The G11 is powered by Canon’s powerful DIGIC 4 processor, giving it exceptionally fast performance. It starts up in under one and half seconds, and shuts down in under two. The shot-to-shot time in standard JPEG single-shot mode is a respectable 2.2 seconds, or 2.6 seconds in Raw mode. In continuous JPEG mode it can manage just under 1.1 frames a second, and appears to be able to keep this up indefinitely. In Raw mode it is slightly slower at 1fps, but again the buffer is large and fast enough to keep this up until the card is full. There is also an AF continuous mode which is a little slower at approximately 0.7fps.
Unlike many recent compacts the G11 doesn’t have HD video recording capability. It records video at 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with mono audio via an internal microphone. The zoom lens cannot be used while recording, but it does have a stepless digital zoom in video mode.
Canon is well known for the excellence of its autofocus systems, and the G11 does nothing to spoil the batting average. It has centre spot, multi-zone AiAF and selectable point AF, as well as a sophisticated face detection and tracking system. In all modes it is very fast and accurate, and low light focusing is also very good, thanks to an exceptionally bright and well-focused AF assist lamp with a range of well over five metres.
The G11 has a different flash to the G10, and it is a much more powerful unit. The spec sheet claims a maximum range of an impressive seven metres at wide angle, but if anything this is actually errs on the side of caution. Shooting indoors at 100 ISO I found it would easily fill a 30-foot room with light.
Of course the big question is whether Canon’s gamble with the G11’s sensor resolution has paid off; as you’ll see from the accompanying sample shots the answer is an unqualified “yes”. The G11 is capable of shooting outstanding images under virtually any conditions, metering and focusing are consistently accurate and its dynamic range and high-ISO noise control is a vast improvement over the G10. It will consistently produce usable shots at 1600 ISO, and at lower ISO settings the image quality is as good as anything on the market.
The only negative points are that the lens does show some barrel distortion at wide angle, and a surprisingly large amount of chromatic aberration towards the corners of the frame. Shooting in Raw mode these can be easily corrected, but they are annoying flaws in what is otherwise a totally brilliant camera.
Canon has taken something of a risk by reducing the sensor resolution of the PowerShot G11, but it has paid off handsomely. The G11 all of has the build quality, features and performance for which the G-series is rightly renowned, and the image quality is as good as a small-sensor compact is ever likely to get. Restored to its rightful place, the G11 is one of the two or three best compacts currently available.