Canon PowerShot G11

Though it doesn't offer features like an interchangeable lens or a tiny size, the Canon PowerShot G11 still delivers a good shooting experience for photography enthusiasts. Plus it's the only model that includes an optical viewfinder.


7.7
CNET Rating
8.7
User Rating

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It really feels as though Canon's trying to recapture the past, or at least make up for some possibly poor decisions it's made over the past few years. For instance, though in many ways it bears little resemblance to the five-year-old PowerShot G6, that was the last G-series model with an articulated LCD, a feature beloved by many of the series' fans. And though last year's G10 jumped to 14.7 megapixels, bringing with it an increase in noise — anathema to the pixel peepers who play with these models — the new PowerShot G11 drops back to the 10-megapixel resolution of the several-generations-old G7. And these choices seem to pay off.

Design and features

With the same body, a similarly sized sensor, and the same lens as its predecessor, it's unsurprising that the G11 looks and feels almost identical to the G10. Keeping with its historical design, the metal body feels quite solidly constructed. As with the G10, we wish the grip were just a tad larger; the thumb rest feels kind of slippery and we never feel absolutely secure shooting one handed. While it's not nearly as sleek as a lot of the enthusiast models coming out these days, such as the Olympus E-P series or Canon's own S90, the larger size does allow the G11 to accommodate a sizeable, useful optical viewfinder and big, easy-to-turn dials.

Shooting with the G11 feels as quick, fluid, and comfortable as you'd expect from its class. The camera retains the four-way switch (for setting manual focus, macro, flash, and drive mode) with a Function/Set button nested inside the navigational scroll wheel on the back. Last year, I said of the G10's similar controller, "Like the G9 and the G7 before it, the G10 uses a four-way switch plus Set/Function button, which is surrounded by a scroll wheel. I love the scroll wheel, but find I tend to accidentally hit one of the Manual focus, macro, drive mode, or flash switch when I'm trying to press the middle button." Canon seems to have tweaked the design of the wheel, and I find it even more troublesome: now I frequently press one of the switches while I'm scrolling as well. It's especially difficult to control in cold weather with numb fingers. And in movie capture mode, scrolling the wheel turns on the how-often-could-you-possibly-want-to-do-this Color Accent feature; given how easy it is to accidentally scroll, shooting videos can be pretty annoying.

Canon stacks the mode dial inside the ISO sensitivity dial for right-hand operation and has an exposure compensation dial on the left. In addition to giving the camera a retro feel, the dials on the G10 are really practical and much faster to use than even direct-access buttons, which always require at least some navigation. There's also a new Quick Shot mode, which provides an interactive control panel interface that's become common on dSLRs. Unfortunately, Quick Shot mode is a semiautomatic program mode that activates continuous autofocus and face detection, so you can't access this panel while shooting in shutter- or aperture-priority or manual modes. (And leaving the camera in continuous AF mode is a great way to drain the battery.)

Features that we've liked for generations thankfully remain: a built-in neutral-density filter, two slots on the mode dial for custom settings, capability to change the size of the AF area, a hot shoe, exposure lock, raw support, and the bayonet adapter mount for add-on lenses. Still, it takes a hit for what it doesn't have: decent video capabilities. VGA at 30fps without optical zoom doesn't cut it these days. (You can download the PDF manual for a full accounting of the G11's features and operation.)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Canon PowerShot G10 Canon PowerShot G11 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
12 megapixel Live MOS 14.7 megapixel CCD 10 megapixel CCD 10.1 megapixel CCD
3-inch fixed 3-inch articulated 2.8-inch articulated 3-inch fixed
1280x720 AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 640x480 H.264 MOV 640x480 H.264 MOV 848x480 Motion JPEG MOV

Performance

Performance is roughly equivalent to its predecessor; it's above average for its class, but still a bit slower than we think people should get for a camera in its price range. CNET Labs' testing shows time to first shot is 2 seconds, slower than before. In bright light, a relatively quick focus helps keep the shutter lag to a zippy-for-its-class 0.4 second. In dim light, that increases to a 0.7 second, about 0.1 second faster than the G10. Two shots in a row have a relatively large 2.5-second gap between, however, slower than the past couple of generations, and adding flash recycle bumps that to a not-very-speedy 2.9 seconds. Continuous shooting drops to 1.1fps, down from the G10's 1.4fps. As before, though the AF system is pretty responsive, no one would confuse this with an SLR. The 2.8-inch LCD is big and bright; it's a hair smaller than the G10's but you don't really notice, and thanks to the flip-and-twist design, it's really useful.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot Raw shot-to-shot time Typical shot-to-shot time Shutter lag (dim) Shutter lag (typical)
Canon PowerShot G11
2
2.5
2.5
0.7
0.4
Canon PowerShot G10
1.3
2.5
2.2
0.8
0.4
Canon PowerShot S90
1.8
3.4
1.82
0.6
0.5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
0.8
0.9
0.7
0.6
0.5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
1.9
1.9
1.86
1.1
0.6
Olympus E-P1
3
2.7
1.9
1.6
1.3

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Image quality

When it comes to image quality, the drop in resolution seems to be worth the trade-off; the G11's photos display far less noise above ISO 200 than the G10's.

Canon PowerShot G11 compared to G10

Thanks to the drop in resolution, the G11's photos display significantly less noise than the G10's. The trade-off is that at ISO 80 and ISO 100, where both cameras are relatively noise-free, you lose the extra resolution the G10 provided. Overall, though, the G11 delivers more-accurate colours as well. (Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

Photos look clean at ISO 80 and ISO 100, but softening begins at ISO 200. At ISO 400 you can begin to see some degradation in detail, in addition to the softness, and by ISO 800 there's enough blue-channel noise to produce some yellow splotches. ISO 400 was a bit disappointing for this class of camera, especially given the drop in resolution. There's still sufficient detail for a lot of scenes, but you also see the yellow blotches and some white pixels from the noise suppression.

Depending upon scene content, ISO 800 shots may be usable scaled down a bit. Switching to raw at high-ISO sensitivities didn't help much (processing using either Adobe Camera Raw or Canon's Digital Photo Pro); the JPEGs are fairly well optimised.

Canon PowerShot G11 noise chart

There are no surprises in the G11's noise profile. Photos look clean at ISO 80 and ISO 100, while softening begins at ISO 200. At ISO 400 you can begin to see some degradation in detail, in addition to the softness, and by ISO 800 there's enough blue-channel noise to produce some yellow splotches. (Credit: Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET)

Colour and exposures are great, and perhaps a tad better than before. There's some typical wide-angle distortion at the 28mm-equivalent maximum, but photos have very good centre and edge-to-edge sharpness at longer focal lengths.

Canon PowerShot G11 sharpness

The G11 renders pretty sharp details (1/100, f4.5, ISO 200, AWB, evaluative metering, ISO 200, 140mm equivalent) (Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

Conclusion

There are lots of reasons to opt for the Canon PowerShot G11 over the sleeker, slightly less expensive S90, including the optical viewfinder, articulated LCD, hot shoe, add-on lens support, and longer zoom. That makes it frustrating that the lens on the S90 is better in some ways, such as its wider maximum aperture. And while it doesn't have the cachet of one of the newer interchangeable-lens models, it doesn't have the price tag, either, and like those, it still admirably fulfills the promise of being a camera worth toting when a dSLR is too clunky.

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cara posted a comment   

The Good:easy to use interface, modes

The Bad:a little heavy for a compact

I love this camera. It's a great transition between ultra-compact and SLR. It has a super easy-to-use manual mode that sold me. I also like the swiveling lcd screen and flexible resolutions and mode-switching.

J Cordier
8
Rating
 

J Cordier posted a review   

The Good:Build quality (feels solid) image quality for compact

The Bad:A little heavy, dials necessarily small

Coming from 35mm SLRs to digital, on a budget, i missed the control over photos of most compacts. This is the closest thing to a `real' camera i have found for the size/price. A brilliant travel camera. Gladly swap the 10x zoom of others for the quality of this.

Shekell
9
Rating
 

Shekell posted a review   

The Good:Everything

The Bad:Eye Hole, Too Small

Bought in USA and took 1200 + Video of Baja 1000. Robust, took a beating in Desert, great battery.
All too easy

 

iKo posted a comment   

Hey guys, I'm searching a digital camera (Not DSLR) and I don't know what to buy. Cause I have 2 options; Canon G11 & Nikon P6000... What will you suggest ?

Thanks

Jared
9
Rating
 

Jared posted a review   

The Good:The best compact I have ever used and it rivels my older DSLRs. Great photos in almost all situations. Full auto works like a charm. Photos great up to ISO 400, ISO 800-1600 very usable for everyday shooting. AWB works very well but goes very warm in mixed lighting. Swivel screen is great addition. Auto focus works great and is much faster then the LCD screen can show.

The Bad:Manual controls a bit slow to respond to user input. Low light setting is fairly useless as the normal settings do far better. The swivel screen seems not as robust as it could be. Movie mode just SD.

I'm not sure what to say but wow. 1 week, 400 photos and my DSLRs have just sat in my bag. This is deffinatly a photographers camera. The tilt and swivel screen works great for street photography, macro and just about everything else.

By far the best images I have ever seen at high ISOs from compacts. I use Noise Ninja for noise removal and I have made good images all the way up to ISO 3200 which I have never seen from a compact. The in camera B/W setting surprised me by taking very good images straight out of the camera. Raw is Raw and for my main use of the camera I like the Jpg better. Speed of camera is very very good for a compact as well. I have to work at getting it to bog down with JPGs (Raw is much slower).

The one thing I have noticed is that the Auto ISO pushes higher sooner then it needs to. I do wish it had more user controls that could set the ISO and Shutter speed like Nikon uses so it stays at lower ISOs longer. I find my self using the dials to set my ISOs and taking a second shot quite a bit more than expected because of this.

I'm not a movie buff and other than recording a bug on my coffee mug, I probably will never use it again.

Over all this is the best compact I have ever used. Noise control is much better than expected and rivals my older DSLRs. Add a good Noise reduction program (Noise Ninja, Nik, etc) and this camera comes very close to DSLR land at similar ISOs.

I use this mainly as a "travel" or "street" camera and it handles almost everything I throw at it. Low light is great. High contrast - works great. Auto focus is quick enough for just about everything. It does not replace my DSLR but it has replaced every other camera I own.

 

Karl posted a comment   

The ISO 1600 pics from this camera look quite promising.

Better than all compacts, yet not as good as dSLRs (obviously).

Too bad the pics have been taken down, but Canon claims that those pics are not from the final version of the G11, and we may expect something better still. :)




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User Reviews / Comments  Canon PowerShot G11

  • cara

    cara

    "I love this camera. It's a great transition between ultra-compact and SLR. It has a super easy-to-use manual mode that sold me. I also like the swiveling lcd screen and flexible resolutions and mod..."

  • J Cordier

    J Cordier

    Rating8

    "Coming from 35mm SLRs to digital, on a budget, i missed the control over photos of most compacts. This is the closest thing to a `real' camera i have found for the size/price. A brilliant travel ca..."

  • Shekell

    Shekell

    Rating9

    "Bought in USA and took 1200 + Video of Baja 1000. Robust, took a beating in Desert, great battery.
    All too easy"

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