Canon PowerShot G7 vs. Olympus SP-550 UZ

First published on: Tuesday, 27 February 2007

At the time of writing, the Canon G7 and Olympus SP550 are two of the most popular prosumer digital cameras. Both are extremely feature-packed and competitively priced around USD499, so which one to choose?

I’ve compiled below a summary of various discussions surrounding both cameras.

Canon PowerShot G7 Pros


The G7 has the edge in terms of total resolution, 10.4 Megapixels compared with 7.1 MP on the SP550. Bear in mind that this difference in resolution should be a factor in your decision-making process only if you routinely shoot landscapes having subjects with a lot of fine detail (such as foliage) and go for large prints, or you like to crop a lot.

Flash hot shoe

You get a dedicated hot shoe with the Canon G7, allowing you to use an external flash. The G7 is compatible with all of the Speedlite flash units from the Canon stable, and also other made-for-Canon flashes. You’ll be able to expand on your photography by being creative with the use of lighting from flash(es) (think bounced and tilt flash) — visit the Strobist blog for ideas.


For those who are not in favor of huge cameras, the G7 would be more appealing, measuring 106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5 mm (4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in) vs the SP550 at 116 x 78.5 x 78 mm (4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in). The G7 is also lighter, weighing in at 380 g (13.4 oz) (including the battery) vs the SP550 at 460 g (16.2 oz), including batteries. Realistically though, the weight of these cameras are on the high side, so for practical purposes, only pockets on large coats or a waist pack are suitable for carrying them in.

Olympus SP-550 UZ Pros

Zoom range

The SP550 has the biggest zoom range of any digital camera on the market, and this is evident when you compare its 18x zoom capability (including digital) to the G7’s 6x. Not only can the SP550 zoom far (504mm, in 35mm terms), but it can also go wide, 28mm. The 28mm wide-angle capability comes in very handy if you like to shoot a lot of architecture or take group portraits in a tight space. What impresses more is that Olympus managed to engineer the lens to have low levels of distortion at both ends of the zoom range, with reasonably high-levels of quality in the optics to boot.

RAW capability

It’s unfortunate that Canon decided to remove RAW functionality from the G7. The SP-550, on the other hand, allows you to shoot RAW, which is absolutely necessary if you prefer to postprocess your image files to extract the maximum image detail, sharpness and dynamic range. Trying to perform similar postprocessing on JPEG files tend to result in posterization, hence the rationale for shooting RAW if you want maximum quality. The Canon G7 is only able to output 8-bit JPEGs, which poses a challenge for those who subject their images to rigorous postprocessing.

Batteries and battery life

The SP550 uses ordinary AA batteries — this can be seen as an advantage or otherwise, depending on where you stand on the issue of proprietary batteries vs. normal batteries. The good news is that users of the SP-550 have reportedly been able to take over 500 photos on a single charge, and this includes reviewing images on the LCD — very impressive, to say the least.

SP550 Image Samples

Gathered here are links to photos shot with the Olympus for your evaluation:

  1. Showcasing image quality at 28mm focal length all the way to 504mm.

  2. Images taken with camera settings of: Saturation +2, Contrast +1 and Sharpening +3. Notice also how effective the shake reduction system is, allowing the photographer to shoot handheld at low shutter speeds. I’m personally and seriously impressed with the flexibility that having a huge zoom range allows.

  3. An updated list of SP550 samples


If you desire the greatest flexibility in zoom range, get the SP550 that allows you to shoot really wide and long — in other words, the SP550 is the preferred choice for travel photography.

If you’re aiming for the highest resolution, then go for the G7. Be aware what you intend to do with all that resolution though — if you want to shoot landscapes and print really large, then the G7 fits the bill nicely.

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