The latest model in the popular G-series of digicams for photo enthusiasts adds 720p HD video recording.Canon's PowerShot G12 can be seen as a minor or major upgrade to its predecessor, the G11, depending on how much you want HD video capabilities. The new model arrives at $100 less than the launch price of its predecessor yet adds a 720p HD movie mode with stereo audio. For movie fans, this would represent a significant improvement on the G11's VGA video with monaural audio. . . [more]
Canon's PowerShot G12 can be seen as a minor or major upgrade to its predecessor, the G11 , depending on how much you want HD video capabilities. The new model arrives at $100 less than the launch price of its predecessor yet adds a 720p HD movie mode with stereo audio. For movie fans, this would represent a significant improvement on the G11's VGA video with monaural audio.
For shooting stills, the G-series essentials we outlined in our reviews of the G11 and G10 are still there; you get the same-sized sensor, DiG!C 4 processor, 5x optical zoom lens and vari-angle LCD monitor. A couple of new new Scene presets have been added to bring the G12 in line with Canon's latest digicams and the 9-point TTL contrast-based AF system has been tweaked a little to improve its performance. (Details in the New Additions section below.)
Build and Ergonomics
The classic rangefinder styling is retained in the G12, as is the 2.8-inch, vari-angle LCD screen. The lens, which retracts into the camera body, is unchanged since the G10 and covers a focal length range of 6.1-30.5mm (equivalent to 28-140mm in 35mm format) and maximum aperture range from f/2.8 to f/4.5. Minimum aperture remains at f/8.
Front view of the PowerShot G12. (Source: Canon.)
Interestingly, Canon has upgraded the stabilisation to its new Hybrid IS system, which uses input from an accelerometer to compensate for lateral shift and an angular sensor to address blurring caused by angular camera movement. However, we didn't notice a huge difference as the stabilisation in the previous models was pretty good for a small-sensor digicam.
The most noticeable addition to the front panel is a new control dial wheel, which is used like those on DSLRs to adjust certain functions. It provides an alternative to the control dial surrounding the arrow pad when changing camera settings.
In Manual mode, the default setting is to have the front dial handling shutter speeds while the rear one sets apertures. We found this arrangement much quicker and easier to use than the single dial on the previous models.
You can register functions like aspect ratio settings, white balance correction and iContrast to either dial for each of the P, Av, Tv and M shooting modes. (If you've assigned several functions to the rear dial, pressing the Jump button lets you jump between them.)
The rear panel of the G12 is almost identical to its predecessor, with the same buttons controlling the same functions. A small rubber thumb rest has been added between the Playback and AE/FE Lock buttons. The size and resolution of the LCD monitor are unchanged.
Rear view of the PowerShot G12, showing the vari-angle monitor. (Source: Canon.)
The viewfinder hasn't really changed since the G10. It's still rather small and tunnel-like and covers less than 80% of the sensor's field-of-view. You must also allow for parallax error if you use it to frame close-ups. But it's better than having no viewfinder at all when shooting in bright, outdoor lighting.
The G12 also sports the top panel control layout that has made the G-series popular with serious photographers. The mode dial and exposure compensation dial are unchanged from the G11. The ISO dial appears slightly larger and now supports adjustments in 1/3 EV increments.
New additions include a pair of stereo speaker grilles that sit on either side of the hot-shoe. There's also a new user-configurable Auto ISO function.
Top view of the PowerShot G12. (Source: Canon.)
The amalgamation of stabilisation, DiG!C processing and ‘Intelligent' Auto technologies under the ‘TruCapture' brand name shows Canon likes to give names to collections of camera features. The company has done it again by combining the G12's sensor and image processor to create a ‘HS System' in which the initials represent ‘High Sensitivity'.
HD video isn't the only new addition the G12 offers. The camera now supports five aspect ratios at a range of image sizes: the default 4:3 plus 3:2, 16:9, 1:1, and 4:5. (This is one up on the Panasonic LX5, which has only four.)
There's also a new electronic level function to help users shoot with level horizons. Tracking AF, which is common in DSLR cameras and was introduced in the PowerShot S95, is also part of the G12's focusing arsenal.
It works when Servo AF is set to On and is one of the AF Frame selections in the shooting menu. To use it, you simply point the camera at the subject and centre the AF frame while pressing the AF Frame Selector button (which doubles as a Delete button in playback mode). A beep sounds when the subject is detected and the camera will keep focusing on this subject until it moves out of range - and also after the shot is taken. (Pressing the AF Frame Selector a second time cancels tracking.)
The Hybrid IS technology featured in the PowerShot S95 also appears in the G12. As well as detecting and compensating for normal camera shake, this new system adds an acceleration sensor that determines the amount of shift-based camera shake. It's able to correct movements in a wider range of directions, further reducing the risk of blurred shots.
Scene mode options are the same as in the PowerShot S95 and include the new Fish-eye and Miniature effect filters, both of which are adjustable. The same three settings are provided for the Fish-eye effect: Low (which is barely visible), Medium (the default) and High.
Examples of the Medium (top) and High (bottom) Fish-eye effect settings.
As in the S95, you can set up the Miniature effect to make the sharp strip in the image run horizontally or vertically and jump between them by pressing the Func/Set button. The arrow pad can be used to shift the position of the sharp strip in either direction.
Miniature effect options: horizontal (top) and vertical (bottom).
The Smart Shutter mode, which includes Smile, Wink Self-Timer, Face Self-Timer settings, is also available in the G12, as are the Super Vivid, Poster Effect and Nostalgic modes. The Colour Accent and Colour Swap settings continue and are available in Movie mode, along with the Miniature effect. Examples are shown below.
New effects in the Scene mode: (top row) Super Vivid and Poster Effect; (bottom row) Nostalgic and Colour Accent.
The HDR mode, which was introduced to digicams with the PowerShot S95, is also available in the G12. It records a burst of three shots with varying exposure levels and combines them to produce an image with a wider dynamic range.
As we found with the S95, a tripod (or some way to hold the camera still for the second or two it takes to capture the three frames) is essential when you use this mode. It also only works with static scenes, recording anything that moves between frames as a blur, as shown in the illustration below.
Moving subjects photographed with the HDR mode.
Face Detection covering focus, exposure, flash and white balance and Motion Detection technology carries over from the G11, as does the Dual Anti-Noise System, expanded dynamic range, Low Light mode and iContrast technology.
The ND filter, which cuts the light by three f-stops (12.5% transmittance) is also provided in the Function menu. The Smart Auto mode for novice users enables Canon's Scene Detection Technology to select the most appropriate camera settings from a choice of 28 possible variables (six more than in the G11) by analysing subject brightness, contrast, distance, overall hue and face movements.
The G12 can also be fitted with an optional FA-DC58B lens filter adapter, which accepts Canon's 58mm filters. Other optional accessories include the HF-DC1 High-Power Flash, several Speedlite flash units, the TC-DC58D (1.4x) Tele-converter and LA-DC58K Conversion Lens Adapter, RS-60E3 Remote Switch, WP-DC34 Waterproof Case and SCDC658 Soft Case. The G12 is also certified as Eye-Fi Connected, enabling it to use certain management features of WiFi-capable SD cards.
Sensor and Image Processing
The G12 sports the same 10-megapixel CCD sensor and DiG!C 4 image processor as its predecessor, which means it offers all of the TruCapture functions introduced with the G10. The top shutter speed of 1/4000 second is unchanged from the G10 and the ISO range spans from 80 to 3200, as in the previous model.
Like its predecessors, the G12 supports JPEG and raw file capture, along with simultaneous RAW+JPEG recording. However, unlike earlier models, five selectable aspect ratios are available for recording JPEG images. The different aspect ratios are obtained by cropping the frame, either at top and bottom or along both sides.
Raw files are never cropped and always recorded at 3648 x 2736 pixels. Selecting RAW+JPEG via the Func./Set button sets the camera to record a raw file and a Large/Fine JPEG file with each shot, both of them at 3648 x 2736 pixels. The aspect ratio is fixed at 4:3 with this setting.
Raw files are losslessly compressed - and slightly larger than equivalent files from the G11. JPEG compression is much the same and relatively modest with the Fine setting, but heavier with the Normal mode. Typical image sizes for the 4:3 aspect ratio are shown in the table below.
Image Size (pixels)
3648 x 2736
3648 x 2736
2816 x 2112
1600 x 1200
640 x 480
3648 x 2736
Note: When the aspect ratio is changed and the image area is cropped, image files become a little smaller. The exception is for M2 images captured with the 16:9 aspect ratio, which have an area of 1920 x 1080 pixels and are, therefore, larger. This setting replaces the single 'widescreen' mode on the G11.
Movie capture is the same as the S95, with three quality settings, all recorded in the MOV (Image Data: H.264; Audio Data: Linear PCM Stereo) format. A Wind Filter is provided in the shooting menu - and necessary because the camera is quite susceptible to wind noise. The table below shows resolutions, frame rates and recording times for a 4GB memory card.
Recording time on 4GB card
1280 x 720 pixels
25 minutes, 8 seconds
640 x 480 pixels
43 minutes, 43 seconds
320 x 240 pixels
1 hour, 58 minutes, 19 seconds
Users can choose from four movie modes: Standard, Miniature Effect (which blurs part of the frame to simulate a miniature model), Colour Accent and Colour Swap. However, zooming is restricted to digital zoom and Step Zoom and focus appears to be set at the start of each clip. Most other shooting modes can be used for video capture.
The maximum length of video clips is 29 minutes and 59 seconds and Class 4 or higher memory cards are recommended. The S95 provides only one basic video editing function: trimming that enables the beginnings and ends of recordings to be cut off. The edited clip can be saved as a new file or you can over-write the existing file.
Playback and Software
Essentially nothing has changed since the previous model, although the software bundle includes the latest versions of Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk applications. You get ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser 6.6, CameraWindow DC 3.3, Digital Photo Professional 3.9 and PhotoStitch (3.1 for Windows, 3.2 for Mac). The disk also contains the user manual, software guide and Personal Printing Guide in PDF format. (A printed copy of the user guide is supplied with the camera.)
Shots taken with the review camera set to the Auto and P modes and with the Auto ISO setting produced image files that were similar to those from the G11. Colours were attractively rendered and the dynamic range in shots was, if anything, marginally wider than we found with the previous camera. Digital zoom shots were also less artefact-affected, although perceptibly softer than shots without this feature.
The review camera was a noticeably better performer at high ISO settings than its predecessor - and we could see clear differences in test shots. Image quality in JPEGs remained relatively high right across the ISO range. Raw files were even better.
Slight softening kicked in at ISO 800 but shots taken at ISO 3200 were only a little softer and definitely usable at modest output sizes. Imatest confirmed subjective assessments and showed high ISO performance to be better than we found with either the previous model or the PowerShot S95, which has the same sensor and image processor. The graph below shows the result of our tests.
As with the G10 and G11, Imatest showed resolution to be close to expectations for the sensor's resolution when JPEG shots were analysed. CR2.RAW files from the review camera turned in superior performance, with best results coming from the middle-range focal lengths and aperture settings a stop or two smaller than maximum aperture. The graph below shows the result of our tests on JPEG files at different aperture settings.
Lateral chromatic aberration was mostly in the 'Low' band at all aperture and focal length settings we tested. CA was lower in converted raw files because this aberration is corrected as part of the file conversion process. In the graph below, which is based on JPEG files, the red line indicates the border between 'negligible' and 'low' CA, while the green line separates 'low' from 'moderate' CA.
We found traces of coloured fringing towards the edges of wide-angle shots taken in contrasty outdoor conditions - but only when they were enlarged to 100%.
The lens in the G12 suffered from the same slight barrel distortion at the 6.1mm focal length as we found with the G11. It had been corrected by the middle of the zoom range and the slight pincushion distortion at the longest focal length setting was barely detectable.
Although it was possible to force the lens to flare, we encountered very few problems with backlit subjects when using normal shooting strategies. However, exposures were positioned to yield detail in shadowed areas, which meant blown-out highlights were common in subjects with extended dynamic range. In extreme cases, noticeable blooming occurred, caused by the small size of the image sensor.
We had the expected problems when shooting close-ups of subjects less than one centimetre long. Although the lens will focus down to 1 cm from the subject, this is only possible at the 6.1mm focal length, which means a considerable amount of background is included. The small sensor makes it impossible to blur out background details, resulting in an unsatisfactory shot. Close-ups work best with subjects more than about 3 cm in diameter, which come close to filling the field of view of the sensor.
The auto white balance setting produced close-to-neutral colours under fluorescent lighting but, as expected, failed to eliminate the orange cast that characterises incandescent illumination. Fortunately, the tungsten and fluorescent pre-sets corrected both colour casts without overdoing the adjustment. Manual measurement produced neutral colours under both types of lighting.
Flash performance was generally good, although coverage was restricted to less than one metre with the ISO setting. However, exposures were evenly balanced throughout the sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200.
Video quality was generally good, although only when zooming was avoided as the artefacts produced by digital zooming quickly became visible and focus was lost during the zoom. Colours were generally bright and vibrant and contrast was quite high but saturation appeared to be slightly lower than in still pictures.
Compression artefacts were present in both VGA and QVGA clips, which is to be expected. HD clips displayed with plenty of detail on a television screen and movement was smoothly recorded, as long as the lens focal length wasn't changed. However, the camera found it difficult to maintain focus during slow pans when subject distances varied.
The stereo soundtracks had acceptable presence and the audio with clips shot in windless conditions was reasonably clear. However, wind noise was recorded with most outdoor shots and switching on the in-camera filter muffled the noise, without suppressing it much.
Our timing tests were carried out with a Verbatim Class 6 16GB SDHC memory card. The review camera powered up in just under one second and shot-to-shot times averaged 1.9 seconds for JPEGs without flash and 2.5 seconds with. For CR2.RAW shots, this extended to 2.5 seconds, while RAW+JPEG pairs could be recorded at 2.8 second intervals, on average.
We measured an average capture lag of 0.3 seconds, which is the same as the G11 we tested. Pre-focusing reduced this delay to less than 0.1 seconds. It took 2.9 seconds to process each high-resolution JPEG image, 3.0 seconds for a raw file and 3.3 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.
Continuous shooting was not particularly fast, probably because some processing takes place as bursts are recorded. We captured a burst of 10 Large/Fine JPEGs in 4.5 seconds, which is faster than the G11's burst speed. It took 3.2 seconds to complete processing of this burst.
On swapping to shooting raw files, the camera slowed slightly after two shots and markedly after four. Initial capture was at 1.9 second intervals and it took 3.3 seconds to complete processing of the four shots, indicating processing is on-the-fly.
In RAW+JPEG mode, burst capture was even slower and we were only able to record two pairs of shots in one second before capture stopped for approximately two seconds. On-the-fly processing completed the recording of both shots within 4.4 seconds of the last shot being taken.
Buy this camera if:
- You want a compact digital camera with DSLR-like controls.
- You're interested in shooting raw files.
- You want effective image stabilisation for stills and video clips.
- You require high resolution and low noise levels at high ISO settings.
- You'd like the ability to shoot HD video clips.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You will only shoot JPEG files.
- You require high burst speeds and buffer capacity plus fast cycle times for processing shots.
For JPEG files.
For CR2.RAW files processed with Adobe Camera Raw.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
6.1mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/320 second at f/5.6.
30.5mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/250 second at f/5.6.
Digital zoom; 30.5mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
Long exposure at ISO100; 15 seconds at f/2.8; 7.9mm focal length.
Long exposure at ISO 800; 15 seconds at f/5.0; 7.9mm focal length.
Long exposure at ISO 1600; 10 seconds at f/5.6; 7.9mm focal length.
Long exposure at ISO 3200; 8 seconds at f/7.1; 7.9mm focal length.
Flash exposure at ISO 80; 30.5mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/4.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 800; 30.5mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/4.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 800; 30.5mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/4.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 30.5mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/4.5.
Distortion at 6.1mm: ISO 80, 1/80 second at f/4.
Distortion at 30.1mm:ISO 160, 1/160 second at f/4.5.
6.1mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/320 second at f/5.6.
Crop from the edge of the above image at 100% enlargement, showing slight coloured fringing.
Conventional close-up using the Macro focus setting: 6.1mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/30 second at f/4.
Close-up shot of a tiny subject showing the inability to blur-out background details that characterises a small-sensor digicam: 6.1mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/320 second at f/2.8.
30.5mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/60 second at f/4.5.
Mixed lighting; 18mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
21mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/1250 second at f/4.
Blooming in a subject with a very wide brightness range; 30.5mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/30 second at f/6.3.
Hand-held at ISO 3200; 21mm focal length, 1/15 second at f/6.3.
Wide dynamic range subject: 30.5mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
Still frame from HD video clip.
Still frame from the same clip showing the effects of zooming in (which uses digital zoom).
Still frame from VGA video clip.
Still frame from QVGA video clip.
Image sensor: 7.6 x 5.7 mm high-sensitivity CCD with 10.4 million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
Lens: 6.1-30.5mm f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens (28-140mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 5x optical, up to 4x digital
Image formats: Stills - JPEG (Exif 2.3 compliant), CR2.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies - MOV (image data - H.264; audio - Linear PCM stereo)
Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 - (L & RAW) 3648 x 2736, (M1) 2816 x 2112, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480, Resize in playback (M2, S, 320 x 240); 16:9 - (L) 3648 x 2048, (M1) 2816 x 1584, (M2) 1920 x 1080, (S) 640 x 360; 3:2 - (L)3648 x 2432, (M1) 2816 x 1880, (M2) 1600 x 1064, (S) 640 x 424; 1:1 - (L) 2736 x 2736, (M1) 2112 x 2112, (M2) 1200 x 1200, (S) 480 x 480; 4:5 - (L) 2192 x 2736, (M1) 1696 x 2112, (M2) 960 x 1200, (S) 384 x 480; Movies - (HD) 1280 x 720, 24 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps, (M) 320 x 240, 30 fps; Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6fps, 3fps, 1.5 fps
Shutter speed range: 15-1/4000 second
Self-timer: Approx. 10 sec or 2 sec delay, custom, Face Self-Timer
Image Stabilisation: Optical (Lens Shift Type), approx 4 stops
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in 1/3EV increments; Enhanced i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction; ND Filter (3 stop); AEB 1/3 to 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
Focus system/range: TTL Autofocus with Single, Continuous (auto mode only), Servo AF (with Servo AE), Manual selection using Flexizone; AiAF (Face detection/9-point), Centre, Face Select, Track modes; Normal: 50cm - infinity, Macro: 1- 50cm (W), 30-50cm (T)
Exposure metering/control: TTL metering; Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre or linked to Face Detection AF or FlexiZone AF frame) modes
Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto with Scene Detection, P, Tv, Av, M, C1, C2, Low Light (2.5MP), Quick Shot, Movie, Special Scene (Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Sports, Smart Shutter [Smile, Wink Self-Timer, FaceSelf-Timer], Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, Colour Accent, Colour Swap, High Dynamic Range, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Nostalgic, Stitch Assist); My Colours: Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Colour
ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200
White balance: Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Underwater, Custom 1, Custom 2; White Balance Correction
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, on, off, Red Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro, Second Curtain Synchro, FE Lock, Safety FE; +/- 2EV of exposure compensation; range - 50 cm to 7.0 m (W) 50 cm - 4.0 m (T); hot shoe for EX series Speedlites, accepts Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX, Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX, Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Sequence shooting: Approx 2.0 frames/sec; AF Approx 0.7 frames/sec; LV Approx 0.8 frames/sec.
Playback Operations: Blink Detection, Scroll Playback, Index Playback, Folder Creation, Hints and Tips display, Red-eye Correction, Slideshow, My Category, Index, Resize, Magnified, Image Inspection Tool, Advancing and Reversing through magnified images, Jump, Auto Rotate, Histogram, Overexposure Warning, Auto Play
Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC
Viewfinder: Real-image optical zoom viewfinder with dioptric adjustment
LCD monitor: 2.8 inch vari-angle LCD monitor (approx. 461,000 dots); 100% coverage; 5 levels of brightness adjustment
Power supply: NB-7L rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 370 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3 mm
Weight: Approx. 355 grams (401 grams with battery and card)
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.0
- Ease of use: 8.5
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Image quality: Stills - 9.0; Video - 8.0
- OVERALL: 8.8