Canon G series cameras have been providing pocket-sized cameras for discerning photographers for over a decade. With their optical viewfinders, hotshoes and lots of buttons and dials, they’re the sort of cameras that make SLR users feel at home. Meanwhile, their reasonably large 1/1.7in sensors and wide-aperture lenses give a significant boost to low-light image quality compared to run-of-the-mill compact cameras.
The premium compact market has changed beyond recognition in the last couple of years, though. Compact system cameras (CSCs) are smaller, better and cheaper than ever, and their sensors are between three and nine times bigger (by surface area) than the G16’s sensor. By these standards, the G16’s 1/1.7in sensor looks pretty dinky, so it’s going to have a tough time competing for image quality.
CONTROLS AND HANDLING
We can’t fault it for controls, though. There’s a command dial and rear wheel for adjusting settings, a mode dial and yet another dial for exposure compensation. Labelled buttons cover ISO speed, focus mode and exposure lock duties, and there’s a customisable button that we assigned to a one-touch manual white balance function. Various other functions including drive mode, JPEG and RAW settings and the integrated ND filter are neatly organised in the quick-access menu, which can be customised to hide any settings you don’t need.
Beyond these great controls, the ergonomics are more mixed. At 356g it’s relatively heavy for a compact camera, but it feels reassuringly solid and it sits comfortably in the hand. The 3in, 922,000-dot screen is nice and sharp but we miss the articulated design, which Canon dropped from the range a couple of years ago. It’s great to have an optical viewfinder, but it’d be even better if the view was bigger and less blurry. Looking through it involved perching an eyebrow on the hotshoe, which wasn’t the most comfortable experience.
Wi-Fi is built in, but it’s a relatively simple implementation. Photos and videos can be browsed and copied using the accompanying iOS and Android apps, and there’s an option to use a phone’s GPS radio to geo-tag photos. It can’t transfer RAW files to the app, though, and there’s no remote control function.
PERFORMANCE – SHOT SPEED
The Canon PowerShot G15 was hampered by lethargic performance, so it’s good to see some improvements here. The G16 switched on and captured a shot in 1.7 seconds, and took the same time between subsequent shots. It’s still not exactly blistering performance, though. Bizarrely, it was faster in RAW mode, capturing a shot every second.
Continuous mode told a different story altogether, capturing JPEGs at an incredible 10fps –not just for a short burst but for over 50 frames before slowing very slightly. Only the Canon S120 matches this performance; nothing else comes close. However, we’re not sure how useful it is outside of sports and wildlife photography, and the 28-140mm zoom range doesn’t really lend itself to those types of photography. In most other situations it’s likely to produce masses of very similar shots.
As with the S120, the G16 can also shoot at around 5fps with continuous autofocus. However, the camera drifted in and out of focus, and only a small percentage were sharp. It seems as if Canon has gone for impressive specs rather than practical features here – a slower continuous mode that delivered more consistent results would be far more useful.
IMAGE AND VIDEO QUALITY
Ultimately, it’s photo quality that makes or breaks a camera like this, and on balance, the G16 delivers the goods. Automatic exposures were well judged, with colours that struck a balance between flattery and accuracy. It was more noticeable towards the edges of frames, though, with the P7800 delivering crystal clear focus and the G16’s output looking slightly fuzzy in comparison. However, the G16 took a narrow lead in low light, with less intrusive noise-reduction artefacts.
The G16 doesn’t just have its immediate peers to compete with, though. It must also go up against cameras with much bigger sensors, many of which cost a similar amount and are just as pocketable.
1080p videos are recorded at 30 or 60fps, and our test footage was packed with crisp details. Noise reduction kept low-light shots looking clean without detail levels suffering too much. Autofocus sometimes wandered completely off track, but on the whole it performed well.
Ultimately, there’s not a huge amount the separate the these cameras for image quality. However, they vary much more for performance, ergonomics, features and price. It’s significantly faster in normal use, it’s slightly smaller and lighter and it’s currently available for around £300. The Canon G16 beats them both for physical controls, though, and it includes a viewfinder – that’s enough to keep it in the running.