Canon G9 – Quick Review

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Since I started shoot professionally about a year and a half ago, I pretty much stopped carrying a small format point and shoot around with me. When I felt like making photos, I’d lug out my SLR, and for the most part, it would stay in the bag anyway, so I eventually stopped doing that too. After a while I found myself being disappointed when I’d see something I wanted to shoot without having any camera on me at all, so I decided to invest in a new model point and shoot. After some research I ended up choosing the Canon G9.

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I should start up front by saying that I had high expectations about the G9, having read dozens of very thorough reviews by both standard camera geeks and pros who use it as a handy tool. The next thing I should say is that despite it’s popularity with pro-shooters, this is obviously not a pro-shooting tool. It is merely a small, full featured camera that is great for having in your pocket when you don’t want to drag around a large SLR.

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The camera itself is amazing – it’s small, yet very dense giving it the feel of a old fashioned film camera and it’s brick styling has often been compared to old Leica range-finders (in a very roundabout fashion). Unlike the Canon G3 which I used when I first moved to New York, the G9 fits handily in a coat pocket and despite the weight is very easy to carry around. And even though it has a number of exterior knobs and buttons I found that they didn’t protrude enough to get get caught when taking the camera in and out of pockets. Additionally, unlike the earlier model I had, the G9 has a proper neck strap, as opposed to a wrist strap and can be easily hung from the neck while shooting.

As for using the camera itself, it should be noted that knowledge of how a camera works is key – this isn’t a simple to use point and shoot: to get the most out of the camera, you need to know about shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings. One of the most lauded features of this camera is the fact that the ISO can be changed manually via a knob on top of the body (although it could be argued that the camera’s poor performance at higher ISOs makes this point moot).

The interface is excellent, and the scroll wheel on the back allows for easy changes when in manual modes and once you learn the ins and outs of what everything does, it’s fairly fast and easy to change your settings. I love the onscreen options on the big LCD, including a live histogram, which comes in handy when trying to capture the correct exposure. Additionally, the startup speed is excellent on the camera which makes it easy to power up and start shooting. Beware though, that the autofocus is slow and the shutterlag is very long, so if you’re trying to shoot action, be ready well in advance.

Overall the image quality is decent for a point and shoot, and I imagine that I’ll be getting better at it once I learn more how to tweak the settings for this particular model. The images are very noisy even in lots of light at ISO 400, although to be fair I’ve been spoiled by near-flawless images on my high end SLRs. As you can see from my samples, I’ll be depending on the RAW mode to allow me to manipulate images, and I think that I will be primarily using my G9 for black and white street photography – the noise turns into a nice, gentle grain when converted to grayscale. Which is completely fine for me.

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When I was out shooting over the weekend, I found myself being going back to a more loose style when I was just a hobbyist and not a “professional.” With nothing on the line but having fun and making good photography, I had a great time. Plus, it’s much more important to focus and frame your images when using a small format camera since you don’t have the latitude for cropping etc. While the G9 isn’t going to replace an SLR obviously, I’m pleased to finally have a small format camera that I can have with me most of the time, so when I get the bug to shoot I’ll always be prepared for something, anways.

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