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Canon PowerShot G11 Review

December 2009 | By Richard Butler


Review based on a production Canon PowerShot G11, Firmware version 1.00

The Powershot G series has represented a fairly formidable presence at the top of the compact camera tree. From a keen photographer point-of-view, there's little on the market that can match its mixture of zoom range, lens flexibility, build quality and level of manual control. Somehow Ricoh's GX and Nikon's P series have never quite had the same impact but Panasonic's LX3 has been enough to tempt some potential customers away, with its bright lens and convincing (for a compact) low-light performance.

The G11 seems determined to wrestle back its position as undisputed champion of the market, though, incorporating what Canon describes as a 'high sensitivity' CCD. In what might be a first, the company has reduced the pixel count in comparison to the preceding model. In principle, there is no disadvantage to having more pixels when you consider the whole image (other than the larger file sizes that might slow down the camera and fill your memory card faster and the added complication of having to apply noise reduction before demosaicing, which is not something many people are willing or able to do). However, the often larger photosites of a less pixel-dense sensor will tend to receive more light, in the same exposure, making it easier to produce an image that looks cleaner at the pixel level. Almost as if Canon wants its flagship compact to be a handy all-rounder.

The body style dates back to the G7, which upset many existing G-series owners by omitting several features they'd become used to. Those missing features have, one-by-one, been re-included as the range has developed, leading us to the G11, which finally regains the fold-out, swivel display that went missing after the G6. There's no denying it's a well featured camera and one with styling that appeals to many photographers.

However, since the G10 arrived, Olympus and Panasonic have released their Micro Four Thirds compact interchangeable lens cameras, the E-P1, E-P2 and GF1, the Powershot G series has looked like a less obvious choice. The Panasonic GF1 for instance, is no larger than the G11 and offers a similar level of external control (albeit without the nice retro metal dials), but is built around a sensor with more than five-and-a-half times the surface area. So although the GF1 and Olympuses can't compete with the G11's 28-140mm equivalent lens range (at least, not while remaining as compact packages), they are likely to offer greater image quality and control over depth of field than the small sensored Canon can.

Headline features

  • 10.0 Megapixel CCD sensor
  • 5x wide-angle (28-140mm equivalent) zoom lens with optical image stabilizer
  • 2.8” tilt/swivel LCD (461k dot resolution)
  • RAW image recording
  • Claimed 2-stop advantage in low light compared to G10
  • Dedicated Exposure Compensation and ISO dials
  • DIGIC 4 processor
  • i-Contrast boosts brightness and retains detail in dark areas
  • 26 shooting modes with manual control and custom settings
  • Accessories include tele-converter, Speedlights flashes and waterproof case
  • VGA movies, 30fps

Changes compared to G10

  • 10 megapixel 'high sensitivity' sensor, down from 14.7 megapixels
  • Gains ISO 3200 as full setting (Rather than option-limited scene mode)
  • White balance fine tuning
  • Tilt and swivel LCD 2.8" (rather than 3" fixed screen)
  • New Low Light and Quick Shot modes
  • HDMI connector
  • No Superfine JPEG compression (Fine is least compressed option)
  • No voice annotation or sound recording function
  • No remote (tethered) image capture

Powershot G11 against its peers

The visual differences between the G10 and G11 are not exactly pronounced - a slight tweak of the grip covering and the flash are the only things beyond the badges that give the game away. It's interesting to see the G11 alongside the smaller Panasonic LX3 (which has a similarly-sized sensor), and the Panasonic GF1 which has a much larger sensor (though would require a much larger lens to match the G11's 28-140mm equivalent range).

Canon G11 specifications

Street price • US: $440
• UK: £390
Sensor* • 1/1.7" Type CCD
• 10 million effective pixels*
Image sizes* • 3648 x 2736
• 3648 x 2048
• 2816 x 2112
• 2272 x 1704
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480
• 320 x 240
Movie clips • 640 x 480 @ 30fps
• 320 x 240 @ 30fps
Maximum clip length Up to 4GB or 1 hour
File formats • Still: JPEG (Exif v2.2)
• RAW
• Movie: MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (monaural)]
Lens • 28-140mm (35mm equiv)
• f = 6.1 - 30.5 mm
• 5x optical zoom
• F2.8-4.5
• Construction: 11 elements in 9 groups (1 double-sided aspherical element)
Image stabilization Yes (Lens-Shift)
Conversion lenses Yes
Digital zoom up to 4x
Focus • Auto focus :TTL
- Face Detection / 9-point AiAF
- 1-point AF (center or Face Select and Track)
- Fixed centre or Face Select and Track
• Manual focus
AF area modes • Single
• Continuous
• Servo AF/AE
AF lock Yes (on/off selectable)
AF assist lamp Yes
Focus distance Closest focus distance 1 cm
Metering • Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame)
• Center-weighted average
• Spot (center or linked to Face Detection)
ISO sensitivity* • Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
• ISO 3200*
AE lock Yes (on/off selectable)
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
Shutter speed • Auto (1 - 1/4000 sec)
• 15-1/4000 sec
Modes* • Auto
• Program AE
• Shutter Priority AE
• Aperture Priority AE
• Manual
• Custom (2 modes)
• Special Scene
• Stitch Assist
• Low Light*
• Quick Shot*
• Movie
Scene modes • Portrait
• Landscape
• Night Snapshot
• Kids & Pets
• Night Scene
• Indoor
• Sunset
• Foliage
• Snow
• Beach
• Fireworks
• Aquarium
• Underwater
• Color Accent
• Color Swap
White balance* • Auto (including Face Detection WB)
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Flash
• Custom1
• Custom2
• Underwater
• White Balance Correction*
Self timer • 2 or 10sec,
• Custom or FaceSelf Timer
Continuous shooting • Approx. 1.1 shots/sec.
• AF: Approx. 0.7 shots/sec.
• LV: Approx. 0.8 shots/sec. (until memory card becomes full)
Image parameters
(My colors)
• My Colors Off
• Vivid
• Neutral
• Sepia
• Black & White
• Positive Film
• Lighter Skin Tone
• Darker Skin Tone
• Vivid Blue
• Vivid Green
• Vivid Red
• Custom Color
Flash • Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye reduction
• Slow Sync Speed : Fastest speed 1/2000 sec
• +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
• Face Detection FE compensation
• Safety FE
• Flash exposure lock
• Manual Power Adjustment
• Second Curtain Sync
• Range (Auto ISO):50cm - 7.0m (wide) / 4.0m (tele)
External Flash E-TTL with EX series Speedlites, Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX, Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX, Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Viewfinder Real-image zoom, Optical Viewfinder
LCD monitor* • 2.8 inch Vari-angle PureColor II VA (TFT)
• 461,000 pixels
• 100% coverage
• Adjustable
Connectivity* • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• HDMI mini connector*
• AV out (PAL / NTSC switchable)
Print compliance PictBridge
Storage • SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus , HC MMCplus compatible
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-7L
Weight (no batty) 355g
Dimensions 112 x 76 x 48 mm

* Changes or additions compared to the G10


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2009 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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