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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
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.
(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)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)