Text and Photos by Allison Gibson
Canon’s latest G-series flagship compact—the PowerShot G11—features some marked improvements from its predecessor, the G10. Image quality is sharper, thanks to the cutback in megapixels to better suit the 1/1.7-inch image sensor, and low-light performance is improved, with less noise at higher ISO ranges. The lure of the G11, and its predecessors, is that it looks and feels more professional than a standard point-and-shoot (and of course, offers full manual shooting control), while at the same time offering a much more compact alternative to an interchangeable lens D-SLR or Micro Four-Thirds standard camera. This place in the market—often referred to as “prosumer”—attracts both professional photographers who want a compact second camera, and advanced amateurs looking to move into more serious gear but who aren’t yet ready for the heft, price and responsibility of a D-SLR.
What’s Different from the G10
The MSRP for the G11 is $499.99, and it remains the same also for the G10. With this new generation G series camera, Canon recognized the need to cut back on the megapixel count—going from the G10’s 14.7 down to 10MP with the G11— despite the industry’s penchant for using these ever-increasing numbers as a selling point. Though comparing the number of effective pixels may be an easy spec for consumers to swallow, jamming more and more megapixels into a sensor the size of the G10’s wasn’t doing image quality and noise control any favors.
The G11’s CCD sensor is the same as its predecessor’s, as is Canon’s DIGIC 4 Image Processor, but the G11 features a newly developed High Sensitivity System for improvements in low-light shooting. The improvements are noticeable—even in conventional settings—with higher ISOs. I tested the G10 last year at ISO 800 in a dark jazz club in Boston, only to find the captured image (unsurprisingly) teeming with noise. The G11 does much better at ISO 800, and even ISO 1600, yielding usable results with greater detail preserved. The G11 has essentially the same wide-angle 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 lens as the G10, bumping it up slightly to offer 5x optical zoom.
Let’s Get This Out of the Way—the Viewfinder is Awful
An optical (or electronic, even) viewfinder is expected by most photographers on a camera of this level, and it’s nice that the G11 includes one. However, it’s virtually useless for framing shots because the lens is in the way and the coverage is a paltry 77%. The good news is that the 2.8-inch, wide Vari-angle LCD is diverse in all of the various angles you can position it in. It’s extremely bright, making it functional even in direct sunlight, though it’s smaller than the G10’s 3-inch fixed screen. Having been basically forced to use the G11’s Vari-angle LCD exclusively, because of how bad the coverage of the viewfinder was, I found myself contorting it all kinds of ways—even holding it at 90 degrees to block people nearby from seeing exactly what I was shooting. (Which is admittedly neurotic, but comes in handy when you’re trying different settings and don’t need nosey folks next to you looking on.)
Handling the Camera
The G11, as I’ve said, feels more professional than other compact cameras. It’s heavier, larger and much sturdier with its magnesium alloy shell. You feel confident hanging it from a strap around your neck or shoulder—like you know what you’re doing. The controls on the body include: a shooting modes dial on top, which sits atop a very convenient dedicated ISO control dial; an on/off button; a zoom control; and the shutter release. To the left of those on top are the hotshoe mount for an external flash and a dial control for exposure compensation. On the back of the camera, to the right of the LCD, are: a four-way control pad for MF on/off, flash, self-timer and Macro, with a set button in the middle and a scrolling ring around the outside.
The G11 has the ability to shoot in RAW (CR2) and JPEG, and offers full Manual shooting, Aperture and Shutter Priorities and Auto mode. There are also 17 Scene modes, including: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene and Stitch Assist. It also shoots video (640×480 at 30fps). Capture is to SD/SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus card or HC MMCplus card. It offers no internal memory.
The G11 is fun to use, with impressive image quality, as was the case with the G10 before it. The major improvements are the better quality results at higher ISOs and the Vari-angle LCD, which provides a lot of freedom for getting creative angles. The most exciting thing, though, about shooting with the G11 is actually fantasizing about what the next generation of the G series will hold. Better viewfinder? Please! Full HD video? The lens control ring found in the Canon S90? Thank you! Of course, at $500, it has been argued that one might as well jump into the entry-level D-SLR market and reap the benefits of that level of image quality, lens options and overall control. One generation back, there are several such D-SLRs at a comparable price—lens kit included—such as the Nikon D40 or Canon EOS Rebel Xs. However, as I previously mentioned, an advantage of the G11 is its stealth size, and that’s something you won’t find with interchangeable lens cameras.
Canon PowerShot G11
- 4.41”W x 3.00”H x 1.90”D; 12.5 oz.
- Image Sensor:
- 10-megapixels, CCD
- Still Recording Format:
- RAW, JPG
- SD/SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus card, HC MMCplus card
- 2.8-inch LCD (461,000 pixels); Real-image optical zoom viewfinder
- Video Recording Mode:
- 640×480 (30fps)
- Exposure Metering:
- Evaluative, Center Weighted, Spot
- ISO Equivalent:
- Power Source:
- Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery NB-7L; AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC50