button and
- Can't swap memory cards while camera
is on a tripod
- Still missing that fast lens and
rotating LCD from past G-series cameras
Some other cameras worth considering
include the Canon PowerShot A650
IS and A720
FinePix F50fd, GE
EasyShare Z1275, Nikon
Coolpix P5100, Panasonic
Lumix DMC-LZ7, Pentax
Optio A40, Samsung
NV20, and the Sony
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot G9
and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos
turned out in our gallery!
Feedback & Discussion
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If you have a question about this review, please send them
to Jeff. Due to my limited resources,
please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.