Canon PowerShot G11 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: November 23, 2009

Last Updated: June 27, 2010

The Canon PowerShot G11 ($499) is a high-end, fixed lens camera that combines the manual controls and expandability of a D-SLR with the bells and whistles of a point-and-shoot. The G11 replaces the PowerShot G10 (see our review), and while some of its specs seem like a step back, the changes are mostly for the better.

The biggest differences between the G10 and G11 are the sensor and the LCD. While the PowerShot G10 had a whopping 14.7 Megapixel sensor, Canon actually went down to a 10 Megapixel CCD on the G11. Canon says that this "high sensitivity" sensor will lead to better high ISO shooting, and we'll see if the G11 delivers on that promise later in this article. The other change is with regard to the LCD: the G11 now has a rotating screen, just like G-series cameras of old. While the screen is a bit smaller than on the G10, the 461k pixel resolution remains the same.

Other features on the G11 include a 5X, 28 - 140 mm lens, optical image stabilization, full manual controls, a high resolution LCD, support for conversion lenses and an external flash, and a VGA movie mode. The G11 shares the rangefinder-like design of the G10, complete with ISO and exposure dials on the top of the camera.

This table summarizes the main differences between the G10 and G11:

Feature PowerShot G10 PowerShot G11
Resolution 14.7 MP 10.0 MP
ISO range 80 - 1600 80 - 3200
LCD size 3.0" 2.8"
LCD position Fixed Rotating
Flash range (Auto ISO) 0.3 - 4.6 m (W)
0.5 - 2.8 m (T)
0.5 - 5.0 m (W)
0.5 - 4.0 m (T)
Continuous shooting rate 1.3 fps 1.1 fps
Smart Auto mode No Yes
Low Light & Quick Shot modes No Yes
White balance fine-tuning No Yes
Auto ISO Shift Yes No
Remote capture support Yes No
Sound recorder Yes No
HDMI output No Yes
Battery life (CIPA standard) 400 shots 390 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.3 x 3.1 x 1.8 in. 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9 in.
Weight 350 g 355 g

There are quite a few things on the G10 that got removed on the G11, though the only thing I'll really miss is remote capture support.

I've often felt that the last few G-series cameras didn't live up to the standard set by earlier models. Will the G11 be the camera that brings the G-series back to greatness? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot G11 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.0 effective Megapixel PowerShot G11 digital camera
  • NB-7L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
  • 193 page camera manual (printed)

The PowerShot G11 does not come with a memory card, nor does it have any built-in memory. That means that you'll need to buy a memory card right away, unless you happen to have one sitting around already. The G11 supports SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus media, though I'd stick with the first two if I were you. A 2GB card is a good size to start with, and it's definitely worth spending a little extra for a high speed model (though you don't need to go overboard).

The G11 uses the same NB-7L rechargeable lithium-ion battery as the G10. This battery packs 7.8 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is quite good for a compact camera. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot G11 */** 390 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z450 550 shots
Fuji FinePix F200EXR * 230 shots
Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS * 250 shots
Nikon Coolpix S640 270 shots
Olympus Stylus 7010 170 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 */** 380 shots
Samsung SL820 280 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 350 shots

* Manual controls
** Hot shoe

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturer

The cameras in the above table are a bit random, but all of them have 4X or 5X lens, image stabilization, and a large LCD. Just a handful of those have manual controls, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is the only other camera to have both manual controls and a hot shoe. In this group, the PowerShot G11's battery life is well above average.

I do want to mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries used by the G11 and every other camera on the above list. They're expensive (a spare will set you back at least $48), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when your rechargeable runs out of juice.

When it's time to charge the NB-7L, just pop it into the included charger. The charger plugs directly into the wall socket, and takes approximately 140 minutes to fully charge the battery.

Canon PowerShot G11 in the hand

As you can see, the PowerShot G11 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with. While not what I'd call "bulky", it is one of the larger non-super zoom cameras on the market.

The G11 can use the same accessories as the G10 that came before it (save for the underwater case). It's quite a list, too, which is one of the things that makes this PowerShot so appealing. Here are the most interesting accessories:

Accessory Model # Price * Why you want it
Telephoto lens TC-DC58D $103 Boosts focal range by a factor of 1.4X, bringing the telephoto end of the lens up to 196 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
Conversion lens adapter LA-DC58K $35 Required for conversion lenses and the macro flashes
Ring accessory kit RAK-DC2 From $20 Three different colored rings that go around the lens
External flash 270EX
430EX II
580EX II

From $125
From $234
From $384

Boost flash range and reduce redeye; you can use most third party flashes as well, though these sync with the camera
Macro ring lite
Macro twin lite
From $434
From $649
For lighting up your macro photos; both require conversion lens adapter
Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 From $195 Lets you control two separate groups of external flashes, wirelessly
Remote shutter release RS60-E3 From $24 Basically a shutter release button on a cable
Waterproof case WP-DC34 From $179 Take your camera up to 40 meters underwater
AC adapter ACK-DC50 From $62 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
Soft camera case SC-DC65 ?? Protect your camera from the elements with this leather case, if you can find it
* Prices were accurate when review was published

There are a few more items that I didn't list, such as a flash bracket, off-shoe flash cable, and an inexpensive external slave flash (though I don't know why you'd bother with that).

CameraWindow in Mac OS X

Canon includes version 54 of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot G11 (I think they skipped everything in the 40 range). The first part of the software suite that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (pictured above), which you'll use to transfer images to your computer, organize photos on the camera (meaning delete or protect), and adjust a few camera settings (startup screen, sounds, theme) as well.

ImageBrowser in Mac OS X

After you've transferred photos to your computer, you'll find yourself in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, which are for Mac and Windows respectively. The Browser software lets you view, organize, e-mail, and print your photos. If you categorized any photos on the camera (more on this later), then this information is transferred into the Browser software.

Editing in ImageBrowser

Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, plus the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment option for those who want a quick fix.

While Browser can open RAW files, it cannot edit them or export them to JPEGs. For RAW editing you'll need to use...

Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X

... Digital Photo Professional, which is normally found on Canon's D-SLRs and not their compact cameras. The main screen isn't too different from Image/ZoomBrowser, with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail w/shooting data screen. The batch processing tool lets you quickly resize and rename a large number of photos.

RAW editing in DPP

The RAW editing tools in DPP are fairly elaborate. You can adjust exposure, white balance, the tone curve, color saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction. The software is very responsive, with nearly instant updates to the image after you change a parameter.

If you're using Photoshop CS4 or a recent version of Photoshop Elements, you'll be able to open the RAW images if you're using version 5.6 or newer of the Camera Raw plug-in.

What is RAW, anyway? RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. Thus, you can adjust settings like white balance and exposure without damaging the original image, so it's almost like taking the photo again. The downside is the large file size (compared to JPEG), fewer shots in continuous shooting mode, and the need to post-process each image on your computer before you can turn it into a more common format like JPEG.

Two last notes about the software bundle. Older G-series models (including the G10) let you control the camera from your computer -- the G11 does not (boo!). Lastly, another software application known as PhotoStitch is installed, which helps you create a single panorama from separate images.

Canon includes a detailed manual with the PowerShot G11. It's not the most user-friendly manual in the universe (but believe me, I've seen much worse), but it will answer any question that may come up about this complex camera. Documentation for the bundled software and direct printing (via PictBridge) are installed in digital format on your computer.