Now that Canon has introduced the PowerShot G11 as its top range compact digital, the G10 can no longer claim that distinction. Both cameras share a strong physical resemblance, 5x optical zooms that start at 28mm and 1/1.7" sensors.
The G10 packs 14.7 megapixels on its sensor and sports a 3.0 inch LCD monitor while the G11 makes do with 10 megapixels and a 2.8 inch articulating monitor.
Since when does a lower resolution sensor and a smaller monitor (even one that twists) represent progress? Well, in compact digital camera land, sometimes less is more.
When DCR wrung out the PowerShot G10 in November 2008, reviewer David Rasnake found "...that noise is visible almost immediately (certainly by ISO 200) at lower sensitivities; if you're a stickler for such things, the G10's soft edges at ISO 100 and 200, even, will undoubtedly have you up in arms."
David went on to note that "...it's easy to make up for the Canon's lack of sharpness at higher ISOs by downsampling, assuming you're not printing larger than 8x10.
The other side of that argument, though, is that it might have been just as easy to build the G10 as an 8 megapixel camera with class-leading low noise that produces the same effective results in terms of noise and sharpness at 8x10."
Sounds like Canon has decided to go for the low noise edge of the performance envelope by dropping resolution on the G11 while retaining physical sensor size.
The G11 has joined me on the road on a swing through the southwest, midwest and south before returning home to the west coast. So far, shutter lag seems very good and auto focus acquisition times seem on a par with other cameras in the class. Image quality and color look to be typical Canon compact digital - that is to say good and accurate. The camera can shoot RAW, RAW/JPEG or JPEG for still images; somewhat surprisingly a 640x480 video resolution is as good as it gets in that arena.
In addition to the articulating monitor, the G11 is equipped with an electronic viewfinder with diopter adjustment for eyesight. However, coverage of the viewfinder is about 77% - not accurate at all for image composition. In the photo of the picture on the wall I cropped the image through the viewfinder so the edges of the picture frame just touched the edges of the viewfinder. The resulting image has significant borders around the picture frame that were not apparent through the viewfinder.
So, very early into the shooting experience with the G11 it looks to focus and shoot in a timely fashion, and produce nice images. The viewfinder is not so hot and the ISO performance... let's just say we're cautiously optimistic the lower resolution will do nothing but good in that regard, and our hats are off to Canon for taking a step backward from the megapixel race. A lot more shooting is in store for the G11, and we'll have the final verdict down the road a bit - literally and figuratively.