Canon PowerShot G7
Written by Gordon Laing
Canon PowerShot G7 verdict
The Canon PowerShot G7 is undoubtedly a very powerful and capable compact camera. It offers fine control over exposure and focusing and has a quality lens with a useful 6x optical range, along with effective image stabilisation and impressive macro facilities.
As our results pages show, the G7 is also capable of recording a high degree of detail, so long as you shoot using the lower sensitivities. At 80-200 ISO, the image quality is very good, although even at 100 and 200 ISO there’s some noise creeping in around shadow areas. Increase the sensitivity to 400 and 800 ISO and the noise becomes much more obvious, while at 1600 ISO there’s a significant drop in quality to a point you’d rarely consider using it. The 3200 ISO mode is little more than a novelty, operating at a greatly reduced resolution of 2 Megapixels and even then recording little detail thanks to aggressive noise reduction.
To be fair to the PowerShot G7, its noise levels aren’t particularly worse than other 10 Megapixel compacts, but par for the course for cameras which employ physically small sensors with high sensitivities. Having to shoot at the lowest sensitivities to avoid noise has become a sad fact of life for modern compacts and if forced to find a positive spin on it, you could at least say the G7’s image stabilisation allows shooting at slower shutters, while the image processing doesn’t smear out too much detail.
So noise (and a slightly unusually shaped shutter release button) aside, the PowerShot G7 is an excellent camera, but there’s just one problem: its predecessors. Canon’s earlier PowerShot G series truly were flagship models, boasting many features you’d rarely if ever find on a compact. Previous models boasted a flash hotshoe, RAW recording, a flip-out screen, an optically bright lens and an upper LCD status screen. Now with the G7, only the hotshoe remains. It’s a terrible shame that Canon chose to strip its latest PowerShot G model of the features which made its predecessors so special, and as a consequence it places the G7 in a somewhat uncomfortable position.
While the PowerShot remains a fairly unique proposition with its 6x stabilised zoom and flash hotshoe in a relatively pocketable body, we believe there’s four other 10 Megapixel models which potential G7 owners should also be considering.
Compared to Canon PowerShot A640
For less money you could go for the PowerShot A640 and enjoy the same 10 Megapixel resolution along with the great benefit of a flip-out and twist display. Sure the A640’s display is lower resolution, but the flexibility of flipping it out more than makes up for it. The lens range may be shorter nor boast stabilisation, but it still offers 4x with a decent 1cm macro mode. See our Canon PowerShot A640 review and video tour for more details.
Compared to Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi
Alternatively for a little more money you could go for a budget DSLR like Canon’s own EOS 400D / XTi and enjoy the benefits of interchangeable lenses, much lower noise at high sensitivities (as illustrated on our noise results page), faster handling, RAW recording and an optical SLR viewfinder. Admittedly you’d need to budget considerably more to have a decent quality 6x optical zoom with stabilisation, and of course you won’t squeeze a DSLR into a pocket, but many will still find a budget DSLR ultimately more compelling. See our Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi review and video tour for more details.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50
For pretty much the same money as the PowerShot G7 you could go for the 10 Megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50, a camera which may be plagued by overly aggressive noise reduction, but which boasts a massive 12x optical zoom with stabilisation and a flip-out screen, along with RAW recording. Like the 400D / XTi though, you won’t it it in your pocket. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 review and video tour for more details.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix LX2
The Panasonic LX2 shares a number of similarities with the G7. Both are relatively pocketable 10 Megapixel cameras with optically-stabilised zooms and a high degree of creative control. The LX2’s zoom may have a shorter 4x range, but starts at an equivalent of 28mm for decent wide-angle coverage. It additionally sports a 16:9 widescreen sensor and screen along with RAW recording, while also coming in slightly cheaper. It would almost certainly be the better camera were it not for serious noise issues, where the picture quality plummets above 100 ISO. Just compare our outdoor results from the Lumix LX2 with the PowerShot G7. Shame, as it could have been a contender. See our Panasonic Lumix LX2 review and video tour for more details.
Canon PowerShot G7 final verdict
By removing many of its predecessors unusually powerful features, the G7 can no longer be considered a realistic alternative to a DSLR – it’s now just a high-end compact. However much we lament the loss of these features though, Canon’s obviously thought it through and is no doubt selling EOS 400Ds to people who’d previously have gone for a G-Series. After all many of these people were only going for high-end pro-sumer compacts until DSLRs became affordable.
There’s also the fact if you’d never seen or heard of its predecessors, you’d almost certainly not level the same complaints against the G7. In fact if you forget the models which came before it, there’s actually very little to criticise in terms of features and performance.
So the G7’s biggest problem is its heritage. But while you could cover your eyes and pretend it’s the first in a new range, there’s simply no denying the fact it follows a series of cameras famous for delivering a highly impressive range of features. Knowing Canon squeezed so much into earlier models, but left it out here is hard to take. There’s also the fact features like RAW are present in many other high-end compacts now, so to find it removed on the G7 is a slap in the face.
Knowing what could have been, along with the noise at higher sensitivities, means we can only award the PowerShot G7 our Recommended rating. Sure it’s an excellent compact, with a great lens that’s capable of impressive results, but deep down we know it could have been much more special – and as we mentioned earlier, the PowerShot A640, EOS 400D and Panasonic FZ50 make very compelling alternatives. Canon may now be trying to sell a DSLR to every enthusiast, but there’s still room in the market for a highly capable top-of-the-range compact. To see the G7’s highlights, check out our Canon PowerShot G7 video tour.
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