I have been looking for a camera to replace my aging Canon S300. I want to get into shooting some video for a podcast and I also need a still camera with good macro performance. Canon has the TX1 available now and it would seem like the perfect choice on paper but there are problems. The TX1 is a first gen product, the battery life is half that of the G7, the zoom range doesn’t go as wide as the G7 and its currently more expensive. The HD movies and big optical zoom were tempting but ultimately I don’t see those features being advantageous for web video. Most zoom shots look amateurish and HD burns a lot of bandwidth.
The G7 has a very respectable movie mode. It shoots Motion JPEG AVI video at 640×480 @ 30fps. It can shoot continuously at that rate for 30 minutes. Thats long enough to cover most things that I want to film. The files it produces are big, 4GB at that rate but thats actually a plus for web video. Having a high fidelity progressive scan source to compress will result in a really high quality podcast. Mini DV camcorders shoot interlaced video and to get progressive output you need to spend upwards of 1K. Also the G7 has a poorly named ‘safety zoom’ feature which is actually quite cool. The digital zoom can actually be used at lower resolutions without any quality loss. This means the 4x digital zoom should actually be quite useful in movie mode. Edit: Well it’s not that cool because it doesn’t work in for Movies.
The older canon cameras have a 1GB limit on videos while the newer models with the Digic III processor have raised that limit to 4GB. 1GB gets you about 8 minutes of footage at high quality. I really felt this would get annoying. Having to constantly go and restart the movie mode to keep the film rolling so to speak. I didn’t want to be limited in that way even if the video gets cut down in post production. So I ruled out quite a few very good cameras because of the short movies. With an 8GB card on board the new cameras can shoot for an hour with only a single interruption. Thats great for on location work. In my workshop I’ll have it plugged into the mains so I can shoot pretty much continuously.
You can also tether the camera to a PC and Canon’s software will allow you to capture still shots directly to the PC. It can be set up to shoot at an interval to produce time lapse sequences. I’m defiantly going to be playing with that feature!
The G7 got criticized by reviewers for its lack of RAW support and the high price tag. If I didn’t value the video capabilities of the camera quite so highly I would have to agree. If you just want a solid still camera get the A640 instead and save some cash. For my needs though, I’m getting two cameras in one. In the future I may get a dedicated video camera and at that point I’ll still have a great, compact still camera in the G7.
I cant claim that my decision was entirely driven by reviews and spec sheets. I really like the look of the camera. Its hefty and really solidly built. It reminds me of the old film camera my father has with all the external dials. I just kept coming back to it and drooling.