PowerShot G series returns to its roots

Dropping back to 10 megapixels for (conceivably) improved low-light performance and resurrecting the articulated LCD, it looks like Canon is trying to atone for past mistakes in its enthusiast compacts.

Yay! The articulated LCD returns to the G series. Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

It really feels as though Canon's trying to recapture the past, or at least make up for some possibly poor decisions it's made over the past few years. For instance, though in many ways it bears little resemblance to the PowerShot G6, announced 5 years ago this month, that was the last G-series model with an articulated LCD, a feature beloved by many of the series' fans. And while last year's G10 jumped to 14.7 megapixels, bringing with it an increase in noise--anathema to the pixel peepers who play with these models--the new PowerShot G11 drops back to the 10-megapixel resolution of the several-generations-old G7.

Some points of comparison:

 Canon PowerShot G10 Canon PowerShot G11 Olympus E-P1Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Sensor (effective resolution)14.7-megapixel CCD10.0-megapixel CCD12.3-megapixel Live MOS10.1-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch1/1.7-inch17.3mm x 13mm1/1.63-inch
Color depthn/an/a12 bitsn/a
Lens28-140mm f2.8-4.528-140mm f2.8-4.5n/a24-60mm f2.0-2.8
Sensitivity rangeISO 80 - ISO 1,600ISO 80 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multipliern/an/a2xn/a
Continuous shooting1.3fps n/a1.1fps n/a3.0 fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
2.5 fps
4 JPEG/3 raw
ViewfinderOpticalOpticalOptional hot-shoe optical (with 17mm lens)Optional hot-shoe optical
Autofocusn/an/a11-area contrast AFn/a
Meteringn/an/a324 zonen/a
Shutter15-1/4000 sec15-1/4000 sec60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/2000 sec
Closest focus0.4 inch0.4 inchn/a0.4 inch
LCD461,000-pixel, 3-inch fixed461,000-pixel, 2.8-inch articulated230,000 dots, 3-inch fixed460,000 dots, 3-inch fixed
Video (max resolution at 30fps)None 640x480 H.264 MOV640x480 H.264 MOV1280x720 Motion JPEG AVI848x480 Motion JPEG MOV
Battery life (CIPA rating)400 shots390 shots300 shots380 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.3 x 3.1 x 1.8 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.94.7 x 2.8 x 1.44.3 x 2.3 x 1.1
Weight (ounces)14.114.3(estimated)13.99.1
Mfr. Price$499.99$499.99$749.99 (body)$499.95
  $799.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) 
  $899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens and optical viewfinder) 

It doesn't look like Canon brought back the old technologies, though. The new LCD is larger and higher resolution and the sensor is possibly slightly larger (but CCD technology has definitely evolved). Plus it's got all the standard trappings that debuted in the G10, like the Digic four-level image processing and a wide-angle lens. The design looks similar, if a bit streamlined and updated for 2009. I'm not quite sure why it takes a performance hit in continuous shooting or battery life, however, and it remains to be seen if the overall speed improves over the G10's rather mundane performance. And no HD video. Ouch.

The PowerShot G11 is slated to ship in October.

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