New Features

The G12 might be extremely close to the G11 in terms of operation and feature set, but there are some key differences. The G12 has a higher resolution movie mode (and thereby becomes the first G-series camera to ofer HD video), a built-in electronic spirit level, and also offers both in-camera HDR and ISO expansion up to ISO 12,800 (equivalent) at 2.5MP.

In-camera HDR

The G12's HDR mode works by combining three images - one of the 'correct' exposure plus one over-exposed image to capture shadow detail and an underexposed image for highlight detail that would otherwise be missing. These exposures are then sandwiched together in-camera to produce a single image. This is not intended to be a handheld mode - because the camera is combining multiple shots, a tripod is essential to avoid ghosting (and/or camera-shake) in the final image.

Program mode, auto exposure, ISO 400 HDR mode, ISO 800

Whilst not an essential function, the G12's in-camera HDR mode is fun, and as you can see from the example above, it can give attractive results in difficult high-contrast scenes. In this shot, the shadow areas have been lifted, and the highlight areas held back slightly, which has successfully balanced the scene and avoided detail loss in either part of the image. Enthusiasts beware though - this is a fully automatic mode, so no control is possible over ISO, shutter speed or aperture, and you are limited to color JPEG images only.

HD Video

The G12's video resolution has been upped to 1280x720p, which is the same resolution as its sister model the Powershot S95 and the majority of its competitors. As well as standard 720p footage with mono sound, it is also possible to apply various effects to the G12's video output, including miniature mode, which simulates the effect of using a tilt/shift lens. Because of the demands that this makes of the camera's processor, this is a high-speed mode, with footage captured at either 5x, 10x or 20x normal speed (so in 10x mode, to get 10 seconds playback you need to shoot a 1min, 40 second clip).

Sample 1 (showing miniature effect)

1280x720p, miniature mode, 5x speed .MOV file, 10 sec, 6 MB

Sample 2 (showing digital zoom @ 140mm)

1280x720p @ 24fps .MOV file, 10 sec, 6 MB

Video from the G12 is exactly what we'd expect from using its sister camera the S95 - smooth and detailed, but the camera is rather limited in terms of manual control. You get some basic in-camera video editing, but just like the S95, the G12 cannot be manually zoomed during movie shooting (see the clip above for the effects of digital zoom), and focus must be preset before recording commences. There is no control over exposure either - not even via the manual exposure compensation dial. These limitations, plus the lack of a direct movie shooting button, make it less satisfying as a video camera than competitors like the Nikon Coolpix P7000 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5.

Note: more video samples are available on the samples page of this review.

Electronic Horizon

A useful, but easily overlooked addition to the G12's feature set is an electronic level, which sits at the bottom of the screen and can be used in both landscape and portrait formats.

Camera is tilted... is level

The level shows the current amount of tilt on a continuous (but unmarked) scale, and indicates a neutral (i.e. level) position with a thick green line, around a central point. The G12 automatically switches the orientation of the level when the camera is held in the portrait format.

ISO 6400-12800

As well as its standard ISO range of 100-3200, the G12 can also shoot up to ISO 12,800 (equivalent) in its low-light exposure mode (indicated with an icon of a candle on the exposure mode dial).

ISO 6400 (2.5MP) 100% crop
ISO 12,800 (2.5MP) 100% crop

These expanded ISO settings are achieved by pixel binning (where the output of neighboring pixels is combined to improve the signal to noise ratio but at a greatly reduced output size) and the effective resolution of images captured at both ISO settings is 2.5MP. This might sound pretty limiting, but image quality is good enough for screen use, and - in a pinch - a 6x4" print.