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Canon PowerShot G9
The G9 has been hyped as the compact camera that professionals like to use. The biggest reason for this is that the G9 supports a host of professional lighting and strobing equipment that are usually found in professional DSLRs, and that it has a good amount of manual options with detailed controls and an optical viewfinder. But is it the image quality as good as it is hyped to be? That's what we intend to find out.
The distinction between the G9 and a compact became apparent as soon as I picked it up. It was considerably heavy for its size at 370g, so it's not really as pocketable as you would imagine. But with great weight comes great sturdiness; the kind that wouldn't make you think twice while you pack it in a tight suitcase. Though the camera lacks a proper extrusion for a front grip, the sleek design along with a rubberized patch placed at the right location makes it very easy to hold for long durations.
The screen is a 3-inch 230,000 pixel display job, which may seem common, but is impressive nonetheless. The first thing that impressed me about the controls was a dedicated wheel on top for adjusting the ISO sensitivity levels. This very crucial feature is missing even on a lot of enthusiast level cameras as well as DSLRs – but the G9, in all its compact glory, had it!
Right next to the ISO wheel is the Canon hot-shoe, compatible with all Canon flashes and speed lights. I can see why a lot of Canon DSLR owners favor the G9 so much. With this hot-shoe, they can easily use their professional strobes with this camera.
The viewfinder is optical but not perfectly accurate, as the view you get is not through the lens. It seemed like a good idea at first, but after a few clicks using the viewfinder, I found the practice pointless and switched back to the more accurate LCD display.
Navigation is extremely comfortable. Canon has used its navigation wheel design (as in the higher-end EOS 40D) at the back of the camera, resulting in a fast and very controllable navigation system.
When it comes to the overall build quality, I would say the Canon G9 is nothing short of impressive. It is built like a tank and is fast and easy to operate, thanks to the number of hard buttons provided.
The 12 megapixel resolution seems very impressive, but of course mere resolution doesn't translate directly to image quality. (More on that later, in the performance section.)
6x optical zoom is pretty good for a compact camera, especially when it comes with image stabilization. I'd have loved a higher zoom level but I reminded myself that this is a compact camera. The G9 does have the option for add-on lenses, but you’ll have to make sure that you use the kind meant for this camera alone.
There are manual controls aplenty throughout the camera interface, once you switch to manual mode. You can configure the exposure levels, the color settings, and also have a bit of fun with Canon’s color swap feature.
My favorite feature, however, is the ND (Neutral Density) filter present as an option in the camera itself. Now you can shoot long exposures with wide apertures, even in bright sunlight, without investing in an actual filter.
The features are great, but the real test of the camera’s mettle is in its performance.
As expected, the G9's performance was more in league with enthusiast level cameras than consumer level compact cameras.
The color reproduction was very accurate once the white balance was appropriately set. Reds and greens were perfectly replicated.
The overall image clarity was once again better than average, but at the same time it wasn't as good as one would expect from a camera of this caliber. Some of the finer details appeared a bit grainy when viewing the image at full size, which affected the overall sharpness.
Shooting a night scene using the camera's night mode may not be a good idea, as the G9 tends to shy away from the concept of long exposures, resulting in results like the one below.
But that can be easily fixed by using the manual mode and shooting at ISO 80 and a long exposure of 4 seconds.
The reason I shot at ISO 80 was purely for the sake of image clarity. The camera's ISO levels are perfectly usable till ISO 400, after which, the digital noise in the images may become an issue. The image below was shot in ISO 800.
At ISO 1600 the image is practically unusable at full size (as expected), but it can still do for a small, email-sized image.
Battery life was a bit disappointing as it lasted me for only around 60 shots (with and without flash) after a full charge.
The G9 is a good enthusiast level camera, but it's high price of Rs 29,999 (MRP) seems a bit unjustified, when you can get some great superzooms and even DSLRs for less. I don't mean to say the camera will disappoint you in any way – it has a good number of features that will enhance your photography skills, and its performance is definitely above average.
So if you're looking for a compact camera that does it all, the G9 is as good as it gets. Otherwise, if size doesn't matter, you should definitely check out other options in superzooms and DSLRs first.