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White Balance

The G11 features seven preset white balance options plus an auto setting and the ability to set and retain two manual presets. Our tests show that the presets are very good - rendering colors accurately and neutral areas as neutral but the Auto mode is a different matter. Our attitude is that auto white balance should color-correct a scene in the same way that the presets do. Canon, meanwhile, seems to let its 'auto' setting leave a color cast under certain lighting types, presumably to retain some of the scene's original 'atmosphere.' We'd prefer this to be optional, especially as we're not completely convinced by the rather yellow results it leaves. With this exception, the results are pretty good.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 10.8%, Blue -15.8% Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red -2.3%, Blue -4.0% Average
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 0.0%, Blue 0.1% Excellent
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red 0.2%, Blue 0.0% Excellent

Flash Performance

The built-in flash unit has a specified range of 7m at wide angle and 4m at telephoto (when the ISO is set to auto) - which is fine for social snaps and the occasional bit of fill-in, but is hampered by the relatively small maximum aperture as you move up the zoom range. In use the flash worked well in our indoor tests, with good skin tones, and good exposure. The FUNC menu allows the Flash Exposure Compensation to be set from -2 to +2, and a green AF illuminator aids focus in low light. There is a noticeable increase in shutter lag when using flash. Flash is still available in continuous (burst) mode.

The included flash hot shoe means that you can use any of the range of Canon Speedlights.

Skin tone - Slight warm tone. Color chart -good color, slight underexposure

Macro Focus

The G11's macro performance is as you'd expect from a high-end compact - it can focus very close at the wide end of the zoom but isn't so effective at the long end. This means you're either so close to the object that you can't light it properly (we're using our rear-lit test chart here, as the lens can focus less than 1cm away from the chart at the 28mm equiv. setting), or you're so far away that your photos aren't recognizably 'macro.' This is not a bad performance by any means and it's unusual to find yourself unable to take the shot you want because your subject is too close - but don't expect to be shooting tight portraits of Bumble Bees.

Image quality suffers considerably at the closest focusing distance, with not just corners but whole edges of the frame becoming distinctly soft. Chromatic aberrations are also very apparent.

Wide macro - 31 x 23 mm coverage
114 px/mm (2902 px/in)
Distortion: High
Corner softness: Above average
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Telephoto macro - 89 x 67 mm coverage
41 px/mm (1036 px/in)
Distortion: Very low
Corner softness: Above average
Equiv. focal length: 140 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The distortion is fairly well controlled, with a noticeable 1.3% barrel distortion at the wide-angle setting and a perfectly rectilinear projection at the other end. This is about as good as things get, optically, for wide-angle zooms on compact cameras but there are now a wide range of cameras with wide-angle lenses that automatically correct for such distortion (often without any notification), which casts this result in a slightly less flattering light, unless you take a purist view on such things.

Barrel distortion - 1.3% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 140 mm

iContrast

iContrast is Canon's method of boosting the apparent dynamic range in the G11's shots. It pulls up darker tones in the image to give a better balanced image when you're shooting in high contrast situations. Even in our challenging tunnel test, it's done a good job of stopping the shadow regions looking so murky, it works well in bright sunshine shots, too, preventing the loss of detail in shaded areas.

iContrast OFF - ISO 200, 1/40, F 3.5 iContrast Auto - ISO 200, 1/40, F 3.5

In the example the camera does not change the shutter speed, aperture or ISO, but the image is brighter as a whole and the giraffe is better exposed when I-Contrast is set to auto.

Specific image quality issues

In almost every respect, the G11 has some of the best image quality of any compact we've seen. It can't quite compete with the G10's resolution at the lowest ISOs but it produces reliably good images in a wider range of circumstances. The only obvious issue is one shared with its predecessor and is one that relates to the lens they share:

Chromatic Aberrations

The G11's lens shows some signs of chromatic aberrations, particularly at the wide-angle end of its range. The effect can be significant enough to be visible in large prints. Because the G11 is able to save its RAW output, chromatic aberration can be processed-out with many pieces of processing software (including the supplied Digital Photo Professional which will remove much of it at the checking of a tick-box). However, now that many of the G11's competitors will automatically and seamlessly remove the effects of CA from JPEGs, this minor task could feel slightly onerous.

28mm equiv., F5 100% crops from camera JPEGs
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