The Canon PowerShot G11 tops the company's G-series of enthusiast-targeted models and follows on from last year's G10 , the 'ultimate compact'. Updated November 30 2009.

It claims to be a fully featured camera that delivers excellent image quality, but should you choose the Canon PowerShot G11 over a digital SLR, given that the price tag is almost as high?

Specification-wise, the first thing to note is that the Canon PowerShot G11 has a lower megapixel count than its predecessor (10.1Mp rather than 14.7Mp). It also has a smaller LCD screen at the rear for composing and reviewing shots: 2.8in rather than 3in. But while the headline image capture capability has been reduced, Canon has upped the ante elsewhere - most notably in the Canon PowerShot G11's greater sensitivity to light.

It supports a manually selectable setting of ISO 3,200, which can be boosted to 12,800 (at 2.5Mp) should you need to shoot in near darkness. And reducing the size of the screen enables Canon to give the Canon PowerShot G11 a tilt-and-swivel LCD for shooting at awkward angles.

Like Canon's digital SLRs, the Canon PowerShot G11 feels substantial and almost tank-like when gripped in the palm. There are also plenty of rangefinder-like top-plate dials for adjustment, plus a gently sloping grip to the front. This feature isn't wholly successful: we didn't know where to place our thumb at the rear when shooting handheld.

Still, hit the on/off button just behind the shutter release button and the Canon PowerShot G11 powers up in a second or so. Its image-stabilised 5x optical zoom lens extends from almost flush to the body to a maximum 28mm wide-angle setting, with 140mm available at the telephoto end. Although the lens isn't swappable, the broader-than-average focal range makes for a wealth of creative possibilities.

With the ability to shoot up to ISO 12,800, the Canon PowerShot G11 promises much in the way of image quality. We found that sticking to the user selectable settings (up to ISO 3,200) reaps far better results. Indeed, shots taken at ISO 3,200 matched those at the lower ISO 800 from rivals for noise (visible grain).

NEXT: our original review, from 17 November 2009 >>

OUR EXPERT VERDICT >>

The Canon PowerShot G11 is the advanced compact camera you can turn to if you don't want to buy a digital SLR.

Despite its small size, the Canon PowerShot G11 has a lot of SLR-like features, such as the ability to change exposure settings on the fly. Of course you can't swap out lenses nor manually zoom and focus the way you can with an SLR.

It costs £499 inc VAT, which is approximately £100 more than Canon's entry-level, 10.1-megapixel digital SLR body, the Canon EOS 1000D - but if you get the EOS 1000D, you still have to buy lenses. If you're not prepared to spend the extra money on a digital SLR, then the Canon PowerShot G11 is a good option, and it will capture vibrant and reasonably sharp images.

Canon PowerShot G11: the G10 replacement

The Canon PowerShot G11 replaces the PowerShot G10 in Canon's advanced compact digital camera range and while it has the same 28-140mm (35mm equivalent and a crop factor of 4.5) 5x zoom lens, it packs fewer pixels on the same-sized CCD sensor (1/1.7in). You get 10 megapixels with the G11, whereas the G10 provided 14.7 megapixels. This will only be a problem if you're used to heavily cropping large images and want to retain better detail when doing so. For the most part, the smaller pixel count is a good thing.

With the smaller pixel count, cropping photos closely to accentuate distant objects, for example, means that the objects will be smaller than they would if you'd taken them with a 14.7-megapixel sensor.

The reduction in pixels is meant to give the Canon PowerShot G11 better dynamic range and reduce noise when shooting in dim environments. With built-in optical image stabilisation, a large f/2.8 lens aperture and an ISO speed up to 3200, the indoor shooting capability of the G11 is very good. You can even hold the camera and take blur-free photos with a shutter speed as slow as 1/6th of a second.

Canon PowerShot G11: Performance

Noise is barely a problem, even if you use ISO 3200. However, at ISO 3200 images will look paler and be a lot more feathered than at lower settings. The optimal setting is ISO 800 - the feathering and paler colours are not as pronounced.

At ISO 3200, the images take on a very pale and feathered look, which is very noticeable in light colours and when the image is viewed in a large size.

ISO 800 shows only slight paleness and feathering.

Bright environments are also not a problem for the Canon PowerShot G11, as it has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 when you use a small aperture. The lens aperture only closes to f/8.0, which isn't small enough if you want to get creative; for example, it will be difficult to take a shot of a moving stream in bright conditions while using a slow shutter speed to get a creamy-looking effect in the water. The aperture range will suffice for regular portrait and landscape shots.

The overall picture quality of the Canon PowerShot G11 is good, and its colours are accurate for the most part. We disabled the built-in colour filters for our test shots. 'Vivid', for example, made colours look oversaturated and unnatural. We also noticed a lot of softness and paleness in the shadowed areas of our shots. We had to adjust the levels during post-processing in order to give our shots a little more definition and contrast.

Chromatic aberration isn't a problem with the Canon PowerShot G11's lens, but its barrel roll can be very noticeable and annoying if you take wide angled shots of objects with straight lines. When you zoom in all the way, the barrel roll is nonexistent.

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Canon PowerShot G11: Build quality and controls

Unlike the G10, the Canon PowerShot G11 features a pivoting screen. At 2.8in, it's slightly smaller than the 3in screen on the G10, but it makes the camera feel a lot bulkier. However, the screen is very useful when you want to take shots from awkward angles. It can be a little hard to view in very bright conditions unless you shield it with your hands, but you can also use the viewfinder. Unfortunately, the viewfinder is not electronic and it's not big enough to display the whole scene you will be capturing.

The screen doesn't have a very high resolution, so while you can opt to use manual focus (employing the scroll wheel), it will be hard to see if your object is completely in focus. We'd just stick to using autofocus.

You can also set the exposure manually by rotating the scroll wheel. However because it is attached to the five-thumb controller, you can inadvertently press one of the buttons and change settings you didn't intend to change. As such, we wish the buttons felt a little more solid. The shutter button feels too spongy, too, with no distinct step to focus and then take the shot. We do like the ring around the mode dial, which allows you to quickly change the ISO, and the exposure compensation dial is also handy.

Another handy feature is the ‘star' button. When you press it, it will select the appropriate aperture for your shot, even if you're in manual mode.

The zoom lever is too small and it doesn't give you enough fine control. There are approximately 13 zoom levels (28-140mm). Focusing is fast and we like the fact that you can select from up to 15 focus points on the screen simply by pressing a button on the body and rotating the scroll wheel.

The Canon PowerShot G11 has a built-in flash. It is largely ineffective in most situations, but there is a hot-shoe for an external flash.

Canon PowerShot G11: Video

While the Canon PowerShot G11 doesn't have the ability to record high-definition video, it can still be used to capture 640x480 (VGA) footage for posting on social networking websites. The quality is decent and audio is very good; it will do a decent job of capturing some memories at a concert or festival.

We like the overall picture quality of the Canon PowerShot G11, but it’s not perfect. Sometimes shots can look pale and have some haloing, while wide angle shots will suffer from barrel roll. The paleness is something that can usually be fixed with slight levels adjustment during post processing, and you can avoid barrel roll by not shooting at the lens' widest angle. We think the construction of the buttons could be a little more solid, and that the shutter button's two steps should be more distinct. The zoom could be better, too. Despite these drawbacks, the G11 remains a good, competitively priced option for anyone who wants full manual control, but doesn’t want to go for a digital SLR.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Canon PowerShot G11: Specs

  • 10Mp compact camera
  • Lens aperture range: f/2.8-f/8.0
  • 5x Optical zoom
  • Sensor size: 1/1.7in, CCD
  • Zoom (telephoto): 140mm, Zoom (wide angle): 28mm
  • 2.8in LCD
  • ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, Auto
  • Metering: Average Weighted, Centre, Spot
  • Minimum shutter speed: 15
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • White balance: Auto, Cloudy, Custom, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Tungsten
  • Built-in flash, External flash, Auto Flash, Flash Off, Red-eye Reduction Flash, Slow Sync
  • Auto, Face detection, Manual focus
  • Aperture priority, Auto, Burst mode, Program mode, Shutter priority
  • 76.2x48.3x112.1mm
  • 355g
  • Hot shoe
  • supports SD, JPEG, RAW, MOV
  • HDMI, USB 2.0
  • 10Mp compact camera
  • Lens aperture range: f/2.8-f/8.0
  • 5x Optical zoom
  • Sensor size: 1/1.7in, CCD
  • Zoom (telephoto): 140mm, Zoom (wide angle): 28mm
  • 2.8in LCD
  • ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, Auto
  • Metering: Average Weighted, Centre, Spot
  • Minimum shutter speed: 15
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • White balance: Auto, Cloudy, Custom, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Tungsten
  • Built-in flash, External flash, Auto Flash, Flash Off, Red-eye Reduction Flash, Slow Sync
  • Auto, Face detection, Manual focus
  • Aperture priority, Auto, Burst mode, Program mode, Shutter priority
  • 76.2x48.3x112.1mm
  • 355g
  • Hot shoe
  • supports SD, JPEG, RAW, MOV
  • HDMI, USB 2.0

OUR VERDICT

With a solid construction, comprehensive feature set and manual control, as well as rangefinder-like dials, the Canon PowerShot G11 gets good results at ISO 3,200 or below. It's not cheap, however, is a little bulky and lacks HD video.

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