Canon PowerShot G9 Digital Camera Review . . . continued

Canon has found the time and energy to devote some focus to the movie mode built into the PowerShot G9. The video output is accompanied by clean, mid-fidelity audio. IS and zoom work well. Little or no handling noise is recorded. The resulting MPEG file looks great, surprisingly so for a lens of this size which so clearly seems to have been optimized for photographic quality. Setting the video format is done by selecting movie mode on the Mode dial, then scrolling the Control dial to select from compact (160x120 suitable for email attachments), standard (640x480 typical DV), color accent (640x480), color swap (320x240), high resolution (1024x768), and time lapse (my favorite at 640x480). The only limit to movie length is the capacity of your storage card. Like all compact photo cameras, the G9 does not handle anywhere near as well as even the cheapest dedicated Canon digital video camera, but the quality is good enough and versatile enough to make casual videographers think twice about buying a dedicated video camera.

The PowerShot G9 is not exactly what I'd call a typical pocket camera. For one thing, it's heavier than almost everything in its class on the market right now, at 14 oz. (400 grams) only 5 oz. (150 grams) lighter than Leica M8 cameras. If you happen to pick up one of Canon's accessory lenses for the G9—screw on wide-angle and telephoto—you can balance your 'load' by carrying the G9 in one vest pocket or belt pouch and the accessory lens or flash on the opposite side. Keep in mind that, as I quickly found out with the G7 and as I'm rediscovering with the G9, weight has its advantages in these form factors, not the least of which is the benefit of a steadier shooting platform. IS is wonderful, but there's nothing quite like a camera with a bit of weight and a tough, solid body to make you confident about bracing it against anything handy in order to get the steadiest possible shot.


Cons: The strict adherence to a classic Rangefinder form factor is all well and good, but there's not quite enough to grab hold of except a very conservative grip bump on the right front—no prominent right-side body bulge like that found on the excellent Canon A-series compacts and the competing Nikon P5000/5100 —so the very first thing you should do after marveling at your brand new PowerShot G9 as it comes out of the box is to attach a good quality neck or wrist strap. The playback button is located on a slightly concave chamfer at the top rear edge of the camera and is difficult to press because it's just at or slightly less than flush with the body surface. You need to poke the playback button with a fingernail to get a positive click, so forget about using it outside while wearing gloves. No ISO limit setting for Auto mode. The strap lugs are 1/4" (6.5mm) wide which is really irritating because the narrower webbing is hard to find on a good quality strap (UpStrap and OpTech being the exceptions). Note that the stiff and uncomfortable Canon strap supplied with the camera is terrible. Minor auto white balance issues when shooting tough challenges such as snow covered branches on bright sunny days with heavy glare (and I'm not absolutely sure this is even a true Con).

Pros: The Canon PowerShot G9 is a modern wonder of digital camera technology. For the price, there's nothing else in its image quality class on the market today except for the Leica D-Lux 3. I like sturdy, substantial buttons and dials that work smoothly and provide positive feedback mainly because on a well-designed camera they provide the surest sort of control over important and frequently used functions. The ISO dial is a perfect example and it's great to have it sitting on the top left of the camera body. Image quality is improved slightly over the G7 which means that mid-to-high ISO noise performance is good enough to make ISO800 genuinely useful (and certainly printable). Dynamic range is very good and an improvement over the G7. General image quality is very good and an improvement over the G7. Color balance is very good and an improvement over the G7. Auto white balance is very good and an improvement over the G7. Low light focusing is quite good, with remarkably little hunting in many very poor lighting situations, amounting to general focusing performance that may be the best of any compact camera we've seen over the past few years. Focusing speed in a wide variety of outdoor lighting conditions from just after sunrise to just before sunset is also very good, with very fast focus acquisition and well managed IS. Canon has stayed true to form and seems to have concentrated a lot of technical and creative talent on the task of making incremental and complimentary improvements to the G7. Each incremental improvement in each area has contributed its own bit to the positive evolution of the venerable Canon G-series. The end result is the PowerShot G9, a tough, sophisticated, powerful, easy to use camera that is capable of producing high quality images suitable for framing, design, casual use and almost anything else you can think of. The retro body and control layout introduced in the G7 is a stroke of genius and I'm glad Canon has kept and enhanced the design. The programmed user interface and LCD combine to make menu navigation easy and fast. Canon has hit a home run with the PowerShot G9. Highly recommended.


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