Canon has added HD video to its latest G series addition, the Canon G12, but is this new feature enough to merit an upgrade from the previous generation, and is it enough to keep the G series at the top of the advanced compact tree? The Canon PowerShot G12 review finds out...
Canon’s PowerShot G series has been a favourite for the photographer looking for the advance control of a DSLR in a smaller and more portable body. The range has gone through several generations and stages of evolution, with the Canon PowerShot G12 being the latest in that cycle. The model adds on the previous model, the G11, but introducing a range more shooting modes and an all-new HD movie mode. Are these additions enough to merit the upgrade? Let’s take a look…
Canon PowerShot G12 review – Features
While the development of the previous model, the G11, saw a bevy of innovation in comparison to its predecessor, the G10, with the latest model it’s very much a case of tweaking rather than wholesale changes. On the face of it this is no real issue as the G11 was a fine camera, though it does beg the question of whether the model is worthy of the upgrade.
With regards to the nuts and bolts of the Canon G12, much remains the same. The 1/1.7in CCD sensor outputs a resolution of 10MP, and is exactly the same as on its predecessor. The sensor is paired with Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor, complete with iSAPS technology, which was again seen on the previous entry in the G series. The first adjustment on its predecessor comes, as has been the case with several other advanced compacts in the market, in the area of low light performance. Firstly the Canon G12’s ISO range, whilst covering the same 80-3200 range, now does so in 17 increments instead of 7 and as such offers more fine-tuning of ISO selection. The combination of the high-sensitivity sensor, modified ISO range and DIGIC 4 processor now all falls under the moniker of an ‘HS System’ that Canon promises will provide better results in low-light conditions.
Optically, the Canon PowerShot G12 is also identical to its predecessor. The compact features a 5x optical zoom, covering a range of 28-140mm in conventional 35mm terms with maximum apertures of f/2.8 – 4.5 as well as Hybrid IS.
Again, as with competing models in the advanced compact market, the Canon PowerShot G12 now features HD movie capture. The compact offers HD movie capture at full 1280 x 720 resolution and at a frame rate of 24fps, while also capturing stereo sound (though there’s no capacity for attaching an external microphone). Another benefit for those capturing HD movies is the HDMI out on the Canon PowerShot G12, allowing easy output to your HD TV.
Although previously Canon has chosen to adapt the LCD screen from model to model in the G series (see the change from static to vari-angle between the G10 and G11 models), it’s a case of more of the same with the G12. The compact features a 2.8in vari-angle PureColour II TFT screen with a resolution of 461k-dot. Also this resolution is more than adequate, it’s still less than some of its competitors.
Canon PowerShot G12 review – Design
An interesting observation with the design of the G12 is that, despite the few changes made ‘under the hood’ of the compact, the body remains identical in size and weight. This isn’t to say, however, that the body hasn’t been tweaked in some way. The front of the camera now houses a small control wheel akin to a DSLR, offering control over shutter and aperture settings.
Outside of the addition of the front control wheel, much remains as before, and this is definitely a good thing. The G12’s top plate houses a trio of control wheels that have a pleasingly retro and manual feel to them – to the left sits an exposure compensation dial, while to the right is a larger dial to control ISO setting and a smaller mode dial set within the ISO dial.
On the rear of the camera sits the vari-angle LCD screen attached by a hinge on the cameras left. The screen can be pulled away from the camera about 180° on a vertical axis and then rotated around 270° around a horizontal axis.
The G12’s rear also houses the previous configuration of control d-pad, command dial around the d-pads edge and a host of other control buttons. An optical viewfinder also sits on the cameras rear with a useful dioptre adjustment housed to the side of the viewfinder.
The front of the camera houses the adapter ring seen on previous models. This allows for a range of extensions to be fitted, including a 1.4x tele-converter and a filter adapter, which can extend the functionality of the G12 even more so.
Canon PowerShot G12 review – Performance
As observed on previous models in the G series, the start up
time isn’t the quickest with the G12, although the compact is ready for shooting within a matter of seconds. Once shooting, waiting isn’t an issue either – the G12 clearly packs quite a punch under the hood as it manages to process Raw and JPEG capture in no time at all (the same cannot be said for some of the G12’s competitors).
Auto focus on the G12 is also refreshingly prompt and accurate. The model snaps to focus in no time at all, while the addition of a fast and accurate Tracking AF system is also welcome. Add to this an easy-to-use manual focus system and the result is a fairly complete configuration.
While the G12’s LCD doesn’t have the highest resolution on the market, it still succeeds in displaying accurate tone and detail in both composition and review. While the vari-angle element may not be to everyone’s liking, there’s no doubt that at certain times it will come in handy for almost all photographers.
One of the standout benefits of the G12 is just how easy it is to get the results that you want. The control layout is very well thought through, and the addition of the front control wheel only serves to enhance this. One gripe would possibly be that the rear control wheel sits a touch too close to the camera’s vari-angle LCD screen, although this is a problem solved by simply pulling the screen from the camera’s body. All in all, the combination of an intuitive menu system and first-class control layout make the
G12 a joy to use.
Image Quality and Value
Canon PowerShot G12 review – Image Quality
The first thing that strikes with images from the Canon G12 is the wonderful tone and dynamic range they possess. Highlights and shadows are equally covered, with no bias towards either, while exposure is reliable.
Colour is reproduced excellently with the Canon Powershot G12’s images as well, with a slight tendency towards a natural spectrum. This is, however, preferable to over saturation and can be adjusted to suit easily in post-production. While balance is also pleasingly dependable in host of different lighting conditions.
The optics of Canon G12 succeed in producing a good level of sharpness throughout the whole of the frame. Unlike some other cameras, the G12 does not overdo the sharpening in production, and the results are preferable as a result. The 10MP sensor also captures a good array of detail that, when combined with the sharpness, results in a good texture to the images.
When comparing the Raw and JPEG files from the G12, it’s noticeable that Raw files are even more naturally-coloured than JPEG. Raw files are also less contrasty than their JPEG alternatives, presumably to leave more room in post-production.
High ISO performance is excellent with the G12. Noise levels are well controlled right up towards the high-end of the camera’s settings, with ISO 1600 an eminently-useable setting. JPEG files at high-ISO settings are softer than their Raw counterparts, but its marginal and the G12 does a good job of processing the files.
Canon PowerShot G12 review – Value
The Canon PowerShot G12 hit the market with an RRP of £569, although, as is often the case with new cameras to the market, the price has swiftly fallen to a more acceptable market level of around the £450 mark. Now, considering the changes that have taken place, and the fact that you can currently purchase a G11 for around the £375 mark, there is quite a conundrum afoot. If you feel that you really need the addition of HD movie capture, then
paying the extra isn’t too much of an issue. You’ll also get the nice new control wheel, although this isn’t worth the extra money itself.
Canon G12 manual
Canon G12 manual – pdf
The Canon G12 is available to download from the Canon website
Buy a printed copy of the Canon G12 manual
Get a printed manual, or printed tests for the Canon G12 manual from the What Digital Camera camera manuals site
For general help and advice in using a DSLR, see our techniques section
Considering the leap that was made between the G10 and the G11, both with regards to specification and design tweaks, it would be easy to be disappointed with a perceived lack of evolution between the G11 and the G12. However, the Canon Powershot G11 was a fantastic camera and the Canon G12 has simply added to it in certain areas, and as such it hasn’t become a bad camera overnight. Expect to see some big changes with the next G series model, however.