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Since the introduction of the PowerShot G1 in 2000 (I bought one of those – ed.), Canon’s flagship G-series has stood at the very top of the semi-pro digital compact market, and has done a lot to help maintain Canon’s enviable reputation for quality and design. The previous camera in the series was the G6, launched in 2004, which featured a 7.1-megapixel sensor, a very fast f/2.0-3.0 4x zoom lens and RAW mode recording, as well as other useful features such as a tilt & twist LCD monitor, full manual exposure control, spot metering, interval timer and an IR remote control included as standard. It is a camera with a fantastic reputation, and very popular with serious enthusiast photographers.
Unusually for Canon, who’s output of new cameras is notoriously prolific, the G6 wasn’t replaced in 2005. In fact the new G7 wasn’t announced until September this year, in time for the Photokina camera show.
When its specification was released it surprised a lot of people, because in many ways it is a step backwards from the specification of the G6. That excellent f/2.0-3.0 lens has been replaced with a slower f/2.8-4.8 6x zoom, the 2in flip & twist monitor is replaced with a fixed 2.5in screen, and the RAW mode recording, crucial for top-quality professional results, has been lost altogether. Inevitably the 1/1.8in sensor has been upgraded to 10-megapixels, and it features image stabilisation and face-detection technology. Instead of a semi-pro enthusiast’s camera, it seems that Canon has decided to turn the G7 into something closer to the top end of its mid-range A-series compacts.
This is also reflected in the price. The G series has always been expensive, and in fact you can still pick up a brand new G6 for between £350 and £500, but the G7 has a recommended retail price of £449, and is widely available online for as little as £307. For comparison, the series-topping PowerShot A640 (10MP, 4x zoom, 2.5in LCD) is priced at around £220. Has Canon squandered the reputation of the G-series in an effort to appeal to a wider range of consumers?
Perhaps not, because the G7 still has a lot to offer the serious photographer. It retains the rangefinder-like styling of its predecessors, even more so than the G6 since it lacks that camera’s large rubberised handgrip. Build quality is well up to the usual standard with a solidly made mostly metal body, metal-hinged sprung hatches and chunky solidly mounted controls.
It is a surprisingly compact camera considering its specification, not exactly pocket-sized, but not obtrusively bulky. Unlike the G6 the lens has an automatic cover and retracts almost flush with the body, or at least as far as the removable bezel that hides the bayonet fitting for attaching accessory lenses.
Other features it shares with earlier G-series models include the flash hot-shoe, which is dedicated with TTL metering for Canon’s excellent EX series Speedlite flashguns. It also has a large optical viewfinder with dioptre correction, which would be handy for preserving battery life if only you didn’t need the monitor to display exposure status. Its field of coverage is only about 75-80 per cent of the frame, but it does seem to have automatic parallax correction, so you can at least centre your subject.