With the dramatic falling of prices for digital SLRs and the introduction of inexpensive, entry-level models, the days of the so-called bridge camera, the prosumer model that sat uneasily between feature-rich compacts and true SLRs, looked well and truly over. To an extent, they are, which is why Canon's G7 has had to reposition itself.Specifications
- 6x optical zoom with optical Image Stabilizer
- 10Mp resolution
- DIGIC III and iSAPS
- Face Detection AF/AE
- 2.5" LCD screen
- ISO and multi-control dials
- 25 shooting modes
- ND filter built in
- Digital Tele-Converter and Safety Zoom
- JPEG file format
With the G7 Canon has rather retreated from the bridge camera market and the styling of the previous models in the series, and instead repackaged it as a feature-rich compact for the more serious amateur.Modes and features
The headline feature of the G7 is the form of the whopping 10Mp resolution. Is this more than you actually need? Well, perhaps not. As the camera is aimed at the enthusiast who wants a more convenient camera than a SLR, rather than a happy snapper, then the extra resolution can be put to good use in landscape shots. What's startling, and an obvious change from the previous cameras in the series is that the LCD monitor, an admirable 2.5” with a respectable 207k pixels, is fixed to the back of the camera. No flip out and rotate LCD here. This, and the obvious decision to shrink the camera, have resulted in the weight falling from 467g in the G6 to 320g in the G7. Now that's a loss Weight watchers would be proud of. Despite this, the camera controls don't feel unduly squashed, and there's even room for an exciting new addition.
Let's on the top plate. Up here there's the on/off button, which is recessed and not the easiest to activate, but at least it's a reasonable size. The zoom and fire button are together, and while the zoom is small, at least it feels solid. Next to this is the mode dial, which contains the usual PASM modes (S being listed as Tv on Canon cameras). There are two custom settings, a totally auto mode, video, stitch-assist for panoramas and a Scene mode. The scenes cover 16 situations and include things like fireworks, beaches, snow, underwater, portraits, landscapes and even an ISO3200 mode. Rotating the dial on the back of the camera, scrolls through the selections on the LCD, showing previous and upcoming modes, so it's easy to find the one you want. No pictures with the scene modes like some compacts, so Canon is saying here, have them, but we aren't going to hold your hand more than that.
Over the other side of the flash mounting is... an ISO dial. Why oh why isn't this on every digital SLR? Just having an ISO control mode on a dial, and then having to change the settings on a menu isn't enough. Full marks to Canon for including this here. It runs from ISO80 to 1600, and also has an Auto mode.
Around the back is a silver playback button that's similar to the on/off one, a combined dial and joypad arrangment, and five buttons. The buttons are custom, focus mode, exposure compensation, setup menu and display options. There's also a button in the middle of the dial/joypad, which activates the common menu options. Firstly, let's look at the custom button. This is marked by a star and as usual with Canon cameras, activates a metering reading. So far so good, but now, say you were in AP mode, you changed the aperture, two graphic displays appear on the LCD, showing aperture and shutter speed. At a glance you can see how much you need to change one, to get a desired result on the other. Better yet, if the ISO button is now rotated as well, the scales instantly update, making it easy to quickly trade off quality for speed, or speed for aperture. If you are trying to create a specific effect like slow-motion waterfalls, or freezing moving objects, this is a very nice feature.Build and handling
It's really solid and all the controls feel like they will last more than 10 minutes. The weight loss from the G6 obviously makes it easier on the hand, but the loss of the flip-out is a real shame, making composition more tricky. There's an optical viewfinder, but the lens barrel extends so that it sticks into the view, and its not particularly good. Only to be used when the sun is so bright the LCD can't be seen. There's not much of a grip, just a slight change in the body with a strip, but it handles better than it looks like it should. There's very little space on the back, but where it is, the thumb sits comfortably. All the controls are easy to use, except for the on/off button. The setup menu and the features menu are two separate items, but are easy to navigate. What is a little messy is that the focus selection and exposure compensation buttons require pressing again to select any changes. This means that to change a single setup feature, you could be pressing any of five buttons on the back.
The hotshoe supports Canon Speedlites 220EX, 430EX, 580EX (some functions not support). The built in flash has a red-eye reduction mode as expected, but can also do a second curtain, slow-sync flash for creative combined exposures. The flash can be set to auto-TTL, or manual, and has three levels of adjustment using either, making fill-flash easy to control. The flash isn't very strong with a range of just 4m at ISO100, but it's good enough for portraits.Performance
Like many recent compacts, the G7 features face recognition focusing. Tie this in with the portrait camera mode and you can automatically have the image adjusted for skin tones. There are a range of colour profiles to assign to shooting as well, so that the picture can be tweaked for people or landscapes or skies for example. There is a choice of focussing and metering system, allowing a focussing point to be moved around the screen and used for spot metering. This and the various modes, plus the custom metering function are all good things to have and the camera is pleasingly chunky and straightforward to use. The dual control of joypad and scroll wheel isn't entirely necessary for navigating the menu systems, but the wheel is certainly makes shutter or aperture selection easier. Apertures can be selected in one third stops as well, which is nice to see.
While the G7 is a nice camera to hold and use, and it starts up quickly, there are a few shortcomings on what is supposed to be an enthusiasts camera. The shooting speed for example, is 2fps if you turn the monitor off first and use fine or normal JPEG compression. Continuous shooting with auto-focus is 0.8fps under the same criteria. Switch the LCD on, as its the primary focussing mechanism and its unrealistic to not use it, and shoot in Superfine JPEG for the best quality, without continuous autofocus, and you can shoot an initial burst of 4 frames at around 1fps, but then the internal buffer fills and over a ten second period you only get 6 frames, rather than 20.
The exposure compensation also doesn't offer a great range, being just + or – 2EV and when in AP mode, the camera will only produce a shutter speed of just one second. This is odd since in shutter priority mode it can manage 15 seconds and will set the aperture accordingly. This itself is nothing to write home about, ranging from f/2.8-f8, which is standard for a compact. While the ISO range is fine, going up to ISO1600, it's a little annoying to find that the ISO3200 option is only there in a custom, program mode where you have no control over shutter and aperture speeds.
That said, there's more good stuff in the form of live histograms being available on the LCD, the macro function works very well being to get in a close as just 1cm!
Colour chart note: On the site, images are automatically displayed as sRGB, however, you can download the hi-res, unconverted image by right clicking on the thumbnail and selecting Save Link As. Then view the image on your computer.
The colours are very faithful, though red and blue are slightly lighter than reality. All the mixtures of colour are completely faithful expect for the yellow-green combination which is slightly more yellow than the lime green its supposed to be. The primary and lighter greens are both spot on though.
In the landscape test -2EV exposure compensation was required to retain the colour in the sky. Once Highlight/Shadow had been used to restore the foreground, plenty of noise became evident. There's good sharpness in the image, but the is colour fringing on both white, metal stanchions and on the wooden lock gate.
The dedicated portrait mode has the effect of deliberately softening the image. This shot was taken in Aperture Priority mode, using flash adjustment of -1EV and it works well with a sharper result.
This shows the sharpness of the 6x optical zoom with the image stabiliser turned on. The only fly in the ointment is that colour fringing on the branches in the sky area above the church tower.
The ISO80 picture is very clean, with smooth tones and excellent sharpness. There's some, very faint, signs of noise in the ISO100 picture, but nothing of real concern. It starts to appear more in the shadow areas of ISO200 pictures but is only quite noticeable in ISO400 mode. ISO800 is still sharp while being quite noisy, but when it gets to ISO1600, the noise level increasing significantly and the colours shifts as well.
There's a slight element that the G7, having been cut down to size, has rather lost something. It has a number of admirable features and is genuinely nice to use, but the performance is slightly off. The loss of the flip-out LCD is a real shame, but for those wanting a camera that's convenient to carry, the large weight and size loss is surely a good thing. The use of colour modes to optimise the picture for specific types is a good thing, but it's surprising to see only sRGB being supported rather than the wider gamut of AdobeRGB. The colour accuracy itself is good, but not quite perfect, while the lens offers very sharp pictures throughout the 6x optical zoom. What is apparent is that colour fringing can be a problem, even against blue skies, never mind white ones, if it's bright. Also, the camera did seem to struggle with any kind of contrast range, often requiring -2EV exposure compensation to retain detail in the sky.
Images themselves are full of detail thanks to that huge resolution, while noise is well controlled up to ISO800, but significantly it appears in shadows areas at ISO100. The higher ISO modes, in bright conditions, perform better than rival compacts and as well as some more expensive models. It's just that in shadow areas, its endemic.
There are options to add wide angle and telephoto convertors as the metal ring on the front of the camera unscrews, and these would extend the usefulness of the G7 further. As it is, it's a solid, feature-rich compact, that may have fewer prosumer aspirations, but still offers a wealth of photographic potential in an easy-to-use package.
Very solid build
Some excellent features
ISO on a dial – yes!
Lots of colour modes
Built in ND filter
Not a fast shooter
Only 1sec exposure in AP mode
Optical viewfinder poor
Noise in shadow areas