I have always loved small enthusiast cameras like the iconic Rollei 35S and the innovative Contax T2. Before the advent of affordable digital SLRs, little enthusiast point and shoot (P&S) digital cameras were the driving force behind the exponential expansion of the digital imaging revolution. Canon's "G" models have always been aimed squarely at demanding photographers who want a responsive and relatively compact, general-use P&S digital camera with SLR-like performance and dependably excellent image quality. Canon's G series digital cameras are also well known for the loyalty of their users. The new Canon Powershot G16 won't sully that enviable reputation.
Build and Design
The new G16 is Canon's newest flagship point & shoot digicam taking almost all of its features from the Canon G15. At first glance the G16 is identical to its predecessor, but under the hood, there have been a few changes. First, a new 12.1 megapixel (backside illuminated) 1/1.7" CMOS sensor has had a minor upgrade. Next up in the brief chain of differences, is a new DIGIC VI processor. The final difference between the G15 and the G16 is the addition of built-in Wi-Fi capability--which is fast becoming a near ubiquitous camera feature.
When Canon introduced the G series in 2000 it was seen by its designers as the natural digital backup for Canon's pro DSLR and film SLR shooters and it is must be rather comforting to users that the external design of this series has changed very little since the introduction of the G1.
The G16 is a robustly built compact P&S digital camera. It features a rather retro looking rectangular body with slightly rounded corners. This camera is a bit larger and a little heavier than the average compact P&S digicam measuring 4.2"x 3.0"x1.58" and weighing about 12.5 ounces. The G16 fits nicely in a jacket pocket or s small purse, but it isn't likely you'll be able to get it into the back pocket of your Levi's.
Ergonomics and Controls
The Canon G16 could easily be the poster child for well-designed P&S cameras. Ergonomically, this camera was obviously designed by photographers, for photographers. The G16 features a shallow hand grip matched with a back deck thumb-grip for stable and non-fatiguing handling. This camera fits naturally and comfortably into your hands and all controls are logically placed and easily accessed by right-handed shooters.
As a veteran photographer, I know that a well thought out control array makes the shooters job easier. All of the G16's important controls are traditional buttons, switches, knobs, and dials. This allows users to instantly access what they wish to adjust, change, or modify rather than having to search for those options in the menu. A prime example is the top deck exposure compensation dial. With most P&S digital cameras the exposure compensation function is lost in the menu somewhere and after you find and enable this function--you still have to dial in the precise amount of compensation that you need. This method is time consuming and inefficient and could easily cause you to miss an important shot.
The G16 places the exposure compensation dial so that users can directly (and instantly) dial in whatever compensation they feel the image needs by simply shifting their right thumb to the edge of the perfectly placed dial. What isn't included is just as important as what is. You won't find an articulated LCD screen (the G16's screen is fixed) which is only truly useful for macro work and you won't find any touchscreen controls either--the G16 was designed for traditionalist photographers.
The G16's back deck is dominated by the LCD screen and features the majority of this camera's controls, but there is no sense of clutter. I love the placement of the review button (immediately to the right of the optical viewfinder eyepiece) since most P&S digital cameras place this often used control too close to the delete button. This well thought out placement allows photographers to immediately access the image they've just captured without risking accidentally deleting the image or mistakenly changing any exposure parameters. Here's another example of Canon's dedication to photographers--the * button (just above and to the right of the compass switch) permits users to directly access and adjust the aperture and shutter speed--making minor exposure adjustments quick and easy.
Menus and Modes
The G16 features Canon's classic menu system. Some manufacturers use a variety of menu systems, depending on the type of camera and the targeted audience. Canon developed a distinctive (and very logical) menu system early in the game and they use this same basic menu system on all their cameras--varying only the complexity. This design philosophy means that someone graduating from one of Canon's P&S digital cameras to the new "M" camera or a Rebel DSLR is already familiar and comfortable with the menu system. Users select shooting modes via the top deck Mode dial and the one touch (stop/start) movie button. Shooting modes include Auto, Program, Scene, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and manual exposure modes, plus two custom modes, two mode dial scene modes, and the HD movie mode.
The Canon PowerShot G16 features a 3.0 inch TFT LCD monitor with 922,000 pixel resolution. The G16's LCD screen is bright, sharp, and hue accurate - what you see on the LCD screen when you compose your image is what you record when you push the shutter button. Some folks will complain that the G16's LCD screen doesn't tilt or swivel, but I rarely use articulated screens when this feature is present, so I wasn't upset that the G16's screen is fixed. Canon's LCD anti-glare/anti-reflection coating is first rate making this camera easily usable even in bright outdoor lighting--although glare can still be a problem in some outdoor environments.
The G16 does provide an optical viewfinder. Optical viewfinders on Point and Shoot cameras are becoming a real rarity and the one on the G16 makes the reason for obliteration glaringly obvious. The real-image zooming unit that graces the G16 is small and rather dim, but it is available if needed and users may find it useful in bright outdoor lighting when the sun falls directly;on the LCD viewfinder and they don't have an extra hand for shielding the screen. The viewfinder in the G16 is the same one that is found on the G15.
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