One of Canon’s PowerShot G series of compact cameras has won the AP Enthusiast Compact of the Year Award for the past three years. Could the new PowerShot G12 make it four years in a row? Richard Sibley investigates
As already mentioned, the PowerShot G12 is largely the same as the G11. Like the older camera, the G12 is based around a 10-million-pixel CMOS sensor. This sensor is slightly larger than standard compact camera sensors, measuring 1/1.7in (around 7.6×5.7mm). This allows the photosites to be larger and therefore able to capture more light. However, don’t expect the same image quality as that produced from a far larger APS-C or Four Thirds sensor.
Like Canon’s current DSLRs, the PowerShot G12 makes use of the Digic 4 processor. This can handle images using a sensitivity range of ISO 80-3200, and save them in either JPEG or raw format, or both simultaneously. The raw image format will be good news for enthusiast photographers who will be looking to get the most detail from their images.
One of the camera’s key features is its versatile 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 lens, which, again, is unchanged from the G11. The focal length makes it an ideal travel compact camera, while the wide f/2.8 aperture means that it performs well in low light. The large aperture also creates a shallow depth of field – something difficult to achieve in many compact cameras.
To help prevent camera shake, optical stabilisation is included in the lens. This comes in the form of Canon’s Hybrid Image Stabilizer, which not only compensates for horizontal and vertical movement, but can also reduce the effects of forward and back movement, which is especially useful when shooting in the camera’s macro mode. The macro mode allows the minimum focusing distance of the lens to be just 1cm, making it ideal for capturing fine details.
Image: The 28-140mm focal length is ideal for most situations, from landscapes to social gatherings. This helps to make the G12 a great travel camera
The PowerShot G series has always been about flexibility and the G12 is no different. Like those that have gone before, this PowerShot model features a full range of manual and automated exposure modes, including aperture and shutter priority. For less confident photographers there is an automatic exposure mode, as well as a variety of scene modes.
The G12’s fastest shutter speed is an impressive 1/4000sec, which is comparable to that of an enthusiast DSLR. For those who prefer far slower shutter speeds, the G12 also comes with an internal -3EV ND filter. This is activated via the camera’s menu system and can help when longer exposure times are required, such as when wanting to blur water, or shoot traffic trails or star trails.
Although the G12 carries few major new features, its specification and features list still makes it one of the most attractive compact cameras for an enthusiast photographer. However, the way the camera handles is equally important.
Features in use: Canon Software Suite
One of the unsung features of Canon DSLR and PowerShot-series cameras is the firm’s Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software. This comes bundled with the PowerShot G12 and it is about the best proprietary raw-conversion software available.
All the settings that can be applied in-camera to JPEG files can be added to raw files using DPP, including the preset Picture Styles and the Auto Lighting Optimiser settings. Best of all, the software is simple to use, even for those not especially comfortable editing raw images.
For example, you can select to sharpen images using Unsharp mask, which consists of three sliders – Strength, Fineness and Threshold – or you can simply use the Sharpness tool, which uses a single slider to adjust the strength. The results are equally impressive, with converted raw images having a great deal more detail than their in-camera JPEG counterparts.
Noise reduction is also easy to correct using DPP, with a single slider for reducing luminance noise and another for chroma noise. These are especially useful when converting high ISO images as the luminance noise reduction can be kept to a minimum to preserve detail and not introduce smudging. Chroma noise can also be almost entirely reduced using the software.
However, probably the best feature of DPP is its speed. Unlike other bundled raw-conversion software, DPP is extremely fast at applying effects, whereas other packages can take time to catch up with any adjustments. After Adobe Camera Raw, it is my favourite raw-conversion software for usability.