Canon PowerShot G12 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: October 17, 2010

Last Updated: January 19, 2011

The PowerShot G12 ($499) is the latest model in Canon's flagship G-series of digital cameras. It's a relatively minor update to the PowerShot G11, adding these features:

  • High Sensitivity System combines a larger-than-average 10 Megapixel CCD with a DIGIC 4 image processor for better image quality in low light (the G11 was essentially the same, just without the marketing term)
  • Uses new "Hybrid" optical image stabilizer, which reduces both shift and angular blur
  • Faster continuous shooting
  • New control dial on the front of the camera
  • ISO dial on top of camera now adjusts sensitivity in 1/3-stop increments
  • New HDR (high dynamic range) feature, plus additional special effect scene modes
  • Records 720p video at 24 frames/sec with stereo sound
  • Support for SDXC memory cards

As you can see, there's nothing really ground-breaking here, but it's a nice upgrade nonetheless. There are two "downgrades" on the G12: battery life has dropped about 5%, and the manual is now in PDF format on an included CD-ROM.

So what hasn't changed? The G12 retains the same (28 - 140 mm zoom lens, high resolution rotating LCD, rangefinder-style design, full manual controls, and expandability of the G11 that came before it. And did I mention the optical viewfinder, which has become all too rare on compact cameras these days?

Is the PowerShot G12 the ultimate compact camera? Find out now in our review!

Due to their similarities, portions of both the PowerShot G11 and S95 reviews will be reused here.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot G12 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.0 effective Megapixel PowerShot G12 digital camera
  • NB-7L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution and manuals
  • 34 page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

The PowerShot G12 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 G12 supports a lengthy list of flash memory, including SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus media, though I'd stick with the first three if I were you. If you're sticking with still photos, then a 2GB card is probably adequate. Movie fanatics will probably want an 8GB card. It's worth spending a bit more for a high speed card (Class 6 or faster), especially for movie recording.

The G12 uses the same NB-7L rechargeable lithium-ion battery as the PowerShot G10 and G11. 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
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot G11 * 390 shots NB-7L
Canon PowerShot G12 * 370 shots NB-7L
Fuji FinePix F300EXR 250 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix P7000 * 350 shots EN-EL14
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 * 380 shots DMW-BCJ13
Samsung TL500 * 240 shots SLB-11A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 230 shots NP-BN1

* Hot shoe

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturer

As you can see, the PowerShot G12 comes up just shy of the top spot in the battery life table. For whatever reason, the number of shots per charge has dropped about 5% since the G11, but it's still quite good. The Fuji and Sony aren't really true competitors of the G12, but I'm throwing them in anyway since they're advertised as being "high sensitivity".

I do want to mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries used by the G12 and every other camera on the above list. They're expensive (a spare will set you back at least $50, though generic may be available for less), 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, and takes approximately 140 minutes to fully charge the battery.

Canon PowerShot G11 in the hand

As you can see, the PowerShot G12 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.

PowerShot G12 with the new FA-DC58B filter adapter
Image courtesy of Canon

The PowerShot G12 has an impressive collection of accessories for a compact camera. If you didn't know any better, you'd think you were looking at a digital SLR's accessories! Here are the most notable items that you can pick up:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Telephoto lens TC-DC58D From $115 Boosts focal range by a factor of 1.4X, bringing the telephoto end of the lens up to 196 mm; requires conversion lens adapter below.
Conversion lens adapter LA-DC58K From $32 Required for teleconversion lens, macro ring light, or macro twin light. Also supports 58 mm filters.
Filter adapter FA-DC58B $39 Designed specifically for 58 mm filters, this moves with the lens to prevent vignetting and provide coverage at all focal lengths.
Ring accessory kit RAK-DC2 From $21 Three different colored rings that go around the lens, in case black doesn't do it for you.
External flash 270EX
430EX II
580EX II

From $142
From $278
From $444

Boost the flash range, reduce redeye, and get high speed flash sync. The 430EX and 580EX can both be used wirelessly, with the latter capable of being a wireless transmitter.
Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 From $215 This transmitter allows you to wirelessly fire a Canon flash (430EX and 580EX only).
Macro ring lite
Macro twin lite
From $495
From $699
For lighting up your macro photos; both require conversion lens adapter
Remote shutter release RS60-E3 From $24 Take a picture without touching the camera. Cable is 25 inches long.
Waterproof case WP-DC34 From $195 Take your camera up to 40 meters underwater
AC adapter ACK-DC50 From $52 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
HDMI cable HTC-100 From $46 A three-meter-long cable for connecting to an HDTV. Do yourself a favor and buy a generic one for less.
Soft camera case PSC-5100 From $30 A soft leather case for safely transporting your camera.
* 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, given the G12's hot shoe).

Alright, let's talk software now!

Camera Window in Mac OS X

Canon includes version 74 (that's not a typo!) of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot G12. 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), upload videos to YouTube, and adjust a few camera settings (startup screen, sounds, theme).

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 as JPEGs.

Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X

For editing RAW images, Canon includes their Digital Photo Professional software. The main screen isn't too different from Image/ZoomBrowser (I guess it looks a little more "professional"), with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail + 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.

As of the publication date of this review, Adobe Photoshop CS5 was not able to open the PowerShot G12's RAW files. I imagine that the next version of the Camera Raw plug-in will support it.

So what's the big deal about RAW, anyway? RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. This allows you to adjust settings like white balance and exposure without degrading the quality of 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.

PhotoStitch in Mac OS X

The last part of the Canon software suite that I want to mention is PhotoStitch. As you can see, this allows you to combine multiple photos into a single panoramic image. It's super easy to use, and the results can be impressive. While using the G12's Stitch Assist feature isn't required to make panoramas, it does help you line things up correctly, so there are no "seams" in the final product.

Something missing from the software suite is the ability to control the camera from your Mac or PC. This was a feature of earlier G-series cameras, but for whatever reason got axed on the G11 last year.

Things have gone downhill in the documentation department. While the PowerShot G11 had a thick, printed manual in the box, all you'll find with the G12 is a 35 page "getting started" guide. The full manual is now in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. While I don't like digital manuals for any camera, it's especially disappointing when the product costs $500. The manual itself is quite detailed, though it's not what I'd consider user-friendly. Documentation for the software bundle is installed onto your Mac or PC.