When Canon launched the PowerShot G7 in September 2006, it was met by some fairly lukewarm reviews, mainly because it was seen to lack many of the qualities that had made its predecessor the PowerShot G6 such a popular camera with enthusiasts, most notably the f/2.0-f/3.0 lens and RAW mode. Well, it seems that someone at Canon was listening, because the new PowerShot G9 is here, and that RAW mode is back, along with a 1/1.7-inch 12.1-megapixel sensor. It still has the f/2.8-f/4.8 6x zoom lens though.
Canon's G-series cameras have always been the company's flagship compact models, and they have always commanded a premium price to match their position. There are very few cameras from other manufacturers that compare directly with the G-series models, but some that you might be considering include the 10-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 (£280), the 8MP Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H3 (£210), the 12MP Nikon Coolpix P5100 (£260) or even the 10MP Leica D-Lux 3 (£490!). You might even consider a the PowerShot G7 which is still available for a while yet at around £240, somewhat cheaper than its launch price of £449. The PowerShot G9 was launched in September with a recommended retail price of £449, which is more than the current retail price of an EOS 400D with a lens, and a hell of a lot of money for a compact camera. Three months later it is available for around £320 from some online retailers, although a more usual price is about £350. It's a bit less than the RRP, but the G9 is still a very expensive camera.
The lens isn't all the G9 shares with the previous model. As you can see from these pictures, the G9 is physically almost identical to the G7, and shares a great many of that camera's features. In most respects the G9 is really just an upgrade, adding only a couple of new features. The body is exactly the same, a somewhat utilitarian black box measuring 106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5 mm. It even weighs exactly the same at a hefty 320g. Apart from the hatches and monitor screen, the body is made entirely of metal, and as you'd expect from a £350 camera the build quality is superb. There's no doubt that the G9 is made to survive serious use at the hands of a semi-pro or advanced hobbyist photographer and the rangefinder-like design is practical and robust. The control layout is also identical to the G7, with a 10-position main mode dial on the top plate, along with a dial for selecting the ISO setting. The zoom control is a rotary bezel around the shutter button. On the back is another rotary bezel, this time around the D-pad. This is used for inputting shutter and aperture values, manual focus adjustment and can also be used for menu navigation. I know some people really hate this control, but personally I like it. In combination with the on-screen display it is a very quick and accurate way of adjusting settings, and the manual focus control is especially precise. I do find the rather small D-pad a bit fiddly though.