Canon's new top of the line pocket rocket gets some major upgrades, including
the return of RAW and a new RAW converter for the total control freaks.
Put the new 12.1 megapixel Canon PowerShot G9 ($499 street) next to the 10 megapixel PowerShot G7 it replaces. Now stick a piece of gaffer's tape over the model number. You'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart. The two digital cameras are virtually identical on the outside. Same optically stabilized 35-210 f/2.8-4.8 6x zoom lens (35mm equivalent), same hotshoe, similar optical viewfinder, slightly bigger 3-inch wide view LCD, but pretty close to identical all around.
But inside, it's a different story. The G9 marks the return of RAW to this line of cameras, a move that is sure to please the hardcore shooters, along with an interesting new "Adaptive Noise Control" function in the ZoomBrowser (PC)/ImageBrowser (Mac) RAW converter. Not only that, the G9 can brag about 2 million more pixels inside on its 1/1.7 chip. But it doesn't blow the 10 megapixel G7 away in resolution. Instead, it appears the Canon PowerShot G9 uses all those extra pixels for noise smoothing, both in JPEG and RAW capture modes. We had no complaints with the resolution of the G7, which like the G9 uses the Digic III processor, but noise was another issue. The G9 goes a long way towards fixing those issues. It's not perfect -- high ISO shots can still be noisy, but not to the unacceptable extremes we saw with the G7. Add in the adaptive noise control for smoothing RAW data with marginal resolution loss and the G9 emerges as a much improved camera over the G7, though it does carry over a couple of the G7's weak points:
• Barrel distortion is still a big problem at the 35mm wide angle setting.
• A burst rate only a slug could love -- especially in RAW (although it does continue to chug along for a long time, and doesn't buffer-lock).
• Confusing menu-driven options and multi-button/dial configurations that can drive both the Elph and EOS user nuts trying to figure out.
• Lens barrel intrusion into the optical viewfinder field at wide-angle.
• Only about 80% coverage with optical viewfinder.