printer-friendly reviews are for non-commercial use only

DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot G6
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 18, 2004
Last Updated: August 21, 2011

The PowerShot G6 ($699) is the latest revision of Canon's venerable G-series of digital cameras. This latest camera packs a whopping 7.1 Megapixels into a sleek new design. While most of the G5's features remain, there are a few new things worth mentioning about the G6, including:

Those are the major differences between the two. There are a few more that I'll touch on later in the review.

And with that, let's begin our in-depth look at the PowerShot G6!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot G6 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

Canon includes a 32MB CompactFlash card with the camera, which seems a little small for a camera with this resolution. So you'll want to buy a larger card, and I recommend 256MB at the very minimum. The included card is marked as "high speed", and from my own experiences I think it would be considered 8X. The G6 can use Type I or Type II cards, including the Microdrive, and it supports the FAT32 format for cards larger than 2GB.

The G6 uses a higher capacity version of the BP-511 battery that was used by the G5 -- this one's known as the BP-511A. Where the old battery had 8.1 Wh of energy, the new battery has a whopping 10.3 Wh. Canon estimates that you can take about 300 photos using the CIPA battery life standard, or spend over 6 hours in playback mode.

My usual complaints about proprietary batteries apply here. They're expensive ($50 a pop), and you can't put in a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the day like you could with an AA-based camera.

When it's time to recharge, just drop the battery into the included charger. This is my favorite style of charger -- it plugs right into the wall (yes, I know some don't like this). It takes about ninety minutes to fully charge the battery.

Canon includes a lens cap and retaining strap along with the G6 to protect that 4X zoom lens.

Canon also includes a wireless remote control with the G6. This is the same remote that came with the G5, and it can be used in both record and playback mode.

As was the case with the G5, there are quite a few accessories available for the G6. These include:

Accessory Model # Price Why you want it
Wide-angle lens WC-DC58N $150 Brings the wide end of the lens down by 0.7X to 24.5 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
Telephoto lens TC-DC58N $110 Boosts focal distance by 1.75X, up to 245 mm; requires conversion lens adapter
Close-up lens 250D $70 Shoot at higher magnifications in macro mode (as close as 5 cm); requires conversion lens adapter
Conversion lens adapter LA-DC58D $?? Required for conversion lenses; you can attach standard 58mm filters to it as well
Lens hood LH-DC30 $?? For shooting outdoors in bright light
External flash 220EX, 420EX, 550EX, 580EX $120+ Get much better flash photos and less redeye
Macro ring light MR-14EX $450 Light up your macro subjects; requires conversion lens adapter
Macro twin light MT-24EX $650 For macro enthusiasts I guess; requires conversion lens adapter
AC adapter CA-560 $85 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
Car battery charger cable CB-570 $40 Charge your batteries using your car; requires CG-570 dual battery charger ($90)
Soft case SC-DC40 $?? Protect your investment

Enough stuff for you? Let's move on.

Canon includes version 20 (amazing how fast those version numbers change) of their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software with the G6. Included in this package are ZoomBrowser (for Windows) or ImageBrowser (for Mac), PhotoStitch (for making panoramic photos), plus TWAIN and WIA drivers for Windows.

The new CameraWindow application is the front-end for many of the G6's functions. You can download images (via ImageBrowser, shown below), adjust camera settings, upload photos to the camera, or control the camera right from you computer (more on that below).

ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

ImageBrowser (for the Mac, at least) has gotten a facelift and it looks and runs a lot better. Canon's made it easier to do just about everything, which includes image sharing via prints or the Internet.

The rather bizarre TimeTunnel feature graphically shows your photos in the order in which they were taken. It's something you have to see to understand fully.

RAW Image Task (Mac OS X)

If you shoot in RAW mode, then you'll probably be using the RAW conversion tool built into Zoom/ImageBrowser to manipulate those images. For those who don't know about RAW, it's a lossless format that lets you manipulate various properties of your image -- a kind of virtual reshoot. Botch the white balance? Just change it in the RAW file, and it's just like you took the photo again. You can also adjust the saturation, sharpness, contrast, tone curve, and more.

RemoteCapture (Mac OS X)

Also built-in to the "Browser" software is RemoteCapture, which you can use to control your camera over the USB connection. Images are saved directly to your computer.

ArcSoft PhotoImpression for Mac OS X

ArcSoft camera suite 2.1 is also included with the G6. Although it has a quirky interface, there are a lot of useful tools in this easy-to-use software.

Recent Canon camera manuals have been more complex than earlier ones, but they're still above average. The G6's manual is complete, but expect a fair amount of "notes" and fine print.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot G5 "had some work done" in becoming the G6:

As you can see, things have been moved around a bit, the right hand grip is larger, and of course the G6 is no longer in black. Two other nice benefits of the new design: you no longer see the lens through the optical viewfinder at the wide end of the lens, and the lens doesn't cast a shadow on flash pictures at wide-angle. Yay!

With perhaps the exception of the CompactFlash slot door, the G6's construction is excellent, with a mix of metal and high grade plastic. That new handgrip makes it a lot easier to hold than its predecessor. Here's how the camera stacks up in terms of size, weight, and volume when compared to the G5:

Camera Dimensions (WxHxD, excluding protrusions) Volume Mass (body only)
PowerShot G5 4.8 x 2.9 x 2.8 in. 39.0 cu. in. 410 g
PowerShot G6 4.1 x 2.9 x 2.9 in. 34.5 cu. in. 380 g

Ohh, smaller and lighter, that's always nice. That doesn't mean that the G6 is compact, though -- it's not. It's still small enough to carry around without getting tired of it.

With that out of the way, we can begin our tour now.

If that lens looks familiar, it's because its exactly the same one that was on the PowerShot G5, and the G3 before that. In case you missed those, its an F2.0-3.0, 4X zoom with a focal range of 7.2 - 28.8 mm (equivalent to 35 - 140 mm). While the lens itself isn't threaded, you can add conversion lenses and filters by purchasing the conversion lens adapter. It attaches like so:

Just press that button to the lower-left of the lens and remove the metal ring. You can then attach the conversion lens adapter and whatever else you were planning on using. Now back to our tour.

To the upper-right of the lens is the G6's built-in flash, which has the same working range as the one on the G5. In case you forgot (which is understandable), that's 0.7 - 5.0 m at wide-angle and 0.7 - 4.0 m at telephoto. As I mentioned in the first section, the G6 supports several external flashes, which I'll touch on again later in the review.

Just below the flash, next to the Canon logo, is the microphone. Continuing left we find the optical viewfinder and AF-assist lamp. Canon was one of the first to use these and it's good to see them across most of their line. Over on the grip are two sensors for the included remote control.

One of the hallmark features of the G-series has been its rotating LCD. I have good news: it still rotates and now the screen is a lot higher quality. The LCD can rotate a total of 270°, from facing straight down to facing directly at your subject. It can also go in the traditional position (shown below) or it can be closed altogether.

Why are rotating LCDs great? They give you flexibility! You can shoot over people's heads, or take ground level shots of kids and pets. Once you try it you won't go back!

The LCD is now 2.0 inches in size, up from 1.8 inches on the G5. One thing that hasn't changed is the resolution: it's still 118,000 pixels. The screen is bright and sharp, and motion is fluid. You can adjust the LCD brightness in the setup menu, although your choices are "normal" and "bright". While the LCD brightens a little bit in low light conditions, it still wasn't very bright -- other cameras do this better.

Above the LCD is a large optical viewfinder, which shows 80% of the frame. Below it is a slider for adjusting the diopter correction, which focuses what you're looking at.

To the left of that are two buttons, which are for:

Manual focus (enlargement feature not shown)

Manual focus mode lets you use the selector dial on top of the camera to set the focus you desire. A guide is shown on the LCD, giving you the approximate focus distance. The center of the frame is enlarged so you can make sure that your subject is in-focus. After using manual focus, you can press the "set" button on the four-way controller to have the autofocus see if it can improve on what you came up with.

The voice caption (called sound memo by Canon) lets you add 60 second clips to each image while in playback mode.

To the right of the optical viewfinder is the mode dial, which has the following options:

Option Function
Movie Mode More on this later
Stitch Assist For help making panoramic shots; use in conjunction with PhotoStitch on your PC
Night Scene For night shots
Landscape For landscapes
Portrait For portraits, believe it or not
Fully Auto Point-and-shoot mode, many menu options are locked
Program mode Camera chooses shutter speed and aperture. All menu options are unlocked. A program shift feature lets you select from several sets of shutter speeds and apertures
Shutter Priority (Tv) You choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the correct aperture. You can choose from a number of speeds ranging from 15 sec - 1/2000 sec. The 1/2000 shutter speed is only available above F4.0 at wide-angle and F8 at telephoto.
Aperture Priority (Av) You pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. The choices range from F2.0 - F8 and will vary depending on the focal range used.
Full Manual You pick the aperture and shutter speed. See above for values.
Custom Settings 1/2 Two sets of your favorite camera settings, easy to access.

Everything up there should make sense, so let's move on.

At the far right of the picture is the AE/FE lock button, which is represented by an asterisk. This is also the button to press if you want to use the Program Shift feature.

Just to the right side of the LCD you'll find the four-way controller plus four buttons. The controller is used for menu navigation, selecting a focus point, and also:

As you can see, the G6 has a custom white balance feature which lets you shoot a white or gray card to get perfect color in unusual lighting. You can store two custom white balance settings for later retrieval.

The four buttons below the controller are for:

There are several autofocus modes on the G6. While in auto or one of the scene modes, you can choose between center-point or AiAF focusing (the latter chooses one of 9 points automatically). In program or the manual modes, you can choose from center-point or FlexiZone focusing. The FlexiZone system lets you use the four-way controller to select in area in the frame on which to focus. Do note that there's a border around the edge of the frame which is off-limits.

Function menu

Pressing the func button brings up -- get this -- the function menu! Here's what it includes:

Custom effect

The photo effect feature lets you quickly change the color of your image, or turn down the sharpness. For more control choose the custom effect option, which lets you adjust the contrast, sharpness, and saturation in three steps.

There are two types of bracketing on the G6. The first is the usual AE bracketing, which takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value (in 1/3EV increments). Focus bracketing is the same idea, except it's used in manual focus mode (which I'll discuss in just a second). The camera takes a shot at the chosen focus setting, plus one closer, and one further away.

Things have been rearranged a bit on the top of the G6 as well. I'll start on the left and work my way to the right.

Those three buttons on the left are for:

There are two continuous shooting modes on the G6: regular and high speed. Regular continuous mode shoots at about 1.2 frames/second, while high speed is at 2 frames/second. I was able to take 18 shots in a row in regular mode and 12 in high speed mode. Do note that the LCD does not stay on between shots in regular mode, making tracking moving subjects difficult. The LCD is off altogether in high speed mode.

The next item of note is the G6's hot shoe. Here's where you'll attach a Canon or third-party flash. If you use the latter, you'll have to set the camera and flash settings manually. The maximum flash sync speed is 1/250 sec.

Next up is the LCD info display, which is finally backlit (hey, didn't I complain about that on the G5?). It shows exposure info, flash setting, remaining shots, and more. To turn on the orange-colored backlight, just press the little light button to its right.

And speaking of which, below that light button is the power/mode switch, which does just what it looks like. Above all that is the selector dial, used for adjusting manual settings, and the shutter release button. Wrapped around the shutter release is the zoom controller, which moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.7 seconds (versus 2.5 secs on the G5). I counted 13 stops throughout the zoom range.

On this side of the G6 is the speaker and the I/O ports. Looking at the lens barrel makes me think: isn't it time for a manual focus ring on the G-series?

The I/O ports can be found under a flimsy plastic cover, and they are for:

Over here you'll find the CompactFlash slot as well as one of two remote control receivers. The plastic door over the CF slot isn't terribly strong and could snap off if forced. The G6, as I mentioned, supports both Type I and Type II CompactFlash cards. The included 32MB card is shown on the right.

We end our tour with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the battery compartment and metal tripod mount. The plastic door covering the battery compartment is a little better than the one over the CF slot, but not by much. The tripod mount is neither in the center of the body nor inline with the lens.

The included BP-511A battery is shown at right.

Using the Canon PowerShot G6

Record Mode

The PowerShot G6 takes 2.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start shooting.

STILL no histogram... earth to Canon, all of the competition has this

The G6 was able to lock focus in about 0.6 seconds at wide-angle and 1 second at telephoto. The camera focused fairly well in low light conditions thanks to its AF-assist lamp. As I mentioned earlier, the LCD was virtually unusable in those conditions -- too dark.

Shutter lag was not a problem, even at slower shutter speeds. Canon has been good at keep this to a minimum for a while now.

Shot-to-shot speed is very good on the G6. You will wait for just 1.5 seconds before you can take another shot (even in RAW mode, until the buffer fills up), assuming that you've turned off the post-shot review feature.

You can delete a picture as it's been saved to the memory card by pressing the delete photo button. If you really meant to take the photo in RAW mode, just press the function button, and the camera asks if you'd prefer to save the image in that format instead.

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the G6:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # Images on 32MB card
(3072 x 2304)
RAW 6.9 MB 3
Superfine 3.0 MB 9
Fine 1.9 MB 15
Normal 902 KB 33
Medium 1
(2592 x 1944)
Superfine 2.4 MB 11
Fine 1.4 MB 21
Normal 695 KB 43
Medium 2
(2048 x 1536)
Superfine 1.6 MB 18
Fine 893 KB 33
Normal 445 KB 67
Medium 3
(1600 x 1200)
Superfine 1002 KB 30
Fine 558 KB 54
Normal 278 KB 107
(640 x 480)
Superfine 249 KB 119
Fine 150 KB 195
Normal 84 KB 336

I explained the RAW format at the beginning of the review. The camera embeds a JPEG thumbnail in the RAW files which speeds up the viewing of the image later. More on this in a second.

Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

The G6's menus have received a minor facelift since the G5. They're still basically the same, just with a more modern look. The items found in the record menu are:

The ND, or neutral density, filter is something that's been on the G-series for quite a while and may still be a Canon exclusive. When turned on, the filter reduces brightness of the scene without affecting color. This allows you to use a smaller aperture (higher F-number) or slower shutter speed than you could otherwise.

The safety shift feature allows the camera to adjust the shutter speed or aperture in Tv or Av mode, if necessary, to get a good exposure.

The RAW + JPEG option isn't what it sounds like. The camera doesn't save a separate JPEG image along with the RAW file like Canon's SLR cameras. Rather, it embeds a JPEG thumbnail that allows for the zoom and scroll (AKA playback zoom) feature and image playback on the camera or the PC. Why would you want to use a larger thumbnail? The answer is, to check the detail in the image. If you use the zoom and scroll feature a lot, a higher resolution thumbnail will let you see more detail when zoomed in.

The Intervalometer tool lets you use the G6 for time lapse photography. You select the interval between shots (1-60 minutes) and the total number of shots to be taken (2-100). Using the optional AC adapter is strongly recommended.

There is also a setup menu on the G6, so let's take a look at that now. Here's what you'll find in the setup menu:

An additional "My Camera'" menu allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps, and phony shutter sounds that your camera makes. If these bother you, you can also turn them off.

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The G6 did a fine job with our usual macro test subject. The image has a "smoothness" to it reminiscent of the G5, though you can still see plenty of detail (like dust). The colors on the figurine are accurate, thanks to the G6's custom white balance feature (which was needed with my 600W quartz studio lamps).

You can get as close to your subject as 5 cm at wide-angle and 15 cm at telephoto while in macro mode. The recordable area is 75 x 50 mm at wide-angle and 56 x 42 mm at telephoto. If you buy the close-up lens those numbers drop to 44 x 33 mm and 22 x 17, respectively.

I was really impressed with the night shot that the G6 took. It's low noise and highly detailed -- you can easily read the sign on the Airtouch building (don't forget that I'm a couple of miles away from it). There's some purple fringing but it does go away if you close down the aperture a bit (see the shots below for proof). This is one of the best shots of the city that I've taken with a fixed-lens camera.

Using that same scene, let's take a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity affects the noise levels in images:

ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

As you can see, noise levels start to rise a bit at ISO 100, but they don't become really nasty until ISO 400. Also notice how the purple fringing levels drop. The ISO 200 shot is at F4 and there's still some, but at F5.6 in the ISO 400 shot it's gone.

The distortion test shows just mild barrel distortion at the wide end of of the lens. I see no evidence of vignetting, or dark corners.

The G6 has a bit of a redeye problem, but it's not the worst I've seen. I took several different test shots and it varied from shot-to-shot, but was never gone completely. Bottom line: there will be some redeye in your people pictures. Solutions: add more light to the room, take the shot twice, or get an external flash.

If I just saw the photos taken by the G6 without knowing what camera they were from, I would've guessed that they came from a digital SLR -- they're that good. When I first heard of the G6 and its 7.1 Megapixel CCD I feared the worst: would images be noisy and full of purple fringing like the 8 Megapixel cameras from earlier this year? The answer is no. While images are a bit noisier than, say, the Digital Rebel, the G6 takes beautiful, "smooth" photos with accurate color and exposure. That smoothness does tend to soften details a bit on things like grass, though. I also noticed the occasional jagged edge, but overall, I'm really impressed. Canon has also done a good job at keeping purple fringing levels down.

Please, don't just take my word for all this. Have a look at our gallery and print the photos as you would if it was your camera. Only you can decide if the G6's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

While the G6's movie mode is an improvement over the one on the G5, it still leaves much to be desired. You can record VGA resolution movies (that's 640 x 480) at a sluggish 10 frames/second for 30 seconds, or you can choose two smaller resolutions (320 x 240 or 160 x 120) and record for 3 minutes. The frame rate on the two lower resolutions isn't much better -- 15 frames/second. Maybe Canon's target audience for the G6 doesn't care about movie mode, but when most of the competition is doing unlimited VGA movies at 30 fps, I expected better.

Since I'm asked this regularly, I will repeat myself -- those 30 second and 3 minute time limits are fixed, regardless of the size of your memory card.

You cannot use the optical zoom during filming.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a sample movie for you, recorded at the 640 x 480 setting:

Click to play movie (6.6 MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime

Playback Mode

The G6 has the same, excellent playback mode as seen on other recent Canon cameras. Everything is very snappy.

The camera has all the basic playback features that you'd expect. That includes slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, image rotation, and zoom and scroll. Playback mode is also the place to print photos when connected to a compatible Canon or PictBridge-enabled photo printer.

The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge the picture up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It's nice and fast!

By pressing the MF/sound recording button on the back of the camera, you can add voice clips of up to 60 seconds per photo.

If you've recorded a movie, an editing function lets you trim unwanted frames from the beginning or end of it.

By default, the G6 doesn't give you much info about your photos. But press the display button and you'll get plenty of details, as well as a histogram.

The camera moves between photos at a good clip, with about a 0.8 second delay between high res photos.

How Does it Compare?

The Canon PowerShot G6 is a very good choice for those who want a full-featured camera and photo quality that rivals (but does not equal) what you'd get from a digital SLR. While I was concerned about noise and purple fringing on this super high resolution 7.1 Megapixel camera, I was pleased to see very smooth images with very little noise. That smoothness does tend to soften things a, bit, but the camera does offer sharpness controls. Color and exposure were good, and purple fringing levels were low. The G6 has a refined body design and it was all for the better. There's a more substantial grip for your right hand, a larger LCD display, and the LCD info display finally has a backlight. Did I mention that the G6 is smaller and lighter than its predecessor? Oh, and you no longer have to look at the lens through the optical viewfinder like you did on the G3 and G5.

In terms of performance, the G6 is on par with the competition. It starts up fairly quickly and AF/shutter lag levels are low. The G6 has a full suite of manual controls, and I appreciate the two custom spots on the mode dial as well as the two custom white balance settings. The camera is also expandable, with support for several add-on lenses as well as external flashes. The camera's battery life has been improved dramatically thanks to a new, high power battery.

So what don't I like? For one, the G6's lens starts at 35 mm, which is a little more "tele" than some would like. Sure you can add the wide-angle conversion lens, but I'd rather not have to. Second, I found the LCD to be too dark to use in low light conditions -- thankfully there's still the optical viewfinder. Along those lines, the burst mode wasn't great for taking pictures of moving subjects, as the screen went blank between shots (and this is at the normal speed setting, too). I'm surprised that Canon still hasn't put a live histogram onto the camera, when virtually all the competition has done so for years. My last two gripes: USB 2.0 would've been nice, as would a higher frame rate and longer recording times in movie mode.

Overall, though, I like the G6 quite a bit. If you want a high resolution camera without the noise and purple fringing issues of the 8MP models, this may be the right choice. Those with G5's probably don't need to rush out and upgrade, unless they really need that extra resolution or like the G6's refined body design (I certainly do). The latest camera in Canon's G-series gets a thumbs up from this reviewer.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Watch this space for some other ultra high resolution cameras that are worth looking at.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot G6 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Want another opinion?

Read more at Steve's Digicams and Digital Photography Review.

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.


Home | News | Digital Camera Reviews & Info | Forums | Buyers Guide | Shopping | FAQ | About | Advertising

All content © 1997 - 2012 Digital Camera Resource Page LLC (R)
All trademarks are property of their respective owners.