Canon’s PowerShot “G” line sits squarely on the boundary between the top end of compact digital cameras and low-end digital SLRs, sharing some of the best features of both forms. Six years ago a camera as functional as the G9 cost a touch under $2000 and required you to carry around separate lenses. At a 2008 ticket price less than half that, the G9 represents pretty solid value for money — not to mention its all-in-one convenience.
For the money you get a sturdy, semi-pro camera, with 12.1 megapixel capture, imaged by a triple mode, optically stabilised 6x optical zoom and viewed on a 7.6 cm LCD screen — plus an optical finder.
As a mark of its lineage you can shoot in RAW format as well as write a simultaneous JPEG image to memory. The maximum image size of 4000×3000 pixels can lead to a high quality 34×25 cm print. Movies can be recorded in 640×480 pixel size at 30 fps — but not in 16:9 widescreen format or resolution.
In typical Canon fashion a bundle of useful software is included on the CD-ROM: the excellent PhotoStitch (for panoramas) and a utility for Windows and Macintosh computers to unpack and convert RAW images.
Exposure control is extensive: choose from auto, Program AE, shutter or aperture priority and manual; there are two custom settings, where you can dial in specific settings for special purposes. Then there is a whole array of scene modes for challenging shots like night scenes, underwater, fireworks and more.
The Face Detect feature identifies people in a shot, then sets focus and exposure to best render the faces, even when they’re moving. This feature debuted on the PowerShot G7 and is notably advanced in the G9 incarnation.
For a 12-megapixel camera this one is quick out of the blocks: in just two seconds after power up you can shoot your first shot; follow on shots are about 1-2 seconds apart.
This is a well-corrected lens: at the wide-angle position of the zoom there was a slight amount of barrel distortion — but at the tele end, nothing to report.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The G9 is a solid, quality performer. The images I pulled with it surpassed many taken with similarly priced dSLRs. The G9 also has a relatively large CCD at 15mm in diagonal, which equates to increased resolution and diminished noise compared to other compact digicams. Recent Canon, Olympus and Panasonic dSLRs have only ten megapixel capture and cost around two to three times this model. So if you’re thinking of making the move to a digital SLR, stop and think for a moment: maybe your future lies in a highly-specced fixed lens digicam.