Canon PowerShot G9
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The Canon 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:
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 our review!
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:
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:
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 for you:
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 Macs.
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 and responsive.
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 offering it.
PhotoStitch in Mac OS X
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 look.
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 and weight:
(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 Samsung NV20
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.