Canon G16 Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 08/22/2013
Take a look at the enthusiast cameras on the market, and you could be forgiven for thinking that enthusiast photographers are a lonely bunch. Connected cameras that let you share your photos are everywhere these days; everywhere, it seems, but in the hands of enthusiasts. Otherwise-fully-featured compact cameras typically shun Wi-Fi and social networking, but with the 12.1-megapixel Canon G16, that all changes.
The latest update to Canon's popular, enthusiast-oriented PowerShot G-series compact camera line, the Canon G16 follows in the footsteps of the existing G15. For the first time in a G-series camera, it provides built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, acknowledging the fact that social networks aren't just the domain of amateurs. Enthusiasts have friends they want to share their photos with, too!
Although it has a similar 12.1-megapixel image sensor and 5x zoom lens pairing to its predecessor, the PowerShot G16 also includes a new DIGIC 6 image processor, which allows for faster autofocusing, burst shooting, and movie capture. Other changes include a variety of new shooting modes, and reworked rear-panel controls.
On paper, the Canon G16 is ever so slightly larger and heavier than was its predecessor. In-hand, the difference simply isn't noticeable. As with the earlier camera, the body design caters to photographers used to shooting with an SLR. There are control dials front and rear, plus a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the top deck.
On the rear panel is the same 3.0-inch, 922k dot LCD display seen on the G15, and as in that camera, there's no touch control here. Sadly, nor is there a return of the articulating screen seen in the earlier Canon G12. There is still an optical viewfinder, which will allow you to more than double your battery life if precise framing and the ability to preview the look of your images aren't important.
In most respects the layout is very similar to that of the G15, but the PowerShot G16's rear-panel controls have been tweaked slightly. The Shortcut button has jumped across the camera, and now sits beneath the Video button, making for quick access with a press of your thumb, not to mention better single-handed shooting. It no longer doubles as a Direct Print button, either; Canon is no longer emphasizing this feature, it seems.
At the same time, Canon has promoted ISO sensitivity control to a dedicated button, and decoupled manual focus control from the Macro button. Unfortunately, that means there's one less free button, and something had to go. If you want to change metering modes, you'll now need to visit the menu system.
And that, save for a new trim piece that spans the front of the camera, is pretty-much it for the external changes.
On the inside, as already noted, you'll find a 12.1 megapixel, 1/1.7-inch CMOS image sensor similar to that used in the PowerShot G15. Unlike its predecessor, the Canon G16 couples this with a new DIGIC 6 image processor, however. The pairing still merits Canon's HS System branding -- the HS stands for High Sensitivity -- and we're told to expect better high ISO noise performance. DIGIC 6 is also significantly swifter, in a number of respects.
For one thing, Canon is predicting a 50% improvement in autofocus speed. Given that the G15 offered merely average autofocus performance, we're definitely looking forward to testing (and hopefully confirming) this claim in our lab! With focus and exposure locked, the G16 can also shoot at an impressive rate of 12.2 frames per second for up to six frames, after which it slows to a still-respectable 9.3 frames per second for around 522 frames. Of course, you'll need a fast UHS-I branded Secure Digital card to take advantage of this performance. Even if you enable autofocus, you'll still manage a reasonably handy 5.7 frames per second.
And it's not just stills that benefit from DIGIC 6. The Canon G15 was limited to just 24 frames per second in its highest-resolution Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) movie mode, but the G16 will manage a rate of 60 frames per second. If you preferred the film-like feel of 24 fps video, you may mourn its absence, but the optional 30 fps rate will get you close. Movies include stereo audio from an onboard microphone.
The Canon G16's 5x optical zoom lens is unchanged from that in the G15. It still offers 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from a handy 28mm wide angle to a moderate 140mm telephoto, and has a bright maximum aperture that starts at f/1.8, and only falls to f/2.8 by the telephoto position. The bright lens is handy both for isolating your subject with depth-of-field blur, and when shooting in low-light conditions. And for the latter, its optical image stabilization is also a great feature.
As with its predecessor, the Canon G16 caters to enthusiasts with not just a built-in flash strobe, but also a hot shoe for more versatile flash photography. The hot shoe is compatible with the company's Speedlite flash strobes.
Canon has added several new shooting modes to the PowerShot G16. The Star mode offers Star Nightscape, Star Trails, and Star Time-lapse Movie options, which do pretty-much what you'd think: the first exposes for sharply-defined stars behind a landscape, the second blurs them into star trails, and the third creates a video showing star motion across the sky. A Background Defocus mode aims to supplement the lens' depth-of-field blur -- always a weak spot of small-sensor cameras compared to their large-sensor brethren, even at wide apertures -- for better subject isolation. There's also a handheld High Dynamic Range mode which takes multiple shots and boosts dynamic range; this now allows you to apply Natural, Art Bold, Art Embossed, Art Standard and Art Vivid effects to the resulting HDR image.
For our money, the most significant change in the Canon G16 after its improved performance is the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, however. And the G16 doesn't just receive what consumer PowerShot cameras have had for a while now; the feature is also improved for the flagship compact. The connection process is now simpler, with no requirement to install software on your computer or enter a security key manually. Instead, you can configure the connection directly from your smart device.
We have good news to report on the device front, too: both landscape display and tablets on the Android platform are now supported. Once connected, you can share images and videos by email or on Facebook, Flickr (a new addition), Twitter, and YouTube, although in all cases your creations will first need to transit the Canon iMAGE GATEWAY service; the camera won't connect directly to social networks or email servers. On the plus side, you can share your images and movies even on public Wi-Fi networks. And when at home, you can also transfer images from the camera to your Wi-Fi connected computer.
And if you like the tangible, the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity will allow you to print directly on the Canon PIXMA MG7120 or MG5220 Wireless Photo All-in-One printers without the need for a cable, too.
Of course, Wi-Fi is not your only connectivity option. Both standard and high-def video connectivity are provided, courtesy of composite and Mini (Type C) HDMI outputs. And there's the de rigeur USB data connectivity, as well.
Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC / SDXC and the higher-speed UHS-I types. Power comes from a proprietary NB-10L battery pack, and battery life with the LCD monitor enabled has increased just slightly, to 360 shots. (By way of comparison, the G15 allowed 350 frames.) Disable the LCD, and you'll save hugely on battery life for a total of 770 shots on a charge, showing the worth of the optical viewfinder.
On the plus side, the battery pack is unchanged, so if you're upgrading from a Canon G15, you'll be able to keep using your existing packs. The same is true of almost all the other Canon G15 accessories: your conversion lens and filter adapters, teleconverter lens, flash strobes and brackets, leather case, AC adapter kit, charger, and cables can all stay in your camera bag post-upgrade. But there's bad news for fans of underwater photography: the new body means that the previous WP-DC48 underwater housing will no longer fit. You'll have to buy a new WP-DC52 housing if you want to take your Canon G16 on your next diving expedition.
Available from October 2013, the Canon PowerShot G16 will cost about US$550 in the US market.
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