Canon PowerShot G12; The “G” Series, Amended

In the report on the Canon PowerShot G11 (April, 2010, available at I concluded by saying that it was “an excellent traveling companion.” Ditto on the new G12 ($499, MSRP), the latest iteration of the Canon “G” line of integral lens cameras aimed at the photo enthusiast. In fact, you could ditto many of the form, function, and features of the G12 with the G11, so I will not repeat those and refer you to the previous article for the specs. However, this is a camera legacy that deserves respect, as it comes close to being the “second” camera many seek (without an interchangeable lens), although it must be said that the G line may feel the heat from some compact system cameras where lens interchangeability and compact size are inherent charms.

(Above): Fast at the wide setting (f/2.8) and sporting a new front control dial, the Canon G12 offers a photographic experience in an integral lens camera. (Below): The articulating monitor allows for numerous points of view. The main workhorse in the field is the FUNC button, which gives access to most of the shooting control options.

While many of the features of the G line remain intact, the G12 offers some new goodies, including 720p HD video, which in some camera lines justifies a change in and of itself; various aspect ratios, which are pretty much in-camera crops with accompanying loss of file size; a front dial control, which is very useful for changing aperture, shutter speed, etc. and when shooting in Manual mode; a hybrid Image Stabilization (IS) setup, useful for close-ups; compatibility with the new SDXC cards; and some additional Scene modes.

Do these changes justify a new model? Probably so, competitively speaking, but if I were a G11 owner I would not toss it and rush out and buy a G12. But having worked with the G12 for a few weeks on a trip to New Mexico, I still hold that the G-line cameras (models 10 and up) are an excellent choice for travel or a second camera. What follows are some notes on some of the new items, and comments on how a camera like this can satisfy shooters who like to get their hands into their images, so to speak.

ND Filter
The built-in ND filter, accessible through the FUNC button options, makes slo-mo effect imagery easier than ever, and negates the need to carry extra filters in the field. Exposure in Manual mode: f/8 at 1⁄4 sec at ISO 100, ND filter on, no flash.
All Photos George Schaub

The first step in working with the G12, if you haven’t worked with a G-line camera before, is in understanding how to move in and through the setup and exposure menus. In the past you could find a shady spot and, holding camera in hand, browse through the instruction manual. Alas, there is no manual in the box, except on the included CD, a move that could be seen as “green” or as a pain in the neck. This is one change from the G11 that I do not like.

In any case, the basic modus operandi is three buttons, a toggle dial, and a front control dial. The DISP button offers various viewing and read-out options as you shoot and review. The screen is fully articulating, which means that you can shoot from creative and new angles not available with a fixed monitor. The eye-level finder, by the way, is fair at best, and only offers a 77 percent field of view, with no read-out info, something I must say that even EVF finders, with their fairly poor visibility, top. Luckily the LCD is bright and snappy, although when wearing polarized sunglasses the vertical orientation goes blank.

Optical Scene Modes

ND Filter
Fisheye is a fun option that is included in the software lens kit of the G12. Great for a change of pace, it need not be exaggerated (left) but can be if the tilt is off-center enough (right). Exposure on the former was f/2.8 at 1⁄1000 sec (handheld) and the latter was f/4 at 1⁄400 sec.


(Top): This is a rather odd name for an optical software trick that yields focus in only select areas of the frame. The visual effect can be, if used with the right subject, like looking at a model train layout world. Quite Lensbaby-like, you can move the focus selection in and around the frame using a control dial. Exposure of a building in the Taos Ski Valley: f/4 at 1⁄320 sec at -2⁄3 EV exposure compensation. (Above): The thing I like most about the G12 is the ability to engage in some purely “photographic” endeavors. The control and layout fosters a real hands-on feeling in terms of selecting an exposure metering pattern, locking exposure, and being able to lock focus and exposure separately, etc. The Live View might be a cheat, true, but is a great aid and encouragement to shoot in Manual mode. In this fall shot in the Rio Grande Valley I read and set exposure in Manual mode from the blooming chamisa in the foreground, making sure I had minimum aperture to get both foreground and background sharp (f/8 at 1⁄200 sec at ISO 100) and then recomposed. Pointing the camera straight ahead and letting the meter handle it would have no doubt caused the highlights to go too bright.


The MENU button is really for camera setup while the FUNC button is where all the action is, at least in the field after you have prepped the camera. This you use to change all the image size and format settings (JPEG and Raw), white balance, flash exposure compensation, ND filter selection, bracketing setup, and more. If you want to know the options the camera offers this is the first place to explore.


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