DPInterface Canon PowerShot G7 Review
Brad Soo - July 1st, 2007

The Canon G-series makes a comeback after 2 years with the G7, which brings these changes versus the G6:

  • Higher resolution (10 versus 7 megapixels)
  • DIGIC III processor for better image quality, performance and efficiency
  • Longer, image stabilized but slower lens (6X, f2.8-4.8 versus 4X f2.0-3.0)
  • Higher resolution and larger, fixed 2.5 inch LCD (versus a rotating 2 inch one)
  • Face detection
  • New 'retro' design
  • Higher maximum ISO of 1600 (instead of 400 on the G6)
  • Very much improved movie mode; what do you expect for 2 years?
  • Smaller battery and uses SD/SDHC cards
  • RAW image format has been dropped
  • Drop in battery life

Fine, maybe the last two and the slower lens are steps backwards. And after 2 long years, you'd kinda expect different competition too. So let's find out how the G7 performs, shall we?

Size and Weight

(224.4)  109.4 x 66.0 x 49.0 mm (245 g) - Canon PowerShot A640
(205.2)  97.5 x 66.5 x 41.2 mm (210 g) - Canon PowerShot A710 IS
(220.8)  106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5 mm (320 g) - Canon PowerShot G7
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F31fd
(185.6)  89.5 x 64.5 x 31.6 mm (161 g) - Kodak EasyShare Z885
(203.5)  98.0 x 64.5 x 41.0 mm (200 g) - Nikon Coolpix P5000
(187.8)  105.7 x 55.8 x 26.3 mm (187 g) - Panasonic Lumix LX2
(193.9)  98.5 x 62.3 x 33.1 mm (184 g) - Panasonic Lumix LZ7
(192.7)  106.6 x 64.2 x 21.9 mm (195 g) - Samsung NV11
(176.8)  91.0 x 58.5 x 27.3 mm (142 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W200

The Canon PowerShot G7 has thinned down a lot and is smaller than its predecessor, mostly because that swivel LCD is now gone... and so is the proper hand grip in front. Overall, the G7 is one of the biggest and the heaviest of the bunch. This is a camera you'll be carrying in your bag, or at least a large coat pocket.

Open up the Box

The Canon PowerShot G7 comes with pretty standard issue contents:

  • 32 MB Secure Digital card
  • Rechargeable NB-2LH lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM

Storage and Power

As usual, I'd recommend getting at least a 2 GB high-speed card with the camera. The PowerShot G7 takes advantage of high-speed cards with a noticeable performance increase. The G7 supports SDHC cards as well (above 2 GB).

500 shots - Canon PowerShot A640
360 shots - Canon PowerShot A710 IS
300 shots - Canon PowerShot G6
220 shots - Canon PowerShot G7
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F31fd
300 shots - Kodak EasyShare Z885
250 shots - Nikon Coolpix P5000
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix LX2
250 shots - Panasonic Lumix LZ7
220 shots - Samsung NV11
300 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W200

With the much smaller and lower capacity NB-2LH battery, one would expect the G7 to fare worse than the G6. Sadly, that's true as the PowerShot G7 scores a below average battery life rating of 220 shots per charge (CIPA Standard). You'll probably want to buy an additional battery pack.

 

Extras

Following the tradition of the G-series, the G7 has an array of accessories available:

  • Conversion lens adapter + lens hood
  • Wide-angle conversion lens (0.75x, 26 - 158 mm)
  • Telephoto conversion lens (2x, 70 - 420 mm)
  • Various 58 mm filters
  • Waterproof case
  • External flash (220EX, 430EX, 580EX II)
  • AC adapter

Camera Tour

The Canon PowerShot G7 is actually a big-ish but rather flat camera so it should be easy to carry in your coat pocket. The camera was designed with a retro look in mind (just like some of Canon's other cameras recently) and it even comes with two pseudo film camera shutter sounds. The G7 looks utterly stylish but with its design comes some kind of compromise in ergonomics - no proper grip and the tiny shutter button are the main issues.

The G7 feels nice and sturdy in hand. The dials are fairly stiff so you can't bump them by accident though the control dial on the back is feels loose and frequently rotates when you just want to press a button. There are many controls on the camera which make important settings easily accessible.

The Canon PowerShot G7 features a 6X zoom lens similar (but not exactly the same) to the one found on the A710 IS, only that the G7's sensor is larger so it can't be the exact same thing. The G7's lens is equivalent to 35 - 210 mm; f2.8 - f4.8. The lens has an optical image stabilizer built in to help reduce blurriness from camera shake. Of course, you can put on those lens attachments and accessories mentioned earlier by pressing the button on the bottom right then removing the silver ring.

To the upper right, there's the flash unit with a range of 50 cm to 4.0 m at wide-angle and up to 2.5 m at telephoto. The AF-assist/self-timer lamp and optical viewfinder are located to the left of the flash. As for the camera grip which has been on the G-series for years, it's gone now on the G7.

The Canon PowerShot G7 has a 2.5 inch LCD with 207,000 pixels. Unfortunately, the rotating screen of the previous G-series cameras is now gone as this one is a fixed LCD. On the bright side, the LCD has excellent low-light visibility and was just viewable outdoors.

Above the LCD, there's a tiny optical viewfinder with 2 status lights beside it. And it can come in handy when you're running low on batteries, otherwise, you'll find yourself using the LCD most of the time. There is a dioptric adjustment knob next to it to focus the viewfinder image.

To the left of the viewfinder is the print button. This button also doubles as a shortcut button in shooting mode where you can assign any of these functions to it: Image size and quality, white balance, My Colors, metering, ND filter, digital teleconverter, image stabilizer, AF lock, new folder and LCD off.

On the other side of the viewfinder is a playback button which brings you directly into playback. Next is the exposure lock button which also to record audio clips in playback; you can also engage program shift after hitting this button.

There are two other buttons further down and they are the AF point mode (AiAF, Face Detection, manual select)/delete photo and exposure compensation/jump buttons. Going past the multi-controller for now and you'll find the DISPLAY and MENU buttons which are used to toggle the info displayed on-screen and to bring up the settings menu.

Then there's the 5-way controller with the FUNCtion button bringing up a screen with almost all the settings you'll need:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, flash, underwater, custom)
  • My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, monochrome, positive film, lighter/darker skin tone, vivid red, vivid green, vivid blue, custom color)
  • Bracketing (Off, exposure, focus - in 1/3 increments)
  • Flash exposure compensation/flash output in manual mode
  • Metering method (Evaluative, center weighted, spot)
  • ND filter (On/off)
  • Still image size and compression

The custom color option allows you to change red, green, blue and skin tone values as well as sharpness, contrast and saturation. In menus, the FUNCtion button doubles as the SET or okay button.

The ND filter has been a feature on the G-series cameras for a few generations and reduces the light entering the lens by 3 stops, allowing for slower shutter speeds or larger aperture values.

Around the FUNC/SET button is the 4-way controller:

  • Up - Manual focus (On/off)
  • Down - Drive (Single shot, continuous, self-timer)
  • Left - Macro mode (On/off)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, on, off - redeye reduction turned on/off in the menu)

Around the multi-controller is a rotary wheel used to change camera settings; I found it a little too easy to bump at times. Along with the rotating wheel comes a virtual dial shown on-screen.

There are two more dials and a few more things up here. On the left is the dedicated ISO dial which let's you select from Auto ISO, High ISO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600, all without touching the menus. Then on a slightly raised bump is the flash hotshoe which allows you to attach an EOS Speedlite for more powerful and flexible lighting.

On the other side is the mode dial which can be turned a full 360:

  • C1/C2 - Two custom spots on the mode dial for quick access to your preferred settings
  • Manual - Choose a shutter speed and aperture from the ranges below (Faster shutter speeds are limited to smaller apertures)
  • Aperture priority - Choose from an aperture range of f2.8/4.8 to f8
  • Shutter priority - Choose from a shutter speed range of 15 - 1/2500 sec
  • Program - Camera chooses shutter speed and aperture but all menus are unlocked
  • Auto
  • Scene modes - which include portrait, landscape, night scene, sports, night snapshot, kids & pets, indoor, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, aquarium, underwater, ISO 3200, color accent and color swap
  • Stitch assist
  • Movie mode

Finally there's the power button and... a hopelessly small shutter button with a too-tiny-for-my-finger zoom lever wrapped around it. It's too close to the edge of the camera, making it difficult for those with moderate to large hands to shoot or hold the camera steady, even with both hands (remember that the G7 doesn't have a proper right hand grip).

One side of the G7 houses its speaker while over here, you'll find the USB 2.0 High Speed and A/V Out ports.

At the bottom of the G7 is a metal tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. The door is just average in terms of quality. The tripod mount is not centralized and you can't swap batteries/memory cards either!

Shooting

The G7 displays all essential bits of info on its LCD: a live histogram, full exposure info and even grid lines. The G7 has a face detection system for autofocus and autoexposure, thanks to the new DIGIC III processor - this tracks and locks onto up to 9 faces. If the camera can't detect any faces, it reverts to the standard 9-point AF system. The face detection system ensures that faces are in focus and are exposed properly when the picture is taken. Although it may sound like a gimmick (and it is on some other cameras), it works on the G7.

You can select a range of image resolutions from 10 megapixels (with a widescreen 16:9 option and 3:2 print option)to VGA plus three compression options - Superfine, Fine and Normal. I find that most users (not only me) normally use full resolution with Fine for everyday shooting and SuperFine only for very important shots.

The G7 has a 1 cm macro mode along with full manual controls as mentioned in the previous section. The Canon G7 has a feature called the Digital Teleconverter, which just applies fixed digital zoom of 1.4X or 2.3X while Safety Zoom crops your photos at lower resolutions so image quality won't degrade (basically just for convenience; cropping can be done in computer software like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop).

Recording

The Canon PowerShot G7 shares the same options in movie mode as the SD900 flagship Digital ELPH. It takes VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS up to 4 GB per clip, about 33 minutes or 1 hour. There's also an XGA mode which records 1024 x 768 movie clips, albeit the frame rate is locked at a sluggish 15 FPS using this option.

If you want to record longer movies or smaller ones, the frame rate is selectable with 30 FPS or 15 FPS. You can lower the resolution down to QVGA (320 x 240) as well. A 160 x 120 option records tiny movies for e-mail at 15 FPS up to 3 minutes.

Exposure is automatically adjusted while recording while focus is fixed and only digital zoom is useable while recording.

As expected, the G7's movie quality is very good and smooth, save for the choppy XGA option that is.

Performance

The Canon PowerShot G7 starts up quickly in a little over a second. The G7 normally takes about 1/5 to 1/3 second to focus; telephoto and low-light focusing didn't take any much longer. Shutter lag is not obvious at all except at telephoto in low-light.

Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 1.1 seconds, above average
Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery - 5 seconds
Optical zoom from wide-angle to telephoto - 1.8 seconds, few stops between

In continuous shooting, the Canon G7 can shoot full resolution photos indefinitely at 2 FPS till the memory card fills up - this may need a high-speed card. The LCD refreshes many times but only to show the last shot taken which makes it difficult to catch fast moving subjects. The continuous AF mode does it at 1 FPS, refocusing after every frame taken.

The G7 powers down with a little lag, clocking a power off time of 3 seconds with the lens at telephoto. The G7 is a snappy performer and rarely, never with a fast memory card, keeps you waiting.

Image Quality

Time to take a look to see how the Canon PowerShot G7 fares in image quality:


ISO 80 (f2.8, 0.6 sec)


ISO 100 (f2.8, 1/2 sec)


ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/4 sec)


ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/8 sec)


ISO 800 (f2.8, 1/15 sec)


ISO 1600 (f2.8, 1/30 sec)

Photos shot at ISO 80, ISO 100 and ISO 200, show similar low noise qualities. At ISO 400 you start seeing a little more noise but photos are still useable here. Noise goes up further after that so ISO 800 is useable for small prints and viewing; I'd recommend doing some noise reduction at this setting. At ISO 1600, noise gets really bad but unlike some competition, there's no smearing or painting-look to the image.

I didn't take an ISO 3200 sample here with the G7 but if you wanna see a sample, you can check out the one in the Canon SD900's review (It shares the same 10 megapixel sensor as the G7). Noise levels aren't insane since the camera downsizes it automatically, though you won't be able to do much with just 2 MP.

Chromatic aberration (color fringing) levels were fairly low and corner softness is non existent on the G7. Barrel distortion is noticeable, pincushion was not. Redeye is an issue thanks to the proximity of the flash to the lens. Overall image quality of the Canon G7 was good at ISO settings at 400 or less.

Photo gallery

All photos viewable in the Canon PowerShot G7 photo gallery!

Playback

In playback, the Canon PowerShot G7 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as: Protect images, perform print marking, play slideshows, image rotation and My Colors post processing. You can also magnify still photos by 10x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.

There's a simple movie trimming function and sound recorder available too. The new sound recorder allows recording up to 2 hours of stereo sound at your choice of 11, 22 or 44 kHz.

The My Category feature  let's you sort through your photos by 4 preset or 3 custom categories. However, there's no way to give those custom categories a name. You can move thru images one-by-one using the buttons or scroll through 3 at a time using the rotary wheel.

 

Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot G7 is the (long overdue) successor to the G6 and brings many improvements over the 2 years, though with some step-backs as well. The G7 sacrifices the fast (large aperture) lens of the G6 for a slower lens with more zoom and optical image stabilization. It depends on users if that's good or bad; some need that extra speed while other people want more zoom but one of the hallmark features of the G-series has been lost.

The new retro design is as solidly built as it is stylish. Unfortunately, some aspects of ergonomics have also been compromised - such as the camera is now lacking a proper grip, small shutter button/zoom controller and easy-to-bump rotary wheel (would rather have the main dial found on Canon's digital SLRs and previous G's). The LCD size and resolution has gone up but sadly, gone is the hinge for the rotating screen. In addition, the more compact design has demanded for a smaller battery, which also brought down battery life.

On the bright side, the new DIGIC III processor improves performance, burst mode, movie mode and brings Face Detection to the mix. Other G-series features such as the built-in ND filter, a hotshoe, computer remote control and two custom places on the mode dial have not been dropped.

Image quality wise, the G7 has good image quality; low noise, low fringing and no vignetting, although redeye is still an issue. Overall, the G7 is a pretty interesting and good package yet there is one final issue - the price. There's Canon's own A710 IS which does almost the same thing (Well, lacking a hotshoe, customization, design, lower resolution and a slightly worse movie mode) for $200+ less.

Also there are entry-level digital SLRs like the Canon Rebel XT, Nikon D40, Pentax K100D and the like which are priced around $600 too. Sure, lenses to cover a similar range will add to the price but it's something to keep in mind.

The Canon G7 is something if you want a capable camera in a compact, sturdy package or if you're not quite ready for a digital SLR yet. Just remember to take into consideration and try out the G7's less expensive competitors and also similarly priced digital SLRs.

Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Prosumer]

  • 7.5 - Body/Exterior
  • 6.5 - Bundle, batteries and memory
  • 7.5 - Lens
  • 7.5 - Feature set
  • 7.0 - Controls and operation
  • 8.5 - Performance
  • 7.5 - Image quality
  • 7.4 - Overall rating

What's hot:

  • Retro design and sturdy built quality; includes an optical viewfinder
  • Face detection AF and AE that works
  • Large LCD with good visibility
  • Can be remotely controlled from computer
  • Unlimited continuous shooting at full resolution
  • Very good performance
  • Full manual controls with rotary wheel and hotshoe
  • Many accessories and ND filter built-in
  • Shortcut button and 2 custom mode dial spots
  • Useful playback features: My Colors, My Category, redeye removal and sound recorder
  • Impressive movie mode
  • Good image quality

What's not:

  • Costly; around the same as entry-level digital SLRs
  • No RAW option (Previous G-series had it)
  • No rotating LCD (Previous G's had this too!)
  • Below average battery life (Also down from the G6)
  • Tiny shutter button/zoom controller; no proper hand grip
  • Rotary wheel a little loose and easy to bump
  • No movie focus or optical zoom
  • Redeye is a problem

Recommended Accessories

  • 2 GB high-speed Secure Digital card
  • Extra NB-2LH li-ion battery pack

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