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Canon Powershot G12 Digital Camera Review

ePHOTOzine member Adrian Wilson reviews the Canon Powershot G12, the latest in a long line of Canon G series cameras; a point and shoot range for the more discerning photographer who wants quality but not the bulk of a DSLR.

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Canon Powershot G12
ePHOTOzine member Adrian Wilson reviews the Canon Powershot G12.

The G12 is the latest in a long line of Canon G series cameras; a point and shoot range for the more discerning photographer who wants quality but not the bulk of a DSLR. The G12 boasts a rich feature list, has many easy to access buttons, the option of full manual control, is elegantly designed, has 5 times zoom and a 10 mega pixel sensor, so is this camera the panacea for portable photography?

Canon Powershot G12: Features
The G12 looks very similar to previous models, a sleek, strong looking black box that has dials and buttons aplenty and features which make the camera very quick to control, rather than having to resort to on screen menus. It actually looks almost identical to the G11. One welcome addition to the body is a control wheel just below the shutter button, rather like you’d find on a DSLR. This allows you to change shutter speed, aperture and various other settings dependant on exposure mode or which menu you’re looking at.

There is another wheel at the back of the camera which you control with your thumb, so when in Manual exposure, you have 2 wheels available to change aperture and shutter speed. Inside the rear wheel is a 4-way multi button, which allows you to navigate menus or access features like the flash settings.

The ISO wheel on top of the body, which is divided up into 1/3 EV increments, allows you to very quickly change the exposure speed when shooting – very useful in changeable conditions, as is having a physical dial for the exposure compensation.

The camera has HD Movie capability, shooting at 3 resolutions up to 1280, all this selectable by twisting the exposure mode dial to the little movie camera icon.

There are many creative scene modes available for the more adventurous, including colour swap, fisheye, miniature effect and a few aged effects. While many of these are a novelty, there is a genuine HDR mode, which takes 3 images and creates a blended shot in camera; very useful for landscapes as I’d imagine fitting ND grads to retain sky detail would be tricky.

Here are a few examples of what you can do in-camera.

Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
Fisheye effect.   One of 4 aged effects.
Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
Miniature effect.   Colour swap effect – swapped the green grass for the yellow of a flower in the grave yard.

There is also an ND filter built into the camera, handy for those who like longer shutter speeds to create motion in their shots.

Finally, the 461K pixel rear screen is able to flip out and be moved to virtually any angle, useful when composing shots with the camera on the floor as you can look down on to the screen rather than lying on the floor to see the back.

Canon Powershot G12 Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
On the rear is an articulating 2.8in LCD screen.   The lens is a 28-140mm 35mm equivalent.
Canon Powershot G12   Powershot G12
The camera is powered by a rechargeable li-ion battery NB-7L.   There are many dials on the top of the G12.

Canon Powershot G12: Handling
The camera isn’t a tiny point and click model, rather a substantial, well-built metal body, which sits well in the hand. It also is reasonably heavy for its size, which is down to the build quality you get from a metal case.

The beauty of the G12 is the plethora of buttons available for control while shooting. If you do choose to go fully manual, you have dials to change ISO, Aperture and Shutter ready to use, whereas many cameras need a few button presses and menu access to change these things.

I found the traditional eyepiece quite hard to use, everything seems distant and tiny, making fine -tuned compositions difficult. This prompts you to use the screen instead, adopting the usual stand with the camera a foot away from your face pose that most people use when taking photographs these days!

The screen is impressive though, you have a visual spirit level at the bottom of the screen, those horizontals benefit from this, a live histogram, optional screen grids to help with composition, in M mode you get the light meter, all the main settings are displayed (ISO, flash setting etc.) so you really have all you need in front of you for every shot.

When taking a shot, I found my right thumb kept hitting the 4-way multi controller – the top option on this is MF, manual focus. The result was that sometimes I’d be taking a shot and they’d be blurred and you’d not really know why – then you realise its inadvertently in manual focus! This happened quite a lot at first, but you get used to it.

Canon Powershot G12: Performance

Shooting against the light gave some good results; though the sun was burned out, the rest of the scene was well exposed.

Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
High contrast scene handled well, light and dark areas have detail.


Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
The G12 exposed the main highlights well, and didn’t attempt to bring out detail in the dark areas.   This scene was shot in Manual exposure, so you can “force” the exposure easily to get the results you would like. The live histogram is a godsend for this, you can tweak the exposure and watch the graph move in real time.   In this bright white corridor, the camera performed admirably in Av mode.

Throughout the tests, the G12 has been a solid performer in all-metering modes. The examples above show some extreme conditions, shooting directly into the sun, and the exposures are in general on the money. When used in flatter light, it still comes good as can be seen in the following sunset shot – shot using Av.

Canon Powershot G12
The bright sunset area has not fooled the G12 into underexposing the rest of the scene.

Shutter lag is often an issue with point and click cameras, but not so much with the G12 – it is pretty fast and accurate to pick the focus point, and once it has been found (with a half press of the shutter) it will track its position for you.

On the rare occasion when you press the shutter too fast for it to focus, it will produce a poorly focussed shot as can be seen here.

Canon Powershot G12
The AF wasn’t fast enough to focus on this scene.

If this is an issue for you, say at a motor sports event, the G12 has a manual focus option, picked on the 4-way controller. This allows you to use the rear wheel to focus, using a graphical distance meter, which appears on the screen, and also you can view the scene on screen as you focus.

ISO and noise performance
At ISO100 and 200, noise is virtually non-existent – the colour checker shows a really smooth reproduction of black, white and mid grey. At ISO400 we have a start to see a slight hint of noise if we zoom to 100% on the black area.

ISO800 if pretty much the same as ISO400 in the black areas, at 1600 we are getting noisy textures in the mid grey area, though the whites are still clean. At 3200 the noise is prevalent through the colour checker, if you look to the green squares, they have noise as do the reds.

Canon Powershot G12 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon Powershot G12
Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200

We follow a similar pattern with the outdoor shots; the lower ISO’s showing fantastic definition through the shots, very little difference between ISO100, 200 and 400 in this snowy scene, and 800 still looks great.

Looking at 1600 and 3200 though we see a real loss of definition in the lower tree branches – they almost blend into the background. Also notice the snow at the bottom centre of the shot appears darker, despite the light conditions and other camera settings not changing at all.

If possible, I would be tempted to avoid using the higher ISO settings if at all possible, they are not only noisy, but the fine detail in the shots is lost. When shooting at night, I’d go for a longer exposure at ISO400, using a tripod, to avoid the noise issue.

Canon Powershot G12 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon Powershot G12
Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200

Colour Reproduction
Looking at the colour charts in the noise section, we can see that the most of the colours are bright and punchy – the greens seem particularly punchy though some of the blue tones are a little muted in comparison.

The white squares around the lower part of the colour chart are bold and bright all the way around, showing good reproduction throughout the lens.

Canon Powershot G12 colour reproduction: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
  (Above) This shot of a colourful canvas print produced very faithful results.

(Left) Rich greens reproduced with this back-lit nettle against the snow.
Canon Powershot G12
This flash-lit shot of reds and greens shows the very rich reds you associate with Oxo cubes.  

Through all the tests the colour reproduction has been impressive, something a G12 owner would never have to worry about.

Looking at the white-balance in the preset modes of Tungsten and Fluorescent, both produce really crisp whites and vibrant colours in their respective lighting conditions. Perhaps more impressive is the AWB with Fluorescent lighting, this is almost indistinguishable from the Tungsten setting.

Tungsten doesn’t come off so well in AWB, with all areas having a warm hue to them. The greys have and almost orange/sepia look to them

All in all the white balance in AWB has produced pleasing results, though using the preset white balance modes is probably worth doing on night city scenes and indoor tungsten shots.

Canon Powershot G12 White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting.   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting.
Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting.   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting.

Flash Modes
The flash has the usual presets, On, Off and Slow Synch, which are all easily accessible by a button press on the 4-way controller, but if you dig deeper into the menus, you find a set of options you’d find on a DSLR.

Here you can select Manual flash power, flash exposure compensation, front or rear curtain synch and red eye correction, an impressive amount of control for a point and shoot.

The flash power is sufficient to fill most rooms and with portraits, it created a flattering light.

Canon Powershot G12   Canon Powershot G12
(Above) A nice, natural fill light to this indoor portrait.

(Right) The G12 with radio trigger on hot shoe, 2 flashes lighting a bottle in a light cube.


The G12 has a hot shoe onto which you can place your 4xxEX or 5xxEX flash, or a remote radio trigger, if you’re into strobist “off camera flash” style photography.

Again, if you are creative with your lighting, the Canon G12 is flexible enough to allow you to be as creative as your imagination lets you.

Buffer/Write Times
When shooting JPG you never really notice any buffering issues, the G12 just seems to allow you to click away happily. When in HDR mode, you do get a delay as the camera processes the 3 exposures, but this is just a few seconds, and considering that it’s blending images on the fly, this is not an inordinate amount of time.

If shooting in RAW on continuous shooting, the first 2 or 3 shots are very quickly stowed away on the card, however there is a slight delay when processing each subsequent shot – the “Busy” sign comes up and your shot rate falls away fast.

Doing the same test in largest JPG mode gives you far more exposures before buffering becomes an issue – I’ve had the shutter pressed down for more than 10 seconds and the camera just kept clicking away.

Battery Life
The official Canon site states that you should get around 370 shots per charge. The battery only needed charging once during several days of use through the testing phase, and this was with flash and extensive use of the screen.

Lens Quality
The lens is a Canon 5x optical zoom giving a 28mm to 140mm equivalent at f/2.8 to f/4.5 maximum aperture. The 5x optical zoom covers many useful focal lengths, long setting for portrait and sports, wide for landscape and architecture.

Canon Powershot G12 lens quality: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
Wideangle. Telephoto.

From these shots you can clearly see the range, they were all taken using the in-built HDR mode to capture the full range of tones and highlight any aberrations, but at both zoom lengths it’s difficult to spot any halos or aberration.

Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12
Canon Powershot G12 Canon Powershot G12

This series of long corridor shots show that the light fall off at the edge of the lens is minimal – no real vignetting can be seen on any of the images. Also the vertical lines the walls make at the side of the shots appear to be cleanly vertical and free of barrel or pincushion distortion.

In the exposure tests above, we also saw that shooting in to the sun created very little flare – the hot spot created by the bright sun was pretty well contained in one bright area, the rest of the shot being free from stray light.

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 G12.

Canon Powershot G12: Verdict
The G12 is an impressive camera; one packed with creative modes for the enthusiast yet offers the total manual control to the more experienced used. For the photographer who travels regularly but does not have space for a DSLR, this would be the ideal solution. For the new enthusiast who is looking to learn about manual control on a camera, this is a good option too. In fact, for anyone who’s after something more than just a basic point and click camera, and is prepared to pay around £360, the G12 is a camera to consider very seriously.

A camera loaded with features without the size of a DSLR.
Canon Powershot G12: Pros
Canon Powershot G12Looks and handles really well, yet compact enough to fit in most pockets
Canon Powershot G12Full of features, including a real HDR setting
Canon Powershot G12Low distortion 5 times zoom lens produces sharp images in most situations
Canon Powershot G12Control wheels rather than menus control most things you need when shooting
Canon Powershot G12Extremely impressive noise control at low ISO settings

Canon Powershot G12: Cons
Canon Powershot G124-way controller gets caught by the thumb and inadvertently changes settings
Canon Powershot G12High ISO creates a lot of noise
Canon Powershot G12Optical viewfinder is not easy to use

FEATURES Canon Powershot G12
HANDLING Canon Powershot G12
PERFORMANCE Canon Powershot G12
VALUE FOR MONEY Canon Powershot G12
OVERALL Canon Powershot G12

Canon Powershot G12: Specification
Price £389
What comes in the box Neck Strap NS-DC9, Battery Pack NB-7L (with Terminal Cap), Battery Charger CB-2LZE, AC Cable, AV Cable AVC-DC400ST, Interface Cable IFC-400PCU (for USB), User Manual Kit.
Contact www.canon.co.uk
Lens 6.1 - 30.5 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 - 140 mm) f/2.8 - f/4.5
Resolution 10.0Mp
Sensor size 1/1.7 inch
Sensor type CCD
Max. Image size 3648 x 2736
LCD monitor size 2.8in, 461000 pixels
Optical viewfinder Real-image zoom, optical viewfinder
Focusing system TTL
Focusing modes Single, Continuous (only available in Auto mode), Servo AF/AE, Tracking AF
File types JPEG & RAW
ISO sensitivity ISO80 - 3200
Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre or linked to Face Detection AF or FlexiZone AF frame)
White-balance Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater, Custom1, Custom2.
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments
Shutter speed 1/4000 - 15 secs
Continuous shooting Approx. 2.0 shots/sec.
Anti-shake mode Yes (lens shift-type), 4-stop, Hybrid IS
Movie mode 720p HD
Media type SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HCMMCplus
Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, HDMI mini connector, AV out
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-7L
Size 112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3mm
Weight (with battery) 401g

The Canon Powershot G12 costs £389 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon Powershot G12

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Photographs taken using the Canon Powershot G12

fence line.Copper sinks and brass tapsView across the moor on canvasLily in monoJune 2022.Golden dawnThe House At Godrics HollowBeautiful MagnoliaThe Artist.This way please.Elephant.metal benchSunsetLadies in waitingThe Dovecote at Buckland Abbey

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eyalg 11
19 Dec 2010 8:08AM
Seems like the closest you'll get to a DSLR in a compact camera!
TonyFrith 15 3 6 United Kingdom
30 Mar 2011 6:07PM
A few in our camera club have got one so they can always take a photo where ever they are ,without having to carry a big SLR all of the time.
ampr1150gs 13 2 Nepal
30 Mar 2011 9:45PM
I bought one a month ago and think it's a great little camera and the HDR works pretty well. Still keeping my Ricoh gx200 with the wide angle lens for back up, although I haven't touched it for weeks.
4 Apr 2012 11:08PM
Was impressed with Adrian's review. Could Adrian or another member suggest which is the best book to purchase re the canon G12
altitude50 18 22.9k United Kingdom
25 Mar 2017 7:35PM
I have just bought a mint used G12. I use my other compact camera along the sea shore a lot and in bright sunlight I cannot see anything at all on the rear screen. The viewfinder on the G12 is not great but at least I can see what it is pointing at.
I had a Powershot years ago and one feature that I liked was that the review screen can be accessed without turning the power switch on. The G12 retains this.

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