Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution and respectable edge-to-edge sharpness across the zoom range
  • Classic 'rangefinder' styling looks great, fit & finish superb.
  • Capable of very good results at lower ISO settings
  • ISO 200-400 usable for standard sized prints (noise and NR effects are visible, however)
  • Huge feature set
  • Face detect AF a bit of a novelty but it is very effective for novice users
  • Real, usable photographic control
  • ISO dial on body and external access to all important controls
  • Bright, sharp screen that works pretty well in bright light
  • Rugged, solid construction and excellent build quality
  • Useful 35-210mm focal length range
  • Effective image stabilization with 3 stop advantage
  • Fast and responsive performance overall
  • Optional lens adaptors
  • Flash hot shoe for dedicated flash units
  • Built-in flash performs well
  • Two custom modes and customizable shortcut button
  • Wide range of image color and sharpness parameters
  • Good continuous shooting mode (at lower ISO settings)
  • 1cm macro mode
  • Excellent movie mode - and max file size increased to 4.0GB

Conclusion - Cons

  • Many features that made the G series stand out have been removed; fast lens, raw mode, vari-angle screen, IR remote, big long-life battery, LCD status panel
  • Some shadow noise visible even at ISO 80
  • Lack of grip and 'classic styling' don't make for great handling
  • ISO 1600 so noisy it's pointless, ISO 3200 very low resolution
  • Focus sometimes hunts in low light at longer focal lengths and in macro mode
  • Indistinct 'half press' point and long shutter release travel make refocusing more difficult than it should be
  • Continuous mode slows down over ISO 200
  • Non-standard Exif means non-Canon software can't read ISO values
  • Highlight clipping and metering issues in bright conditions
  • Purple fringing and some CA visible at wide end of zoom in some shots
  • Focus speeds and shutter lag (when using LCD) could be better
  • Battery life not great
  • Quite pricey

Overall conclusion

There has been so much talk about what the G7 is not that I think it's only fair to look first at what it is; a superbly built, comprehensively featured and highly desirable camera that packs a lot of the functionality of a digital SLR - and an image stabilized 35-210mm lens - into a solid, compact body. It also has virtually no competition - there are super zooms with similar feature sets, but all are bigger and heavier. Image quality is excellent at lower ISO settings as long as you don't expect to produce poster printers - and you know what you're doing exposure-wise; this is not a camera for the beginner.

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Canon's relatively 'hands-off' approach to luminance noise reduction produces results at ISO 200-800 that - whilst not a patch on any SLR - at least don't sacrifice all their detail for a 'smooth' result.

That all said you can't help but feel a twinge of disappointment with the G7; a feeling that Canon could have taken a few more risks rather than producing what is, essentially, a souped-up A series camera with a couple of token nods to the G series' tradition and a CCD stuffed to the gills with pixels to such an extent that it compromises image quality. I am also disappointed by the loss of raw capture (even if I only use it for 'special occasions' it can be a life-saver) and the vari-angle screen (which I found myself missing on more than one occasion).

There is undoubtedly a place in the market for the high class compact - in fact people are crying out for a compact camera that offers a true alternative to an SLR for anyone wanting quality without bulk. But to really offer this the G7 would need a different sensor that was more capable at higher ISO settings and that offered better dynamic range. The output from the G7 isn't essentially any different to any of the handful of other cameras that share the same sensor once you get over ISO 200, and isn't visibly a whole lot better than the 7MP G6, either.

In my opinion, Canon's product planners made two mistakes with the G7. First they went for the easy sell; smallest possible body, big zoom, lots of megapixels (just like everyone else), and in doing so lost two of the things most unusual (and appealing) about the G6; the F2.0-3.0 maximum aperture (great for low light, essential for cutting down the depth of field) and the LCD status panel. Secondly they refused to risk producing an expensive camera (the G7 is towards the top of the price range for a compact, but it's by no means expensive for what it is). The G7 I want would have a bigger sensor (or at least one with fewer, more sensitive pixels), a shorter but faster zoom and a vari-angle screen. And if it produced superb results I'd be prepared to pay through the nose for it. But that's not what I got, and to be honest it's unlikely to happen soon. What you've got is another superb camera that simply makes the best it can of a rather less impressive sensor.

And so, in the final analysis, how is the PowerShot G7 to be judged? It doesn't, in my opinion, fill the big shoes left by the G6 and the G5 before it, simply because it has lost too many of the 'semi professional' features that made those cameras so unusual - and the image quality at anything over ISO 100 is not significantly better than anything else on the market with a small high pixel count sensor. Put aside for a moment the whole 'G series legacy' issue, however, and the G7 undoubtedly stands on its own merits as a high quality compact and a possible DSLR alternative (or second camera).

Sure it's almost as expensive as an entry level DSLR, but once you include the cost and bulk of image stabilized zooms covering the 35-210mm range the comparison becomes irrelevant - and the price difference significant. And yes, it's $200 more expensive than, say, the PowerShot A640, but for that $200 you get an awful lot extra, plus a build quality that is, quite simply, in a class of its own.

Ultimately then, the G7 is a camera that suffers in comparison with its predecessors. It also suffers from being neither fish nor fowl; too big, expensive and complex for the 'average' compact user; possibly (though by no means certainly) too limited for the high end / enthusiast user. And yet - taken on its own merits - it is without doubt one of the best, and most comprehensively-featured compact cameras we've ever seen, and one that (in the right hands) is capable of great results.

Specification aside, the G7 is a camera I'd find a lot easier to wholeheartedly recommend if the cons list at the top of this page were a bit shorter, but as I discovered, once you tame it, most of them can be overcome. It's not for everyone (and it's not the best 'social camera' as the focus can struggle in low light unless you stick to the short end of the zoom), but after a month or so of testing I find myself liking it more and more.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.5
Ergonomics & handling 7.5
Features 9.0
Image quality 8.0
Optics 8.5
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 7.5

Highly Recommended (but only just!)

Highly recommended

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