Some of the key improvements found on the G12 over the G11 are 720p HD video recording, added scene mode settings like HDR, Canon's Hybrid IS system, more robust sensitivity settings (1/3 EV steps compared to 1EV), and a few small changes to the camera's menu system.
When looking at the G12's exterior, you'll be hard pressed to find many changes over its predecessor. We found only three notable changes, which were the new front control wheel (kudos to Canon for this one), the added steps on the ISO control dial, and a small rubber pad on the back of the camera where your thumb rests for added comfort. Other than those, the G11 and G12 offer identical external specifications. We truly enjoy the design and "retro" look of Canon's G-series models, as they offer a nice comfortable size and weight, while still being compact enough for a small bag or purse; or a very large cargo pants pocket. Like past models, we found all of the controls to be well placed and easy to access as well as well labeled. Each control wheel or button is positioned within reach of one of your finger tips, allowing for quick and precise changes to various camera settings. Like I mentioned beforehand, the new front control wheel/dial is an awesome addition, which makes it much easier to change settings in manual mode. In the past, you would have to share the rear control wheel to change both shutter speed and aperture, in combination with a button which had to be pressed to switch between the two settings. Now, you simply rotate either the front or rear wheel.
I only have two real complaints about the controls on the G12, one of which we've been pointing out since the G10. First off, the exposure compensation wheel is a very handy feature, however like with past models I found it was way too easy to accidentally rotate the dial, which would throw off your exposure. Like we experienced with the G11, after I had captured some of our usual sample photos, I noticed that the G12 was shooting with -1/3 EV of Ex. Comp . applied, which I suspect happened when I slipped the camera into my camera bag at some point. While this is a minute amount that would not make that huge of a difference in the photos I was capturing, I still feel this is something that Canon could have easily remedied on this new model by simply adding a bit more resistance to the dial. My other issue was with the spacing between the LCD and the rear control wheel. I have rather larger hands, including a big fat thumb. When rotating the rear dial, I found my thumb rubbing the right hand leading edge of the LCD screen quite often. This wasn't a huge problem, but it did make it uncomfortable at times. I found the best method of operating the rear dial was by keeping your thumb on the right side of the wheel.
Like all of their G-series offerings, the G12 was specifically designed for those who are looking for dSLR like performance and control packaged into a more compact form factor. Geared towards advanced users with a wealth of exposure control options like full manual mode, aperture priority, and shutter speed priority, the G12 is one robust digicam. However, on the flip side it's also quite docile with exposure options like Smart Auto, Progam AE and 21 different Scene mode settings. These will help the average user to capture great photos, while the advanced settings will help them to "grow" their skills. At the same time, the camera will allow those who are experienced shooters to have the control and versatility they desire.
The G12 uses the same 2.8-inch vari-angle LCD we saw on the G11. This is a high-quality display that boasts 461,000 pixels of resolution, a non-glare coating, and endless framing possibilities when compared to your typical fixed LCD. I truly enjoyed using the LCD on the G12, which offers a nice bright picture with rich colors and accurate exposure reproduction. The display has a few angles which can reflect light, however the backlight is bright enough that it's not likely to affect seeing your subject. One thing to watch for on this display is fingerprints, it picks them up quite easily. If you've owned a PowerShot model in the past, you'll be right at home with the G12's logically organized menu system. Like most Canon models, it's very easy to navigate, and the function shortcut menu is perfect for making quick changes to various settings on the fly. While most of the settings within the camera remain the same from the G11, we did see slight changes where Canon removed or simplified some of the more "unused" options; like reducing the amount of resolution choices for instance.
Canon continues to equip their G-series models with a versatile 5x wide view optical zoom lens that we have seen used since the G10. This unit covers a nice wide range of approx. 28-140mm (in 35mm equivalence), with a relativley fast maximum aperture range of f/2.8 (W) - f/4.5 (T). While you won't be zooming in tightly on players on the football field, you will have good magnification for close-up portraits and Macro type photos, along with a nice wide field of view for indoor photos, groups shots, and beautiful landscapes. Canon has upgraded this lens with their latest stabilization technology, called Hybrid IS. Still a true "Lens-shift" optical IS system, it compensates for both "angular and shift" forms of camera shake. Combined with the G12's HS system and fast f/2.8 lens, this is one capable low-light camera. Overall this lens helped the G12 produce sharp images throughout the zoom and aperture ranges, with average barrel distortion at wide angle. Aberrations were well controlled, with only slight traces of CA along lines of extreme contrast.
We were pleased to see that Canon equipped the G12 with the same 10-megapixel "high-sensitivity" CCD image sensor that they have used in the G11, S90, and S95. This is a proven sensor which has produced pleasing results in each of the models it's been used in. While some may think that less resolution mean less quality, that couldn't be further from the truth with these models. Not only is this sensor physically larger than the vast majority of your 12-14-megapixel imagers, it also has less pixel density. This means that each pixel (aka photo site) is larger, thus offering more surface area to collect light information and increasing the performance in lower lighting conditions. Overall, the G12 produced very pleasing photos in a variety of lighting conditions. Exposure is spot on when outdoors (just watch that Exposure compensation dial), and colors are very pleasing with just a slight bump in saturation to add a bit of "pop" to your photos.
When viewing our M&M ISO series, I was not surprised by the G12's results. Like I mentioned earlier, the G12 incorporates Canon's new HS system, which is a combination of the "high sensitivity" imager sensor and the DIGIC 4 processor. While critically inspecting the series at 100%, I saw well controlled noise levels all the way up to ISO 1600. While you can see some obvious speckling from luminous type noise, there is still plenty of fine detail to be seen. The noise itself is only really visible when pixel peeping. Even the ISO 3200 settings looks very usable when viewing at normal sizes, such as about 25% or full screen (depending on the size of your monitor and its resolution settings). White balance was spot on (something the G11 had a few issues with), and you see very little, to no color shift as the sensitivity is raised; some models encounter obvious shifts in color balance due to heavy noise reduction. Overall, the G12 handles noise better than just about any other camera in its class, with a complete ISO range that is usable for mid to large sized prints; which is something that most cameras only wish could be said about them.
While shooting some indoor close-up portraits, I found the G12 produced pleasing results in various exposure modes. The flash was nice an bright, having no problem lighting our young model from several feet away using the mid to telephoto end of the zoom for framing, along with a lower ISO setting (80 to be exact). Canon claims it can cover up to 23 feet at full wide angle when using ISO Auto. We found this was a very powerful built-in unit, however the G12 also has a hotshoe for using external speedlites, like the Canon 580EX II for example. While the flash was quite powerful, I noticed that the automatic flash white balance setting the camera chooses is a bit warm. This actually produces a more pleasing effect, as it makes skin tones a bit rosier. However, it's not exactly natural looking at times. The only other real issue we saw with this flash was with red-eye. Using the Auto flash mode with the Red-eye Reduction Lamp set to On in the menu, we saw a great deal of this occurrence in our indoor snapshots. Luckily the G12 does offer an automatic Red-eye Correction setting, which will remove traces of red-eye in your photos as the image is being processed.
Like we mentioned in our PowerShot S95 review, Canon has finally heard our cries! One feature that was missing from the G11 was a HD video option. The G12 now offers a 720p (1280x720) video mode, along with your typical 640x480 and 320x240 options. Canon also included several creative mode to choose from, such as miniature Effect, Color Accent, and Color Swap. These settings, combined with access to the G12's color modes, allow those of you who have a more creative side to "play" with the look of your video. The G12's movie quality is similar to most of the PowerShot models that offer this 720p setting. It captures clean video for a digital camera, which will playback nicely on your standard TV set with the supplied A/V cables, or on a HDTV with an optional mini HDMI cable. Just remember that the built-in microphone is very sensitive and will pick up all kinds of background noise.
Like we mentioned earlier, the G12 offers several new Scene mode options, one of which is their new HDR mode. This option will capture three photos in a row at different "brightness" settings, then combine them right in the camera automatically. The process then produces a single image with enhanced details in both shadows and highlights; increased dynamic range. Overall the settings seemed to work rather well, however make sure you always have a good sturdy camera support with you like a tripod. Our example was taken hand-held using the side a trampoline as support (not the greatest choice, but sometimes you have to be resourceful), which did cause some detail to be a bit more blurry than it would have been if I had used a tripod.
The G12's NB-7L, 7.4V 1050mAh battery pack offers very good battery life. Canon claims this pack can power the camera for up to 370 shots with the LCD on or 1000 shots while using just the optical viewfinder. While I didn't have the chance to capture 500-1000 photos, I was able to shoot over 250 still photos, record several short video clips, and conclude all of our usual tests with power to spare. This means the G12 should have no problem keeping up during an extended day of shooting, or even a short vacation. However, since the pack is charged out of camera in the handy CB-2LZ rapid AC charger, which features fold away prongs, we highly recommend you pick up a spare pack to keep charged an ready at all times.
Bottom line - We've been in love with the G-series line ever since the G1 in 2000. The PowerShot G12 is the best model in this series to date, offering amazing build quality, excellent image quality, superior High ISO performance, robust shooting performance, and a plethora of useful exposure modes and controls. This camera is sure to please just about anyone who picks it up to snap some photos, whether you're a seasoned photog looking for a compact walk-about camera, or a newbie looking for a powerful unit that will help you learn more about photography. With a suggested retail price of $499 US, the G12 is not cheap. However, it offers an amazing value and fills the gap between consumer point-n-shoots and EVIL or entry-level dSLRs perfectly. We give the G12 our highest recommendation for those who can afford the price. If you love the features of the G12 but want a camera that's a bit more compact, check out the PowerShot S95, which shares many of the G12's specifications.
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