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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good image quality, useable results achievable up to ISO 3200 (if shooting Raw)
  • Accurate metering and focus
  • Good JPEG resolution (though stick to Raw for best results)
  • Fast and responsive in use
  • Excellent build quality
  • Good ergonomics (extra control dial makes a lot of difference)
  • Lots of manual control (we love the big chunky dials)
  • Customizable control dials
  • Versatile and sharp 28-140mm lens with effective stabilization
  • Articulated LCD screen

Conclusion - Cons

  • Poor optical finder (but no worse than G11/Nikon P7000)
  • No direct video recording button
  • 24fps maximum frame rate in 720p movie mode (although many people prefer this to 30fps+)
  • Rear control dial can be hard to manipulate precisely
  • Video function lacks finesse - no zooming or AF during recording
  • Bulkier than some competitors

Overall conclusion

For this Quick review we ran some basic studio tests to confirm that the G12's still image quality is essentially identical to the G11. To get all the in-depth information that you expect from a dpreview review on the Canon Powershot G12 you'll have to read both this article and our in-depth review of the Canon Powershot G11.

Although barely a year separates the release of the two models, the Canon Powershot G12 was launched into a considerably more competitive market than its predecessor the G11. Despite this, Canon hasn't felt the need to make a huge number of changes in the new model. The shape of the body is more or less identical but, most significantly, the G12 shares the same 10MP sensor as the G11, which sits nestled behind the same 28-140mm (equivalent) lens.

Those improvements that have been made, however, do add value, and make the G12 a more attractive camera than its predecessor. From the point of view of usability, the most important is the addition of an EOS-style control dial on the top of the camera. This was a feature of Canon's Powershot G-series right up until 2004, and we're extremely happy to see it come back. Not only does it make the G12 look and feel like a more serious camera, it also has the convenient side effect of making it easier to control manually.

As a stills camera, the G12 is an almost exact match for its predecessor. Apart from a suggestion of slightly better detail in high ISO JPEGs, files from the two cameras are impossible to tell apart. There is a reason why so many current high-end cameras use the same Sony-manufactured 10MP CCD sensor, and that's because it offers an extremely good balance of resolution and low-light sensitivity. The suspension of the megapixel race might well only be temporary, but there is no doubt in our minds that enthusiast photographers are better off with the 10MP sensor of the G12 than they were with the rather less impressive 14.7MP sensor inside the G10.

The G12 gives excellent image quality up to ISO 400 and, in everyday photography, noise and noise-reduction are only noticeable at ISO 800 and higher. Even then, they only become problematic on close inspection. At ISO 3200, the G12's JPEG output is poor by comparison, but no worse than its competitors. As always, with a little care and attention good results can be extracted from its .CR2 Raw files, but even the JPEGs are fine for small prints and web use (and can look very nice in black and white).

As far as image quality is concerned, the biggest changes are to the G12's video mode, which has been increased from VGA (in the G11) to 720p, at a frame rate of 24fps. Video enthusiasts will welcome the increase in resolution, and video footage from the G12 looks great, but like its sister camera the S95, the G12 does not allow optical zoom control or AF during movie shooting, which is rather limiting.

The final word

Arguably, there was very little wrong with the Powershot G11, and with the G12, Canon has smoothed out a few more rough edges. What remains is a very pleasant camera indeed. The G12 is quick, responsive and well-designed. Although it can be used as an 'auto everything' compact, the G12's real strengths only come to the fore when it is used in its A,S and M modes. The G12's twin control dials plus big, chunky, ISO, exposure compensation and mode dials offer a level of 'proper' manual control which is rare in any camera, let alone a compact model.

No camera is perfect, of course, and we do have some criticisms of the G12, albeit relatively minor ones. For one thing, we're disappointed that with all of the various buttons and dials which pepper its surface, Canon couldn't find room for a direct movie shooting button. This wouldn't be such an irritation if the shortcut button could be reassigned accordingly, but unfortunately this isn't possible. We recently criticized the Pentax K-5 for just such an omission, and arguably, quick access to video shooting is even more important in a compact camera than a DSLR.

Our other main criticism of the G12 also relates to video. Although video resolution has increased from VGA to 720p resolution, a 24fps frame rate lags behind the best of the competition (although it should be said that a lot of videographers prefer it to 30fps+), and the video functionality is still fairly limited. Disabling optical zoom during movie shooting makes sense in one respect - it avoids the issue of zoom noise on the soundtrack - but it would be nice to have the option in some situations. Likewise AF during movie recording. Not an essential function, perhaps, but handy, and something which is offered by some of the G12's competitors.

In the final analysis, the Canon Powershot G12 is an excellent compact camera which offers an exceptional amount of manual control. However, as we mentioned in the introduction to this review, as well as its 'traditional' rivals like the Nikon Coolpix P7000 and Panasonic LX5, it also has to compete against a new crop of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras like the Olympus E-PL2 and Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5.

This is a problem, because whilst there is no doubt that for some photographers, the (slightly) smaller size of the G12, plus the convenience of its fixed 28-140mm zoom will be points in its favour, these photographers are less likely to value its abundance of manual control options. Fans of 'hands on' photography that actually need all of the buttons and dials might well find a camera like the Olympus E-PL2, with its much larger sensor and interchangeable lens capability, more attractive. We have no hesitation in saying that the G12 is the best Canon G-series camera to date, but its original USP - as a bridge between compact cameras and DSLRs - is in danger of being eroded.

Canon PowerShot G12
Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Enthusiasts who want the maximum manual control in a compact (ish) package
Not so good for
Video enthusiasts, or anyone looking for a slim, portable compact.
Overall score
73%
The G12 is an excellent compact camera, with a proven 10MP CCD sensor and effective ergonomics. Fans of 'hands-on' photography will love the big chunky dials, and the addition of a front control dial makes the G12 easier to get to grips with than its most recent predecessors. Our only significant concern is with the G12's uninspiring movie mode.

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