As the tenth model in Canon's PowerShot G range, the G12 has matured into a very nice camera. It has a slightly reworked design and handling, a swivel LCD, a 10-Megapixel sensor, a 24-140 mm zoom lens that's now stabilised and a 720p HD video mode. So can the Canon G12 make its mark in the highly competitive market for expert compacts and fight off the likes of the Nikon P7000, Panasonic LX5 and Samsung EX1?
HandlingYou can tell the G12 is an expert camera as soon as you pick up thanks to its heavy, all-metal design and its high-end build and finish. It feels well-made and it doesn't feel like it'll fall apart a few years down the line. If we really wanted to be picky, then it would perhaps have been nice to see rubber-sealed joints to help keep water and dust out of the battery/memory card compartment and connections. The G12 is a nice camera to hold and handle even if it's nothing out of the ordinary. The finish is a little bit slippy though, and the grip handle isn't deep enough for our liking. We were also slightly disappointed to see that the 3-inch LCD only displays 460,000 dots when some competitors' models (Nikon P7000, for example) are twice as sharp. On the upside though, the screen flips out from the camera body and can be swivelled to the angle of your choice.
Canon seems to have taken great care designing this camera's controls, adding plenty of customisable options, which is really quite rare. The G12 has two customisable control wheels for adjusting the settings (a wheel on the front and a click-round wheel at the rear instead of a four-way controller). These improve handling in M mode and help make it easier to change settings quickly. Several options can be assigned to these wheels in P, A and S modes, such as white balance, i-contrast or picture format. It's just a shame that the P mode can't be user-modified. The S button can also be assigned a whole load of different functions (white balance, bracketing, burst mode, raw+Jpeg etc.). The menus are clear and an online help function is on hand in case you get stuck. The graphic interface is still just as easy to get your head around as in previous models, with a column of options on the left and the new click-round wheel at the rear to increase or decrease the settings' values. Again, it's nothing exceptional, but it works well. In shooting mode, you can display grid lines to help you line up shots, as well as an exposure histogram and an electronic level (one axis only). More nice features of the G12 include loads of mode dials, buttons and controls to adjust the main settings. The top of the camera features a dial for selecting the ISO setting, another dial for choosing the shooting mode (P,S,A,M, Custom 1 and 2, Video) and a dial for adjusting the exposure. Plus, right under your thumb you'll find three buttons for choosing the AF focusing points, saving an exposure setting and setting the exposure metering. What more could you ask for?
Ah yes, we've thought of a few things: there's no separate video record button, the optical viewfinder is rather disappointing (see insert), the memory card compartment is on the underside of the camera (not very practical when using the G12 on a tripod), the control wheel on the front of the camera doesn't click round etc.
ResponsivenessWhile the G12 is a model of design and handling, its responsiveness leaves something to be desired. In this field it's pretty much identical to the G11, but the G12 is slower than its two main competitors, the Panasonic LX5 and Nikon P7000 in several ways, particularly when autofocusing.
The G12 makes up tor that very slightly with an acceptable start-up time and a decent photo-to-photo turnaround time (JPeg and Raw). The bust mode is still just as disappointing though, snapping just 2.2 frames per second.
Picture QualityWith its 10-Megapixel CCD, the G12 is easily comparable to the LX5, EX1 and P7000, which all have similar sensors. The Canon model does a pretty good job at handling digital noise with just a little granularity and moderate smoothing at 1600 ISO, which is actually quite impressive for a compact!
When it comes to handling ISO settings, the Canon G12 takes the lead alongside the Panasonic LX5 (so far anyway), and does a much better job than the likes of the Nikon P7000 and Samsung EX1.
The 28-140 mm zoom lens is good quality. It's generally sharp at 28 mm and is more than acceptable in telephoto. The lens is twinned with an effective stabilisation system and a decent macro mode that goes as close as 1 cm. Exposure is OK, although sometimes we noticed our pictures were a bit overexposed, which was rather annoying. Colour reproduction is classic Canon stuff, with reds that are very (too) saturated and a white balance that can be temperamental under tungsten light.
VideoThe Canon G12 has a 720p HD video mode (just 24 fps) with stereo sound but—quite unbelievably—the optical zoom can't be used while filming! It gets worse too, as focusing isn't continuous and it's not possible to take a photo while you're shooting a video. That unfortunately cost the G12 its fifth star!
On a Full HD TV, speckling noise and aliasing are all too visible. For a first attempt at an HD video mode, the G12 isn't up there with the best.