Re: Canon G9
- From: "Paul Saunders" <pvs1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 08:22:49 -0000
Phil Cook wrote:
Have a look at this where a guy took one as backup to a Leica.
I'd like to make a few comments on the above review by Nick Devlin, some of
which you may find helpful.
"Awakened with single well-placed button, the G9 springs smoothly and
quietly to life, ready to capture an image in just under a second."
Yes, this is very handy if you want to grab an opportunity shot quickly. I
often missed shots while my G3 was "booting up".
"The camera focuses fairly quickly and with good accuracy."
Another feature I'm impressed with. Not as fast as a DSLR, but much faster
than I expected from a digicam. Accuracy is good too. I never trusted the
autofocus on the G3, preferring to focus manually instead, but the G9 does a
good job. I also like the fact that it doesn't always try to focus on the
nearest object. In fact, it often focuses on more distant objects, even when
shooting through foliage, which surprised me (although that's not so
convenient if you want to focus on the foliage).
"The G9's metering is superbly accurate."
Well that's a matter of opinion! I guess for Nick's type of shooting it's
okay, but for landscapes on a cloudy day, forget it! The sky was
consistently blown out with auto exposures, forcing me to set the exposure
manually or apply compensation for practically every shot.
"The real star of the show, however, is the ISO selector dial atop the left
side of the camera. The ability to vary the ISO with a single quick turn of
the dial was one of my favourite features of the G9."
....which I'll probably never use, preferring to leave it permanently set to
"Being a man, I flagrantly eschewed the instruction manual"
Big mistake, there are a few new features that you really need to be aware
of, like Safety Shift for example, which is switched on by default, and can
screw up your photos if you aren't aware of what it does. It overrides your
aperture or shutter speed settings in AV and TV mode respectively, if it
deems it necessary for the correct exposure. So for example, if you choose
1/250th second in TV mode but it's too dark for the correct exposure, even
at f2.8, it will reduce the shutter speed accordingly, perhaps causing a
blurred photo (in one instance it reduced my shutter speed to 1/20th
second!). Personally I'd prefer a sharp but underexposed photo that I could
brighten later. Alternatively, using Auto ISO Shift would maintain the
correct exposure instead of reducing the shutter speed, which would at least
capture a sharp, if noisy, image. On one test it increased the ISO to 1600,
which again ruined the image (IMO).
Actually I read the manual before I even bought the camera. And what's being
a man got to do with it?
BTW, there's no printed manual, which is annoying, but there is a "short
manual" provided in four different languages! Why didn't they just provide
the entire manual in English? Apparently they've simply produced an
"European version". Lazy cheapskates!
"The only handling irritation with the G9 was the inability to keep the LCD
off at all times except when the shutter button is depressed."
See? This is what happens when you don't read the manual! Just press the
display button twice to turn it off, then go to Custom Display in the menu
and turn the other two displays off.
"The solution appeared to be to set the "quick function" button to turn the
display off. Curiously, however, the display re-activated instantly whenever
the camera was moved at all - without any controls being depressed -
obviously through some off-label use of the stabilization control or camera
Doesn't do that with mine. I thought that having the auto-focus set to
continuous might be to blame, but no, it's not that either. Maybe face
detection? He's obviously got something switched on that's causing this to
"This is an awful example of a "smart" technology trying to be helpful, but
achieving only immense annoyance. Canon should fix this."
Or maybe Nick should read the manual? ;-)
"No one wants to walk around with the LCD on all the time:"
Actually I don't want to "walk around" with the camera switched on
permanently, but presumably he does, since that suits his style of
photography. For me, when the camera is on I always want the LCD switched
on. So I've switched off the third display mode (display off), just leaving
the other two (the first with all details on, the second with everything off
except the grid lines - to make composition easier without all the onscreen
"it wastes power"
Actually this is a good point. Although it uses the same battery as the
400D, it runs out much faster. While having the LCD switched on during the
preparation of a photo is partly to blame, I suspect that the motorised zoom
is the main culprit. On my first brief outing the battery became critically
low and the camera switched off a few times, although I was still able to
grab a few more shots after leaving it off for a while. On one attempt I
turned it on, attempted to zoom and the camera immediately switched off in
response, but a short while later I turned it on and took another photo,
So clearly using the zoom uses more power than simply taking a photo. Using
lateral thinking therefore, it may be that turning the camera off after
every shot might actually waste more battery power than leaving it switched
on, if you use the zoom repeatedly. For example, if you take a telephoto
shot, switch the camera off, walk to another spot 50 yards away, turn it
back on, then take another telephoto shot. It may use less power to simply
leave it switched on and leave the lens set to telephoto while you walk to a
In this case, it would be useful to switch the LCD off while you walk to the
new viewpoint. So I may follow Nick's example and set the quick function
button to "display off" (rather than use the third display mode, which is a
pain since I switch between the first two quite frequently and I don't want
it to turn off in between).
"and attracts unwanted attention."
Really? I'd have thought that simply pointing a camera at a complete
stranger would attract more attention than the LCD being switched on.
"The LCD should only light when the shutter is depressed slightly, and then
fade politely from view when the shot is done.
Well that's a matter of opinion, and he's entitled to it. But he's just
looking at it from the point of view of how he likes to take photos, which
is very much the traditional rangefinder approach. It probably wouldn't suit
most people, but the option would be nice.
Actually, I've tried setting the display to permanently off and I've noticed
that it still displays all the settings information when you first switch it
on. After you take a shot, and turn the review image off, it reverts to a
black screen, but as soon as you make a control adjustment, the settings
information reappears. This is useful if you really want the LCD switched
off all the time. And you can turn review off too if you're really obsessed
about saving the battery, but it really would be a good idea to check the
histogram and other details after taking each photo, unless you're sure you
can trust them.
"The way in which one physically sees the subject through the camera is a
defining element of one's photographic style. Personally, I have always
preferred viewfinder composition over SLR viewing or using a live-view
True, but I think he's attaching too much importance to this particular
"Ultimately, however, the inability to directly view the subject through an
accurate optical finder will likely remain the biggest impediment to compact
cameras being usable as fully professional imaging tools."
Now that's just plain silly! How could a professional photographer find a 3"
"That said, LCD composition is accurate,"
Exactly! That's the best thing about it! You see the entire frame. It's like
seeing the finished picture before you even take it. Personally I find I can
compose images more easily and accurately on an LCD than with a viewfinder.
"Despite the fact that I never grew to like composing on the LCD, I got
excellent results working this way - at least as good as anything I've
achieve working in my preferred mode. This continues to trouble me."
And so it should!
"I haven't the slightest desire to compose my images on a TV screen. In
fact, I actively dislike the process at both a practical and conceptual
level. The idea of interacting with the world before my eyes through the
mediating forces of a machine which disaggregates reality into a sterile
digital code and reconstitutes a small and inferior electronic simulacrum of
it inches from my face is distasteful to me."
I get the impression that Nick is just stuck in his ways and unwilling to
change. He's desperately trying to rationalise his habitual preference
through extremely contrived reasoning. Okay, so it's an electronic image,
big deal! You can still compose the photo with it. Just what is the problem
here? Seems to be a mental one, not a physical one.
"Yet, it worked with my way of seeing exceptionally well."
Of course it did! Isn't that a big clue that maybe it's time to change his
preconceptions about all this?
"I continue to hope (likely in vain) that viewfinder-based compact cameras
will come into being for my professional use, while trying to learn why this
dumbed-down view-camera mode of working was successful for me."
What's "dumbed down" about a bright, colourful 3" LCD? I think it's
fantastic, especially compared to the tiny LCDs on earlier digital cameras.
DANCING IN THE DARK
"I decided to treat the G9 just like any other camera, and work at whatever
ISO was needed for the subject. While there was undeniably noise in the
images, the G9 yielded image quality at least on par with what I would have
expected from ISO 1600 films like HP5+ pushed two stops... Many of the best
images I produced in Japan were shot at ISO 200 or higher. In all of these
settings, the G9 performed beautifully..."
"A 13x19 print elicits an immediate response from most viewers. Although
somewhat painterly, the image is free of spotty colour noise and, at viewing
distance, is pleasingly sharp. Even when pixel-peeped, the print holds-up.
This is exceptional performance from such a small and inexpensive camera,
bearing in mind the shot was taken at 1/40th of a second with a 135mm
equivalent focal length at ISO640."
Now I'm baffled. Nick is fanatical about the conceptual implications of
composing through an LCD instead of a viewfinder, yet when it comes to image
quality, he's quite happy to shoot everything on Auto at any ISO the camera
I'm completely the opposite! I'm fanatical about image quality, and won't
use anything other than ISO 80 at the optimum apertures of f4-f5.6. From my
test images so far, I consider that ISO 400 and over are completely unusable
and even ISO 200 offends me! The differences in quality are blatantly
obvious at 100% magnification on a computer screen.
Of course, these are early days, and I haven't yet printed anything from
this camera. Given the high resolution of this camera it's quite possible
that shots with high noise will look perfectly acceptable as prints. I know
from experience that a highly sharpened image that looks terrible onscreen
can look great as a print, because you simply can't see detail that small
without additional magnification. It may be that A4 prints at ISO 1600 will
look fine, and may even be acceptable at larger sizes, so I'll reserve
judgement on this for now.
It will be interesting to test just how large different ISO images can be
printed before the noise becomes visible. And even when it does becomes
visible, it may still not be objectionable. Due to the high resolution it
may simply look like film grain, unlike lower res cameras where enlarged
grain looks horrible. I'll have to wait until I test this.
So while I think Nick is a little too obsessed about his imaginary problem
with composing on an LCD, I may be a little too obsessed with the negative
effects of high ISO noise and aperture quality. After some print testing I
may decide to allow myself some leeway with these issues, depending on the
type of image. For snaps, higher ISOs are probably fine, for action shots,
they may be necessary, but for quality landscapes I'm sure I'll stick with
ISO 80 and f4-5.6, using a tripod if necessary.
THE STEADY HAND
"The G9's imagine stabilization is the best I've ever used,"
I can't comment on that, since this is the first time I've ever used IS. But
that's comforting to hear!
"The camera's ability to capture tack sharp images at exposures down to 1/2
second with a bit of proper bracing made working with the G9 a real joy."
Actually I took a reasonably sharp image at 1/2 second yesterday. It wasn't
"tack sharp", but it was surprisingly good considering the shutter speed. I
wouldn't normally go that low with a hand-held shot, but I was
experimenting. I made a point of not using a tripod for any shots. I'm still
in the process of familiarising myself with just how slow I can go
"raising my ratio of critically sharp images to a higher level than with
almost any other camera I have ever used. I attribute this to the G9's IS.
But I've managed to take quite a few blurry shots with mine! (Still, it's
early days yet and I'm just experimenting.)
"To be blunt, I can't see the point of non image stabilized cameras
And yet, I practically *never* take an unsharp image with my 400D, even
without IS. I suspect this is probably down to me being more aware of the
practical limits and never using shutter speeds I know are too slow or using
a tripod when necessary. I don't have a problem with non-IS lenses, even
telephotos, but then I am a *landscape* photographer. IS is obviously
extremely useful for hand-held shots in variable light conditions.
FROM LOW LIGHT TO NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY
"With a steady hand, the G9's IS and ISO 800, I was able to photograph the
shrine on my street corner in near total darkness. Yes, the image is
noisy -- the black sky is textured with artifacting, and the detail is much
degraded from what it would have been in the light of day. But personally, I
love the image. Much as Salgado said that grain is not a defect, but a stamp
which says, "This is a photograph", the noise in the night-time images
produced by the G9 is not a defect, but the aesthetic of the medium. I
happen to like it, a lot. And so does virtually everyone I show it to in
I suspect that I wouldn't be quite so tolerant! There is a breed of ex-film
photographers who are not bothered by grain/noise, because they are so used
to it. And in certain styles of photography it's quite acceptable, but
generally not landscapes!
Looking at the settings used for that photo - f2.8, 1/2 sec, ISO 800 - my
immediate thought was "why didn't you just put the camera on a tripod?" But
of course he didn't have one. I would have though, and I'd have taken a much
better quality image as a result. I know he's a "street/people/travel"
photographer, but still, taking night shots without a tripod just smacks of
laziness to me. (But we each have different priorities.)
Actually, a note about the quality of the images shown in this review. At
the tiny sizes shown on a web page they look great, with no trace of high
ISO noise in any of them. But I'm sure they'd look a lot worse if you saw
the original images at 100%. This is something to bear in mind, you can't
judge the actual image quality from these small samples.
But again, the proof of the pudding is in the printing, so what looks
terrible on a computer screen may still look good in a print. Such a high
resolution will offset the effects of noise to a certain degree. By how
much, I don't yet know.
OVERALL IMAGE QUALITY
"On 13x19 sheets, with decent borders, the prints simply sing. The most
impressive was the black and white Motorman and Shinkansen. The printed
image displays every bit of detail expected and a sumptuous tonal range. It
is completely devoid of noise or other aberrations. The light-to-dark
transitions on the noses of the bullet trains are of a quality I would
associate with a medium format Delta 100 negative. If this print was the
product of my Mamiya 6, I would be satisfied."
Well Nick seems quite happy with the print quality!
"High contrast edges frequently display vivid colour fringing."
Yes, particularly noticeable on over-exposed skies. This is a very good
reason to make sure that the sky exposure remains within the limits of the
histogram. Even if it isn't important to the photo, ensuring that the sky
doesn't blow out minimises nasty fringing on the edges (it's particularly
bad with trees).
IT'S NOT ALL ROSES
"I would far, far prefer a manual, mechanically zoomed lens."
Wouldn't we all? But hey, this is a *compact*!
"Frankly, the trope of all digicams having retracting lenses baffles me."
It doesn't baffle me. It's a *compact*!
"Yes, it reduces size and protects the lens, but on a serious camera, which
the G9 aspires to be, a little extra bulk is much less of a problem than
having a retracted lens when a great photo presents itself."
No, I don't think the G9 does aspire to be a "serious camera". There are
plenty of serious cameras around, they're called DSLRs. The G9 is a
*compact*. Sure, it's a top of the range compact, but it's still a compact.
That's the main design criterion. And I'm happy with that. One of the main
reasons I bought it is because I *can* fit it into a pocket. The little
extra bulk of the G3 in contrast, meant that it wouldn't easily fit into a
pocket. A small but critical difference.
Sure it would be better with a serious viewfinder and a more solid, manually
zoomable lens, but then it wouldn't be compact anymore and the price would
go up to the point that it would compete with the 400D.
"The answer is a more robust and consequently larger *manual* zoom. Please
Canon. Pretty please with sugar on top. This is what the "G" needs to be a
true 'PRO-sumer' camera."
I doubt this will ever happen. It just doesn't make marketing sense. I'm
sure there are some people who would find such a camera appealing, but with
the unavoidable higher price it would compete with DSLRs and I suspect that
very few people would buy it.
"From a working perspective, the zoom control also occupies the trigger
finger, taking it off the shutter, which is sub-optimal for capturing
Really? I use my index finger to control the zoom, not that I care about
decisive moments much.
"The other major deficiency is the G9's noticeable shutter-lag. While not
long by any objective measure, the delay between depression of the shutter
and actual exposure makes capturing the decisive moment rather difficult. I'm
sure that this lag is measured in fractions of a second, but it irritated me
whenever my subject was something other than a stationary landscape."
The odd thing here is that I haven't really noticed a shutter lag.
Auto-focus lag yes, but even that is pretty quick. Certainly fast enough for
my shots, but again, I'm not a "decisive moment" type of photographer.
"It also takes a moment for the G9 to display the image and/or be ready to
shoot once more. Coming from a background of high-end SLRs and
rangefinders, this palpable lack of responsiveness is a deal breaker for
That's due to saving the RAW file to the card. It's actually pretty fast
compared to other digicams, and certainly not enough to bother me. I think
shooting jpegs would save time, but it's really not an issue for me.
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