Digital cameras were more of a curiosity than a photographic tool in 1998 when my Leica Digilux camera cost nearly $1000 without zoom lens and a flash that became ineffective beyond about 7 feet. I was looking to replace this point and shoot digital with something more flexible that could take some serious photos with zoom, manual and automatic modes, high megapixles - but most important - was still compact enough to slip into a shirt pocket so it could be with me most of the time, unlike my Leica SLR film camera.
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The G7 fits those requirements about perfectly. It includes a Canon 35mm to 210mm (equiv) [6X zoom] lens that retracts completely flat into the body and protects the lens with a curtain automatically when the power is turned off. Most other cameras include only 3X zoom. It is 10 megapixels which promises large clear images. The built-in flash is capable enough to take large groups across the room. But for more controlled use, there is a hot shoe that allows an external flash to be synced, with or without additional slave units, or even as a detached slave to the built-in flash.
The camera has an amazing array of features that allow everything from fully automatic [point and shoot] modes to fully manual modes. However, the automatic mode is so well configured that I rarely need to change to any of the manual modes for my work. It includes a zooming viewfinder that greatly speeds the ability to point and shoot for those fleeting candid pics. On demand, however, the 2.5" LCD screen can be turned on for more precise composition and control. Most cameras include only a 2" LCD. I use the LCD and manual modes when I photograph one of my wife's large quilts outside. I use the full 10mp mode mostly for precision work, using lower resolution modes for snapshots. Even the lowest resolution allows sharp full screen images on my 24" monitor. It includes a wide screen mode that is ideal for projection on modern wide screen TVs or capturing landscapes.
I discovered years ago that the most realistic landscapes happen when the camera lens is able to capture a viewing angle that approximates the viewing angle of human vision. Then the photograph resembles your visual experience and the projected image becomes just as awesome as the view that prompted the photograph. In the past, I used a flat plane 21mm lens on my Leica M2 and 35mm slides for truly impressive projections of super-wide view shots. Therein are my only nits with the G7.
1 - I would prefer the zoom lens to range from 21mm at the wide range instead of 35mm to allow more realistic widescreen landscapes. Even if that required the telephoto limit to be reduced slightly [lets say to 135 or 180mm from 210mm]. Losing some telephoto zoom is less important because at extended telephoto the image becomes compromised anyway by other forces of physics related to CCD size and digital noise from higher ASA modes that are required with a zoom to allow faster shutter speeds and avoid camera shake. But this is my nit, based on my usage of the camera. I have ordered a .5X magnification Wide Angle Converter to double the area of view. I'll report on this option after I get to test it.
UPDATE 4/17/08: I ordered my converter $25 + $8 shipping on 4/13/08 from Digital Inovations in Taiwan and received it on 4/16/08 delivered by DHL next day air - quite impressive. Although not specified on the webpage, the lens is a SAKAR product, and is well built. It can also be used as a macro close up lens by only attaching the rear element assembly to the mounting tube. The .5 magnification means it can capture twice the AREA as the standard wide angle end of the built-in zoom lens - not twice the ANGLE. I noticed no offensive loss of sharpness or distortion anywhere. A .5 does not result in distorted fish-eye results. Get a .42 if fish eye is what you want. All the normal automatic functions remain available with this lens in place. My new nit: the converter adds a 2 inch non-collapsible barrel around the standard collapsible zoom lens, so the camera is no longer shirt pocket thin, although the whole assembly can be attached and removed via the bayonet mount in seconds.
2 - In comparing the zoomed qualities of a photo with the tested Canon G7 lens against my neighbor's Leitz Elmar zoom lens, the Leitz is marginally sharper [though not significantly] at higher zoom levels. Also, the Leitz lens is on an SLR professional camera at 3X the cost of the G7, and because of the SLR's bulk, requires, at minimum, a buttpack style case to protect it in transit.
In summary: The G7 is an nearly ideal camera for the serious photographer who wants a light, portable digital camera in his stable, but which has many flexible, professional features without the bulk. I highly recommend it.
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Amount Paid (US$): 470 w flash
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts