- Excellent image quality
- Great ISO performance
- RAW shooting option
- Inaccurate viewfinder
- Size, weight
For years, a G-series Powershot has been the flagship of the Canon compact digital fleet – starting with the G1 about mid-year 2000, all have featured RAW and JPEG shooting formats along with full manual controls. As the line progressed, resolution predictably moved higher and new and/or additional features or upgrades to existing systems found their way into subsequent models. Last year, the PowerShot G10 hit the streets packing 14.7 megapixel resolution on a 1/1.7 inch sensor, Canon’s current generation DIGIC IV processor and a 3.0 inch LCD monitor.
Now, Canon has introduced the PowerShot G11: “Designed for those looking for a pocket-sized camera with SLR functionality, this new powerful camera is ideal for the consumer who is looking to capture beautiful landscapes and professional portraits.”
The G11 features a 10 megapixel resolution on a new 1/1.7 inch sensor and DIGIC IV processor designed as the “High Sensitivity System” for improved low light ISO performance. An articulating 2.8 inch LCD monitor joins the 5x optically stabilized zoom lens that covers the same 28-140mm focal range (35mm equivalent) as the G10. Here’s what that focal range looks like:
Automatic and full manual controls along with the traditional G-series RAW/JPEG options have been retained. The new camera accepts SD/SDHC, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus card, and HC MMCplus card memory media. Canon includes a lithium battery pack and charger, USB and A/V cables, a neck strap, and CD-ROM software with each camera.
At first blush, lower resolution on the same physical-sized sensor and a smaller monitor (even one that swivels) might seem like a step backward in a market that seems wedded to the principle of more and bigger. But when criticism was directed at the G10 (not very often) it tended to concern ISO noise performance that some found less than stellar. One quick way to improve noise performance is to increase the physical size of the sensor while retaining the same level of resolution, or decrease the level of resolution while retaining sensor size. Canon’s website says “You asked, and Canon not only listened, but delivered big-time.” Let’s see if backing up is the way to get ahead.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The PowerShot G11 offers the retro look of a classic rangefinder camera, and its metal and composite body fit and finish are first rate – the camera is finished in rich-looking flat black paint. Overall size and weight remind me strongly of the Panasonic GF1 (less the 14-45mm lens). This is a large and heavy unit in relation to most 5x point and shoots.
Ergonomics and Controls
The rounded-edge, rectangular body of the G11 features a slightly built-up grip in the right front that provides a secure feel to one-handed shooting. The flash is positioned at the top left edge of the camera body and invites total or partial blockage by fingers of the left hand in two-handed holds.
The top and back of the body are covered with controls – the shooting finger falls naturally to the shutter button but the thumb lies across the menu button, control dial, metering and delete buttons on the camera back. Even so, unintended activations were not a problem with regard to still images, but movies could be a different story, as we’ll discuss later.
From a shooting standpoint, I found the G11 appealing because external controls allow quick changes to ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation and metering mode; the latter two are settings I use extensively in dealing with difficult lighting conditions.
Menus and Modes
Folks familiar with Canon compacts will feel right at home with the menu set on the G11, and newcomers to the brand will find the camera highly intuitive to manage and set up, even without benefit of the user guide. After pressing the menu button, menus or menu items are selected via the control wheel and the camera displays a brief explanation of the function of the specific item in question.
There are ten primary shooting modes:
- Auto: Camera handles all settings, user has inputs limited to image size, flash enable and self-timer.
- Low Light: An auto mode recommended for candlelit or similar scenes, with camera handling all settings, including setting ISO between 320 and 12800, and resolution to about 3 megapixels (1824 x 1368 pixels) – user inputs limited to image quality and shooting rate.
- Quick shot: An auto mode requiring use of viewfinder – camera continuously adjusts focus and exposure of subject in viewfinder, user has inputs (displayed on monitor) including white balance, my colors, image quality and size, self-timer and flash enable. Continuous focus and exposure deplete battery more quickly than other shooting modes.
- Scene: An auto mode offering 14 specific shooting scenes plus stitch assist, color swap and color accent – user inputs limited to image size, shooting rate and flash enable.
- Program auto: Camera handles shutter and aperture, user has significant inputs including white balance, my colors, exposure bracketing, flash compensation, in-camera neutral density filter, shooting rate and image size.
- Shutter priority: User sets shutter speed, camera sets aperture and user has same inputs as program auto.
- Aperture priority: User sets aperture, camera sets shutter speed and user has same inputs as program auto.
- Manual: User sets aperture and shutter, has same inputs as program auto.
- Custom1/Custom2: User can register settings of their choice that are recalled by selecting either mode, including program auto, shutter and aperture priority and manual shooting modes; items set in any of those modes; items in the shooting menu; zoom position; manual focus position and my menu items.
- Movie: Allows user to capture video at 640×480 or 320×240 pixel resolution, both at 30fps. User can also input white balance, my colors and neutral density filter enable. Movie length is limited to 4GB or 1 hour but may not reach those limits depending on the individual memory card. Canon recommends a class 4 or higher SD card.
The 2.8 inch LCD monitor on the G11 is of approximately 461,000 dot composition and offers 100% coverage; it can swing through 180 degrees and rotate along its long axis through 270 degrees. The monitor is adjustable for five levels of brightness and the ability to articulate can be of help in bright outdoor light, where the monitor can sometimes be difficult to see for image composition.
The camera has an optical view finder, but coverage is only 77% and makes the VF useless for accurate image composition – the image seen and composed through the finder does not include significant area on all sides that appear in the actual image that is captured. No data is presented on the VF screen – two small circular lights that appear in your peripheral vision when using the VF indicate when the camera has achieved focus. The VF does have a diopter adjustment for varying degrees of eyesight acuity.