A Casual Look at the Canon G12

For my commercial stock imagery shooting, I use the big boys of DSLRs, like the Canon 1dsMk3 and the 5d2.  Which are great when you’re “working”.  However, you don’t always want to be dragging something that big around to birthday parties and vacations.  I’ve got a Canon D300 Digital Rebel from 2004 that I will occasionally use if I’ve taken the trouble to drag it along somewhere.  I’ve gone through a couple iterations of the Canon Digital Elph, which is a really convenient camera to take along.  They’re metal and small and easy to use.

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However, I really never did like their performance in low light, and that’s where I want good results.  Inside a living room at a birthday, or in a restaurant for a character meal on vacation.  Very noisy results, and with the tiny flash so close to the lens, you get a lot of red-eye.  So, I finally stepped up to the middle of the range and recently bought a Canon G12.  Here’s my casual look at using it on our trip to Florida last week.

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So, you can read specs on the G12 at other places, like here and here.  I’m going to just note some things that I, using it casually on a vacation trip to Disney World in Orlando, noticed.

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Coming from the Digital Elph and the higher DSLRs, the controls were fairly easy for me to use.  However, there are a lot of dials for the beginning user.  Everytime I pulled it out of my case, I felt like my fingers were turning dials and changing settings.  Fortunately for me, rotating the dials takes a little more work than just accidentally touching them, and the other controls do nothing until the camera is turned on.  The camera felt a bit awkward at first, trying to make sure I was holding it with my thumb on that little pad, but I got used to it.

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Shooting Modes

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There is a dial for the shooting mode, underneath that, one for ISO, another on the other side for exposure compensation, and one in the front for aperture or shutter speed, depending on your current mode.  The buttons on the lower right are pretty much like on the Elph, so no issues there.   There were a couple of things I couldn’t figure out, like what “Quick Shot” mode was supposed to be, because it removed the view image from the screen and put up all the current control values.  Maybe you’re supposed to use the viewfinder in that mode.  I didn’t have enough time to thoroughly read the .pdf manual at home, and there is no detailed paper manual.  That’s a negative.  I’m always referencing this or that in paper manuals.

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It’s nice having all the mode options though.  Most of the basic outdoor vacation shots were done on auto mode.  Sue me.

1/200 f8 ISO80
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Nice colors, plenty sharp enough.  Easy to shoot.  Just point and click.  Good for all your basic outdoor needs.

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However, being able to switch to Aperture Priority, lets me go down to f4 and get some depth of field and a reasonable shutter speed on this cheese course from our dinner at Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian.  Rats, I missed focus slightly, but it should print ok if I need to.  That’s ok, I’m still having fun.

1/20 f4 ISO1250 (curves applied in PS)
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Here’s another example from the Hog’s Head bar at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure.  I’m really liking this.

1/25 f2.8 ISO3200
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One of the modes is HDR, which as you may know, takes multiple exposures and then combines them to display a larger range of tonal values.  Normally, you do this in Photoshop with multiple exposures of the same setup, but more cameras are offering this in camera.  The camera actually suggests using a tripod.  I suggest it too.  Even though I set the camera on the railing of our hotel room, I still jiggled a bit between the 3 exposures it took.

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Much better than this.

1/500 f4 ISO500
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The camera also has a low light mode, represented by a candle on the dial.  It outputs a 3 MP or so image, presumably, part of the noise reduction in the process comes from downsizing the 10MP image to 3MP.  However, I thought it did a really stellar job capturing ambient light, while keeping a reasonable shutter speed.   And it managed to focus well, in tough situations like the Electric Light Parade.

1/60 f2.8 ISO3200

My wife has instructed me to tell you that she shot that image.

The low light mode did a pretty good job at the Hoop Dee Doo dinner show as well.  I’m pretty satisfied with this mode, aside from the reduction of the image size.

1/160 f3.5 ISO1250

BTW, that was another shot by my wife.

One of the modes I like best on my Elph is the “Night” mode, which basically drags the shutter, keeping it open longer to get more of the ambient light, while setting off the flash to properly exposure and freeze the subject.  However, I couldn’t find such a thing on my G12, and without the paper manual…  So, I just went with manual mode and flash a few times, experimenting to find the right shutter to gather enough background light.   This is from the Epcot Food and Wine festival.  Who knew an eight year old would like raw tuna so much?

1/13 f3.5 ISO3200 w/flash

Under the “SCN” mode on the dial, there are lots of other mode options that basically do auto compensating for things like “Aquarium” or “Snow”.


One of the downfalls of your typical point and shoot is the response time after pushing the shutter.  Unfortunately, the G12 lags as well, although not as much as the Elph.  However, it took me a few tries to shoot the blinking score on my vehicle at the end of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, because I kept catching it in the “blink off”.  (Yes, it’s also out of focus)

1/20 f3.2 ISO800

However, if you are able to time things right, you can get some pretty good captures, like the end of show explosion from the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show.

1/1250 f8 ISO800

Please note, the above image was also shot by my better half.

The other mechanism I didn’t particularly care for was the response of the zoom.  It seemed like it would take a second to start zooming after I moved the lever.  And then it would move past when I let go.  It took a while to get used to this.  The 200mm max zoom does get you closer than your typical P&S, so that was a plus for me.  This is from 1/3 of the way up in Theater of the Stars for the Beauty and the Beast show.

1/125 f4 ISO800

I also felt there was too long of a delay between being finishing one shot, and being ready to move on to the next.  I would think that trying to zoom or pushing the shutter would deactivate the 2 sec. display, but maybe not.  I will need to investigate this more.

I thought the focus did a pretty good job with its face recognition technology (there’s even modes that will watch for a wink as a signal to shoot, or a smile).  I did have a problem trying to shoot the Mandrake plants in the WWOHP line.  The camera kept focusing on the mesh in front.  Darn.


I bought an 8GB SD card for the camera (none included), which I didn’t even fill up halfway in a week.  I didn’t shoot very much video though.  I like to use my HDV camcorder.  I prefer to have my video on a “permanent” media – it’s just easier for me to access and drop to dvd to enjoy.

There was a provided cord that allowed me to plug the camera into the RCA inputs of the “media hub” by the tv in our room, so we could check out the images the next morning.    Unfortunately, the slide show function didn’t allow me to select a folder to show from, so I had to manually click through the day’s events, lest we watch images from even before the trip that were on the card.


Overall, I’m pleased with the G12, since my main concern was low light shooting.  The response times on the controls I can live with.  Now that I have time I can go through the .pdf manual (CANON, SEND OUT PAPER MANUALS!!!).  Also, these images were all .jpgs.  The G12 does also shoot RAW, so I can use it for stock shooting in a pinch if the conditions are right.

… and that’s what I did on vacation 🙂 .

11 thoughts on A Casual Look at the Canon G12

  1. Nice review. I have been eyeing up the G series cameras for a few years now but have never made the jump to purchase one. I have come to the reasonable solution of just using my phone for holiday pics but this post makes me wonder if a G12 is still worth considering.

    Do you have a cell phone (camera phone) as well, and do you use it much for photos?

    • I just got an iPhone4 last month. Still, I don’t use it a lot for serious images. Just snaps I want to send people quickly, or to record information. I certainly wouldn’t use it for my vacation snaps, which I put a high value on. I want quality I can crop and adjust.

  2. Nice review, I want a Canon pocket-able camera that can take the speedlite flashes and I was disappointed in the IQ even at ISO 100 in the G12 reviews. I had a G6 when I started stock and had a hard time with acceptance and artifacts 40% of the time even at ISO 80. I got the 30D a year and a half later and never looked back.

    So the question is… do you think with studio or proper light and a tripod… this camera in RAW can pass iStock’s Inspection standards with maybe a re-size to 8MP or 6MP?

    The video seems prone to jaggies from bad down-sampling too. Canon needs a mirror-less large sensor body to cater to the pocket-able use crowd.

    Congrats on the Images by your Wife BTW… The Explosion scene is fantastic, I remember the show well and that captured it perfectly.

    • I know, or at least I’m pretty sure, that Rich Legg has some images from the G11 in studio, in his portfolio. I haven’t really looked closely enough at my images to see if they are up to IS snuff. I just need something good enough for a blurb book.

      Yeah, my wife demanded credit 😉 .

  3. I have the g9, and I’m not happy with it.
    Its too big, it doent fit in your pocket.
    And I’m not happy with the picture quality.
    I’m not gonna buy a new one until they have full frame p&s. I better take my slr without battery grip and a 50mm fix kens.

  4. My best friend uses the hell out of his G11, and literally used his G10 into the ground. He swears by it. But then again he shoots everything on Auto, so I can imagine why.

    I’m debating getting the S95 as I hear it has everything the G12 has but in a more compact body that fits better in the pocket. Have you heard anything contrary?

  5. Cheers for the review Sean,
    I had my eye on the g12 for the same reasons as you but from what i can read i better pass it up.
    The only thing i really can’t have in a cam is any sort of slowness. Next to that i think 10mpix is a bit on the low side for a cam in this segment. 12-15 would have made a lot more sense (and even slower i guess). For now it’ll stay gripless 5d2 with 50mm 1.4 like rasmus said. Cheers for the read, Kurt

  6. Nice review Sean. My first digital camera of any kind was the Canon G2. I’ve been casually keeping track of the subsequent “G’s” ever since. Sounds like this one may be the one to take a closer look at. My intended needs would be similar to those you noted in your review. Thanks! –Ted

    BTW – I shot a lot of RAW images with that old G2 – long before I had much of a clue about anything stock related. I believe with proper post and down-sizing and all that at least some might have been accepted for stock back then. So I’m pretty confident that a good photographer with good light in a good image would have no trouble getting images accepted at iStock.

  7. I was deciding between the G12 and S95 and settled on the G12 mainly because of the flip out (vari) LCD and larger size. My last G was the G6. I waited until the vari-LCD came back to get a used G12. I like the fact that the G12 vari-LCD allows me to shoot less conspicuously when shooting people scenes. I would have perfer the grip on the camera to be a bit larger – like the G6’s grip. But the G12 works for me when I don’t want to lug my 40D around.

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