Operation and controls

It is perhaps inevitable that the G7 takes a little longer to master than your average compact camera; it has a hefty feature set and a is aimed at the kind of user that wants that control at his - or her - fingertips. The slightly bulkier body has allowed Canon to include a large number of buttons without completely filling every square inch of the surface, but it all still feels a little crammed in, and - as mentioned earlier - there's really nowhere safe for your thumb to rest if you're trying to shoot single-handed.

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I found the first few days with the G7 slightly frustrating; there are some aspects of the operation (particularly the slightly counterintuitive and inconsistent way the control ring and four-way arrow keys work together in different modes). That all said after a week or two of using the G7 exclusively; the way a normal user would; I found the operation and control becoming more and transparent, fast and intuitive. In this way the G7 is much more like an SLR; you really do have to learn to use it, and to learn its foibles, before you can really start to take advantage of the large feature set. I started off hating the user interface, but I soon learned to love it.

It's also worth mentioning that the G7 is unusually fairly customizable; as well as the shortcut button (which can be assigned to control any of a number of functions) there are two custom modes that allow you to save your favorite settings.

Rear of camera

The rear of the G7 is fairly well covered with buttons and switches, putting just about every commonly-accessed photographic control at your fingertips; I found no need to enter the menu system at all when out shooting.

Top of camera

The top plate of the G7 is equally busy; from the left is the new ISO dial, flash hot shoe, mode dial, shutter release and zoom control and power switch. From this angle you can clearly see the slab-like minimalist styling and almost total lack of anything for your fingers to grip.

Display and menus

The most basic preview screen showing focus point, AE compensation setting and - as here - the setting being used in aperture priority / shutter priority mode. As usual you can change the amount of information shown on-screen, and there is a 'grid' option (shown here) for those of us who struggle with straight horizons and - of course - a preview histogram. It can get get a little crowded on-screen with everything showing.
Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the aperture and shutter speed chosen, along with a camera shake warning if necessary. If you hold down the AE lock button with the shutter half-pressed you get a program shift function (it actually looks prettier than this in use as there is a display of the shutter speed and aperture bars).
In shutter or aperture priority mode turning the control ring moves up and down the scale with a very pleasing faux-analog display as shown here. In manual mode the +/- button switches focus between the aperture and shutter speed settings; a nice 'needle' exposure meter also appears on the right of the screen.
As usual the FUNC menu offers a wide range of controls over shooting and image parameters. Unusual to the G7 is the ND option (like its predecessors the G7 has a 3 stop neutral density filter you can use if you need to cut down on the light, though it is less understandable here given the lack of a big wide maximum aperture). Although there is no raw mode, so post shot corrections are out of the question, you do get the usual array of 'MyColors' effects and - more usefully - 5 levels of Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Red, Green, Blue and Skintone.
There are three focus modes; 9-point AiAF (where the camera chooses the focus point 'intelligently'), FlexiZone (choose your own focus point from 375 across the screen) and 'face detection' (which does what its name suggests, and works very well). Manual focus is a simple case of pressing the MF button and turning the control dial to move up and down the scale. You can choose to have the area around the focus point magnified in manual focus mode (not shown).
The scene (SCN) mode adds 13 subject programs covering most of the common shooting situations, plus a (low resolution) ISO 3200 mode and Canon's unusual Color Accent and Color Swap modes. Record mode menu allows you to customize everything from flash synch to the spot AE point and self-timer delay. It is also here where you'll find the control for image stabilization. A new feature first seen on the S3 IS allows you to customize the on-screen display in record mode (there are two custom settings, activated by repeated presses of the DISP button).
The shortcut button (direct print button in playback mode) can be customized to control one of eleven functions (including White Balance, metering mode, IS mode and AF-lock). The G7 has a useful ISO 80-1600 sensitivity range, controlled by the dedicated dial on the top of the camera. As usual if you use either of the Auto ISO settings (standard or HI) the camera doesn't save the ISO used in the file's exif data.