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Technische Daten

Dieser Artikel ist leider nicht verfügbar auf Deutsch
July 2008

When it was announced that the replacement for the popular Canon PowerShot G7 camera would feature RAW capability it showed that Canon had been listening to photographers. This important decision turned what had been primarily a high-end consumer point-and-shoot camera into a tool for professionals as well.

When I had a chance to see a pre-launch version of the G9 at the 2007 VISA pour l’Image festival of photojournalism in Perpignan I knew right away it was a camera I could use and, as soon as it became available, I ordered one. Now I take it with me almost everywhere, even on my early morning bike rides when I’m at home in San Francisco.

© John McDermott

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and reflection.

A photographer without a camera can’t take pictures. But sometimes you can’t or just don’t want to carry an EOS-1D or EOS-1Ds, or even a 5D or 40D, plus all the necessary lenses and accessories. What you get with the PowerShot G9 is a solidly built, 12.1 megapixel, silent digital rangefinder camera with a 35-210mm (in 35mm terms) f/2.8-4.8 zoom lens. All of which fits nicely in the pocket of a fleece or jacket. What’s not to like about that?

I had always heard good things about the image quality of Canon’s previous G series cameras, but I wasn’t prepared for just how impressive the G9 would be, particularly when used in good light at low-to-moderate ISO ratings. At times I’ve been absolutely astounded by the quality of the images from the camera. I’ve gotten results that stand comparison with pictures taken with far more expensive film and digital SLR cameras.

© John McDermott

This child’s portrait demonstrates the G9’s image quality.

The G9 packs a lot of features into its small package, including the ability to make video clips of up to an hour in length (I know some photojournalists who use this video clip option to produce multi-media content for websites), as well as time-lapse video. The 3.0-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD monitor (it takes up about 70% of the back of the camera) is very impressive. Most of the camera’s controls, including a small rotating wheel reminiscent of the control dial on Canon’s professional cameras, occupy the remaining space next to the LCD on the back panel. On top there are two small, analogue-style dials for ISO and Exposure Mode selection, as well as a hotshoe and the shutter release button with an integrated lens zoom control and the On/Off button.

Auto Exposure and Auto White Balance are both very accurate, even when shooting in high contrast and potentially tricky mixed lighting situations. There are also all the customary White Balance presets as well as two presets for custom white balance settings. While ISO can be set manually, the Auto ISO with safety shift option is a boon to photographers working in situations where the light may be changing quickly. I work with the G9 mainly in Aperture Priority or Program mode and if the light isn’t going to be constant I will use the Auto ISO setting.

© John McDermott

This BMW hood and grill shot shows close-up detail and focusing across the frame.

Photographers accustomed to precisely composing through an optical viewfinder will quickly find that they are better off using the G9’s large back panel LCD for that task. The camera’s optical viewfinder only shows 80% of the area that will be in the photograph, an understandable limitation in a digital rangefinder camera that's so highly affordable. The lens barrel also intrudes into the view, which can be annoying when it’s fully extended. I quickly adapted to using the LCD and now I almost never use the optical viewfinder. An added bonus to working this way is being able to hold the camera away from your eye, or place it in some unusual positions, and still be able to see exactly what is in the frame.

Autofocus on the G9 is quick and accurate on subjects that are either static or not moving too fast. But this is not a camera that's been designed for shooting sports action. While manual focus is possible I find the autofocus to be so reliable that I rarely use anything else. New to the G9 is Canon’s Face Detection technology (click here to find out more about Face Detection technology). I was sceptical about this feature at first, thinking it might be something meant for amateurs who didn’t want to have to worry about too many technical details. But I have found that it works very well, making accurate focus even faster, and I now use it often.

© John McDermott

LCD composition helped to get all the elements of this image of San Francisco’s Chinatown in place.

The camera has a very decent built-in flash whose output can be controlled in 1/3 stop increments to provide subtle amounts of fill light or serve as a primary, albeit direct and harsh, light source. One of the G9’s cooler features is a hotshoe that allows you to employ Canon’s full series of Speedlite EX professional flashguns which, unlike the built-in flash, don’t drain the camera’s battery and can be used with an off-camera flash cord or the ST-E2 infrared flash trigger. The normal maximum flash sync speed is 1/250sec with synchronization possible up to 1/2500sec using the Speedlite EX series’ High Speed Sync capability.

One of the perceived limitations of this camera is the level of digital noise present at higher ISOs. While it’s definitely there on the PowerShot G9, I don’t find it any worse than the considerable grain that typically occurs when shooting 400 or 800 ISO colour film and ‘pushing’ it by one or two stops. And with ‘pushed’ colour film you had the added problem of less than perfect colour. With the G9, even at 1600 ISO, while there is considerable noise, the colours remain quite vivid and accurate.

© John McDermott

Silent performance on the G9 helped to capture this Monk in Rangoon airport, Burma.

The silent performance of the G9 proved especially useful to me on a recent trip to Burma. More than once I found myself in a situation where taking a picture was only possible if I could do it without being noticed or where I didn’t want to disturb people who were praying or working. I took some pictures with the G9 I doubt I could have made with a bigger, noisier SLR.

Canon’s excellent Image Stabilization technology is something I have come to rely on. I tend to use whenever it’s available, even in good light, on the theory that anything that reduces the possibility of camera shake is a good thing. So the IS built into the G9 is a welcome addition. It’s particularly useful here, however, because in low light it enables you to work at a lower ISO, thereby helping to keep digital noise to a minimum. It goes without saying, of course, the IS doesn’t do anything to help with subject movement if your shutter speed isn’t sufficient to freeze it by itself.

Canon’s Image Browser software, which is bundled with the camera, has a RAW Utility that includes a very nice noise reduction feature called Adaptive Noise Control. But most professionals who shoot RAW will probably prefer, as I do, to work with a more powerful, fuller-featured post-production application such as Aperture, Adobe Camera Raw or LightRoom. I use Apple’s Aperture, but all three software programmes do an excellent job on G9 files and have either their own noise reduction capability or support effective noise reduction plug-ins such as Noise Ninja.

© John McDermott

The G9 coped well with light differentials in this shot of a Buddhist temple interior at Pagan, Burma.

Shutter lag has always been a consideration with point-and-shoot cameras and it is present in the G9, though to a lesser degree than in other compact cameras I’ve tried. While shutter response is not quite instantaneous, it is better than I thought it would be in a camera like this. We need to keep in mind the fact that this isn’t an EOS-1D Mark III. It’s a pocket camera that costs about a tenth of the price of the professional Mark III. In that context it’s clear the G9 is a pretty amazing machine and as well as a great value.

For Alaska-based photojournalist James Mason, the PowerShot G9 has now replaced a Leica M6 as his “photo notebook” in his kitbag. Mason is fond of using it to produce extreme panoramic images, using Photoshop’s Photo Merge tool to stitch together a series pictures. Mason says: “It’s a camera that’s always there and ready…you see a picture, you raise the camera, it’s done. It’s compact, tough and has good battery life.
In the cold Alaskan weather the G9 is a camera you can carry in an inside pocket so it’s always warm. If you go inside you can pull it out and shoot right away without worrying about condensation. The shutter lag is next to nothing. Too many point and shoot cameras have to ‘think’ for a while before making the exposure. When you push the button on the G9 you get a photo with little or no delay.”

© John McDermott

O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in San Francisco during a Liverpool v Arsenal match. Note the low light performance of the camera.

According to Mason: “I have to say the image quality is excellent, but adding RAW was the critical upgrade which made this camera a must-have. I almost always use it at the widest lens setting, the equivalent of a 35mm focal length on a full-frame camera. It would be nice if it were a little wider, say 28mm. It’s interesting to look at the progression of Canon's G series. A lot of pros were already carrying point-and-shoots in the last days of film. The G9 is a quantum leap forward in replacing those older cameras. What will the next one be like? I can't wait to see.”

Bali-based John Stanmeyer, a Time Magazine contract photographer who works mainly in Asia and a member of the famous VII Photo agency, is impressed with the video capability of the G9. “It was awesome,” he reports. “I created a very impressive multi-media piece a few months back for a French publication combining video from the G9 with stills from my EOS-1Ds Mark III. I also love the camera for taking family photos. It’s always smack on so I don’t need to carry the larger camera for decent quality pictures.”

Like Mason, Stanmeyer also feels the camera would benefit from having a slightly wider angle on the lens. In fact if he could ever design a hypothetical ‘G10’ it would have a full-frame sensor and a fixed-focal length 28mm lens, as well as an instantaneous shutter release and HD video. “If Canon could do that,” Stanmeyer says, “it would be brilliant!” HD video? No kidding, John. But for now the PowerShot G9 will do very nicely indeed.

© James Mason

A black and white panoramic of the Kaladi Café, Anchorage, Alaska taken on the PowerShot G9 by James Mason and stitched together with Photoshop’s Photo Merge.

To find out more about the Canon PowerShot G9 click here.