Canon PowerShot G11 initial impressions

G11 shots

I was pretty excited when Canon announced the Canon PowerShot G11. My SLR rig is too large, and I want a decent walk-around camera. The G11, from the specs, seems to fit the criterias for a DMD (decisive moment digital).

You can tell the lens on the G11 is incredible from the samples at the Canon Japan site. The decreased pixel count is great as that means lower (better) pixel density – 23MP/cm² – which should translate to better noise performance in high ISO settings. Noise control is very important to me, especially with a P&S. Built-in flash almost never yield decent shots, it is best to turn flash off when shooting indoor. In fact, I only use it for fill flash, and to get catch lights in the eyes, not as a primary light source.

I was really anxious to pick up a G11, I checked Amazon daily for weeks. When I learned that Best Buy had them in stock, I immediately went to check it out. I played with their demo unit in store, it was fairly obvious that the noise performance wasn’t great from playback shots on the LCD. The next day I found a 10% coupon, that made Best Buy’s price comparable to ordering online. Knowing that American Express would refund my restocking fee if I want to return it, I went back and picked one up.

I’ve had the G11 for 5 days, shot around 500 frames. I am not 100% happy satisfied with it, and I haven’t decided if I’m keeping it. Some quick thoughts on this camera:

Pros

  • Great lens, the lens is one of the best I’ve seen in a P&S, and I would say it’s better than crappy “kit lens” that come with most entry-level D-SLRs. The G11 is actually very sharp at wide open aperture
  • Wide angle, pretty useful when shooting in tight spaces. It also shoots great WA macro shots, something you really need a P&S for
  • It shoots RAW, this gives me more flexibility in post-processing
  • Hotshoe for flash! I can mount a Canon Speedlite on it and the camera does accurate E-TTL flash metering. It works very well with bounced flash as well. The hotshot also allows syncing to strobes in studio with PocketWizards and other remote triggering devices. The following shot was done with a bounced 580EX II:

G11 takes decent macro shotsG11, ISO 100, 6.1mm, f/2.8, 1/60s

G11 shots
G11 + 580EX II

G11 shots
side profile of camera with 580EX II attached

  • Manual controls, this is pretty important to me, the G11, like most highend P&S, allows full manual controls of aperture, shutter speed, and focus
  • Image Stabilization works well
  • Swivel screen is nice, not because I like to take pictures of myself, but because I can flip it around to protect the screen

G11 shots

G11 shots

  • Control knobs for ISO settings, EV compensation, and shooting modes. They allow quick adjustments without having to go through the menu, they also feel really solid

G11 shots

G11 shots

  • Noise control in JPEGs is decent (more on this later)
  • Metering is very accurate, and it even has a spotmeter
  • Great battery life, after a few days of decent use the battery is still full

Cons

  • NOISE!! Anything above ISO 800 is unusable IMO, especially in RAW. This is very disappointing, I expected much better noise control from this sensor – maybe my expectation is unrealistic. JPEGs are clearner because the camera has hardware noise reduction, so I shoot RAW+JPEG
  • Weight! Very solid construction, but heavy for a P&S, it is also large enough that it won’t fit in jeans pockets (unless you want sick stretch and fades)
  • Price. MSRP is $500, and street prices are higher than the Panasonic LX3 right now, for a bit more I could get the DLUX4, both of these got a even better lens!
  • The viewfinder is absolutely useless, I don’t even see AF points or even just a bracket in there
  • Slow AF, maybe it’s fast for a P&S, but AF and response time is not even close to what I’m used to, and not much faster than the SD series P&S
  • Variable aperture, I hate zoom lenses with variable aperture
  • It would be nice to have a front adjustment ring around the lens like the S90, that would be useful for manual focusing
  • AF assist light, it is on by default, and is very annoying
  • Video capability is a joke, for $500, it really should do HD videos

Some test shots with the G11

more g11 snaps
G11, 6.1mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 80

more g11 snaps
G11, 12mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 125

more G11 tests
G11, 6.1mm, f/2.8, ISO 80

G11 photowalk
G11, 30.5mm, f/4.5, 1/100s, ISO 800

G11 photowalk
G11, 6.1mm, f/3.2, 1/60s, ISO 640

By the way, Amazon now has it in stock: