Canon PowerShot G16 Review – The Canon PowerShot G16 looks to continue the G series fine advanced compact tradition
The latest model is the Canon PowerShot G16, featuring 5x zoom lens and 12.1MP CMOS sensor, but faced with more competition than ever is it still the best advanced compact on the market?
Canon PowerShot G16 Review – Features
Since its introduction in 2000, Canon’s G-series has stayed at the top of its field by a continual process of evolution and improvement rather than revolutionary change, so it is no surprise that the G16 is an incremental development from last year’s Canon G15, but what is a little surprising is just how few new features have been added this time. With a cursory glance at them side-by-side it is hard to tell the two cameras apart.
The G16 retains the same optically stabilised 5x zoom f/1.8-2.8 lens, equivalent to 28-140mm, with an automatic lens cover. The lens retracts almost flush with body, giving the G16 a total depth of just 41mm, nearly a centimetre thinner than its close rival the Nikon P7800.
Also carried over from the previous model is the monitor, a fixed 7.5cm (3.0in) screen with a resolution of 922,000 dots. It has a viewing angle of almost 180 degrees and an effective anti-glare coating, but we can’t help but wish that it was articulated.
The last standard G-series model to feature a twist-and-flip screen was the G12 in 2010. The large-sensor G1 X has an articulated monitor, so we have to assume that Canon has left this feature off the latest G-series cameras to protect sales of the G1 X, despite that camera’s age. If so then it’s a shame that a marketing decision has removed a useful feature that would have improved the G16.
The Canon G16 also retains the optical viewfinder that is one of the key selling points of the G-series. It’s not a particularly brilliant finder, with a rather tunnel-like view and no data display or focus confirmation, but it has dioptric correction and it does zoom in sync with the lens, and after all any optical viewfinder is better than an electronic one.
There appears to be some question as to whether or not the G16 features a new sensor. It has a 1/1.7in 12.1-megapixel CMOS chip using back-side illumination technology for better light gathering, but what is unclear is whether the G15 had this sensor too.
What is certain is that the G16 has a new image processor, a DIGIC 6 chip offering a claimed 50 per cent increase in autofocus capture speed and improved JPEG processing, supposedly delivering better high-ISO noise reduction; we’ll take a look at that later.
Internally the Canon G16 offers mostly the same photographic features as the Canon G15, with shutter speeds of 1 – 1/4000th, although the new Star scene mode does provide an exposure of up to 250 seconds for tripod-mounted astronomical shots. There are a couple of other new shooting options, with the addition of Background Defocus in the Creative Filters mode, and a hand-held HDR shooting mode, although you’ll still need to hold the cameras very steady to use it.
Another new photography option that will be useful to enthusiasts is focus peaking, which lets you fine-tune manual focusing by highlighting the sharpest areas of a scene.
The main new feature that the Canon G16 adds is Wi-Fi and smartphone connectivity, which is an increasingly popular feature among high-end compacts from all manufacturers. It’s not quite as comprehensively integrated as Samsung’s innovative system, but by downloading and installing a free app on your iPhone or Android handset you can copy and share photos, or add GPS location data to your saved images.
The G16 can also connect to a home Wi-Fi network, allowing wireless downloading of pictures, instant backup to Canon iMage Gateway or Flickr, or printing via a network printer. You can also share photos directly with other Wi-Fi-equipped Canon cameras.
The G16’s video mode has also received a minor upgrade, with the addition of a full HD 60fps mode, providing smother recording of fast-moving subjects, and in-camera video transcoding. The automatic wind noise filter has also supposedly been improved, although we couldn’t spot much difference.
Canon PowerShot G16 Review – Design
As noted previously, the design of the Canon G16 is virtually identical to the Canon G15. The body is slightly taller, with a panel seam around the top plate, presumably to make room for the Wi-Fi transceiver, and the handgrip is a bit more rounded but other than that everything is in pretty much the same place, including the distinctive overlapping control dials on the top panel.
The design of the G16 is as much a product of evolution as its feature set, and it shows. The camera is a pleasure to use, with comfortable handling, well-designed controls and a menu interface that is quick and intuitive to use.
The build quality is exemplary; the body is mostly metal, with only the top plate made of plastic, and for such a feature-packed camera it is surprisingly light and compact.
Battery and card
The battery and card hatch is solidly mounted on a metal hinge, and another hinged hatch on the side covers the USB and HDMI sockets as well as a socket for an optional remote shutter release switch.
The front handgrip is a bit on the small side, but it has a textured rubber coating and combined with the rear thumb-rest it provides a comfortable and secure grip. All of the main controls can be used while operating the camera one-handed.
The pop-up flash mounted on the top plate to the left of the viewfinder is also a bit on the small side, and not quite as far from the lens as we’d like, but it has a decent range and the camera does have a hot shoe to mount an external flashgun. It has full metering dedication with a range of Canon Speedlites.
The lens bezel can be removed by pressing a button on the front of the camera body, revealing a bayonet-style mounting that is used to attach several other accessories, including a 1.4x teleconverter and a filter adaptor with a 58mm thread.
Canon PowerShot G16 Review – Performance
The G16 ably demonstrates that large and complex cameras don’t have to be slow. It can start up, extend the lens, focus and take a picture in approximately 1.8 seconds, which is nice and quick, and in JPEG fine mode the shot-to-shot time is a consistent 1.3 seconds, which is also fast.
Even better, in raw plus JPEG mode it only slows down a little, with a shot-to-shot time of approximately 1.5 seconds. In continuous shooting mode it’s even faster; in JPEG mode it can shoot at an impressive 12.2 frames per second for five frames, and then continuing at 5.7 frames per second, and even faster if the monitor is turned off or higher compression is used.
Compare these figures to the Nikon P7800 that we recently tested and you’ll see why we were disappointed with that camera’s poor performance.
The autofocus system is also excellent, focusing quickly and accurately even in very low lighting conditions. In auto mode the camera features automatic subject tracking AF, which is so good it’s almost creepy. You can watch on the monitor as it evaluates and recognises subjects within the frame and focuses on them, and then tracks them as they move or if you move the camera. It also has face recognition, with an editable file of frequently seen faces.
The improved video recording mode is good, and the new 60fps frame rate mode does give excellent results on moving subjects such as fast-flowing water, but the built-in stereo microphones still suffer from a lot of wind noise when shooting outdoors.
The battery duration is surprisingly good considering that the G16 is powered by a relatively puny 920mAh li-ion rechargeable. Canon claims around 360 shots on a full charge, and our experience would seem to bear this out; although the battery indicator did drop to one bar after just 280 shots, it managed another 60-odd before it finally expired.
Canon PowerShot G16 Review – Image Quality
As with the design and features, the G16’s overall image quality is very similar to that of the G15, which is not too surprising since it has the same lens and a near-identical sensor and processor.
Colour and White Balance
Colours are rich and vibrant in standard mode, bold and well saturated in vivid mode and neutral and naturalistic in neutral mode. Unlike many cameras it plays no favourites, and all colours are rendered with equal clarity. Automatic white balance is reliably accurate, and the new multi-area white balance mode, available only in Smart Auto, achieves the seemingly impossible and copes with multiple light sources with different colour temperatures.
The G16 is unsurprisingly capable in this area, the evaluative coping with high-contrast back-lit scenes just as readily as softly-lit portraits. The large back-illuminated sensor does just what it was designed to do, providing above average dynamic range, and the automatic DR correction option helps to improve shadow detail in very high contrasts conditions. There’s also the HDR option if that’s not enough, and if you’re shooting in the 16-bit raw mode you can comfortably pull out at least two stops of extra shadow detail before noise becomes a problem.
The reason that so many high-end cameras only have around 12 megapixels, when the latest pocket snapshot cameras can boast more than 20, is that fewer photocells means larger photocells, and that means more dynamic range and colour depth. Resolution isn’t everything, and with its improved contrast, sophisticated processing and pin-sharp lens the G16 produces a level of detail that surpasses most compacts with more actual pixels.
I’ve seen some cameras recently that can produce excellent images at absurdly high ISO settings, but the G16 isn’t one of them. It’s far from bad though; from 80 – 800 ISO there are no problems at all, and images are pin-sharp and noise-free. From 1600 – 6400 noise appears and grows steadily worse, and the 12,800 ISO maximum setting is dangerously close to cheap webcam territory, but as long as you’re aware of this and try to avoid the higher settings you won’t have any serious noise problems.
The G16’s lens is not only very fast, it’s also extremely sharp right across the frame. There was a tiny bit of corner blurring at the extreme wide angle end and minimum aperture, but stopping down to f/5.6 made it go away. There’s no trace of chromatic aberration either. If only all zoom lenses were this good.
Canon PowerShot G16 Review – Verdict
The PowerShot G16 further reinforces the position of Canon’s G-series as the standard by which all other advanced compacts must be judged. It is fast, light, easy to use, exceptionally well made, packed with features and offers excellent image quality and performance.
If you’re looking for an advanced compact for hobby photography, or as a lighter camera to use alongside your DSLR then it remains one of the best choices on the market. In fact the only reason not to buy one is if you already own a G15, because apart from the addition of Wi-Fi smartphone connectivity and a slightly faster processor it is a very similar camera.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of sample images captured with the Canon G16. For a full range, including a full series of ISO test shots, head over the the Canon G16 review sample image gallery.
Eleven months after announcing the PowerShot G15, Canon has unveiled its successor in the form of the Canon PowerShot G16. Claimed to bring a new level of image quality and performance to the manufacturers advanced compact range, it appears no different from its forerunner in terms of design, however plenty of development has taken place under the hood that’s worthy of closer inspection.
The Canon PowerShot G16 features a very similar design the the PowerShot G15.
With a completely new 12.1MP 1/1.7in High Sensitivity CMOS sensor at its heart, the Canon PowerShot G16’s chip is partnered alongside the company’s new DIGIC 6 image processor that enables the camera to offer breathtaking shooting speeds, with superfast sustained continuous shooting of up to 9.3fps. Speed improvements have also been made to autofocus, which is now claimed to be 41% quicker than the previous Canon PowerShot G15.
The rear of the Canon PowerShot G16 will be a familiar place for G-Series users.
Just like the G15, the Canon PowerShot G16 features a super-bright 5x optical zoom lens (28-140mm) with f/1.8-2.8 variable aperture that enables you to shoot at f/2.8 at its maximum 140mm focal length.
The 5x optical zoom is equivalent to 28-140mm in 35mm terms.
Keeping it synonymous with the PowerShot G-Series, the G16 offers full manual control from the top plate and is built with a robust aluminum body that’s fractionally slimmer than its predecessor. Full HD (1920×1080) 60p movie recording with stereo sound is another new feature on G16 that’s never been seen before on a G-Series compact, and in keeping with Canon’s push to make all of their products better connected, Wi-fi functionality is available to post images on social media channels or via portable devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Full manual control is available from the G16’s mode dial on the top plate.
Supporting Raw and JPEG file formats, the Canon PowerShot G16 is also out to appeal to those interested in astronomy photography with a new Star mode that’s been specially developed to make it easier for beginners to capture star trails and starry skies. Three different pre-sets can be chosen from including, Star Nightscape, Star Trails and Star Time-lapse movie. The other new creative filter to be added os Background Defocus, which takes two shots in quick succession before identifying the subject and merging it with a blurred background.
Spot the differences. The G16 is virtually identical to the G15 in terms of design.
Other benefits of the Canon Powershot G16 include Focus Peaking, 3in LCD display and Intelligent Image Stabilizer with 5-axis movie stabilizsation.
The G16 (left) has an identical top plate design to the G15(right).
Expected to hit the shelves and online retailers from late September, the Canon PowerShot G16 will cost £529.