Canon G11 Review

Canon G11

The Canon G11 is a 10-megapixel point and shoot camera.  It’s not just any point and shoot camera though.  The G11 is more of a casual camera for serious photographers.

Canon G11 Key Features

  • 10-megapixels
  • 5x optical zoom (28-140mm equivalent)
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • ISO 80-3200
  • ISO 12800 at 2.5-megapixels
  • 2.8″ articulating LCD
  • Hotshoe for external flash
  • 640×480 video capture

Canon G11 Handling, Erognomics and Controls

Canon G11

When you first pick up the G11, you can feel the difference between it and other point and shoot cameras.  It’s a beefy little camera that fits well in hands accustomed to holding DSLRs.

The slightly raised grip on the right side of the camera provides a secure station for your fingers, while the respective thumb rests comfortably between the top-right corner of the LCD and the AE/FE Lock button.  There’s also enough real estate on the left side of the camera to use your second hand for support – even if the LCD is open to its widest setting.

The G11 has a total of 3 dials, a zoom switch and two buttons on top.  The dial on the top-left lets you quickly adjust exposure compensation in 1/3-stop increments up to +/- 2EV.  Two dials stacked on top of each other on the top-right control ISO settings and image capture modes (e.g., P, Av, Tv, M, etc.).

Canon G11

As noted above, the sensitivity range covers ISO 80-3200, which can all be set from the dial.  Additionally, you have the option of putting the camera in Auto ISO mode from the top dial.

The shooting modes that you find on the top dial are akin to those you see on many DSLRs.  Your staple Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes are all present.  Likewise, an abundance of special Scene modes can be accessed by turning the dial to a primary Scene mode and then scrolling through the individual modes using the thumb wheel on the back of the camera.  It’s a very straightforward and intuitive process overall.

I guess I should also mention that there’s a video capture feature on the mode dial, although you are limited to 640×480 resolution.  I’ll stick with my quick and easy Flip Mino HD for on-the-fly video recording.

The zoom switch works well with a  sort of push/pull of the index finger.   The shutter release is a little on the thin side; however, once you get used to it, it works just fine.

The on/off switch sits in a recess atop the G11, which makes it flush with the top surface.  It’s still easy to press and I think it’s in a practical location.

The rest of the controls can be found on the back side of the G11, including controls for image preview, manual focus, AF point selection AE/FE lock, metering modes, macro mode, flash options, self-timer, menu and display options.

Surrounding the primary round button on the back, which works as a dual purpose quick-select and a 4-way navigation button, is the thumb wheel. This wheel aids in menu navigation and acts as a control for adjusting focus, aperture, shutter speed and more.  This scroll wheel is flat out awesome on the G11.

Inside the scroll wheel and 4-way button is a center Func./Set button, which brings up a quick menu of common camera functions.  As with the scroll wheel, this is a great use of real estate on the back of the G11 and the menu system is very intuitive.

I’ll also point out here that the battery and SD card slot are located on the bottom of the camera adjacent to the tripod mount, which means no access when attached to a tripod.  Finally, the G11 features a USB/AV port, remote jack and, from the why bother department, an HDMI port (recall that the G11 doesn’t capture HD video).

Shooting With the Canon G11

Canon G11

The Canon G11 can do a lot – much more than I did with it.  But, let me point out a few of the things that I really liked about it.

First up is the hot shoe.  Prior to the G11, I had never used a point and shoot camera with a hot shoe, so I loved the ability to throw a speedlite on top of it and bounce the flash around.  I spent a great deal of my time using the G11 with a speedlite attached.  The resulting images proved to have much better lighting than the typical point and shoot flash.

As a result, I was able to tote the G11 and a speedlight around in the same small bag that I would typically carry an entry-level DSLR and kit lens.  The difference is that carrying the DSLR prevents me from carrying a speedlite in the same bag – and that makes the G11 a more versatile camera for me when packing light.

The G11 and a speedlite on the hot shoe helped me get overhead my new niece, who was just a few hours old here, and bounce the light off the ceiling of the hospital room while her diaper was being changed.  I wouldn’t have been able to jump in for this quick snapshot without the help of the soft light from the bounced flash and the swivel LCD.

Speaking of that LCD, it’s the next big plus on my list.  It’s a real joy to use.  I can work angles for snapshots that I couldn’t get with a DSLR or compact point and shoot.  Combine this with bouncing a speedlite, and the LCD helps extend the versatility that much further.

Another feature that I found myself using quite a bit was the AF point selection.  I’m a big fan of choosing a single AF point and rolling with it.  The inclusion of a quick access button to set the AF points was a big boon to me.  While I will focus and recompose in many situations where I’m pretty close to the AF point in the frame, I still like to keep it close to my overall composition.  The quick access to this control made my life a lot easier when using the G11.

Other features that I found helpful in my ordinary shooting were the macro mode and ISO-selection dial.  I don’t do a lot of macro shooting; however, this feature was hard to resist when there was a flower or bug nearby.  The G11 can focus as close as 1cm, which makes for some Wayne’s World extreme close-up photos.  As for the ISO dial, I couldn’t ask for a better placement.  I use various ISO settings as I move around locations, so having this access via a dial atop the camera earns big kudos from me.  And, when I just want to grab some snapshots, there’s always the easy access to Auto ISO.

For me, the Canon G11 is a blast of a camera that makes me think long and hard about whether I need a DSLR on a given outing.

Thoughts About Image Quality From the Canon G11

While the G11 often made me wonder whether or not I should take a DSLR with me, the camera is by no means a match for DSLR image quality.  It still has a tiny imaging sensor that is a fraction of the size of those found in DSLRs.

I found the Canon G11 to produce exceptional images when compared to other point and shoot cameras.  At higher ISO settings, the G11 is better than most other point and shoots on the market.  Again, don’t get your hopes up that it will compare with any DSLRs in terms of noise control.

That said, I would take the G11 on just about any family outing to capture our memories.  Additionally, I would probably take a camera with me on more family outings if the G11 were a choice.  Many times, I’ll go without a camera (other than my iPhone) because packing a DSLR along is just too much, and my wife has a small Sony point and shoot if I have to have a flash for something.

I can live with most of the images at ISO 1600 and below for our family album, online galleries or Facebook.  I prefer ISO 500 or below with the G11 if I can help it though.  If you want to take a closer look at various ISO settings, you can see the Canon G11 ISO Test.

One of the biggest points for me with the Canon G11 is the ability to capture RAW images, which fits seamlessly into my day-to-day workflow in Adobe Lightroom.  The files can be manipulated to my liking, using presets and adjustments that I use with my DSLR files.  With that in mind, the samples that I’ve put in this post are not “straight out of camera” but rather processed in Lightroom from the G11’s RAW files (some more so than others).  You can find tons of original JPEG files processed straight from the G11 on many other sites if that’s what you’re looking for.

Canon G11 Accessories

While I didn’t test any of these accessories with the G11, I know a lot of people like to use some of these common accessories on advanced point and shoot cameras.

Canon NB-7L battery – The G11 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.

Memory cards – I used a SanDisk Extreme III 4GB SD card with the Canon G11 and it worked just fine.  However, something like the basic (and slower) Kingston SD cards will work as well.

Canon TC-DC58D 58mm 1.4x Teleconverter Lens – This teleconverter takes the focal length to an equivalent of 196mm.  You have to use the Canon LA-DC58K Lens Adapter to mount the teleconverter though.

Canon 270EX Speedlite – A basic bounce flash, which is really all you need with the Canon G11.

Canon 430EX II Speedlite – If you want more power and features in you flash, then you could step up to this flash.  Note, however, that it will also add some bulk to your setup.

Canon WP-DC34 underwater housing – If you’re into SCUBA or snorkeling, this is a pretty cool little underwater case from Canon that’s rated up to 130′. The really cool thing about this housing is that the front of it acts as a diffuser for the on-camera flash.

Canon G11 Conclusion

If you can’t tell by now, I really liked the Canon G11.  For someone that usually carries around a DSLR when it’s really too much, the G11 would make a perfect companion.  It will likely put a camera in your hands at times when you would have left your DSLR at home.

While it doesn’t rival DSLRs or the new Micro Four Thirds cameras when it comes to image quality, it still outshines most of the other point and shoot cameras on the market.  Other point and shoots that will probably give the G11 a run for its money include the previous G-series Canon G10 (if you can find one) and the Panasonic LX3.

That said, I highly recommend the Canon G11 for anyone looking for exceptional performance from a point and shoot camera.

The Canon G11 is available from B&H Photo at the following link:

Canon G11 at B&H Photo

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  1. Colin Jenkinson says

    I have recently purchased a G11 and love it. The G11 meets most of my needs however as aperson who likes to look after my cameras I was most dissapointed to get the price of the Canon case to fit my camera. Made in China so production costs are not that high. So I feel it an insult to be asked to pay $135A when such a high proformance camera sells for around $800.
    Please pass my complaint on to Canon if you know the correct channels.
    Col J

  2. Chris Wendt says

    I have a G10 which is 1 year old. It has become my everyday, walking-around camera which I carry in my jacket pocket, almost every day. I shoot with it practically every day.

    The one issue with the G10 is unacceptable noise above ISO 200. The noise is so bad, starting at ISO 400 that I considered trading-up to the G11 after only 1 year. But I stopped short of doing that for the following reasons:

    1. The G10 has a 3-inch LCD which is SUPERIOR as a framing tool. The G11 has a 2.7-inch LCD which is tradeoff for the G11’s articulating LCD. The tradeoff just did not work for me at all.

    2. The G10 captures 14.6 MP while the G11 is a downgrade t0 10.2 MP (to eliminate the noise problem of the G10). In my opinion, that was the wrong solution to the noise problem. The high (14.6 MP) resolution on the G10 is it’s strongest feature, providing really excellent (DSLR) image quality at low ISO, but more importantly, giving tremendous latitude for composition and generous headroom for cropping shots in postprocessing. At 10 MP, with the G11, what you shoot is basically what you get in the final framing. Do the math: at 14.6 MP you can crop-in a huge 40% on a G10 image and still have the same resolution as the native (100%) G11’s 10.2 MP image. On the 10.2 MP G11, for each 1 percent you crop or cut down, you lose 1% effective resolution.

    The 640 movie capture on both cameras was a complete waste of technology, time, and probably money for Canon.

    I love the G10, and have learned to constrain my everyday shooting to ISO 80, 100, and 200. If I must shoot at ISO 400, I can get an acceptable noise result by reducing the image size through the menu. If I need ISO 400 and large image size, I bought NeatImage which I used in postprocessing with PS. (Unfortunately, at ISO 800 and above, nothing seems to cure the heavy noise on the G10).

    The G10 is a superior image capturing device compared to the G11.

  3. Roderick says

    @chris: your final statement clearly states your opinion, which is ok, but i don’t see anywhere in what you’ve written, that you’ve used the g11. without having done so, can you be so sure?

  4. chichi says

    HA! Roderick, thats exactly what i was thinking. It sounds more like Chris Wendt was trying to convince himself to stick with the g10 and to dissolve whatever dissonance he is feeling with the release of the g11.

  5. Vin says

    @Chris Wendt, I think you need to do a little more research sir. Everyone thinks that more megapixels means better image quality. Yes we all know that the G10 has a 14.6mp image sensor. But the G11’s 10.2mp sensor is about the same size as the G10 as far as the silicon chip is concerned, and what that means is, they are able to place larger micro-lens on the same amount of silicon surface. With larger micro-lens, you get a faster more responsive pixel and are able to capture more light per pixel.

    You can’t really compare the G10 or G11’s images sensor to a DSLR, because the DSLR sensors are about 3 to 4 times larger. The Nikon D70 was a great DSLR camera, the prints were great and it was only a 6.1mp camera. So to everyone who thinks more megapixels means better photos, you are kind of mis-informed.

    I kind of think Canon knew what they were doing when they switched image sensors. ;)

    And I LOVE LOVE my G11. Its my carry around camera, because I don’t like lugging all of my DSLR equipment around.