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Canon PowerShot G11 review

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9

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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.

Caleb9ce

December 11, 2009, 4:34 am

The video resolution (60x480) on page 3 is surely a typo.

lifethroughalens

December 11, 2009, 4:46 am

Nice review. I've been really quite tempted with one of these as a pocket point and shoot, however I was shocked to see no HD video recording (720p at least, surely?!) and the absolute killer - no use of the optical zoom whilst recording. These are pretty basic features that should be included in a camera of this price range and capability.





I know the zoom noise would be picked up by the mic when recording, but that's hardly a reason for not including the feature. Apart from those strange omissions, I love all the manual controls and it looks like the first 'compact' that can produce images that i'd be happy with. Great product.

Frankf9d

December 11, 2009, 5:36 am

Pages 6 & 7 are the same for me - the shots of the cathedral.





Tension mounts, praying the harbour is used again, okay, I quite like the bus station newsagents.

Noodles

December 11, 2009, 2:18 pm

Cliff, you have forgotten to mention the build quality has taken a nosedive since the G10. The top plate and the whole rear of the camera is now plastic fantastic, and has a cheap to the touch smooth finish, unlike the G10's magnesium build. I've handled both at the same time and there is a noticeable difference.





What Canon giveth with one hand...

red hot sheep

December 11, 2009, 2:27 pm

Since when do megapixels equal power?!

Simon 8

December 11, 2009, 3:07 pm

Such a shame that it still only has 640x480 video!

Jay Werfalli

December 11, 2009, 3:44 pm

@Caleb - typo fixed!

piesforyou

December 11, 2009, 4:21 pm

When you compare the exeter cathedral window shots side by side, it seems that the G10 shows a lot more detail. Although the lighting conditions are clearly different, the G10 does seem to pick up the texture of the stone a lot better and the wire is a LOT clearer. So, reducing pixels may be good for noise but not for detail!

Mike Brown

December 11, 2009, 4:52 pm

The so-called 'barrel distortion' exhibited by the concrete blockwork picture is surely just true geometric perspective. Straight edge features going off to vanishing points are only straight to a first approximation. The picture looks just about exactly true for me.

Jay Werfalli

December 11, 2009, 6:52 pm

Hi all - extra pics added!

HarryGlass

December 11, 2009, 8:03 pm

@lifethroughalens: Good luck getting that beast into your pocket! This is not a pocket carry around camera, it's just too big & heavy. It's a backup camera for those who don't want to carry an SLR around with them. As for video, it's a nice to have feature of course, but this camera is aimed at people who are seriously into photography, for your needs it sounds like something like the S90 is what you want. Smaller, less controls, but almost as good quality (so they say, not used one).





I feel these reviews are skimping too much detail. This camera has a lot more to it than can be placed into 3 pages. There is also no mention of any of its contemporaries (Panasonic LX3, Ricoh GX200, Sigma DP2, etc, etc). Cliff, I feel you should make the reviews longer and list comparible cameras, as that would really help people decide if this is the right camera for them.





As for my take, this is one great camera, a great improvement as you say on the G10, but for my money I've got the LX3 which you have also raved about in the past as it takes comparible photos, is cheaper and actually is pocketable. To me this is so big you're as well to go for one of the 4/3's SLRs or the GH1.

GulfFish

December 11, 2009, 8:42 pm

The Sony sensor used in the G11 and S90 doesn't support HD video, that simple.

Marcel

December 11, 2009, 8:50 pm

Would have been great to get some comparisons with the Panasonic GF-1 as they are probably aimed at the same customer base. I was a die hard Canon fan and used to have a G9. But since I have my GF-1 I've never looked back.

Keithe6e

December 11, 2009, 10:12 pm

@Shooting in Raw mode these can be easily corrected





Why would shooting in Raw Mode prevent chromatic aberration?, my taking on Raw mode is it doesn't store them as Jpeg(lossless compress) but more of a non-lossless like (BMP), I don't think Jpeg compression makes chromatic aberration, but more the fault of the lens and how the light of different wave-lenghts are refracted.

lifethroughalens

December 11, 2009, 11:02 pm

@HK - Hey, I find my gripped 5D2's & lenses pretty easy to carry so this little sucker's tiny in comparison. I am a snapper by trade and 'seriously into photography' - but I still have to say that the poor video features is a major minus point and has no excuses. I like this model as it carries the 40D's sensor which I rate, the S90 is lovely too, but lacks manual controls and yet again lacks decent video features.





I agree that the reviews could be longer and more in depth, especially when it comes to direct comparisons with competitors efforts. In fact it would be very helpful if at the end of every single review on TR's, there was a 'You might also consider...' section.

Martin Daler

December 14, 2009, 1:33 pm

Length isn't everything - there are plenty of excellent digital photography review sites which examine cameras in exhaustive detail, which I read when I have plenty of time. But I need to be already interested in the camera anyway before I invest that sort of time reading a review. Here at TR I can surprise myself having a quick read about something I wouldn't ordinarily look at, and in three concise pages get a decent idea what it's all about. The trick is to use those three pages optimally, leaving pictures to speak for themselves and artfully prioritising the important stuff. If I miss anything in reviews generally, it is how devices play out in daily use - all those things which only shake out after you have been actually used the thing for a good few days - the measurebating detail is always out there on other review sites anyway.

alansky

December 15, 2009, 11:02 pm

The Canon G10 "was widely criticised for its inferior image quality"? Are you guys nuts? This statement is flat-out false. Perhaps the reviewer should consider doing something else for a living.

nick 18

December 19, 2009, 3:20 pm

I have had to get a G11 to replace a stolen G10 and while the G11 is technically a better camera I cannot like the plastic rear, plastic top and the smaller screen. The multi function button is smaller and harder to use. I wish canon had not changed the screen (I can live without flip out and the G10 screen was a joy to compose on) and not reduced the build quality for a negligible weight saving, just stuck to internal improvements. I loved the G10, the G11 does not inspire me.





I cannot see why anyone would be interested in video in a stills camera? Buy a video camera.

interpleb

December 21, 2009, 11:31 am

@nick: The camera has all the hardware required to record video at a decent resolution, why should I have to carry around yet another gadget just because Canon don't implement an obvious feature (that cameras half the cost can manage) in software. Yet another decent camera I might have been interested in buying gets crossed of the list.

rayaz

February 1, 2010, 11:58 am

Same here, was wanting to get this camera as it makes an ideal DSLR supplement, and in some cases a camera good enough for most duties for general use. However the fact that canon skimmed on the video is very sad. In a time when the DSLR cameras are now offering video, which indicates what the market wants, Canon either due to arrogance or ignarance cuts on the video capability of this great camera :(





The omission is two fold, for one even if the sensor is limited in doing full HD, canon could have got a high resolution as Panasonic does with its WXGA which would have been well accepted. The bigger omission is the lack of optical zoom in video mode. True the optical zoom does bring in noise into the audio recording, while the digital zoom (if you can call it zoom) does not. However i am sure any owner of this camerea would have not minded the noise intrusion or even slight lags in autofocus (as in panasonic cameras) when optically zooming. For the purist the option to use the digital zoom could be kept, that way canon could have increased it sales far greater, and i for one would have definitely been a buyer, no question on that.

Geoff BIrse

July 4, 2010, 3:10 pm

This is a great camera, but sadly the raw format that canon has decided to use on this camera means you need photoshop cs4 or cs5, and if you are like me own earlier versions and dont fancy shelling out good money to get the upgrades, then I would recommend looking elsewhere for a camera. I have a G5 camera and the raw format opens in photoshop ok, so why canon have decided to change its raw format is beyond me...anyway top tip, dont buy this canon g11

M A K

September 2, 2010, 11:35 pm

It is a very good back up camera to have and for people who want some more punch rather than just P n S this is the toy to play ,If a 13 yr. old kid is into photography my advise is to get this camera and shoot a lot of pics. With film cameras we did not have the leisure to shoot blindly every frame was precious , I do not get the idea of video into still cameras but the vendors are going with the flow , my advise to people wanting video in still cameras is buy a high end cell phone it has got all photo , video and hey ! you can make a call too ! They are featuring it in good DSLRs coz the tiny whiny ppl. want it and they have to make money. It is because 90% of the shots never ever get printed , people just store them on PC or digi frames.Having said that , I am not completely against video , but some performance models should be left for image quality only.


I just wish Canon would have increased the sensor size, made it in 12MP with more attention to lens quality and 3 inch above 900k bright LCD, more battery life and put more resources in even better image quality, because still camera means a good picture, a visual memory stored for ever , the awesome feeling of satisfaction after taking a great shot which you want to print, show to friends and want to watch over and over again is something most of you guys know.


Who knows Canon may listen (usualy they do ) , one might be landing soon.

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