Camera Reviews

Canon PowerShot G9 Digital Camera Review

Product: Canon PowerShot G9 Digital Camera
Manufactured by: Canon US, Canon Canada, Canon UK
Reviewed by: Howard Carson, March 2008
Requires: An interest in serious photography using a compact form factor
MSRP: US$499.99, CDN$549.99, UK£429

Read the full PowerShot G9 review!

The major PowerShot G7 flaws touted by the pundits were that this marvelous top-of-the line prosumer camera failed to provide several features offered in semi-pro digital SLR cameras costing hundreds of dollars more. The PowerShot G7 didn't offer RAW format the critics complained, and it failed to provide superb low noise performance above 400 ISO. Canon listened to the howling and rancor, then tweaked the design to add some image processing improvements and RAW file saving. The result is the Canon PowerShot G9.

The Canon PowerShot G9 is a 12.1 megapixel digital camera equipped with Canon's DIGIC III image processor, a 6x optical zoom lens and Optical Image Stabilizer (IS). The camera offers a full range of shooting modes (shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, programmed auto, full auto, scene modes, movie mode) and recording modes including JPEG + RAW. Except for the fact that it's blessed with a diopter adjustment, the optical viewfinder is essentially useless at every zoom setting unless it happens to be 12.5mm (equivalent to 50mm on a full frame). Thankfully the viewfinder is completely offset by the 3 inch high-quality PureColor LCD II screen featuring a wide viewing angle, anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings. You also get face detection (the camera automatically picks out, focuses on and adjusts exposure for one or multiple faces in a composition) and primary face selection control. The PowerShot G9 has a standard Canon top-mounted hotshoe which is compatible with the complete range of Canon EOS speedlites.

The Canon PowerShot G9 is identical in every outward respect to its G7 predecessor. The fun begins with some improvements on the inside and ends with a general increase in image quality. If you're wondering how much image quality you can squeeze out of a little camera like this, have a look at this high dynamic range winter photo. The image is as-shot and unretouched, completely noise-free and quite striking at ISO100 and -0.3ev, handheld, IS on. Note the corrosion bubbles just under the surface of the black wrought iron fence, and the enormous amount of contrast between the fading painted black surfaces and the fresh white snow. The midtones are captured well too, with clean, interesting details in the shadows, the dense texture of the split rail fence and the highlights popping off the the ice and snow crystals without being blown out. One example does not tell the tale obviously, but this is a very nice camera indeed.

Read the full PowerShot G9 review!

Cons: Like it's predecessor, it's as heavy as a small brick. The strict adherence to a classic Rangefinder form factor is all well and good, but there's not quite enough to grab hold of except a very conservative grip bump on the right front—no prominent right-side body bulge like that found on the excellent Canon A-series compacts—so the very first thing you should do after marveling at your brand new PowerShot G9 as it comes out of the box is to attach a good quality neck or wrist strap. The playback button is located on a slightly concave chamfer at the top rear edge of the camera and is difficult to press because it's just at or slightly less than flush with the body surface. You need to poke the playback button with a fingernail to get a positive click, so forget about using it outside while wearing gloves. No ISO limit setting for Auto mode.

Pros: The Canon PowerShot G9 is a modern wonder of digital camera technology. For the price, there's nothing else in its image quality class on the market today except for the Leica D-Lux 3. I like sturdy, substantial buttons and dials that work smoothly and provide positive feedback mainly because on a well-designed camera they provide the surest sort of control over important and frequently used functions. The ISO dial is a perfect example and it's great to have it sitting on the top left of the camera body. Image quality is improved slightly over the G7 which means that mid-to-high ISO noise performance is good enough to make ISO800 genuinely useful (and certainly printable). The retro body and control layout introduced in the G7 is a stroke of genius and I'm glad Canon has kept and enhanced the design. The programmed user interface and LCD combine to make menu navigation easy and fast. Canon has hit a home run with the PowerShot G9. Highly recommended.

Read the full PowerShot G9 review!

Nikon D300 Digital SLR Camera Review

The Nikon D300 Digital SLR is a 12.3 megapixel, CMOS APS-C size (DX) sensor, 14-bit color camera. It features a high resolution (922,000 pixel) 3" LCD rear monitor suitable for spot proofing, switchable Live View through the rear LCD, weatherproofing, a 150,000 actuation synthetic shutter, UDMA high speed CompactFlash card support, a new CPU (the EXPEED processor), a switchable 51(!) point auto focus system, automatic face recognition and focus tracking by color, customizable focus calibration to accommodate focus variations in up to twenty different lenses, scene recognition, HDMI high definition video output to high definition televisions and display devices, Active D-Lighting for automated in-camera shadow & highlight control of high dynamic range (HDR) scenes, and extremely fast operation. There's lots more, but you get the idea. The Nikon D300 is an awful lot of camera. Read the full review at Kickstartnews

I've been shooting with the Nikon D300 Digital SLR camera for several weeks, so it's time to stop having so much fun for a short while and start writing. The problem is, I just don't want to put away the camera. It has its quirks and could use a bit of minor improvement in a couple of areas, but to date is the most complete digital SLR I've ever seen. My perspective is based on analysis of image quality, feature sets, hardware quality, ergonomics and general usability compared with the top-of-the-line digital SLRs from Canon (EOS 40D), Fuji (Finepix S5), Leica (Digilux 3), Olympus (E3), Pentax (K10D, K20D) and Sony (a700). If the goal of photography is to make photographs, then the Nikon D300 does the best job of any camera, except for the much more expensive Nikon D3, Canon 1D Mk III and Canon 5D, at just getting out of your way and letting you do that. Even in a direct comparison with the wonderful Canon 5D full frame sensor powerhouse, the D300 is its equal in low noise, low-medium ISO shooting, and is obviously better at image proofing and review using the glorious, bright, high resolution 3" LCD which remains almost reason enough by itself to purchase a D300. The days of using the camera LCD to review a shot you just took and never being sure if it's color balanced or properly focused are gone. The D300 LCD screen is a true monitor with the resolution, clarity and color depth that photographers have been demanding for many years.

The Nikon D300 Digital SLR, coupled with a selection of Nikon lenses, is everything you'll ever need as a snapshooter, amateur photographer, serious photography hobbyist or general photography professional. The D300 is weatherproofed which means the camera can function just as easily and at just as high quality as you'll get from it indoors. Ergonomically, the camera fits most hands well. Unusually, we found that even people with small-to-medium size hands found the camera comfortable to use, while a couple of testers with very large hands also reported the same great comfort levels over hours of continuous use. Only younger kids and people with very small hands will experience any problems with the D300 control layout, grip or body weight. We shot a huge and varied selection of subjects: wildlife at a local conservation area, sports at a local arena - hockey and volleyball, portraits of family members, urban locations, night shots, street scenes, textures, products being prepared for eBay listings, and in miserable weather, great weather, indoors, mixed lighting and you name it. We did the vast majority of our shooting with four lenses: Nikkor 12-24mm f4 DX wide angle zoom, Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 DX VR zoom, Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 DX professional zoom, and the Nikkor 105mm f2.8 VR professional prime lens.

The Nikon D300 digital SLR is ready to shoot instantly. No matter what mode you select or leave the camera in, turn it on and it's ready to go. Controls are responsive and provide positive feedback. Novice or pro, you can feel exactly how the camera is reacting to your handling and input. Novices may leave the notification beeps on for the first few days or weeks of use, but then the D300's smart design and easy handling will likely allow even still slightly nervous beginners to shut off the beeps and rely instead on the camera's mechanical sounds and natural feedback. In a lighter weight body, Nikon has actually enhanced the tradition of superb tactile feedback pioneered and revered in the FE, F4, F5 and F100 and continued through the D100/200 and the D1/2/3 bodies. I look forward to picking up the D300 and using it in any environment because it feels great and secure in-hand and because it offers controls which are smartly placed, easy to activate and well configured. All in all it's a pleasure to use.

Cons: Auto ISO is not automatically turned off when camera is set to manual (M) mode. Low noise at all normal ISO settings, but performance should be better still above ISO800.

Pros: Superb handling, ergonomics and image quality. The gorgeous high resolution LCD is a wonder to behold. Live view works well. Sensor cleaning function is very useful. Color accuracy is remarkable. A professional camera which can easily be used by amateurs and photography hobbyists. Read the full review at Kickstartnews

Nikon Coolpix P50 Digital Camera Review

The Nikon Coolpix P50 is an 8.1 megapixel, 3.6x zoom, f2.8-5.6 camera featuring a 4.7-17.0mm zoom lens. The lens actually amounts to a 28-102mm standard-to-medium zoom when you take into account the crop factor introduced by the small image sensor. The P50 contains an electronic version of Nikon's patented Vibration Reduction (VR) lens stabilization system, and a large 2.4", 115,000 pixel LCD. The top of the camera sports an optical viewfinder, mode selector dial, shutter button and on/off button. The Nikon P50 is almost identical in size to and somewhat lighter than its P5100 top-of-the-line sibling. The back of the camera keeps all other external controls clustered vertically on the right side: a zoom rocker control, playback button, command wheel (for timer, macro, flash control, EV exposure compensation), menu button and delete button. The bottom of the camera offers a plastic-thread tripod mount, and a trap door behind which you'll find the battery compartment and the SD memory card slot. Nikon has positioned a dock connector at the back of the bottom plate. The mini-USB connector is located behind a rubber snap-in door on the upper right end of the body. The flash indicator and auto-focus lock indicator LEDs are located in a column next to the viewfinder bulge. The Nikon P50 has a prominent grip bulge on the right side which is covered with a good quality piece of textured, molded rubber providing excellent feel and control. The upper right end also has a protruding metal tab for use with a neck or wrist strap.

If the Nikon P5000 and P5100 are prosumer cameras (aimed necessarily at serious point & shoot photographers and also at amateurs and semi-pros who need a point & shoot backup camera), then the P50 is an enthusiast's camera. The differences between the entry level P50 and the masterful P5100 are obvious. The P5100 has a hot shoe for Nikon external flashguns, the P50 does not. The P5100 has selectable Auto, Aperture, Shutter, Program, Manual, Scene and VR modes and controls, while the P50 offers Auto, Program, Manual and Scene modes and controls. The P5100 has a finely stepped rotary zoom control; the P50 has a more coarsely stepped rocker switch zoom control. The P5100 is built around a cast magnesium body shell; the P50 is built around a sturdy polycarbonate shell. The P5100 offers a slightly better lens and a 12.1 megapixel image sensor; the P50 lens provides a more useful zoom range and an 8.1 megapixel image sensor. The P50 costs $150 less than the P5100. Hmmm. Tough decision.

Let it be stated above all else that more megapixels don't automatically mean better photographs. I'll take the clean, relatively noise-free 8.1 megapixels of the Nikon Coolpix P50 over the slightly noisier, but greater number of megapixels often found in more expensive cameras. The reason is simply that a large number of megapixels doesn't necessarily mean greater resolution. It just means physically larger images and somewhat better detail when you zoom in or crop. But since I rarely print larger than 8"x10" who cares? I do serious shooting with my digital SLR cameras, not a point & shoot, and it's on such SLRs that you'll find extremely high resolution lenses capable of capturing clean, noise free detail at really large image sizes suitable for printing many times larger than 8"x10". Forget about megapixels. It's sufficient to state here—and please believe me—that the 8.1 megapixel P50 will capture photos suitable for beautiful printing at all normal sizes including 8"x10" (and even 13"x19" depending on subject matter).

The real test is in the shooting. Winter days with fresh white snow sitting on dark wood, the sad looking, snow-capped, black metal BBQ sitting on my backyard deck and many other similar subjects provide high-contrast, wide dynamic range challenges for all digital cameras, and represent a particularly distressing challenge for little point & shoot models with their smaller image sensors and comparatively limited processing power. The P50 does quite well outdoors in winter, so color me surprised. The exposure compensation (EV) adjustments come in handy for dialing things back slightly to help get blown out snow highlights back under control, but the basic dynamic range of the sensor and the way in which Nikon's wonderful new EXPEED processor handle the high contrast data is exemplary for a camera in this class. Here's a sample photo. Read the full review at Kickstartnews.

Cons: Minor assembly issue leaves a small dirt collecting gap where the rubber grip fits into the the body. Some focus adjustment settings aren't retained in shooting mode. ISO2000 is useful only as a marketing pitch.

Pros: Lightweight, versatile, good image quality. Nikon has, as usual, emphasized very accurate, vibrant color. Clean images for any purposes up to ISO200. Printable images up to ISO400.

Read the full Nikon Coolpix P50 review