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Canon Powershot G11 Digital Camera Review

The power house of the Canon compacts has been reworked and we review it here.

|  Canon Powershot G11 in Compact Cameras
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Review by Matt Grayson
Canon Powershot G11 badge
Building on the high brow G series, Canon have replaced the über popular Canon Powershot G10 with the reworked G11.

Coming in at £499, the Canon Powershot G11 offers a 5x optical zoom, 10Mp resolution, RAW recording and ISO sensitivity from ISO80-3200. For the same price, the Leica D-Lux 4 offers half the zoom at 2.5x, a similar 10Mp resolution and ISO range and RAW recording. At nearly £200 less, the older Nikon Coolpix P6000 offers a slightly smaller 4x optical zoom, 13.5Mp resolution, wider ISO range from ISO50-6400 and RAW recording.

 Canon Powershot G11 back
The rear of the camera has everything that a DSLR has. Note the swivel screen.
Canon Powershot G11: Features
With every camera maker fixated by pixel count, the most interesting thing about the G11 is that the resolution is a mere 10Mp when the predecessor was 14Mp. It seems that the Japanese company have decided to buck the trend, but with rivals offering more resolution for similar money, is the G11 at £499 overpriced?

With dimensions only a few millimetres difference from the G10, the G11 looks practically the same although some basic cosmetic areas have been reworked such as the relocation of badging and round power button over the rectangular version previously.

Canon Powershot G11: Specification
  • Zoom: 5x optical
  • Resolution: 10Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/1.7in
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Max. image size: 3648x2736
  • File type: JPEG, RAW
  • Sensitivity: ISO80 - 3200
  • Media type: Internal, SD, SDHC
  • Focus types: Single, continuous, servo AF/AE
  • Normal focusing: 50cm - infinity
  • Close focusing: 1cm - 50cm
  • Metering types: Multi, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 15sec - 1/4000sec
  • Flash: Built-in, hotshoe
  • Monitor: 2.8in articulating TFT LCD screen
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 112.1x76.2x48.3mm
  • Weight: 355g
A mild reworking of the command dial has also taken place and it now has additional low light and quick shot modes added to it with bracketing being taken away. On the ISO dial which still sits below the command dial, high ISO has been removed, more than likely to make you use the low light or quick shot functions, while the sensitivity has been expanded by one stop. The reasoning behind the dial on top of dial method is to get a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the left shoulder and I think this is a really nice touch. Usually relegated to the navigation pad, I use the feature a lot so it's a welcome addition from my point of view.

An articulating screen has been added to the G11 which does mean a drop in size, but Canon have played it well by only dropping it down slightly to 2.8in. It also means that the camera has more depth and it's not the most comfortable camera to carry around in your hand. Still, that's not what it's for – this is a camera that will be in a protected pouch at the very least.

Canon have messed around with the menu systems and I can't decide whether I like them or not. Pressing the menu button in a standard mode, such as program, brings up a three tab menu laid out in the newer Canon menu design we saw introduced on the Canon EOS 50D. From here you can make changes such as changing the AF frame type between FlexiZone and Face AiAF or toggling continuous AF. One thing to be aware of on the G series, particularly the G10 and G11 are the sub menus. Not that they're dangerous or anything, but the menu looks relatively simple on the surface and that's because there are sub menus that hold even more information such as flash control, custom display and sound options. These are denoted by a blank area to the right of them. Options that can be changed in the first screen will have something next to them.

Canon Powershot G11 top plate
The left of the top plate has the exposure compensation dial.
Canon Powershot G11 ports
Ports are located on the side for USB, HDMI and a 3.5mm jack for remote switch.
Canon Powershot G11 command dial
The unique command dial arrangement first seen on the G10 houses the ISO settings below the standard dial.
Canon were paying attention to our comments in previous reviews and have done away with the themes menu, opting for a much more useful common functions menu. In here, you can add five of your most frequently used options and they'll be available in the common functions menu straight away until you decide to change them. Personally, I'd like to see more than five available options. I can see the reasoning at capping it but not why only five.

Once the main menu has been mastered, all you have to do is get to grips with the function menu which is the quick access menu that comes up on screen when the function button is pressed. What features are made available are dependant on the mode you're in.

Programmable modes such as program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual will give you the most freedom and areas such as the built-in ND filter and bracketing won't be available in auto or any of the scene modes. Notably, the image quality option has been removed and if you want to shoot both RAW and JPEG, you have to set it up in the main menu.

Earlier, we briefly covered the quick shot mode and this has its own menu system which is laid out in a way that I think is easier to understand. It's designed in the same way as the Olympus DSLRs which I'm a big fan of for their easy operability.

At first glance, it appears that the whole of the screen can be used for making adjustments here and there, but pressing the set button to access it only allows access to the two middle lines. This means that you can only change around eight options, the rest of the screen is simply information. Interestingly, the previously elusive image quality setting makes an appearance here until RAW is selected.

Canon Powershot G11 screen
Canon Powershot G11 battery

Canon Powershot G11: Build and handling
As with all the G series cameras, the G11 is built to a very high standard. It's solid with firm, responsive buttons and my only complaint is the screen is too springy, it can only be straight out at 90° angles. It's a nice screen though, with a bright, easy to use interface and I think newcomers to the G11 will welcome the clipped menu.

Even the battery door is well made and snaps open like a card door on a DSLR. In fact, it's because the camera is so similar to a DSLR, Canon have ensured you feel like you're using one.

The main problem I had with the camera was with playback to shooting. When I took a picture, the camera would show me the image which is ok, but I'm an impatient person and like to press the shutter button to return the camera to shooting mode. The Canon gets a little confused at this point and I had it freeze on me as well as bringing the lens in and out.

I also noticed that when I was flicking through the scene modes, the camera had to stop on each scene until the description of the scene has come up on screen. It would then carry on to the next mode. I found that disabling the descriptions in the main menu solved this problem, but it really shouldn't be one in the first place.

Canon Powershot G11: Performance
Nestled in the function menu above the resolution is the continuous shooting menu and there are two modes to choose from. In standard continuous, it's quite a promising result for a compact camera spewing out 11 photographs in ten seconds giving a result of 1.1fps. Continuous shooting AF is slightly slower than the standard mode but has the addition of an AF tracking system for moving subjects.

Canon Powershot G11 colour chart
Looking at the colour test chart shows an abundance of colour from all the tiles although I'd prefer to see more coming from the pastel tiles. However, most compacts tend to stay away from the warmer colours and boost the cooler tones such as blue and green, which also aids with landscapes, so it's good to see them all getting a look in.

I love the richness of the earthier tones although I think the skin tone tile is a bit too pink for portraits and they could suffer as a result.

Canon Powershot G11 colour picker yellow
With yellow accented, the rest of the image pales.
Colour seems to be the big thing with the G11 as there are a number of different features that allow you to adjust colour in one way or another. A number were seen on other cameras such as the colour picker and colour swap. The colour picker mode allows you to sample a colour that you can see in the frame, then any colour that has the shade or tone you've selected will be highlighted while the rest of the image will be in black and white.

In contrast, colour swapper allows you to select two colours and the camera will then swap them around. It's name suggests that it works by displaying the two selected colours in reverse but it's not like that. In fact,  chose a red and blue panel on the side of a building and it didn't do what I expected. Where it worked was when only one of the colours was present in the image, similar to what is seen in the sample image. The banner is yellow, but I swapped yellow for a green so the banner showed green. If I'd photographed the area where I sampled the green, it would show yellow but if they were side by side it wouldn't work.
Canon Powershot G11 colour picker red
Accenting red gives more of an indication. The rest of the image goes to black and white, though it's not perfect.
Canon Powershot G11 colours

As well as these fun colour modes, there's also the MyColour options which are located in the function menu. They will boost or retract colour, set it to black & white, sepia or positive film. It also has provision for light or dark skin tones, boosting red or green as well as a custom option of you prefer something else.

Canon Powershot G11 landscape
Landscape mode shows good detail in the grass and good metering in a tricky situation.
A sudden burst of sunshine broke through the clouds, proving that when the bad weather comes, the sun isn't hibernating. In fact, it fought long and hard before it was finally defeated by the rolling greyness. It meant I managed to get some strong contrast to see if there was any chromatic aberration present on the image.

I used the white bars leading into the lock as they were bathed in harsh light. There's a little CA visible on the edges of the bars, but it's only noticeable at 100% magnification.

I'm also impressed at the level of detail in the shot, for example the grassy area in the bottom right of the frame looks great. Metering has coped pretty well considering the harsh lighting it had to deal with.

I love the amount of detail in the portrait shot but it's just too warm making Nikita look a bit flushed. Adding fill-flash has cured the problem, filling in the shadowy area, adding catchlights and highlighting more detail in the hair.
Canon Powershot G11 portrait
Portrait is a bit too warm for my tastes.
Canon Powershot G11 portrait with flash
Adding flash soon sorts that out.

Canon Powershot G11: Focus and metering
An impressive focusing system has been fitted to the Canon Powershot G11 and there are plenty of choices to make ensuring that you have a way to keep things sharp in most situations. In the main menu, the first option is to select the type of focus frame you'd like to use between face detection or the Flexizone system, a focus box that you can manipulate around the screen for the camera to focus on wherever it lands. Focusing has a tendency to hunt, the same as any compact but doesn't take too long and has a pretty powerful AF assist light.

After the digital zoom option in the menu, you can then choose to toggle between AF-point zoom, Servo AF, Continuous AF and the AF-assisst beam and whether you'd like them on or off. An AF frame button above the navigation pad allows you to either adjust the size of the AF frame by pressing the display button or snapping to a face in the frame by pressing the menu button.

Metering is adjusted by pressing the appropriate button on the back of the camera next to the AF point selection button above the navigation wheel. A small icon showing the three metering options will flag onto the screen and you can scroll through these using the wheel. It won't allow use of the navigation pad, which is a little frustrating, and pressing the set button to confirm the metering only opens up the function menu. Instead the metering button has to be pressed when your desired metering option is highlighted and then it's set.

I think the metering coped quite well in my tests taken in varying conditions such as tunnels and backlit subjects although the latter suffered a little from time to time.

Canon Powershot G11: Noise test
Sensitivity ranges from ISO80-3200 on the Powershot G11 and I'm happy to say that it's acceptable in terms of not seeing it at anything other than full magnification, until the ISO800 setting. From ISO1600, the image is too distorted to get away with as noise invades the low key areas and coloured blotches appaer on the grey card. Detail is also starting to dissipate on the flowers from ISO800 but it's still acceptable at that stage.

ISO3200 isn't very nice at all, but credit where credit's due, the camera has coped really well in the face of adversity and given some pretty stirling results.

Because the camera has RAW recording, we can see how the it performs at low and high ISO. You can download the RAW files from our download area by clicking the links below:

Canon Powershot G11 ISO80 RAW file
Canon Powershot G11 ISO3200 RAW file
Canon Powershot G11 ISO80 test
The ISO80 test.
Canon Powershot G11 ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.
Canon Powershot G11 ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.
Canon Powershot G11 ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.
Canon Powershot G11 ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.
Canon Powershot G11 ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.

Canon Powershot G11 ISO3200 test
The ISO3200 test.

DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon Powershot G11.

Canon Powershot G11: Verdict
It's certainly a camera packed with features and that's something I've always liked about the Canon G series. For the photographer who wants to go out and get quality results without the need for a full DSLR system, the G11 is perfect and I think the drop in resolution was the right way to go judging by the performance and noise tests. Images are sharp and nicely exposed and I like the fun aspect of the camera as well as the serious attributes it can bring to photography.

Is it worth £499? The same price can get you the Leica D-Lux 4 which is older but has a higher prestige to it. It's also the same price as some DSLRs and that's the unfortunate point; it's a compact. Sure, it's a high spec compact with a lot to offer and in some cases, a better performance but it's a compact nonetheless.

If you're in the situation where you need a camera for taking on holidays but you don't want to compromise on performance or you're looking for a special Christmas gift for a keen photographer, then the Canon Powershot G11 is a camera definitely worth getting.

Canon Powershot G11: Plus points
Excellent build quality
Everything you need from a DSLR
Lovely colour reproduction
Great noise performance

Canon Powershot G11: Minus points
Wheel isn't very responsive
Playback to shooting is hit and miss
Portraits are overly warm





The Canon Powershot G11 costs around £499 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon Powershot G11

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marktyler 17 17
22 Oct 2009 4:00AM
would this be your choice for an "I don't want to cart around my 5D Mark II" / "the area I want to photograph might require something less shiny and attractive than a full DSLR but I still want the best results I can get in the circumstances" carry around camera?

I have a G9 which is great in brilliant sunshine but I've always found it lacking in shadow/low-light/dusk/night-time scenarios. Shutter lag is still an issue. I guess I'm spoilt by having the above mentioned DSLR with L-series glass but would like to find a solution to my conundrum. Given the G9 is hardly a pocket camera maybe a pseudo SLR is the way to go or just a more practical bag and insurance (being robbed wouldn't be nice though)?

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marktyler 17 17
22 Oct 2009 5:04AM
would this be your choice for an "I don't want to cart around my 5D Mark II" / "the area I want to photograph might require something less shiny and attractive than a full DSLR but I still want the best results I can get in the circumstances" carry around camera?

I have a G9 which is great in brilliant sunshine but I've always found it lacking in shadow/low-light/dusk/night-time scenarios. Shutter lag is still an issue. I guess I'm spoilt by having the above mentioned DSLR with L-series glass but would like to find a solution to my conundrum. Given the G9 is hardly a pocket camera maybe a pseudo SLR is the way to go or just a more practical bag and insurance (being robbed wouldn't be nice though)?
MattGrayson 12 622 3 England
25 Oct 2009 5:52AM

would this be your choice for an "I don't want to cart around my 5D Mark II" / "the area I want to photograph might require something less shiny and attractive than a full DSLR but I still want the best results I can get in the circumstances" carry around camera?

I have a G9 which is great in brilliant sunshine but I've always found it lacking in shadow/low-light/dusk/night-time scenarios. Shutter lag is still an issue. I guess I'm spoilt by having the above mentioned DSLR with L-series glass but would like to find a solution to my conundrum. Given the G9 is hardly a pocket camera maybe a pseudo SLR is the way to go or just a more practical bag and insurance (being robbed wouldn't be nice though)?

In answer to your first part, yes that's a perfect scenario. With part 2, dynamic range technology has increased since the G9 which should help with the low level detail issue. I suspect that after the success of the Oly E-P1 and Panny GF1, with Samsung releasing the NX, it's only a matter of time before everyone releases a micro lens system.
superskib 15 11
25 Oct 2009 2:27PM
I handled the G11 yesterday and was surprised at how fragile and flimsy it felt compared to the G5 I have owned in the past and even to the A650IS that I replaced it with. It is also interesting that the price has dropped 70 since it was announced. This is still a rip off compared to the US price of 315 at current exchange rates!

As you rightly say there are a lot of DSLRs available for a lot less. In many respects it is my ideal camera but I'll wait till it is sub 400 before I buy.
monobod 11 9 1 United Kingdom
25 Oct 2009 3:08PM
I have the G10 and it is a really good performer. I know it has limitations on poor light, but this is not as bad as I had expected it to be. As far as build quality goes, the other day I dropped it from waist height onto a stone floor. it bounced a few times and I expected to find it in bits, but no sign of any external damage and it is working fine. I have not handles a G11, so cannot comment on that one. Taking my images in RAW, as I always do, I find no problem with shadow detail recovery, but I do have to watch out for blown hightlights in clouds. A small amount of exposure compenssation is all that is needed though. A very rewarding camera in my opinion.
Tcoat 12
2 Nov 2009 8:11AM
I've bitten the bullet and just ordered the G11's little brother: the PowerShot S90. I know there are not many reviews out yet, but given they both share the same high sensitivity CCD, then I'm taking a punt that the image quality be on par.
If I were in the market for a pseudo SLR then the Fuji S200EXR is cheaper than both the Canons. But the G11 is more 'pocketable' but then, the S90 is trully pocketable, as an SLR alternative. I don't think you going to be able to achieve SLR levels of depths of field except with Fujis "Pro-focus" mode.
MattGrayson 12 622 3 England
4 Nov 2009 10:33AM
The S Powershot series were excellent before they discontinued them a few years ago. They were top spec, fast and solid. It was a shame to see them go, so I was happy to see they'd brought them back. Smile
Tcoat 12
5 Nov 2009 12:15AM
And it's great to see Canon including RAW support, as they dropped it for the S80.
I'm going to investigate some kind of non-slip, stick on, material to fit to the front and side of my S90, when it arrives. A major advantage of the G11's greater bulk is that it has a rubberised hand grip.
In scene modes there is a 'neutral' setting I believe. Is this the built-in ND filter that the G11 also has, Matt?
Did you use 'i-contrast' feature much and how effective was it preventing blown highlights?
All in all, I'm hoping, a good back up to my APSC bridge camera (DSC-R1) and finally a replacement for my Ricoh R4. Though the R4 was great outdoors, quick and responsive, great walk around lens and responded well to post sharpening and noise reduction software, it has always struggled in low light.
Anyone else surprised that Canon chose to use CCD (one assumes, Sony built) rather than a CMOS of its own design?
Tcoat 12
5 Nov 2009 11:13AM
Turning the built-in ND filter on and off is on page 99 of the G11 manual, in the functions menu. The bad news is that it appears to be absent in the S90'sSad
Would have been nice to have, but I can live without it.
EleanorMaw 10 110 United Kingdom
7 Nov 2009 6:28PM
I have the Canon G9, I often use the tele end at 210, the G11 only goes to 140, I will wait and see if the G12 has something worth upgrading to, maybe it's lens will be something like 24-180mm, then I might consider.
Tcoat 12
9 Nov 2009 6:25AM
The S200EXR goes to 436mm at the tele-end! Potential S90 buyers out there will be glad to hear that the camera ships with a full (single language) printed user manual, as well as the same, on PDF, in the CD supplied.
"Printed in Japan" and, in fact, the camera itself says "made in Japan," which is a little surprising, to me, as I thought anything below their metal bodied SLR line would be Chinese made these days..... Not that there is anything wrong with made in China:S
Beautifully finished, though with some minor play in the top panel on the retractable flash side.
I'm not sure if my earlier idea of fitting no-slip material is going to work that well. Though I did drop my R4 at last year's office Christmas party (probably on the dance floor, I honestly can't remember) and it now sports a nice dent on the front right corner.
I'm trying to locate the colour swapper and colour picker modes; can someone please explain where to find them??

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