Software and RAW conversion

RAW mode

By far the most common complaint about the G7 was the loss of the raw shooting mode that had been a feature of every previous G model, and it came as no surprise when Canon finally relented and added it back in to the the G9 (it's been a couple of years since we saw a Raw shooting mode on any Canon compact). As well as allowing photographers maximum control over parameters such as white balance (and to a degree, exposure) after the shot has been taken, it also allows them to overcome some of the issues we see with all small sensor compacts (over enthusiastic noise reduction, tone curve and dynamic range issues). We were also very pleased to see that Canon has managed to produce a raw mode on a compact that is actually usable - the shot-to-shot time is surprisingly short (it's not unheard of for compact cameras to make you wait 10 seconds or more between shots in raw mode).

Supplied software

As usual Canon supplies a comprehensive suite of applications with the G9, including an updated version of its ZoomBrowser for Windows and Image Browser for Mac (now a universal binary), which hits version 6.0 and, unusually for a compact camera these days, a remote capture utility for controlling the camera over a USB connection. The Raw Image Task utility has also been upgraded and now offers a sort of 'baby version' of the DPP software supplied with EOS cameras.

The Raw conversion software offers a fairly comprehensive set of controls (including a new Adaptive Noise Reduction filter and a full set of 'MyColors' presets) with a friendly face, but lacks the level of sophistication of more 'manual' utilities such as Adobe's Camera Raw converter. By default the supplied software produces output that is basically identical to camera JPEGs - it is effectively a software emulation of the camera's internal processor.

JPEG & RAW Resolution compared

Although the G9's JPEG resolution is very good there is a slight advantage to shooting raw (though you'll only see it if you use a third party raw converter such as ACR).

As the crops below show the camera is by default applying quite a lot of sharpening during JPEG processing and when processing raw files using the supplied software. The raw files processed using ACR (using the default settings) look very soft by comparison - perfect for post-processing - and have a little more usable resolution. Note here we're using a Beta build of ACR 4.3.

Canon Raw Image Task
Default settings
JPEG from camera Adobe Camera Raw
(4.3 beta)

RAW -> TIFF (Auto)

ISO 80 Studio shot comparison (JPEG vs RAW)

As mentioned above, Canon's Raw Image Task processor produces results that are - from a detail and noise point of view - identical to the out of camera JPEGs. Color is also identical (though obviously you have a lot of control over this in the raw software, so this is just the 'starting point'). The ACR result shows how much sharpening is being done by Canon (the default setting in ACR uses relatively low sharpening, though you can of course turn this up to match Canon's 'look').

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 400 Studio shot comparison

At ISO 400 shooting raw starts to give you more options on how you deal with the noise issues that are an inevitable result of squeezing 12 million pixels onto such a small sensor. Again the Canon convert or produces results that are indistinguishable from the camera JPEG,. but ACR allows you to experiment with the amount of noise reduction used (or to apply none at all if you prefer a dedicated NR application such as Noise Ninja). Note that the Adaptive Noise Reduction filter in the raw converter makes very little difference at all (see next page for more details). As mentioned earlier in the review the G9's ISO 400 JPEGs are actually pretty good, but the noise reduction does remove detail, and you can get some of this back by using ACR.

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