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Canon G9 12mp camera review and alternatives

UPDATE #2: notice that you see now more Digital SLR’s with very high (and still usable) 6400/12800 iso. For instance Nikon D300 and Sony A700 offers 6400 ISO (see dpreview A700 ISO tests).
UPDATE: I added a picture to the G9 album (at 100% zoom) to show how ISO800 looks like and how it will look if you use a noise filter program to post process it: click here
I received a Canon G9 last week but it had couple of defect (hot) pixels. So I returned it and I’m getting a new one next week. But I was able to test a few things and as expected it’s not a very light sensitive camera. Specifically it’s almost 2 stops slower than my old 3MP Canon S30. So therefore you end up with higher ISO in dim light to increase shutter time and avoid blurry pictures. The higher ISO’s are pretty noisy, however there’s still a lot of detail preserved and using some post processing you can make usable 4×6" prints. That said it’s one step back and hopefully we’ll get better low-light performance with compacts one day. By the way the video mode is great on the G9. I tested 640×480 pixels at 30fps and it looked pretty good. The sound was a bit low but seems there’s a way to adjust that.
I’ve posted some G9 pictures here: G9 pictures
In daylight the G9 pictures are really great and I think for a compact best you can get now. But for indoors & low-light it will not do well. So I started to research other options. E.g. either better ISO performance or faster lens. I found no current compact  with a much faster lens but I did find the following alternatives:
  • Olympus E-410: smallest digital SLR. Only $550 at Costco with 2 lenses. It weighs around 800grams including battery+lens so not much more than a compact. However still wouldn’t fit in someone’s pocket. The kit lens is about 1 stop slower than a G9 but the ISO performance is throughout very good. The highest ISO1600 settings still doesn’t have much visible noise. Unfortunately ISO1600 speed is really ISO1200 (according to dpreview.com) and that’s the highest ISO the camera offers. Also notice that digital SLR don’t offer some features you find on compacts: movie mode, panorama mode
  • Fuji F20, F30, F31fd: these 6megapixel compacts have better noise performance at high ISO than about any other compact and gets very close to a digital SLR. Downside? These models are not available anymore and the new Fuji models have more noise. I was able to find a F20 on Amazon so I bought one as a 2nd camera in lowlight (only $140). Be aware that these camera’s don’t have a viewfinder and not much manual control (except the F31fd).
  • Fuji F40fd: this 8megapixel compact comes close to the 6megapixel models but has slightly more noise. This might be a good alternative if you want a compact with good low-light performance. For daylight I still would choose the G9 over any other model.

I’ll post some F20 pictures for comparison as soon as I receive the camera.


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