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Software and RAW conversion contd...

ISO 800 Studio shot comparison

Once again you can pull a little more detail out of the scene if you shoot high ISO in raw mode and convert using ACR, though be prepared for quite a lot of work as you attempt to balance the noise reduction and detail/sharpness.

Out of camera JPEG, Super Fine, default settings
Canon Raw Image Task , RAW-TIFF, default settings
Adobe Camera Raw , RAW-TIFF, default (auto) settings

ISO 1600 Studio shot comparison

ACR reveals just how noisy ISO 1600 is, and just how heavy Canon's noise reduction is. You'll preserve a little more detail by converting from raw using ACR, but you'll also have a huge amount of noise to deal with.

Out of camera JPEG, Super Fine, default settings
Canon Raw Image Task , RAW-TIFF, default settings
Adobe Camera Raw , RAW-TIFF, default (auto) settings

Noise reduction options (ISO 1600)

Both ACR and Canon's Raw Image Task offer a level of control over noise reduction, though in the case of the latter it doesn't seem to make a huge amount of difference even at ISO 1600, with a huge amount of detail lost whichever end of the scale you set the slider. ACR's noise reduction routines - if turned up to the max - are no better, producing a slightly sharper result, but one that has a distinctly 'watercolor' appearance. If you seriously want to play with noise reduction on a camera that produces results this noisy at high ISO you are going to have to invest in some dedicated software - and don't expect miracles.

Canon Raw Image Task
Adaptive Noise Reduction = 0
Canon Raw Image Task
Adaptive Noise Reduction = 10
Adobe Camera Raw
All noise reduction set to 0
Adobe Camera Raw
All noise reduction set to maximum

Low contrast detail recovery

Dropping to a more reasonable ISO setting (ISO 400) it's possible to recover a lot of the very finest low contrast detail lost in the in-camera noise reduction process, though you'll obviously have a more 'grainy' image as a result.

Out of camera JPEG, ISO 400
Fine, default settings
Adobe Camera Raw, ISO 400
ACR 4.3 beta, luminance noise reduction zero, chroma noise reduction maximum

Dynamic Range: RAW vs JPEG

The G9, like all small sensor cameras we test these days suffers from dynamic range issues, most specifically the rather harsh clipping of highlights in high contrast scenes. With most compacts we can only guess at what part the tone curve applied in camera (as opposed to the inherent lack of dynamic range of the sensor itself) has to play, but the raw data tells us a lot more.

After spending several hours with the G9's raw files I can report that they give you a little, but not a lot of headroom in the highlights. Using ACR's 'Recovery' or Highlight/Shadow tools it's possible to pull back a little of the highlight detail that's lost in the in-camera JPEG processing, and more importantly to apply custom tone curves to your own taste (or more suited to the subject matter). But don't expect miracles; pulling down the highlights can easily introduce color casts to highlights (the G9's built-in tone curve seems designed to just hit the spot where the green channel starts to clip), and if it looks completely white in the JPEG the chances are there's no more information in the raw file.

That said as the examples below show even a little headroom is better than none, and if you're prepared to put a little work into the processing, even with seemingly irredeemable files the return is often worth the effort.

Out of camera JPEG default settings RAW+ACR 'Recovery' set to maximum
Out of camera JPEG default settings RAW+ACR Custom tone curve
Out of camera JPEG default settings RAW+ACR 'Recovery' set to maximum
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Silvita

My super wonderful G9 is going to turn 6 years old soon.

I am grateful to Canon for this sort of masterpiece, despite I have some troubles now due to dust on sensor. But I am sure I'll find the right people that will sort this out.
And I'll keep shooting with her.

Greets to all the reviewers from Italy.

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