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The canon powershot G11 is technically a compact camera and although it's quite a recent model (currently being replaced by the G12), it is alot chunkier than most modern compacts at roughly 2 inches thick. However this is because (generally speaking) it has a far greater number of functions than most other compacts and of course all this extra technology has to go somewhere.
What does this camera have?
- A built in flash with a hot shoe on top which can be used to attach a flash gun for more effective and powerful flash
- 28mm lens with image stabalization
- 2.8" LCD which folds out from the back of the camera and swivels (useful if you want to take self portraits or shoot above eye level etc).
- Preset shooting modes and manual adjustment modes
- 5x optical zoom, 2.3x digital zoom - the zoom fuction is accessed via a swing dial on the top
- 10mp (this may seem low compared to some modern cameras but it isn't - 10mp is perfectly adequate for the average person's needs).
- SD card slot
Using the camera is relatively straight forward - it turns on with a simple press of a button on top and there are a number of dials and buttons on the cameras body to adjust settings. On the top you can adjust the shooting mode and ISO (if you don't know how to use ISO or what it does then you can leave it on auto), on the back of the camera are dials and buttons to adjust F number and shutter speed with the current setting showing up on the LCD screen. If you press the display button twice it will turn off the LCD which can be useful to save battery life. Overall it's quite inutitive to use - I managed to work it out within a couple of minutes without reading the manual (admitedly I am a photographer though).
The G11 does have a viewfinder which is a rarity in modern compacts, however the quality of said viewfinder is quite poor as the scene appears quite fuzzy - you get a far better rendition of the scene by looking at the LCD. You can manually focus this camera if desired however this is done by way of pressing the MF button and then turning a dial - this is hard to get accurate as it is not as sensitive as the focusing ring on an SLR lens. All adjustments that you make will become apparent on the LCD before you take a photo which is quite handy as it shows the effect of the adjustments you're making before you commit to pressing the shutter.
As for the quality of the images I have made a few observations - at *ISO 3200 (the highest setting on the camera) the images are very grainy, 800 is still grainy but useable, there is also visible noise at 100 although this isn't that apparent unless you zoom into the photo quite alot. The automatic white balance setting does not cope well with indoor lighting situations leading to photos and video having a yellow tinge.
The camera itself has a plastic body and in feel and appearance it reminds me of a film camera from the 90's. To be honest it doesn't feel like it's amazing quality in terms of build and despite the plastic body it is still on the heavy side.
Overall I'm not sure I would recommend this camera - it's nice and takes better quality photos than most compacts however I'm not impressed with appearance and build quality and considering that this camera commands a price tag of £400 I'd be inclined to buy an entry level DSLR instead (which can be had for £350) as the G11 isn't much smaller or lighter weight than an entry level DSLR. Furthermore this camera only has 5x optical zoom which isn't bad but I would have expected more for the price - you can get cameras with 10x optical zoom for under £300.
* The higher the ISO setting the more the image quality will be degraded - this takes the form of a speckled effect to the image. In digital this is known as noise, with film it is called grain. Grain is generally accepted to be more aesthetically pleasing than noise. Some camera's handle different ISO levels better than others. The lower the light, the more you will likely need to increase your ISO in order to get a properly exposed image.