Bearing only a passing resemblance to the G6 (in fact at first glance it has more in common with the G5 looks-wise), the G7 is an undoubtedly handsome, serious-looking camera with classic 'rangefinder' styling and a build quality that puts most digital SLRs to shame. Like its predecessors the external skin of the body is nearly all-metal (only the top plate is plastic) and the attractive matt-black finish exudes quality; and impression that's reinforced by the weight; at around 356g with battery and card the G7 is one of the heaviest compacts on the market and is, for want of a better word, nicely 'dense'. It also feels a lot smaller than the G6, mainly because Canon has done away with the finger grip on the left hand side in order to produce a slimmer profile, something that makes it look a lot prettier but doesn't improve handling one bit.
In your hand
As mentioned above the G7 feels reassuringly solid (something of a rarity these days) and the design and materials used mean it simply begs to be picked up and used. In use, however, it is obvious that some compromises have been made to keep the 'classic' styling. The lack of a meaningful grip on the front - and the concentration of buttons on the rear - means it doesn't feel that safe, nor is it very easy to use the controls, if you try to use it with one hand. I found it only possible if you swap the neck strap for a wrist strap on the right side, and wrap this round your wrist. Once you use both hands to support the camera everything 'falls into place' and the whole camera is a lot more stable.
The G7 uses an NB-2L Li-Ion battery that sits under a plastic covering door (the only vaguely flimsy part of the entire camera) on the base. This is the same battery as used in the EOS 400D (XTi) and some S series compacts, and is supplied with an external charger (takes around 90 mins). Battery life from the 720 mAh pack isn't great; around 220 shots (CIPA standard), but with spares starting at around £10 / $20 it shouldn't be a huge issue.
The SD card slot is located in the same compartment. The G7 is compatible with standard SD cards up to 2GB, and SDHC cards for higher capacities (something we couldn't test as we don't have any yet).
Annoyingly you cannot open the battery door - and therefore cannot change the memory card - when the camera is mounted on a tripod. Grrr.
The optical viewfinder is fairly bright but is very small not that clear (despite having a dioptre adjustment), and to be honest I found it all but unusable in most circumstances. Obviously with a 6x zoom (and a 210mm long end) there's only so much you can expect from an optical 'tunnel' finder, but we were impressed by how well it deals with parallax and how accurate it is for framing. To the left is the customizable shortcut button (which also doubles up as a direct print button in play mode).
One of the most contentious changes over the G6 - and the one I found myself regretting most - is that the screen is no longer a tilting and swiveling 'vari-angle' affair. It is, however, a lot larger (2.5-inch) and is bright, clear and contrasty, and works well in bright light thanks to the anti-reflection coating. Unfortunately the coating is one of those that shows every fingerprint and can quickly end up looking like an oil-slick (so much so that I ended up going everywhere with a microfiber cloth).
The shutter release sits inside a small circular zoom rocker and if I were to have a small niggle it would be that there is too much travel, and that the half-press point is too near the full press point. What this means in practice is that until you've got used to it, you find yourself firing off shots when all you were trying to do was pre-focus.
The G7's slim built-in flash has a 4.0m (13.1 ft) reach at the short end of the zoom, falling to 2.5m (8.2 ft) at full telephoto. Naturally there's lots of control, from standard flash modes to front/rear curtain slow synch, flash AE-compensation and three-step output control in manual mode (16 steps when using an external flash). We also found the flash worked perfectly in macro mode, down to around 11 inches.
One of the big differences between the G7 and the majority of other compact digicams is the inclusion of a fully dedicated flash hot shoe, compatible with Canon's 220EX, 430EX and 580EX guns (and several dedicated flashguns from independent suppliers). With Canon's flashguns you'll get most of the features you would using an SLR, including power zooming. You can also, of course, use the hot shoe to trigger a studio flash system when shooting in manual mode.
The G7's lens offers an impressive optically stabilized 35-210mm (equiv) 6x zoom range, biting at the ankles of the 'super zoom' models such as Canon's own S3 IS. What it doesn't have is the ultra wide aperture that was the signature of every G series model before it . The F2.8-4.8 range is nothing special, and does mean you have to rely on higher ISO settings than you might like - especially at the long end of the zoom.
The zoom retracts fully into the body when powered down. At the wide end of the zoom it extends by around 3cm, zooming to the long end adds about another 1cm.
Canon currently supplies two add-on lenses for the G7; a 2.0x teleconverter (TC-DC58C) and the huge 0.75x wide converter (WC-DC58B), shown here, which takes the wideangle down to around 26mm equiv. The lenses bayonet on and off (after the removal of the cosmetic chrome ring).
The main mode dial, which includes two custom modes you can create yourself.
The rear controls. Canon has adopted another new control system for the G7 (though it has similarities to the S80). Around the conventional four-way controller (which is now used in record mode purely to change macro, flash, focus and drive modes) is a rotating ring that changes exposure settings and navigates menus. It takes some getting used to (especially if you're used to using a camera with a standard 4-way controller), but is very quick once you do.
One very unusual feature - and a nice touch - is the ISO dial on the top of the camera.
The USB (2.0 high speed) and AV ports are located under a plastic cover on the side of the camera (viewed from the rear). There is no DC-in port (you can use the G7 mains powered, but this requires the purchase of a separate 'dummy battery' type adaptor.