Neither Elph nor EOS, what exactly is the Canon Powershot G7?
On the subject of noise, this camera has some serious noise issues at ISO 400 and up.
At ISO 400, it just squeaks in at the high side of Moderate (2.875), and its performance at 800 is well into the Unacceptable rating with a 4.85, and even worse at 1600 (7.3). (One might suggest that the Optical Image Stabilization should keep the camera in its good ISO range by floating the element, rather than cranking up the ISO, but with a camera of this class and price, one should expect better image quality results.) Also disappointing is the Visible Barrel distortion of .50% at 1x. At 3x, distortion is contained, with an imperceptible pincushion at .05%, but then it goes back to slight Pincushion at 6x (.12%). The Slight and Imperceptible Pincushion isn't much to write home about, but that wide angle distortion is particularly depressing, considering the size of the lens. For comparison, the 10x zoom Mega Optical Image Stabilized Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 posts much better results across its focal distance, with only slight barrel distortion at 1x (.21%) (35mm equivalent: 35mm, same as Canon G7) and imperceptible distortion at its midpoint, and imperceptible Barrel at 10x.
Resolution is class-competitive at low ISOs, scoring Excellent at ISO 80 (2025) and 400 (1955), but drops off significantly to Very High at ISO 1600 (1420.) On a more positive note from the lab test, the Powershot G7 has excellent Color accuracy with an average Delta E of 7/92 ISO 80, AutoWhite balanced.
In the Box
Without flash, the G7 will fire off shots at just about two per second in burst mode. Continuous focus burst mode, in which the G7 achieves focus between each shot, tops out at .8 seconds between shots, per the instructions manual. Your experiences may vary towards slower than this claimed rate in this mode, depending on the difference in focal distance between shots. Burst with flash is possible, and is limited by flash output and subject distance for burst rates, which can vary from faster than one per second for a close-up, high ISO, fast aperture series, to several seconds for low ISO, stopped down, far-from-subject series.
On the video side, which is a shooting mode selected by the dial near the shutter button, the G7 can shoot at standard VGA resolution of 640x480 at 30 frames per seconds, or in wide-screen 1024x480 pixels at 15 frames per second. Focal distance is fixed while recording, and cannot be changed while the camera is shooting video.
On the playback side the G7 features direct printing and slideshows with transitions. Slideshows can be grouped by all photos, or by date, or by user-selected categories, which can be assigned to each image in playback-events, scenery, people, and user-input categories. "My colors" image adjustment settings can be applied to images during playback, and voice notes can be added to files as well. Aside from "my colors," there are not a whole lot of in-camera editing options. A very nice feature in playback is the speed-review, which scrolls through image thumbnails quickly by rotating the dial around the multi-direction array. This is a nice touch, especially when shooting with a big card that can hold hundreds of images.
As we've mentioned, one of the anchor traits of G series has been the EX hotshoe. The G7 is compatible with any EX-series strobe, though the manual only lists the current production models. Your four-year-old 550EX will work as a fully functioning ETTL strobe with the G7, and so will your recent 430EX. Adding an EX accessory strobe will more than double the size of the camera, and the camera, with EX strobe attached, hangs upside down when carried around the neck or shoulder. It's not really all that ergonomic a shooting experience, but adding the EX strobe will improve both flash recycling time, and allow for greater strobing distance. Maximum strobe sync speed is 1/500, which is great for fill flash, outdoors, and freezing fast action, and better than any sub-$2,000 EOS.
The Bottom Line:
The Canon Powershot G7 is a great-looking camera with cool styling, a great build, and good menu navigation. We were expecting big things from this camera, but its performance in the lab is a disappointment, especially at the higher ISOs.
Is this the must-have pocket-cam for the pros? Probably not. There are just too many cut corners and sacrifices that many hardcore shooters may not be willing to take. The wide angle lens distortion is high for a camera of this class, the noise numbers at higher ISOs rate from bad to dismal, and the lack of RAW support is sure to disappoint many EOS users.
Is this the biggest, best Elph for the Elpher looking for more? Perhaps, yes. In other ways, no. Add on $100 more than the SD900 and you get Optical Image stabilization and double the zoom range. You also get 1024x480 video at 15 frames per second, and can attach EX-series strobes at a high 1/500th sync speed. But the G7 performs worse at all comparable ISOs in noise performance, without a significant gain in resolution at the lower ISOs than the SD900.
Elph or EOS? In a lot of ways, the Canon Powershot G7 brings both the best and worst of Canon's other digital camera lines into one small package.