Since digital cameras were first developed in the late 1980s, sensor resolution has increased continuously every year, and almost every new camera or update of an existing model has featured a more powerful sensor. However there's a point at which simply adding more megapixels ceases to have any real benefit, and in fact can have a negative effect. Cramming more photocells onto a tiny compact camera sensor means those photocells have to be smaller, and are therefore less efficient at capturing light, especially at low light levels, leading to reduced dynamic range and more noise at higher ISO settings.
The the camera manufacturers have spent millions on marketing to convince us that more megapixels means a better camera, which makes it a very it's a brave decision by Canon to buck the trend and actually reduce the sensor resolution of its flagship compact camera, the new PowerShot G11. The previous model, the PowerShot G10, had a 14.7-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CCD sensor and was widely criticised for its inferior image quality. Canon has listened to critics and to feedback from users, and for for the G11 the sensor resolution has been reduced to 10.0 megapixels on the same sized chip, with increased pixel pitch and improved light sensitivity. Canon is obviously hoping that sacrificing of image size for better quality pays off.
The PowerShot G series has been the flagship of Canon's compact camera range since 2000, and has always been a popular choice with enthusiast and semi-pro photographers. The G11 shares many of its features with the G10, including its 5x zoom image-stabilised f/2.8-f/4.5 lens (equivalent to 28-140mm). The body design is also very similar to the previous model, with a tough metal and plastic shell, large chunky controls and a comfortable textured handgrip. The G11 is never going to win any beauty contests, but the design has a functional ruggedness that will appeal to the more serious photographer. This is not the kind of camera that is ever going to be available in pink.