A modest update to the G5, the 7-megapixel PowerShot G6 faithfully follows in the footsteps of previous Canon G-series models. With a powerful, enthusiast-oriented feature set and very solid photo quality, it gets most of the same high marks as its predecessors. But its good-but-not-great performance lags behind the competition's, keeping the G6 from garnering the Editors' Choice-level ratings of its ancestors.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.After a stint in basic black with the G5, it's back to silver metal and plastic for the Canon PowerShot G6. Although it's a bit more compact, this model still weighs a healthy 1.1 pounds including the CompactFlash card and the battery, and Canon increased the grip's depth for a more solid, stable feel. It has most of the same controls as its predecessor, albeit rearranged for a smoother shooting experience.
As with the G5, the controls covering the camera provide quick, easy access to almost every important feature, although they may put off novices. Even advanced users will want to skim the manual to figure out when to use the mode dial instead of the four-way navigation pad and to learn what the button labeled with an asterisk does. You can easily and efficiently jump between capture and playback using the power switch. And the G6 lets you save two groups of custom settings, which are accessible from the mode dial, now sitting next to the optical viewfinder.
Nearly every function is a single button-press away. You get to exposure compensation and the white-balance settings, for instance, via the four-way rocker switch, which you can also use for menu navigation. Pushing the G5's Function button calls up most shooting-related settings--including light sensitivity (ISO), image size and resolution, flash compensation, bracketing, and effects--on the LCD. The main menu system is reserved for global and infrequently changed options, such as the self-timer delay and the autofocus mode. We especially like the ability to switch between two groups of customizable settings from the mode dial, as well as the white-balance selector's under-the-thumb location. My one complaint here is that you have to choose whether to enable red-eye reduction as a global setting from within the menu, rather than on a case-by-case basis using the flash button.
Canon upped the LCD size from 1.8 to 2 inches, but it still flips out to the left and twists around 270 degrees or tucks into the camera back. A separate status LCD on top helps you keep track of current settings. Now it has a backlight.
Finally, last year's little gripe is quickly turning into this year's major irritation: the camera's lens cap still pops off too easily.The Canon PowerShot G6's feature set remains relatively unchanged from the G5's; notable exceptions include the 7-megapixel sensor and PictBridge support. With the exception of a real-time histogram (the G6's is available only during playback), this device has everything you could wish for in a camera of its class--and then some.
The G6's fast f/2.0-to-f/3.0 lens offers a focal range of 35mm to 140mm (35mm-camera equivalent) and the ability to focus as close as two inches, so you're covered for both landscapes and macro shots. If you need a broader range, the camera accepts the same lens converters as the G3 and G5, in conjunction with a new, optional lens adapter.
Shutter speed drops as low as 15 seconds; it can be as fast as 1/1,250 of a second at all apertures and 1/2,000 of a second at f/4.0 and higher. You can opt for first- or second-curtain flash timings for night shooting, and there are two types of flash-exposure control: compensation in 1/3-stop increments and a simpler low/medium/blowout selection. The hotshoe on top of the G6 works with Canon's EX Speedlite external-flash line.
The shooting options alone could fill an entire spec sheet. The G6 has Stitch Assist, Movie, Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scene modes; automatic, program AE, aperture- and shutter-priority, and manual exposure; exposure bracketing; and Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia, and Black And White effects settings. You can also customize combinations of contrast, sharpness, and saturation. There's even focus bracketing, which we rarely see. In addition to automatic white balance, you get presets for taking photos in daylight, in cloudy conditions, under tungsten and two types of fluorescent lights, and with the flash. You also have two menu slots in which to save manual white-balance settings.
Exposure assists include a built-in neutral-density filter for very bright scenes or for decreasing exposures to allow slow shutter speeds, exposure and flash compensation, and three metering options. You can even selectively tie the metering to the frame's center or the center of the movable focus area.