Canon PowerShot G12 – Long Term Review

Canon PowerShot G12
Canon PowerShot G12

Back in July when I learned that I would be making an extended visit to Japan in September, my thoughts immediately turned to my camera bag. What should I take?

Well, I knew that unlike my trip to Florida at the beginning of the year, I did want to take my main DSLR and a selection of lenses. This would be a “proper” photographic holiday. But I was reluctant to have to take the Panasonic GF1 and its lenses as a backup kit. I thought something smaller and more portable was needed.

I asked around some photographic friends and had the Canon PowerShot G12 recommended to me. It weighs in at 350g and is 112 x 76 x 48mm in size. So not the smallest compact ever made, but a decent trade off for its features. The equivalent zoom range is a useful 28-140mm with maximum apertures of f/2.8-4.5. Again, pretty good for its size.

I liked the articulated screen – the first camera I’ve owned with one, and now I’ve been using this for a while, I’ve realised how handy they can be. Not just for the odd self-portrait but also getting down low for unusual angles. I wished my Canon 7D had one too!

Before setting off for Japan, I gave the camera a reasonable work out at home and around London. It coped admirably well on a dusk shoot around Tower Bridge when I went to photograph the Olympic Rings:

Tower Bridge Dazzle
Tower Bridge Dazzle

Once in Japan, after wandering around with my big camera kit all day, I ventured out on the first evening with our tour group just taking the G12. I made this shot of the attractive lanterns outside a local restaurant on my way back to the hotel:

Evening Lantern
Evening Lantern

For dreary weather days, I often just took the G12 with me, or if I was wandering around doing some shopping, not particularly looking for pictures. But they still jumped out:

Bumps And Crossing
Bumps And Crossing

I revisited a few locations later in my trip with the compact, having already visited them with the DSLR. I captured some great atmosphere at Sensō-ji with this one:

Sensō-ji Lanterns
Sensō-ji Lanterns
Catch A Falling Star
Catch A Falling Star

I’m still taking it with me when all I want is a small but versatile camera. I made this shot of the early Christmas decorations this evening before meeting friends in London.

I am very impressed with its low-light performance. Like the Lumix, I’m a bit reluctant to push it above ISO800 for best results, but if you can work within those limits I find it works well.

The controls are all readily available on the rear or via twist control dials on the top plate. I have often been slightly confused when trying to set the aperture (I usually run in AV mode) as this is on the front wheel, rather than at the rear as it is with my GF1. But that’s largely my problem because I’m frequently switching between the two.

I like the ease of access for exposure control, ISO and exposure mode – all via the top plate controls rather than having to go into menus. These are the things I change most often, so ergonomically it makes sense.

Other things which regularly need setting such as white balance. flash mode, self-timer etc are all quickly available with buttons on the rear. In many ways, the visual menus are similar to Canon’s other cameras, and as a 25-year veteran of Canons of one flavour or another, I’m very familiar with their UI.

The build quality seems pretty sturdy, with a metal body shell rather than plastic. It feels well-weighted in my hand and is very easy to use. I’m really enjoying making images with it.