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Canon PowerShot G review: Canon PowerShot G

Canon PowerShot G

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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7 min read

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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.

7.3

Canon PowerShot G

The Good

Impressive image quality; built-in neutral-density filter; solid raw-shooting performance.

The Bad

So-so performance for many operations; inexcusable lens-cap design.

The Bottom Line

A very good camera that needs a speed bump to pull ahead of the competition.
Intro
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. 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.


Canon addressed my complaint about the thumb rest on the G5; the G6 provides a nice, wide-open space with no buttons to hit accidentally.

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.


Though they've been moved from the back to the top of the camera, three buttons feel exactly the same, and you have to look at them to choose the one you want.

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.

You can save both JPEG and raw files, and you can even opt to change from JPEG to raw after you've taken a shot. Though Canon ups the movie capabilities to include 30 seconds of 15fps VGA video with mono sound in addition to three-minute movies at either 320x240 or 160x120 resolution, Canon is falling far behind the curve for shooting movies. There's basic in-camera editing, and you can also annotate images with voice captions during playback. If you prefer time-lapse photography to 15fps video, the intervalometer lets you schedule up to 100 pictures snapped at intervals ranging from one minute to an hour.


The G6's 1,390mAh battery lasted for 572 shots under fairly stressful conditions--lots of zooming and LCD and flash use.

With a couple of notable exceptions, I found the Canon PowerShot G6's performance comparatively run-of-the-mill for an enthusiast model. Since this camera houses Canon's first-generation Digic processor, however, I confess I'm not surprised. Using CNET's test methodology, it takes about 3 seconds to wake up and snap the first shot--good but not stellar. The camera imposes a shutter lag of about 0.8 to 0.9 second, depending upon scene contrast. That's not bad for digital cameras overall, but many competing 7- and 8-megapixel models manage to drop lag to a half-second or lower. It's certainly not speedy enough to keep up with a curious cat trying to poke his nose at the lens. Likewise, it takes 2 to 3 seconds from one shot to the next, not quite up to the speed of the competition. One bright spot: It takes only about 2 seconds to shoot consecutive raw files, which makes this one of the zippier models for raw shooting. Using the G6's ultra-high-speed burst mode, the camera can shoot both raw and high-quality JPEG images at 1.7fps; the buffer can handle 5 or 12 sequential frames, respectively.

Shooting speed
Measured in seconds (shorter is better)
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (low contrast)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Time to first shot  
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-V3
8.6 
0.5 
0.5 
3.7 
Canon PowerShot G6
2 
0.9 
0.8 
3.1 

Continuous-shooting speed
Measured in frames per second (longer is better)
Minimum continuous-shooting speed  
Maximum continuous-shooting speed  

The camera's 2.0-inch LCD is a step up from previous models', but I've been spoiled by the 2.5-incher on the Sony DSC-V3 as well as similarly equipped snapshot cameras. The G6 has a relatively large optical viewfinder that's quite usable, though with the distortion and parallax issues that plague direct-view viewfinders. You'll likely need it in low light, where it becomes difficult to differentiate similarly colored objects on the LCD. The screen is no worse than most in bright sunlight.

Our test flash exposure was generally correct; my only complaint concerns the blown-out highlights around our intentionally difficult sidelight. Given the proximity of the lens to the flash, red-eye is pretty much a fact of life; it appeared in every one of my red-eye test shots, regardless of shooting angle. If you're going to be shooting in lots of bars, parties, and other dimly lit gatherings, I suggest you spring for a Speedlite 420EX or other hotshoe-compatible flash.

The Canon PowerShot G6 delivered some first-rate photos. Using both the tungsten preset and the manual white balance, it yielded neutral, accurate colors on our tests under strong tungsten lights. As per usual for Canon, the automatic white balance didn't even approach acceptable under those lights, but it fared very well under fluorescents and in daylight. The camera's dynamic range and exposure are very good; I spotted some blown-out highlights, but the shadow detail was there.


Overall, the G6 delivers photos with very good shadow and highlight detail, as well as relatively little noise.

Canon also keeps the noise to a minimum; I printed an 11.5x15-inch photo of a cat with tabby coloring--noise becomes quite visible on that mottled fur--shot at ISO 200 and was quite pleased with the results. Also important, there was far less color shift across the various ISO settings than we've seen with other cameras.

The G6's photos are sharp, without the oversharpened, postprocessed look of the Sony DSC-V3's (though some users prefer the stronger in-camera sharpening). If you like the ultrasharp look without editing, this probably isn't the camera for you; its in-camera sharpness can be bumped up or down by only a step. Furthermore, the lens displays very good edge-to-edge sharpness, without the focus falloff on the perimeter that I saw in the S70. On high-contrast image boundaries, there's some magenta chromatic aberration, as well as some purple fringing where blown-out areas meet dark ones, but it's not nearly as severe as it was with the G5 and no worse than most consumer digital cameras'.

7.3

Canon PowerShot G

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6Image quality 8