Canon PowerShot G11 review: Canon PowerShot G11

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

The Good Optical viewfinder; articulated LCD; very good photo quality for its class.

The Bad Shot-to-shot performance still a little sluggish; no HD video.

The Bottom Line Though it doesn't offer the whizziest new features like an interchangeable lens or a tiny size, the Canon PowerShot G11 still delivers a good shooting experience for photography enthusiasts. Plus it's the only model that includes an optical viewfinder.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

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 five-year-old PowerShot G6, that was the last G-series model with an articulated LCD, a feature beloved by many of the series' fans. And though 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. And these choices seem to pay off.

With the same body, a similarly sized sensor, and the same lens as its predecessor, it's unsurprising that the G11 looks and feels almost identical to the G10. Keeping with its historical design, the metal body feels quite solidly constructed. As with the G10, I wish the grip were just a tad larger; the thumb rest feels kind of slippery and I never feel absolutely secure shooting one handed. While it's not nearly as sleek as a lot of the enthusiast models coming out these days, such as the Olympus E-P series or Canon's own S90, the larger size does allow the G11 to accommodate a sizeable, useful optical viewfinder and big, easy-to-turn dials.

  Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Canon PowerShot G10 Canon PowerShot G11 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 14.7-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10.1-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 1,600 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier 2x n/a n/a n/a
Viewfinder Optional Electronic Optical Optical Optional optical
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF Contrast AF Contrast AF Contrast AF
Closest focus depends on lens 0.4 inch 0.4 inch 0.4 inch
Metering 144 zone n/a n/a n/a
Shutter 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 15-1/4000 sec; n/a 15-1/4000 sec; n/a 60-1/2000 sec; n/a
LCD 3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated
461,000 dots
2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1280x720 AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 640x480 H.264 MOV 640x480 H.264 MOV 848x480 Motion JPEG MOV
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 400 shots 390 shots 380 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.3 x 3.1 x 1.8 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9 4.3 x 2.3 x 1.1
Weight (ounces) 12.2 14.1 14.5 9.1
Mfr. Price $899.95
(with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens or 20mm f1.7 lens)
(integrated f2.8-4.5 28-140mm-equivalent lens)
(integrated f2.8-4.5 28-140mm-equivalent lens)
(integrated 24-60mm-equivalent f2.0-2.8 lens)

Though I have some quibbles, shooting with the G11 feels as quick, fluid, and comfortable as you'd expect from its class. The camera retains the four-way switch (for setting manual focus, macro, flash, and drive mode) with a Function/Set button nested inside the navigational scroll wheel on the back. Last year, I said of the G10's similar controller, "Like the G9 and the G7 before it, the G10 uses a four-way switch plus Set/Function button, which is surrounded by a scroll wheel. I love the scroll wheel, but find I tend to accidentally hit one of the Manual focus, macro, drive mode, or flash switch when I'm trying to press the middle button." Canon seems to have tweaked the design of the wheel, and I find it even more troublesome: now I frequently press one of the switches while I'm scrolling as well. It's especially difficult to control in cold weather with numb fingers. And in movie capture mode, scrolling the wheel turns on the how-often-could-you-possibly-want-to-do-this Color Accent feature; given how easy it is to accidentally scroll, shooting videos can be pretty annoying.

Canon stacks the mode dial inside the ISO sensitivity dial for right-hand operation and has an exposure compensation dial on the left. In addition to giving the camera a retro feel, the dials on the G10 are really practical and much faster to use than even direct-access buttons, which always require at least some navigation. There's also a new Quick Shot mode, which provides an interactive control panel interface that's become common on dSLRs. Unfortunately, Quick Shot mode is a semiautomatic program mode that activates continuous autofocus and face detection, so you can't access this panel while shooting in shutter- or aperture-priority or manual modes. (And leaving the camera in continuous AF mode is a great way to drain the battery.)

Features that I've liked for generations thankfully remain: a built-in neutral-density filter, two slots on the mode dial for custom settings, capability to change the size of the AF area, a hot shoe, exposure lock, raw support, and the bayonet adapter mount for add-on lenses. Still, it takes a hit for what it doesn't have: decent video capabilities. VGA at 30fps without optical zoom doesn't cut it these days. (You can download the PDF manual for a full accounting of the G11's features and operation.)

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.