The Canon G9: Better than a Leica?

I’m always a sucker for a good camera story and this one was too good to pass up. Nick Devlin brought his Leica M8 to Japan to do a little shooting and a friend suggested he carry the Canon G9, a 12-megapixel point and shoot that costs about $4500 less than the Leica M8.

I used the Leica M8 all last summer and loved it except for the obvious: it wasn’t automatic. Framing the pictures required a good two or three seconds of fumbling – at least for me – and by that time the magic was often gone. I got amazing photos out of it, but the G9 looks equally impressive.

Like all traveling companions, the G9 grew to irritate me in a number of ways. All of my complaints relate to responsiveness, or lack thereof. The electronic zoom control is the first problem. While the G9 offers a very handy focal-range, zooming is accomplished by a rocker switch on the top of the camera. The micro-motor which drives the zoom has a perceptible response-lag and drives the lens forward in ‘chunks’, rather than a seamless progression of focal-length. This makes the G9 more of a step-zoom than a true fully-variable focal length camera. In fairness, the thirteen increments of focal length, which was the most I could achieve when zooming upwards through the range, are a respectable variety of focal lengths, and a damn-sight better than no zoom at all. But it is, nonetheless, an annoying control mechanism.

Color me amazed. I’m going to try this thing out ASAP. I guess at some point you want to stop feeling like Henri Cartier-Bresson and more like Ultraman. Anyone else have good things to say about either platform?