The Canon G series has been making big waves in the photography community, small high end point & shoots with manual mode that allow for professional quality photography at a very low price. How does the latest of this series, the Canon PowerShot G11, measure up? Here's a review.
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We'll start off with a general overview of the concept behind this camera. As the teaser for this camera review states, it's a high end point & shoot. This whole genre of cameras attempts to package many of the qualities found in more expensive DSLR-style cameras into a smaller container—and with cheaper prices. This camera may be used in the literal point & shoot manner, but may also be used professionally with its close attention to manual control.
It's perfect for many of those budding photographers who don't want to make the leap into DSLR territory quite yet, but still want the high quality images and manual control. It's also perfect for those professionals who simply don't want the bulk of a DSLR but still want to take pictures they can make a living off of, or who just want a secondary camera.
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If you watch cameras, you'll notice that advertisements tend to boast a high megapixel count. While this sounds pretty nice, it doesn't actually do you any good: a larger megapixel image using the same image sensor will render a poorer quality image. Quantity does not make up for quality. The Canon PowerShot G11 shows what many reviewers refer to as “megapixel restraint": a relatively low number of megapixels for the sensor. The G11 displays this to a degree that many other cameras, both by Canon and other manufacturers, do not. So, expect a cleaner image than many similar point & shoot digital cameras.
However, the Canon PowerShot G11 is not perfect. While it performs fairly well under dark conditions to about ISO 400, after that, it gets a bit too noisy for most people. Its aperture range is good for a point & shoot, but still not enough for those who want those ultra-blurry backgrounds. The macro mode performs quite well, especially for a point & shoot, and it also offers manual focus.
For those interested, the G11 also offers RAW support, rare amongst point & shoots.
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The Canon PowerShot G11
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Usability & Ergonomics
Even the best image quality is worthless if the camera isn't very usable. Fortunately, that isn't an issue with the Canon PowerShot G11. Canon boasts one of the most intuitive user interfaces for cameras, and the G11 continues it on.
One way in which the G11 stands out from many point & shoots is its swivel screen capability. This enables photographers to shoot from any number of angles while still being able to view the screen, as well as being able to fold the screen away when not in use to prevent scratches and other damage (more on this later in the G10 comparison section of this review). The screen is also smaller as a result of this design, though certainly still large enough for usability, and also saves on power.
The on-screen menus are clear and easy to understand, allowing you to change between a myriad of options with uncomplicated ease, whether or whether not you've used a Canon camera before. The PowerShot G11 uses a combination of dials and buttons, which leads to less fiddling with on-screen menus on the whole.
You may have some difficulty with the different buttons and dials if you have large hands, though that goes for virtually any camera interface. Its larger design makes it roomier than many point & shoots, however, so you may find it easier to use than many of the alternatives.
The PowerShot G11 is larger and heavier than most point & shoots – you'll need a pretty roomy pocket if you want to fit it in. However, this also means that it's easier to grip, making it feel much more stable in the hands.
For those people who prefer a viewfinder over an LCD screen, they will find it to be optical in nature. This means that you'll be glancing between the LCD screen for changing options such as focus and exposure and the viewfinder for composition. This will strike many photographers as being somewhat awkward to work with, as well as unfaithful to the final image, but that goes for virtually any digital camera that uses an optical viewfinder.
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Something that the Canon PowerShot G11 has over many other high end point & shoot digital cameras: sheer durability. It has a significant amount of metal in its frame, making it heavier, but much more likely to survive a few falls. While theoretically this shouldn't be an issue, every photographer is bound to have a few accidents, no matter how careful they are.
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The price of the PowerShot G11 is a bit on the steep end for point & shoots, though still very affordable by way of high quality cameras. New ones as of the writing of this review go for around $500, depending on the market. This falls on the bottom end of prices for the high-end point & shoots, and well below the bottom range of DSLRs.
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Not the first consideration to be making into purchasing your camera, but the feel of a camera is important. The PowerShot G11 keeps it simple: a black box with rounded corners. Its many dials gives it something of an old-school quality to it, which many find appealing. While it won't be winning any fashion awards, there's a simple functionality and lack of flashiness about it that many will find appealing.
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The more professionally-minded here might be getting a bit concerned on one point, however, and that's whether they can use all their fun gadgets with the PowerShot G11 despite it being a point & shoot. Well, yes, with the caveat of having to buy a lens adapter.
More specialty pieces of photography equipment, such as underwater housing, do exist for a Canon PowerShot G11. The G series follow the same general form factor, so anything that fits other in the series will fit the G11, especially those for the G10.
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Comparison to Canon G10
Disclaimer: I'm a G10 user who loves her camera, so I can't resist making the comparison.
The most conspicuous addition is the flipout swivel viewfinder. While some photographers find folding it out an irritating extra step, others find it useful for shooting from different positions, be it above the head for the shot you just can't quite make otherwise, or from the hip for that candid street shot that requires being inconspicuous.
One excellent improvement over the G10 is that megapixel restraint mentioned earlier: while the G10 claims 14.7 megapixels, the G11 only claims 10MP for the same image sensor, rendering much cleaner images than its predecessor.