By Ken Tanaka
Maybe chickens really can grow lips, after all.
I’ve been a fan of Canon’s G series of PowerShot cameras since the fall of 2006 when Canon introduced the G7. In my opinion the 10 megapixel G7 produced some of the finest images I’ve seen from a compact camera. But on the battlefields of the pixel count marketing wars the G7’s 10 MP sensor resolution specification began looking anemic against competitors. Canon, under pressure to compete, put the PowerShot G’s tiny 1/1.7 sensor on an aggressive electronic steroid regimen until, by the fall of 2008, the PowerShot G10 boasted a brawny 14.7 MP resolution. Nobody was going to kick sand in the G10’s lens on the beach!
As I wrote here last fall, the G10 is unquestionably a fine compact camera, perhaps the best of its genre. But on the path from the G7 to the G10, there's no question that image quality declined. The smooth, nicely saturated tones of the G7 were noticeably a bit noisier and flatter in the G10. This was clearly the result of Canon’s megapixel increase. Yet it seemed that Canon would sacrifice sensor brawn for image quality when chickens grew lips.
Well, folks, it looks like there’ll be some barnyard puckerin’ going on this fall. It seems that Canon has listened to its customers* and responded by introducing the new PowerShot G11 with a 10 MP sensor! I know I’m not alone in my elation. If the G11 produces images as smooth as the G7’s, we’re probably looking at the finest enthusiast compact ever made.
The G11 also (finally) introduces an articulating 461K LCD screen, although 0.2" smaller than the 3" screen now on the G10. That’s fine with me. The rest of the camera’s design and features seem very similar to the current G10. That’s fine with me, too, as I very much like the G10’s handling.
*While Canon certainly listens to customers, I suspect that this sensor down-res was also encouraged by the wild success of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 / Leica D-Lux 4 cameras which held their sensors to 10 MP while Canon was pumping up the G’s resolution. Those cameras produce, in my opinion, the finest compact camera images available today. The marketplace seems to have recognized this, too. Since the Panasonic LX3 was introduced (at about the same time as Canon’s G10) it’s been hard to find it in stock anywhere. The success of these cameras, despite their lower sensor resolution, must certainly have encouraged Canon to return the PowerShot G’s sensor to a more reasonable pixel density in favor of image quality.