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Canon PowerShot G12 Review

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Canon PowerShot G12 Review

Highs
  • Very good picture quality
  • Low noise even in very low light
  • Tweaks galore
  • HDR a great option for still subjects
Lows
  • Expensive
  • Too much noise at elevated ISOs
  • No dedicated video button
  • May be the end of an era
Canon's G12 introduces HD video recording, in-camera HDR capabilities, and a number of other subtle updates to the well-respected, but expensive, G series.

Introduction

Ferraris get updated every few years. And so do Canon’s “G” series point-and-shoot cameras. Last year we tested the G11 and liked it a lot, but it still had some drawbacks, notably the lack of high-def video recording. The company rectified that problem with the new 10-megapixel G12, and even added a few tweaks that’ll please many shutterbugs. Let’s see what they are, and if the G12 is worth nearly 500 clams.

Features and Design

Put the G11 next to the G12 and at first glance they’re nearly identical, other than a changed model number. The G series doesn’t sport day-glo colors or the thinness of an iPhone. It’s big, bulky and looks quite old fashioned. In fact it looks almost like the new Nikon Coolpix P7000, another $499 digicam marketed to serious photographers. Check out the photos and you’ll see this is not a frivolous piece of gear. It measures 4.4 x 3 x 1.9 (WHD, in inches) and weighs 12.4 ounces without the battery and card, nearly a pound fully loaded.

Look closely on the front and you’ll see one of the improvements—a handy jog wheel right below the shutter. You’ll use this to make adjustments such as aperture and shutter speed when you move out of auto. Also on the front is a 5x optically-stabilized zoom with a range of 28-140mm. We liked this lens in the past, and it’s still a winner. Would we like a longer reach like the P7000’s 7.1x 28-200mm? Sure, but it didn’t feel like we missed much during our tests. Also on the front is the flash, porthole for the optical viewfinder and autofocus-assist lamp. A release button lets you take off the ring surrounding the lens to add optional conversion lenses.

The top has dials that transport older shooters to the good old days of film cameras. The only thing missing is a crank to rewind film! On the far left, you can adjust exposure compensation with a small dial, then move past the hot shoe and tweak ISO (auto through 3200) with another dial. Sitting atop that one is the main mode dial. Here are your key shooting options including Smart Auto, PASM, two custom settings, low light, high speed, scene and movie. Nearby is the power button and shutter, surrounded by the zoom-toggle switch.

With Smart Auto, the camera guesses what type of subject is front of it and chooses the settings. It does this well. PASM stands for Program AE, Aperture/Shutter Priority and full Manual. Low light drops the resolution to 2.5 megapixels for low-noise shots in candlelight, while high speed supposedly takes a shot quickly (this is not true burst shooting, and is pretty useless). Scene gives you access to 20 options, from the usual portrait and landscape options to more unusual ones, such as fisheye and miniature. The one new choice of note is HDR — High Dynamic Range — which we’ll discuss shortly. The movie option is a definite upgrade, with the camera now taking 720p HD video, versus VGA (640 x 480) video on the G11. It also captures stereo audio, which adds fuller sound to your clips. Surprisingly there’s no direct red video button as found on so many 2010 digicams. Canon should re-jigger that with the G13 — or whatever the next model will be called.

The rear of the G12 is the same as the G11. The key features are the 2.8-inch vari-angle LCD screen rated a very good 461K pixels, and an optical viewfinder with diopter adjustment to use if the screen wipes out — it rarely does — or you want to be old school and look through the viewfinder. There are the usual buttons, including a four-way controller surrounded by a jog wheel. On the right side are mini HDMI and USB outs, while the left has a tiny speaker. The bottom of the Made-in-Japan G12 has a metal tripod mount, and the compartment for its battery and memory card. The camera accepts the newer SDXC media, and you should use a Class 6 card or higher for best results.

What’s In The Box

The G12 comes packaged with a battery rated good for 370 shots using the monitor, a plug-in charger, USB and A/V cables, as well as a neck strap. It has a 36-page Getting Started guide and the full Owner’s Manual is on the supplied CD-ROM, which also has Canon software for handling images and developing RAW files.

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