Canon G11 ISO Test

The Canon G11 is the latest in a long line of solid compact cameras.  One of the big buzz features about the G11 was Canon’s decision to drop from 14.7-megapixels in the G10 down to 10-megapixels in the G11.  It finally seems like the marketing department has listened a bit to the cries from the prosumer audience who say that more megapixels is not necessarily the answer.  Canon has embraced the growing voice of critics with the launch of the G11 stating, “You asked, and Canon not only listened, but delivered big-time.”  So, does Canon deliver big-time in the noise department with the G11?

The reason why the G10 and other high-megapixel point and shoot cameras received so much criticism is that, generally speaking, when you make pixels on an image sensor smaller, you make the resulting images noisier.  (Although, Canon may have proved use wrong on this general claim with the EOS 7D with its excellent noise control at high ISO in spite of increased resolution…)

Since I didn’t have a G10 to pit against the G11, I thought I’d dust off an old Rebel XT and see how the G11 stacks up against an older APS-C format sensor.  For those of you who are not familiar with sensor size differences among point and shoot cameras and DSLRs, the G11 has a much smaller sensor, smaller pixels and a lower light-gathering ability than the Rebel XT, so don’t expect any big surprises here.  Even and older DSLR like the Rebel XT will outshine the tiny sensor of the newest point and shoot cameras.

In round two, we compare the Canon G11 with another modern compact, the Sony WX1, which also has a max sensitivity of ISO 3200.  Since the WX1 doesn’t allow for full manual controls, I manipulated the exposure compensation settings in ‘P’ mode to get as close as I could to the approximate exposure of the Canon G11.

In the final round, we take a quick look at some RAW files from the G11 and put them side-by-side with the Sony WX1.

In the first and second series of shots with the Rebel XT and WX1, respectively, we’re using the same exposure values used in the recent Canon 7D and Nikon D300s ISO comparison.  All Rebel XT and G11 images were shot at f/8 and the following shutter speeds at the respective ISOs:

  • ISO 100 @ 13s
  • ISO 200 @ 6s
  • ISO 400 @ 3.2s
  • ISO 800 @ 1.6s
  • ISO 1600 @ .6s
  • ISO 3200 @ .4s

Images were captured from each camera in Large/Fine JPEG format. On the Rebel XT, we used the EF 50mm f/1.8 and attempted to get a comparable framing and zoom range with the G11 and WX1.  Custom white balance was set on each camera using the ColorRight white balance tool.

Canon G11 and Rebel XT Sample Images

Here is an example of the complete image used in the samples below.  Below are 100% crop samples taken from the focus point of each image.  No post processing was performed on any of these images other than the crops shown below.

You may download samples of each image for personal inspection by clicking on the links below each sample (right-click and choose “Save as…”).  Do not republish the images on the Internet or elsewhere without express written permission, which may be obtained by email.

Canon G11 vs. Rebel XT ISO 100

Canon G11 ISO 100 Sample

Canon Rebel XT ISO 100 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Rebel XT ISO 200

Canon G11 ISO 200 Sample

Canon Rebel XT ISO 200 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Rebel XT ISO 400

Canon G11 ISO 400 Sample

Canon Rebel XT ISO 400 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Rebel XT ISO 800

Canon G11 ISO 800 Sample

Canon Rebel XT ISO 800 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Rebel XT ISO 1600

Canon G11 ISO 1600 Sample

Canon Rebel XT ISO 1600 Sample

Canon G11 ISO 3200

Canon G11 ISO 3200 Sample

Canon G11 and Sony WX1 Sample Images

Again, these images are JPEG to JPEG comparisons using the same exposure for the G11 as above and using the exposure compensation options on the WX1 in ‘P’ mode to get in the ballpark of the G11.

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 100

Canon G11 ISO 100 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 160 Sample
(note ISO 160 is the lowest sensitivity setting for the WX1)

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 200

Canon G11 ISO 200 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 200 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 400

Canon G11 ISO 400 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 400 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 800

Canon G11 ISO 800 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 800 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 1600

Canon G11 ISO 1600 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 1600 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 3200

Canon G11 ISO 3200 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 3200 Sample

Canon G11 RAW and Sony WX1 JPEG Sample Images

In this series, the Canon G11’s exposures were altered based on a spot metered reading for 0EV near the center of cropped area shown. The G11 images in this series were shot at f/8 and the following shutter speeds at the respective ISOs:

  • ISO 100 @ 15s
  • ISO 200 @ 8s
  • ISO 400 @ 4s
  • ISO 800 @ 2s
  • ISO 1600 @ 1s
  • ISO 3200 @ 1/2s

Additionally, the files were imported to Adobe Lightroom 2.5 in Canon’s CR2 format and then exported as JPEG files at Lightroom’s default settings in order to avoid the destructive in-camera JPEG processing.  No other manipulations were made.

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 100

Canon G11 ISO 100 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 160 Sample (note ISO 160 is the lowest sensitivity setting for the WX1)

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 200

Canon G11 ISO 200 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 200 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 400

Canon G11 ISO 400 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 400 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 800

Canon G11 ISO 800 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 800 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 1600

Canon G11 ISO 1600 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 1600 Sample

Canon G11 vs. Sony WX1 ISO 3200

Canon G11 ISO 3200 Sample

Sony WX1 ISO 3200 Sample

Conclusion

As you can see, the Canon G11 doesn’t really rival an APS-C size image sensor; however, it’s not too shabby for a point and shoot.  You’ll note that the G11 and WX1 appear substantially underexposed as compared to the Rebel XT, which seems partly caused by the cameras’ JPEG processing trying to auto-correct and get to 18% gray.  Even though the RAW images from the G11 had a longer exposure, the JPEGs were still not much brighter than what you see above.

While this little test was primarily intended to evaluate the noise control of the G11, I was somewhat surprised at how well the Sony WX1 coped with noise at higher ISOs.  (Note, however, if you downloaded the full-res samples of the WX1 though, you’ll note a strange purple color cast near the center of the image in some of the images.)  Sony appears to be doing a pretty good job with in-camera noise reduction throughout the WX1’s sensitivity range; however, the higher sensitivity ranges really show a loss of saturation and the sharpening looks a little much throughout the range.  We’ll be sure to pay close attention to this when grabbing some real world shots in our upcoming review of the WX1.

Is the G11 a DSLR replacement?  Not quite.  However, the G11 performs pretty well for a point and shoot camera and makes a great supplement to any DSLR kit.  Canon shooters will also appreciate the hotshoe atop the G11, which is compatible with Canon’s TTL flashes, such as the 430EX II.

Whether to shoot RAW or JPEG is really the question with the Canon G11.  I’ll take RAW images from the G11 up to ISO 200 any day, and for run of the mill snapshots, I can live with ISO 400 or so.  Going much above that will require working some magic in post-processing noise reduction. Fortunately, when shooting in auto-ISO mode, you get some “in between” settings in what appears to be 1/3 stop increments, so you can creep up a bit without taking full-stop hits on noise.

The JPEG processing is a little too much for my personal liking; however, I’ve grabbed several images in JPEG format at ISO 500 and below that I’m pretty pleased with in real world use.  The following image was a snapshot of my newest niece taken with the G11 and a speedlight bounced off the hospital ceiling.  Even with some processing, the JPEG image captured at ISO 500 held up pretty well and is certainly “usable” for our family album.

Download full resolution sample here.

Expect a full review of the Canon G11 and Sony WX1 soon, along with some real world sample images.  In the mean time, however, you can read more about the G11 on Photography Bay’s Canon G11 Reviews and Resources.

The Canon G11 and Sony WX1 are available from B&H Photo at the following links:

Canon G11 at B&H Photo

Sony WX1 at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews.  Thanks for your continued support.

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Comments

  1. says

    For what it is worth you should really consider using Canon’s DPP software for RAW processing of the G11 shots right now. It will “work” in Lightroom, but its pretty poor processing for now. I have seen dramatically better results in color and noise rendering in DPP vs LR2.5 or the LR3 beta. Give it a shot!

    • says

      @Kitch – Thanks for the suggestion on using DPP. I don’t normally use it in my workflow; however, your points are duly noted and I’ll consider taking a look at RAW files in DPP for the full G11 review.

  2. says

    Hi! Thank you for doing this!!! I have been lusting after the G11 but am undecided vs. the S90… I have a 5DM2 and want a sidearm to add to my arsenal…and now I’m not so sold on the G11.

    Would you be able to do the same with the Canon S90??? That would rock!

    Q: in the comparison between the Sony WX1 vs. G11, the G11 sample looks like the Rebel sample from above (at same ISO). Is it just the compare vs. the darker image that makes it look brighter?

    Thanks again, very helpful!!!

  3. Har says

    I recommend to compare the G11 and WX1 in Twilight modus also.

    If the WX1s Twilight mode is ahead the G11 it would not surprise me.

  4. Leo says

    De Canon S90 gives the same result as the G11. The concept of the the S90 is much better, it really is a small compact and in that respect you can live with the noisy pictures. The only compacts I know wich are really a replacement for a dlsr in terms of results are the Sigma DP 1 and 2. I can not wait for the day that Canon comes with a compact with a decent sensorSIZE. I already have the name for it, The Canonet.

  5. Manfred says

    At the begin of this year I considered to buy either the Canon G10 or SX 1/10 S but I preferred the G10 as the more compact camera for big pockets :).
    Basically, I am quite satisfied but based on my little experience and the new G11 I would like to submit following evaluation:
    – very solid, intuitive SLR-handling, manual setting options (not only menu)
    – oprional diving case available
    – visible chromatic aberrations and no software delivered by Canon
    – mode to shoot picturies in JPEG & RAW-mode does not work (software bug?)
    – hesitation – there are cameras on the market which shoot faster…
    – wide angle of 24mm would be nicer (I like it with my Ricoh)…
    – I miss the option to fix a filter – why the hell is this missing?
    – flexible monitor of the G11 is a real improvement would
    – reduced resoulution from 14,7 MP down to 10,0 MP is a step back
    – they should introduce a better or bigger chip i.e. APS-C/H

    All in all my G10 is a good camera but it still needs some improvements. The G11 belongs to the best choices on the market when you buy a new camera but its is no reason to give a G10 away because there is only little improvement or the most important are still missing…