Canon G12 Review - Is this the ultimate travel camera?
5th Jan 2011
I recently had the pleasure of going to New Zealand for a month-long working holiday. Despite taking a good chunk of my pro-gear for my first week of work, I decided to buy my self a new travel camera for the subsequent three weeks of touring on a hired motorbike. This was due to space and weight considerations, but also the sheer risk of carrying all that valuable gear in a relatively unsecure fashion.
The Canon G12 was released in the UK in September 2010..... Canon Marketing blurb.. "The HS System: Premium Canon image quality, even in low light. The PowerShot G12 is the first G-series model to feature Canon’s HS System – a powerful combination of a high-sensitivity 10.0 Megapixel CCD sensor and high-performance DIGIC 4 processor designed to provide outstanding image quality in all lighting conditions, including low light. "
When choosing a travel camera one big consideration was a hotshoe. I like to use a lot of wireless- off camera flash for portraits and the Canon allows this even using Canon's ETTL system (auto flash) for a perfect exposure. Other necessities are that the camera is easy to use, relatively quick in focusing and starting up, robust in construction and reasonably weather proof. My final demand on the little devil is that it must do some kind of rudimentary video capture with sound.
Canon G12 - rear view G12 Top View
So what follows is the result of my three week stint with the Canon G12 compact.....is it the ultimate travel camera?
The first time you hold the G12 in your hand it feels rather heavy. Not in a achy arm way but a sort of reassuring weight that suggests quality and dense materials. It is small without having the sensation that it would be best operated with tweezers like some uber-tiny modern compacts. Finally the aluminium dials have a pleasantly knurled quality that speak of yesteryear Liecas and their ilk.
It is amazing how this little camera seems to fall slap bang in that no-mans land between compacts and digital SLRs (can't we just call them SLRs now...I mean really!!). One of the singular pleasures of the Canon G12 is that if you come from either end of the spectrum you'll get to grips with the camera very quickly. If you've only ever used compacts then you'll really value the fact that many functions can be done with the exterior control dials and not through a series of menus. If you usually work with digital SLRs then ditto, it has a familiar layout and not all the usual compact camera menu horrors. A really good example of this is the ISO and compensation dial on the top of the camera.
The viewfinder is bloody handy and I'd still insist in using one in certain situations, such as low light or action pics, although the screen is bright and large with the added bonus of being articulated. I find this particularly handy when photographing flowers and insects etc. The Canon G12 operates in all the modes familiar to any digital SLR user, with Tv, Av, P and various Auto presets. There is no lock on the control dial, and just occasionally it can get knocked round by mistake sending you into a world of frowns before suddenly realising and going 'ahhhhhhhh!'
Finally the G12 uses the same daisy wheel control dials on the front and back. This means that full manual mode is very easy to use and again for users of SLRs it is all very instinctive. It is worth noting that in some ways the G12 is a very good step-up camera for anyone making the transition between compacts and DSLRs.
In a word, good. It certainly isn't as good as my 1D or my 5D mk 2 but you wouldn't expect that particularly with the L -series lenses I use. It does produce some very good quality files and will shoot RAW, which is nice. With regard to White Balance, it is a bit hit and miss but generally no worse that the best digital SLR of 6 years ago (much better in fact). It has a tendency to heard towards blues and greens but as it features a custom white balance feature you can set it yourself.
ISO noise is very good for a compact camera and the image stabilisation and DIGIC 4 processor do a great job in tricky indoor mixed white balances. The zoom rage is 28-140 and could do with being a little wider but I've stitched together some panoramas with no problems. Further samples at bottom of page.
The stereo microphone does a good job with the sound despite no baffles to protect it from wind noise. The video function is very much a point and shoot affair with little control over focusing and zooming but that said it is extremely good, with the ability to capture general action even in low light. Note I say 'general action', as it wouldn't be up to the job in fast moving sports or action. There are a few fun things to play with such as a built in 'timelapse - miniature mode'
Further samples can be seen in the Slideshow Below
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