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Outback Photo Handbook: Cameras

Canon PowerShot G9

review diary by Uwe Steinmueller and Alain Briot

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Diary Index

Note on image processing:

As usual we work only with raw files.

We mainly use ACR 4.3.1/Lightroom 1.3.1 for the Canon G9.

All images are also treated with our new DOP Detail Extractor and sharpened using EasyS Plus Sharpening Toolkit (sharpening in Lightroom is set to a very low level: Amount 60, Radius 0.5, Detail 0, Masking 0).


Special Introduction

We normally only review digital SLRs and don't care that much about the flood of digicams. But we are very much aware that often DSLRs have sever downsides:

  • Bulky
  • Heavy
  • Draw a lot of attention

Some previous tests with the G9 have shown that this is a camera that can produce photos that we would be proud to show in our portfolio (up to about 15" wide). What makes the G9 so interesting?

  • Records RAW (gives us a lot more latitude in post processing
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Manual controls
  • Solid feel

I know it is a cliche but really "photographers make pictures and not cameras". This means it is often more about the camera disabling to take good pictures than all the great features.

We want to check whether this camera can be a trusted companion whenever we don't carry our full gear. We try to concentrate on taking some nice pictures and not so much complaining how great our DSLRs would be (if we would carry them).

This review was inspired by this excellent article at the Luminous Landscape "The Canon Powershot G9 in Japan". We also appreciate all feedback by our readers.


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5/27/2008 Really Right Stuff L-Bracket

For all our tripods we use heads with Arca Swiss mounts. You can get a L-Bracket plate from Really Right Stuff for your G9 and still keep access to all connections on the G9(mainle cards and battery):

If you want to be way cool and safe they also offer the G9 Body Armor accessory (machined from a solid block of aluminum):


3/3/2008 User Review by Paul L. Richman

This is a review about the G9 by a Canon 1Ds Mark III owner.

We think this review shows what a talented photographer can do with the G9. The more we use the G9 we can second Paul Richman's findings. We have a G9 on order and plan to use it as our "take everywhere" camera.


2/20/2008 Wish list: ISO Lock

We normally use only ISO 80 or Auto (which switches between 80 and 200). But then we found later that many of our shots were taken with ISO 200 at bright light. What was going on here? It turned out the dial was set to ISO 200. We are sure that we did not do this intentionally. I likely happened during handling or storing the camera into the bag. That is why we would like to see a lock for ISO that would help preventing this to happen again.

2/19/2008 Essential Accessories

We checked out two of the most popular 3rd party accessories:

G9 with Lensmate and Grip


We consider the Lensmate essential because we can hold the camera so much better (handles like a very small SLR). It also acts as a lens hood at the wider angle settings of the zoom (see below). Then of course it is also an adapter for filters and lenses. The built quality is just excellent.

We also wanted to have a lens hood at the longer zoom range and added a cheap wide angle rubber lens hood to the Lensmate:

Lensmate with rubber lens hood

Richard Franiec's Grip

The grip helps to hold the camera much better. The grip is also a fine piece of craftsmanship.

Richard Franiec also offers a "Thumb Rest":

Thumb Rest

We like the Thumb Rest too.

Clearly the Lensmate and the Grip get you much more fun out of the G9.

2/16/2008 G9 Gallery #1

We have now used the G9 for a while taking real photos (means no test images). Overall the results are very positive. The main issues:

  • LCD in normal sunlight. It could be brighter, have more resolution and show better shadow detail. It needs to get a swivel in the next generation.
  • Top class and precise viewfinder would be welcome.
  • Shutter lag too long. Overall speed is an issue.
  • Images at full resolution look grainy. If printed at smaller sizes this is no major issue.

The gallery we post is from two different sessions:

  • Photographing at our last "Capture More Light" workshop in San Francisco (shooting with the other photographers)
  • Trip to some wetlands near Los Banos

Main tools used:

Here is our first gallery from the G9. We enjoy the results.

G9 Gallery #1

2/14/2008 G9 Review and Tutorial by Alain Briot


2/11/2008 User Review by Paul Nakroshis

We received quite some feedback for our G9 diary. Today we publish a personal review by Paul Nakroshis.

We like Paul's contribution because it is quite different from the normal megapixel discussion.

2/7/2008 Diary Start

We cannot really compare a 12MP P&S camera with its tiny sensor to today's 6-12MP DSLRs. So if we are too critical it is based on our long experience with DSLRs. By the way we should not forget how bad the DSLRs about 5 years ago would look compared to modern DSLRs.

Some first observations:


  • Live histogram
  • solid feel
  • compact
  • Light
  • Image stabilization
  • excellent 6x optical zoom range (35-210mm in terms of 35mm equivalent)
  • very large DOF (depth of field). Result of the short focal length (7.4-44.4mm)
  • Loaded with features (many useful)
  • Shoots RAW

Not so positive

  • viewfinder not really usable (way off at times, no info)
  • slow reaction (shutter lag, AF, ..)
  • using LCD as composition device (we have a hard time)
  • 12MP likely overkill
  • Hard to capture a nice smooth blurred background. Again result of the short focal length (7.4-44.4mm)
  • Electronic zoom hard to set precise

Los Gatos test shots


Ristorante @ISO 80

Crop @100% magnification

For a P&S camera it is quite excellent. There is a graininess which is likely related to the small pixels. Images need quite a bit of sharpening.

Note: We use our Detail Extractor 2.0 and this will show more grain in an attempt to pull out more detail.

You can download the original RAW from here (~13MB).

Note: Remember that the service we provide is financed by selling our ebooks and PS tools. Also direct donations are welcome.

Antique store @ ISO 200

@ 100% magnification

Normally we take this shot at ISO 400 but that would be not much usable. Quite grainy but overall a still usable shot in many cases because the noise does not look blotchy. The G9 is not the right tool for smooth and low noise shadows.

ISO Test

We converted with ACR 4.31 (luminance noise removal set to zero) and then sharpened with the same level in Detail Extractor 2.0 and some low EasyS Plus settings.

Note: Detail Extractor shows both more detail and more grain. This way we can see how much real detail is available.


Bear Coffee Shop

Canon Powershot G9

ISO 80
ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400
ISO 800

ISO 1600


Remember all these shots are with all noise removal off in camera and raw converter (except color noise in ACR). Up to ISO 100 just the inherent graininess. ISO 200 noise is quite manageable and ISO 400 can save your day. Starting at ISO 800 it gets hard to take good pictures with low grain/noise. People used to the grain of classic high ISO B&W film may be far less shocked.

Note about high ISO noise: Many people ask why they should worry about noise at ISO 800 or more if they only use 400 ISO at max. This is of course a good question. In the past we did not care either. Then we changed our photographic style and make now often use of Tonemapping (learn more about HDR and Tonemapping). During this process we brighten the shadows and this brings out the noise otherwise seen at way higher ISO. It often starts to matter at even ISO 200 photos.

First conclusions

  • Overall we are much more impressed than it sounds. This is a P&S camera at about $500. For such a camera it is actually quite excellent.
  • Does not match DSLRs, but who would expect this
  • We are quite excited about this small companion camera (no excuse to leave it home)
  • We plan to make some prints once we are over the pure test phase (the test phase is over now :-))

This is what Canon could improve

  • Viewfinder (maybe harder than we think)
  • slow reaction (here there is a lot of room for improvement instead of more MP)
  • Electronic zoom needs to be more precise or even pure manual
  • Why not a P&S camera with larger sensor (kind of in between a Leica and the G9). Of course this would limit the market.




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