Canon PowerShot G11 review: Canon PowerShot G11

Performance is roughly equivalent to its predecessor; it's above average for its class, but still a bit slower than I think people should get for a camera in its price range. CNET Labs' testing shows time to first shot is 2 seconds, slower than before. In bright light, a relatively quick focus helps keep the shutter lag to a zippy-for-its-class 0.4 second. In dim light, that increases to a 0.7 second, about 0.1 second faster than the G10. Two shots in a row have a relatively large 2.5-second gap between, however, slower than the past couple of generations, and adding flash recycle bumps that to a not-very-speedy 2.9 seconds. Continuous shooting drops to 1.1fps, down from the G10's 1.4fps. As before, though the AF system is pretty responsive, no one would confuse this with an SLR. The 2.8-inch LCD is big and bright; it's a hair smaller than the G10's but you don't really notice, and thanks to the flip-and-twist design, it's really useful.

When it comes to image quality, the drop in resolution seems to be worth the trade-off; the G11's photos display far less noise above ISO 200 than the G10's. Photos look clean at ISO 80 and ISO 100, but softening begins at ISO 200. At ISO 400 you can begin to see some degradation in detail, in addition to the softness, and by ISO 800 there's enough blue-channel noise to produce some yellow splotches. ISO 400 was a bit disappointing for this class of camera, especially given the drop in resolution. There's still sufficient detail for a lot of scenes, but you also see the yellow blotches and some white pixels from the noise suppression. Depending upon scene content, ISO 800 shots may be usable scaled down a bit. Switching to raw at high-ISO sensitivities didn't help much (processing using either Adobe Camera Raw or Canon's Digital Photo Pro); the JPEGs are fairly well optimized.

Color and exposures are great, and perhaps a tad better than before. There's some typical wide-angle distortion at the 28mm-equivalent maximum, but photos have very good center and edge-to-edge sharpness at longer focal lengths.

  Canon PowerShot S90 Canon PowerShot G11
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Lens f2.0-4.9 28-105mm equivalent 3.8X lens f2.8-4.5 28-140mm-equivalent 5X lens
Viewfinder None Optical
Autofocus Contrast AF Contrast AF
Closest focus 2 inches 0.4 inch
Shutter 15-1/1600 sec; n/a 15-1/4000 sec; n/a
LCD 3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 640x480 H.264 MOV 640x480 H.264 MOV
Battery life (CIPA rating) 220 shots 390 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9
Weight (ounces) 7 14.5
Mfr. Price $429.99 $499.99

There are lots of reasons to opt for the Canon PowerShot G11 over the sleeker, slightly less expensive S90, including the optical viewfinder, articulated LCD, hot shoe, add-on lens support, and longer zoom. That makes it frustrating that the lens on the S90 is better in some ways, such as its wider maximum aperture. And while it doesn't have the cachet of one of the newer interchangeable-lens models, it doesn't have the price tag, either, and like those, it still admirably fulfills the promise of being a camera worth toting when a dSLR is too clunky.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot G11
2 
2.5 
2.5 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot G10
1.3 
2.5 
2.2 
0.8 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot S90
1.8 
3.4 
1.82 
0.6 
0.5 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
0.8 
0.9 
0.7 
0.6 
0.5 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
1.9 
1.9 
1.86 
1.1 
0.6 
Olympus E-P1
3 
2.7 
1.9 
1.6 
1.3 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct. 8, 2009
  • Optical Zoom 5 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 10.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Lens 28 - 140mm F/2.8
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"