Canon's ever-popular PowerShot G series see major changes in both the LCD and sensor configuration, but does it do enough to justify it's substantial price tag? What Digital Camera puts the Canon PowerShot G11 through its paces...
Features & Design
Canon PowerShot G11 review – Features
One of the standout changes made to the G11 is the aforementioned sensor resolution dip to 10MP. In a first for the G series, Canon has opted to reduce the resolution rather than increase it. This is a refreshing change and is being seen more and more in the compact market – it seems as though the message that megapixels aren’t the be-all and end-all with regards to image quality is finally getting through to both the public and manufacturers alike.
The G11 sports the same 1/1.7in CCD sensor as its predecessor, but now boasts a resolution of 10MP effective. The fact is that Canon has shed nearly five megapixels from the 14.7MP G10, and rightly so – when the resolution of the G10 was announced, questions were asked as to whether it could actually effectively manage such a high resolution on, in effect, a small sensor.
Canon claims that this reduction in resolution means improved low-light performance, a claim further supported by the sensor being twinned with the DIGIC 4 processor. Canon also offers a new maximum ISO 3200, extended right up to 12800 in reduced 2.5MP mode – a sign of confidence for low-light performance.
The G11 also features a new addition in the shape of its LCD screen. While recent models in the G series have seen a fixed LCD screen housed on the rear of the camera, the G11 is fitted with a 2.8in vari-angle LCD; a feature not seen since the G6. The LCD pulls away from the camera’s body 180° on a vertical axis, and then rotates around 270° on a horizontal axis. The LCD screen itself boasts a 461k-dot resolution that is beyond many a compact camera and safely competes against its high-spec peers.
Outside of the two headline changes, much of the G11 specification remains the same. The model boasts a 5x optical zoom (28-140mm in 35mm equivalent terms) with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 – f/4.5. The lens benefits from Canon’s Optical Image Stabilisation, promising blur-free images throughout the range, too. The model boasts full manual control, as well as two custom settings for saving commonly used configurations. The G11 supports both Raw and JPEG capture (including both together simultaneously), while movie capture is also supported, though HD video is not yet featured. The emphasis isn’t solely on manual control – the G11 benefits from Canon’s iSAPS (intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space) technology, and as such offers an intelligent auto mode complete with scene recognition. It also features face detection technology, allowing ‘FaceSelf-Time’ and ‘Face Select and Track’ shooting technologies, plus Canon’s ‘blur-beating Motion Detection Technology’, while i-Contrast helps optimise dynamic range to retain detail in shadows and highlights.
Other features of the G11 remain from previous models in the series and will no doubt please devotees of the range. The model sports an optical viewfinder, albeit a very small one that’s difficult to view as effectively as some other cameras. Thanks to the hotshoe atop the camera, the G11 can be used in conjunction with Canon’s range of Speedlite flashguns too.
Canon PowerShot G11 review – Design
Retro design features that made the G10 a favourite remain – the G11 sports a solid rotating mode dial substantially raised from the body of the camera, while underneath it is a dial of slightly larger circumference which controls ISO settings. Located on the top of the camera’s top plate is another solid metal dial which controls exposure compensation between -2 and +2. Due to the reasonably heavy build of the camera, it’s important to be able to garner a strong grip when in use. This can be an issue when the articulating LCD is against the body, because the tight cluster of operating buttons and control wheel means that it’s all too easy to accidentally press undesired buttons. However, when operating the G11 with the LCD screen pulled away from the body of the camera, the space left behind is more than ample for a comfortable hold.
One issue that is not resolvable is the inadequacy of the optical viewfinder – it’s far too small to be much use when shooting, other than in particularly troublesome lighting conditions.Another element of the design which doesn’t sit entirely comfortably is the shutter release. The button itself is raised from the camera’s body and its travel from unpressed to half-pressed to enable focusing is loose, meaning that it’s a touch difficult to differentiate when the camera is actually focused, and applying a little extra pressure to try to confirm autofocus can often result in accidentally taking a photo. Though in the grand scheme of things this is just one of those small niggles that’s definitely manageable.