Since its maker doesn’t yet offer an interchangeable lens compact system camera to rival the Olympus Pen E-PL1, Sony NEX-5 or Panasonic Lumix GF2, Canon’s range-topping 10 megapixel PowerShot G12 is being pitched as a more portable back up for a Canon EOS digital SLR.
Thus this is a brick-like enthusiasts’ camera resembling a DSLR that’s been in a crusher. It feels reassuringly weighty and solid when gripped, though we feel its flattened handgrip could be slightly larger and rounded for added comfort and stability.
Unlike the rivals mentioned, the lens on the front of the Canon PowerShot G12 cannot be swapped. Here we get an image-stabilized 5x optical zoom equivalent to a wide angle 28-140mm in 35mm film terms bolted on which retracts within the body when not in use, enabling the camera to slip into a jacket pocket. The light-gathering sensor is also smaller than a standard DSLR, but despite this the cost is almost as much: around £500, though inevitably £100+ cheaper if bought online.
Canon PowerShot G12: Controls
A comprehensive array of dedicated buttons to press and dials to spin makes the Canon PowerShot G12 something of a toddler’s activity centre for photo enthusiasts.
A five pence piece-sized shooting mode dial contains the regular auto and manual settings we’d expect plus two further user customizable options to which personal favourites can be attributed. In the style of a wedding cake, this sits on top of a second lower tier dial, featuring incremental ISO speeds, a bit like a rangefinder camera, here ranging from ISO100 to ISO3200.
We really liked the accessibility of these features – which on alternative digital compacts are often hidden away within menu screens.
We also get the advantage of an angle adjustable LCD screen, 2.8-inches in size and offering a clear display thanks to a high 461k-dot resolution. The alternative for framing a shot is the slightly pokey optical viewfinder directly above, but when you’ve got a viewfinder that can be tilted and swivel, the optical version comes a poor second.
Canon PowerShot G12: Features
For those who want to capture action sequences the Canon PowerShot G12 offers up to 4.2 frames per second sequential shooting – nothing to match a mid range DSLR but respectable compared to the average compact – plus High Def video at 720p and 24 frames per second with stereo sound and HDMI output.
We were disappointed to discover the optical zoom stays put when recording video however and that, oddly, the microphones are located exactly where they pick up the movement of the user’s fingers when gripping the camera in both hands.
Shooting a subject almost silhouetted against a bright background is a challenge for most compacts – especially when fill-in flash is turned off – so as a solution the Canon PowerShot G12 incorporates a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode (seen in the Canon IXUS 1000). This deals with tricky exposures by taking three slightly differently exposed shots and automatically compositing them into one – thus a flat surface or tripod helps avoid blur.
Further bells and whistles include a choice of multi aspect ratio shooting as on the smaller alternative of the Canon PowerShot S95.
That said, for those who do want to use the camera as a glorified ‘auto everything’ snapshot, we get Smart Auto functionality. This form of intelligent auto mode accurately compares scenes and subjects with 28 in-built parameters and selects the most appropriate setting for you. It turns the outwardly complex Canon PowerShot G12 into, in effect, a failsafe no brainer, though we felt its operational speed fell short of the lightning quick response of a digital SLR proper.
Canon PowerShot G12: Picture quality
Perhaps inevitably given that the Canon PowerShot G12 features a 28mm equivalent wide-angle setting, there is some barrel distortion, and leaning verticals are visible in pictures taken at its widest extremity.
Despite the fact that it offers a ‘mere’ 10 megapixels though, appearance of images can be given a visual boost via the ‘My Colors’ menu that offers a primary colour enhancing ‘vivid’ option. We found this was actually closer to the colours at the time than the camera’s slightly conservative factory setting.
It has to be said though that image quality, whilst excellent compared with the average pocket compact, is no match for an actual DSLR. It also falls short of the kind of interchangeable lens cameras that can be bought for a similar price. Will (or should) Canon’s next move therefore be to bring out a compact system camera of its own? Until then this tank-like high performance compact that will draw in existing Canon DSLR owners looking for a more portable back up that doesn’t stint on features, functionality and most importantly quality. But shop carefully to get a good price.
Canon PowerShot G12 price: £350-£410 online, link Canon
Canon PowerShot G12 release date: Out now