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Canon PowerShot G12 - Performance and Results

By Gavin Stocker



Our Score:


Although the G12 might be pitched as a reliable back up for an enthusiast's DSLR, operational speed falls short of a lightning fast DSLR proper, and so there are frustrations in swapping from one to the other. Chiefly we felt auto focus could have been a bit quicker to lock on. Squeeze the nipple-like shutter release button halfway and following the briefest of pauses the AF point is highlighted in green accompanied by a bright chirp to indicate the user is clear to take the shot. Admittedly, however, a continuous shooting speed of up to 4.2 frames per second for action shots is better than most entry level DSLRs.

We did enjoy and find creatively useful features such as the G12's High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, arguably now one of the high-end compact must haves. Shooting any subject against a bright background without falling back on the built in flash - or also accessory shoe in the G12's case - is a challenge for any camera, high or low end. Canon's solution is for the G12 to fire off three shots - exposure bracketing if you like - and then composite the results in-camera to produce one uniformly exposed shot. Inevitably then a flat surface or preferably tripod is needed to prevent blur, but this feature is another that works well in grabbing a shot you might not otherwise have been successful with.

Another feature that proved welcome during the dull days of our test period with flat light and distinctly 'muddy' hues is the G12's 'My Colors' menu, which offers up a saturation boosting 'Vivid' option. By deploying this we found we were getting colours closer to those before our eyes than the camera's rather conservative default factory setting was delivering. We also get a smattering of digital effects filters selectable from the same toolbar, here including the seemingly now ubiquitous tilt and shift lens ape-ing 'Miniature' mode, which narrows the area of the image in focus to a narrow central band to make it appear as if full-size subjects are in fact on a toy town scale.

As the G12 features a 28mm wide angle setting we would expect there to be a degree of barrel distortion present in shots taken and that is true here, with man made structures more noticeably leaning inward. There's a degree of chromatic aberration as well, which we've become accustomed to being eliminated by in camera trickery, but not so here (or at least not so much). Nonetheless, it's a pretty solid overall performance with generally high levels of detail on offer and good sharpness also.

So, whilst overall picture quality is far better than the average point and shoot pocket camera, inevitably it's not a match for a proper DSLR, even though the G12 might cost nearly as much. It also falls short of the quality that can be achieved by 'hybrid' interchangeable lens compact system cameras such as those mentioned in our introduction, retailing for similar. Then again, those cameras are that much larger, don't have the zoom range without very bulky lenses and the entry level models don't offer the same build quality as this camera so it's a fairly balanced situation.


What you're buying into here is a camera that provides the build quality and manual controls of a mid-range DSLR yet remains just about pocketable. It doesn't offer the fast lenses and more compact bodies of some rival high-end compacts but counters this with even great manual control, the option to add lens accessories like filters and a greater zoom range. For our money, though, we would take the faster more compact alternatives.

What's more we wonder, like its arch rival Nikon, how long Canon will be content to go without fielding an interchangeable lens compact system camera, and missing out on gaining its own share of a rapidly expanding market. These cameras offer true DSLR quality in more compact bodies and are a tempting alternative to having both an SLR and high-end compact.


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, 6:52 pm


Thank you for replay. I got so used to Cliff Smiths review that I simply stoped looking at EXIF info unless i really want that camera. I just accepted that those settings are raw from camera and close to the best camera can do.

Anyway even F70 can do great large prints with postprocessing (like http://i53.tinypic.com/91hxk3.... ). Postprocessing is way to open subject.


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, 10:07 pm

As an example of what can be done with these high end compacts, this is a nighttime available-light photo taken with a G11 at ISO 800 : http://www.flickr.com/photos/2...


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, 5:23 pm

I'd also like to comment on the subject of change of reviewer - which has nothing to do with the G12.

Gavin's reviews can be found also on two sites that I know of:



It isn't a question of quality, but that TR did have a completely 'different reviewer' (as far as I know - I never came across Cliff's reviews elsewhere)whose opinions I valued. From what I can gather the reviews appear to be specifically prepared / done for TR, but nevertheless for me the feeling of TR having an independent voice has gone and has placed TR as one of 3 review sites which will be providing exactly the same view-point.

Sorry to be so negative,




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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