Canon's "PowerShot series" offers two high-end lineups, "G" and "S". Newly added to this lineup is the "PowerShot G7 X", which boasts an even more lavish design than SLR cameras, giving a new definition to the "premium" concept of the series. This article is a summary of our interview with the developers on the "premium" performance of the camera. (Edited by: Camera Biyori, Photos by: Toru Matsushima)
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5 Lens Elements in a Group for a Compact and Yet Bright Lens
― The body size is small despite the large one-inch sensor. How did you go about determining the size?
Ichino It would be difficult to operate the touch-sensitive LCD screen if it is too small, so a relatively large size was needed. We also maintained the control ring on the rear face at a size that does not compromise its operability while determining the size of the camera.
― So you chose the smallest possible size with operability taken into consideration. Does the large size of the sensor have any impact on the lens as well?
Ichino Yes, it was a challenging task trying to reduce the size of the lens. We first arrived at a decision on the sensor, after which the planning team determined the target focal length and f-number before entering the design phase. In the past, one designer would be in charge of the design while referring to the past models. This time, however, we had two designers to produce two different designs at the same time, and made a selection based on the question of "which of them would become an even better lens after further refined".
Yamada At first, there were concerns that "pursuing a compact size would result in a darker maximum aperture value". Nonetheless, the decision was to go ahead with the specs in consideration of the "premium" concept. I can still remember how stunned and anxious I was as I was unsure if this was achievable.
Members of the development team, Kenji Takahashi (left) and Kazushige Ichino (right)
Kenichi Nishimura (left), member of the design team, and Tatsuya Yamada (right), member of the planning team
― So you had to worry about the factory equipment in addition to the lens? What are the merits of adopting a one-inch backside illumination (BSI) CMOS sensor?
Takahashi Noise performance is enhanced thanks to the better sensitivity. With the allowance, we embarked on revising the existing policy of image reproduction for the "PowerShot G7 X". While the focus of conventional models was on the first impression of the photos they produce, adjustments have been made on the "PowerShot G7 X" to produce a more natural ambience as well as a smoother gradation of the highlights that is even closer to what we see through our eyes. Doing so helps to reduce the area in which blowout occurs in the background when capturing the blue sky with the sun included in the composition, or when photographing a backlit portrait subject. Making such a change to image reproduction affects the different internal processes of the camera in many ways. It was a tough challenge indeed. I doubt there is any other model that went through so many rounds of test shoots.
Ichino You will notice the difference during the season of cherry blossoms. The flowers you captured would turn out white. With the "PowerShot G7 X", even the pale pink colour can be faithfully expressed.
Takahashi My main photographic subject is children. Using the "PowerShot G7 X" creates a large background blur, which helps to bring out the subject.
― To the readers, "bokeh effect" is also a key point. Many users purchase an SLR camera with the hope to obtain the desired bokeh effects. It is incredible indeed that the "PowerShot G7 X" can achieve this despite being a compact digital camera.
Takahashi You should also take note of the shape of the aperture.
Ichino It comes with nine aperture blades that form an even rounder circle. In many cases, the six-blade type looks more like a hexagonal shape than a circle when the aperture is stopped down. In comparison, a beautiful circular shape is maintained when you stop down the nine-blade aperture, so you will be able to obtain a perfect "round bokeh".
"PowerShot G7 X" (top) and "PowerShot S120" (bottom). While the "PowerShot G7 X" is slightly thicker, it has almost the same width as the "PowerShot S120". The one-inch sensor and bright lens up to the telephoto end are packed in this amazingly small body.
Peripheral parts of the camera lens that are made up of a large number of lens elements. Repeated adjustments were performed to resolve the misalignment issue during zooming, which is more likely to occur on a smaller lens.
The quality of the bokeh is determined by the number of aperture blades. Nine blades are adopted on this camera compared to the conventional six-blade design. A larger number of blades form a rounder circle, allowing a more beautiful "round bokeh" to be created.
The tilt-up LCD screen that can be rotated 180° is now thinner with the more compact body. The dial on the right side adopts a two-tiered design to achieve both enhanced operability and compactness.
An example taken using the "Star Trails" feature in the "Starry Skies" mode. This feature has been included with the hope to provide support for photographic expression.
Special waterproof casing that maintains the operability of the dials and other components. The "PowerShot" series is well-loved by many divers as it is capable of producing underwater photos with beautiful colours.
Adopting Features for Supporting Photo Expression
― When I was covering the "S" series, I heard about the concept of "a camera that does not cause camera shake even during indoor shoots". Is this concept being inherited by the "PowerShot G7 X"?
Takahashi Yes. The "PowerShot G7 X" widens the scope of photographic expression even further. Now you can use it to capture clear shots of the starry sky.
Yamada The starry sky has the power to move the viewers, but capturing it in a photo is a challenging task. We started to introduce the "Starry Skies" mode since the "PowerShot G16", as we wanted to present easy options to produce the intended photo on cameras that have the ability to do so. We thought it was a good way for the camera to provide support for photographic expression.
Analysis of the PowerShot G7 X
Metal is used for most of the exterior components. Simple and meticulous design with buttons and a two-tiered dial accentuated by a red line. A "premium" camera in all aspects including design, performance, and operability.
Many types of grain finish patterns, including the texture, fineness and colour of the coating, were considered. The final decision was to adopt one with a slightly glossy finish on the embossed parts of the surface, which has an anti-slip effect in addition to the enhanced texture.
Parts made with careful workmanship
With thorough emphasis on bringing out the "premium" feel, a helical groove is engraved on the buttons, screws, and wheel on the rear face. We had a hard time printing icons and characters clearly on the groove.
With a large one-inch sensor and a bright lens with an aperture of f/1.8 at the wide-angle end and f/2.8 at the telephoto end, you can enjoy unbelievably high image quality and beautiful bokeh effects with this compact digital camera. The extremely low level of noise at high ISO speed is also impressive.
― Other noteworthy features include the high-speed AF, an increase in the number of AF points to 32, and the introduction of the Wi-Fi function for synchronising with smartphones.
Yamada Cameras have functions not found on smartphones and vice versa, so we believe it is important as a camera manufacturer to ensure coordination between the devices.
― I understand that a waterproof casing is also included in the range of camera accessories.
Yamada Personally, I would love to have one for my diving trips. With the bright lens and a one-inch sensor, photos that could not be captured in the past are now made possible, so I am planning to buy it. What I felt through my involvement in the planning phase is that Canon possesses a longstanding history and experience in the development of the "G" and "S" series, which also includes communication with a large number of customers accumulated through time. Such a foundation allowed us to reach a consensus quickly on "what we should create", and to pack a high level of performance into the "PowerShot G7 X". I hope that our users of the "PowerShot G7 X" will make use of it as a camera that is closely connected to their everyday life.
Camera Biyori is a Japanese photography magazine introducing charming photos and daily joy with cameras. Suggesting fun activities relating to cameras and photography, Camera Biyori editorial department also offer the "Camera Biyori Photography School" to recommend its readers to engage in photography and have fun.
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