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Canon PowerShot G12 - Design and Features

By Gavin Stocker



Our Score:


With a depth of 48.3mm and weight of 401g when loaded with SD card and rechargeable lithium ion battery, stylistically the PowerShot G12 is a cross between a foreshortened digital SLR and, courtesy of its trio of top plate control dials, a rangefinder camera - both of which have been placed in a compacter. Here, compatibility with the wireless Eye-Fi card has newly been added. The result is a solid, brick-like compact that rivals Nikon's P7000 for medium range DSLR-class build quality, including a vacant hotshoe for the attachment of a flash or other accessories. While this partly justifies the high-end price tag, we would have preferred a slightly larger and more comfortable handgrip for extra stability than the flattened one provided. Clearly something has been sacrificed to ensure cassette Walkman-sized proportions.

That said, with its slightly crammed looking array of dedicated buttons, wheels and output ports, the G12 is not for the faint hearted and will really only suit those who enjoy getting hands on. That, of course, is the point of a camera like this and in this regard we can have few complaints with all dials and buttons falling easily within reach, while simultaneously pressing one button and turning adjustment dials it a cinch.

A five penny piece-sized shooting mode dial is the G12's nerve centre, and is stiff enough to feel like it might need a lubricating shot of WD40. Again, no bad thing as there's nothing worse than accidentally slipping from one shooting setting to another when fetching the camera out of a bag and not noticing until you've been blazing away for a couple of minutes. This sits atop a second slightly looser dial for setting ISO speeds - again, where the rangefinder comparisons come in - which here range from ISO100 to ISO3200 in 1/3 stop increments. Modest, on the face of it, when the DSLRs offer expanded settings of ISO12800 or even ISO26500, though Low Light shooting mode extends this to a maximum ISO12800 with a resultant resolution drop. In our experience use of this setting handheld produced distinctly shaky results, in every sense.

Still, we liked the time-saving 'to hand' accessibility of these features, which normally at least require a couple of button presses to otherwise access, or at worst, necessitate the 'drilling down' into menu screens. Another case in point is the function/set button, which like on the smaller PowerShot S95, provides users with the ability to swap image aspect ratios on the fly. The default is obviously 4:3, matching that of the provided back screen, with 3:2, widescreen 16:9, 4:5, and even more unusually, 1:1 the other selectable options.

As an alternative, the optical viewfinder provided for shot composition is a little on the small side and required us to squint, so we much preferred using the larger 2.8-inch LCD. This has a respectably high resolution of 461k dots and has the advantage of being angle adjustable. Thus it can be tilted or swivelled for those otherwise impossible to get shots, such as when shooting over the heads of a crowd, or low to the crowd to create a dynamic perspective. When the G12's switched off the LCD can be 'folded' screen inwards to the body, furthering its robust feel.

Among the outwardly fussy bells and whistles we do get point and shoot functionality offered courtesy of the reliably consistent Smart Auto feature, selected from among the 11 creative, custom and fully automatic options. This 'intelligent' auto mode compares and tries to best match conditions at the time with 28 on-board parameters, selecting the most appropriate for an enhanced result. It works well when subject matter becomes more important than manual settings. Otherwise we have the standard program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting settings, plus two custom modes, scene, low light (resolution dropping to 2.5 megapixels to limit noise), video and 'Quick Shot' options.


February 3, 2011, 7:09 pm

Given the fact that a newer model normally should be better than its predecessor, this score, given by Gavin Stoker, is not as good as that given by Cliff Smith for the G11-model. Must I conclude that judging these devices mostly is a personal thing or is the G12 not as good as the G11?


February 3, 2011, 8:06 pm


No, you should conclude that the scores take into account other devices that are available on the market, and the market is changing. The consensus seems to be that the G12 is a relatively minor improvement on the G11. However the growing number of compact systems such as micro four thirds means that all in one cameras such as the G12 are harder to justify for those who want a more portable alternative to a DSLR, which I suspect makes up a large proportion of this camera's target market.

Elie Boujaoude

February 3, 2011, 8:18 pm

Canon G12 is certainly better than G11 especially the HD movies, but the competition today is different. The G12 has to compete with many more products of the same class as well as low end DSLR or SLT or Mirrorless cameras.

John Z

February 4, 2011, 12:14 pm

What we feared happened : there is not continuity between the former and the actual tester.

1 - Before, were considered "Build Quality", "Features", "Image Quality", "Value", "Overall".

Now, are considered "Design", "Features", "Performance", "Value", "Overall".

That's not the same definitions, design is not build quality, performance is not image quality.

2 - The Nikon P7000 has been marked 9 points for each of these aspects,

and the Canon G11 has been marked 9 or 10 points.

The Canon G12, which delivers the same image quality as the P7000 and the G11,

has the same features, and is not so "slow" as the P7000,

should have been marked 9 points as well, instead of 8 points.

That's absolutely abnormal.

It has nothing to do with the market,

a camera has to be marked for itself, it is good or it is bad, that's all.

And if a camera is as good as another, it has to obtain the same number of points.

And as the G12 is at least quicker that the P7000,

it has to obtain a higher number of points on "performance".

Please "review your reviews" in order to make them homogenous and fair.


February 4, 2011, 1:34 pm

I'm really disappointed in this. Too much fringing in contrast, huge blotches of noise and way to soft images. As far as stills go its not all that better then Fuji F70EXR. I expected something better then G11, able to get close to old entry level DSLr but maybe i just set the bar too high.


February 4, 2011, 4:34 pm


I think what happened is that these pics were taken in auto ISO mode, which rather defeats the purpose of this kind of camera. The full zoom pic, for example, was at ISO 640 at a speed of 1/160. Why use such a setting for a static subject?

I've seen G11 pics (taken in RAW) printed at 60x90 cm which looked amazing, and ISO 1600 pics of the same camera(again,RAW) printed in 30X40 cm which also looked beautiful. What that means is that these high-end compacts offer lots of control but do not do your work for you.You have to have a firm hand on the tiller and adjust settings according to each situation's need to get the most out of them, and, depending on the lighting, shoot RAW and post-process to get your money's worth. In a review like this it just isn't done (due to time and deadline constraints, I surmise).

I happen to use Fuji (F31fd,S100FS),Canon(G10,S95,T2I),and Sony (NEX5), so brand loyalty means squat to me. All of them are capable of excellent results, but marginal lighting will always require user intervention.

However, if you want the best possible results in the smallest package (bigger than the G12 due to the lens,though...and with less range) go for an EVIL camera.

@ Mr Stoker

May I be so bold as to suggest an ISO test setup with more detail and texture among a greater lighting range(shadow areas)? Flat expanses of blue do help to show noise, as the blue channel is usually the most prone to the problem, but a better idea of image degradation and overall quality might be better seen in a more complex setup. A full image at maximum ISO (not full-size, just web-sized) would also be helpful to better visualize actual image degradation.



February 4, 2011, 8:23 pm

I went with the G12 to complement my Sony DSLR & lens collection, Canon SX10 and other cameras because it provides great performance, image quality and build quality and it is smaller to carry around than an EVIL camera with the same zoom capability. The G12 still is excellent as a relatively smaller body/lens combination and is less expensive (with zoom lens) than a comparable EVIL (it seems to me). I agree with other reviewer comments about using a test/review setup that shows the best that a camera can do (e.g., not only when using auto ISO).


February 4, 2011, 8:25 pm

Seems like Canon is out of step with what's happening in the market. Micro 4/3's leave the G12 in the dust, too bad!


February 4, 2011, 8:43 pm

Following up... I can more easily fit the G12 into my slim briefcase (which also has business papers, etc.) than I could a more bulky form factor. I've tried traveling to business meetings with larger form-factor camera setups and end up needing a separate camera case/bag (which is not preferable for me most of the time). Not to suggest that there is anything wrong with Micro 4/3's - it's simply that the form factor plus zoom lens doesn't fit my needs as well for business travel.

John Shewsbury

February 4, 2011, 9:29 pm

First and foremost, every reviewer (or review website/blog) are runs by human and they tend to give opinion based on their personal skills/experience/knowledge. We cannot expect that all reviewer to say the same. Naturally, a very "excellent" product will surely get almost similar positive review from here and there (example; Panasonic LX3 at about 2 years ago) but it is also not impossible that some minor 2 or 3 reviewers might think otherwise. As for us reader, I think the best is to read with cautious and do more reading from other website if you think that Trusted Review did a bad job - simple as that.

As for this camera itself, my friend have it, I've tried it personally and I think overall it is still a great camera that can matched my Panasonic LX3 accordingly. Though I also personally think that there is not enough reason to upgrade if you already have the excellent Canon G11 as the only "real new thing" that I can see is the HD Movie - if you think that is really important - then the choice is yours.

I think I can understand that during the time of this review, Trusted Review or rather Mr. Gavin Stoker only give 8 points overall - you have to measure the price of this camera and other alternative within almost the same price range at that point of time as well.

He did mentioned Panasonic LX5, Canon S95 and Nikon P700 (known as sluggish snail of them all) plus the coming soon Fujifilm X100 and Olympus XZ-1 - all these cameras are basically within the same category of "high end advance compact class" and thus Gavin was comparing the G12 against all these rivals and rightly so when you look at it neutrally, the Canon G12 is seriously not that much better than the already excellent Canon G11 though obviously it is much faster than the snail Nikon P700... I don't mind the Canon G11, I think it is good enough for me, but then again, if you really really want that HD video, oh well...


February 4, 2011, 10:26 pm

@Clovis: That shot is doing this camera no favours at all. It's horrendously noisy. The advantage of a camera like this is that you'd be able to force the ISO down and use a long exposure.

As for the auto mode comments, you've got to remember that we review cameras right across the range so while it's good to have some shots that show the advantage of a camera like this, it's just as valid to show how it compares on a pure auto/snapshot level to other more basic compacts.

@All: We will continue to work with Gavin to improve the way our camera reviews are presented. All feedback is welcome. Also, apologies for the image quality score - it just got missed during subbing.


February 4, 2011, 11:02 pm


Yup, the idea is a real-life example,not an ideal one. That was taken handheld at 1/3 of a second - about the limit of what IS can help you with.Lowering ISO would have meant a tripod...not always possible.

Advanced compacts induce us to push limits (a bit too far at times...we do get the shot, but not perfectly).Seeing what they actually can and cannot do is something I believe a lot of users are curious about, so showing what borderline conditions produce may be helpful.

Maybe Olympus's new F1.8 compact might be able to grab some nice night shots - who knows?


February 4, 2011, 11:51 pm

The most dedicated Canon-lover in our very informal photo club bought a G11 to have a decent camera available for occasions when he might find himself separated from his bodies and lenses. In the course of the following year or so we noticed that he enjoyed using his G11 more than he claimed he would. He traded the G11 in for a G12 before most of us knew the G12 existed and he has been using it like crazy. When a good photographer, with seriously good DSLRs available, chooses to work so much with a bridge camera that's all I need to conclude that the bridge camera is very good. More so now I've seen a lot of G12 work, printed and on an HD TV: it's a very, very good camera. It's a shame it has got caught up in some of the strange differences of opinion we see here.


February 5, 2011, 2:06 am

I really miss Cliff's well written reviews which always were easy to read and somehow seemed to fit my own user experiences. I shoot professionally, and just love the times I get the chance to down the big cameras and use the G12. Its an absolute pleasure and brings me more joy to use than any other camera I have owned. Ive just had a magazine article published where 50 percent of the images were taken with the G12 and I would challenge anyone to determine which were taken with a DSLR and which with the G12. Printed output is just great.


February 5, 2011, 7:43 pm


Your next camera to review is Olympus XZ-1, I suspect the reviewer will recommend this one.


February 6, 2011, 4:55 pm

@Splogbust - Cliff's work has been in several magazines, does that now ruin your experience of his reviews? ;)


February 6, 2011, 7:41 pm


no, as I don't buy any magazines - it's just a question of what's available on the internet.

I live in France and English Language camera magazines are rare as, oh, er, hens' teeth, so although now I'm now quite happy reading and speaking French I've got out of the habit of buying magazines.



John Z

February 9, 2011, 7:07 am

A new step in this "affair", a still more original situation appeared :

the Sx130 and the G12 obtain exactly the same 8/10 in both performance and image quality !

How that kind of situation may be possible ?

No, the G12 doesn't have the same performance as the Sx130.

No, the G12 doesn't have the same image quality as the Sx130.

Yes, the Sx130 may obtain 8/10 in performance and image quality.

But if the Sx130 gets 8/10, the the G12 HAS TO OBTAIN 9/10 in both performance and image quality !

Please, be fair, an apply a modification to the G12 marks.

John Z

February 24, 2011, 11:47 am

OK, Greynerd, but then, the Sx130, which makes less beautiful pictures thant the G12,

must get a lower 7/10.

We may also consider that, nowadays, digital cameras becoming better and better

a 10 steps scale is too short.

A Sx130 could get a 15/20, a G12 could get a 16/20, a Wb2000 could get a 17/20,

and there would be 3 steps (18/20, 19/20, 20/20) fot DSLRs.


September 25, 2011, 4:06 pm

I have owned each of the G-series since the G6, and I still have the G10,11 & 12. For clear sharp and well balanced images the G10 was the peak of quality, provided that you dont want high ISO. At low ISOs my G10 images were often of library quality. The G11 added higher ISO, but lost a little sharpness, and impact on JPEGS. The G12, what can I say? I hope the movies and all that are good, but I dont use them, for the images are as soft as, well you know, and colour balance is great, flash colour worse, and generally this is a really mediocre camera. Shame.

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