Canon G16 Review
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. But 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.
And that, save for a new trim piece that spans the front of the camera, is pretty-much it for the external changes.
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.
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, but it's now backside-illuminated (BSI), and the Canon G16 couples this with a new DIGIC 6 image processor. The pairing merits Canon's HS System branding -- the HS stands for High Sensitivity -- which should provide better high ISO noise performance. DIGIC 6 is also significantly swifter, in a number of respects.
For one thing, Canon claims a 50% improvement in autofocus speed (and our lab results agree). Given that the G15 offered merely average autofocus performance, this is a welcome improvement. According to the company, with focus and exposure locked, the G16 can also shoot at an impressive rate of 12.2 frames per second for up to 5-6 frames, after which it slows to a still-fast 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 swift 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 manages 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 on-board 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 supposed to be 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. In our experience, the process was not as smooth as we had hoped, but worked once the clunky setup process was completed.
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 2.0 data connectivity, as well. The PowerShot G16 also provides a wired remote terminal for use with Canon's RS-60E3 remote switch.
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.
The Canon PowerShot G16 began shipping in October 2013 for about $550 in the US market initially, but the price has since been reduced to about US$500.
In the Box
The Canon PowerShot G16 retail box includes (may vary by region):
- Canon PowerShot G16 digital camera
- NB-10L Lithium-ion battery pack
- CB-2LC battery charger
- NS-DC11 neck strap
- Digital Camera Solution CD
- 1-Year Limited Warranty
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 16GB is a good trade-off between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, you may want to consider larger. Speed Class 6 or higher is recommended for HD movies.
- Medium camera case
Canon G16 Shooter's Report
The G-series gets a much needed speed boost plus Wi-Fi.
For years, the Canon G-series of digital cameras were the choice for point-and-shoot cameras with professional-level controls. The Canon G16 follows that fine tradition, and brings something that the series has occasionally lacked: speed.
The G16 doesn't offer much that's obviously different from its predecessor, the G15. It has the same resolution, the same lens, and an all but identical body, including the same control layout and hot-shoe. What updates it does have are under the hood: it can now jump on your Wi-Fi network, has a updated sensor, a new DIGIC 6 processor that gives it a much needed speed boost, as well as a number of new firmware features.
The body. Unlike some other high-end compacts on the market, the G-series has never shied away from keeping enough bulk to have plentiful external controls. While they did slim down a touch by removing the articulating LCD a generation or so back, it's still fairly big for a point-and-shoot, and is substantially larger than the likes of the Sony RX100 II
Read the Canon G16 Shooter's Report for our hands-on experience.
Canon G16 Print Quality
How do the G16's images look on paper?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
Get the scoop on the Canon G16's print quality.
Canon G16 Conclusion
Enough to make G15 owners yearn for the sweet '16?
The Canon G16 is another excellent premium compact digital camera from the "Big C.", and while it's not leaps and bounds different from the G15, it brings a significant feature to the table: speed. Thanks to the updated DIGIC 6 image processor, the G16 is a speed demon with fast autofocus, excellent shot-to-shot performance, and stellar JPEG continuous shooting. It also gets a bump in video recording capabilities as well as with Full HD 1080p video at 60fps. Unfortunately, RAW burst mode is still quite sluggish at under 2fps, though improved over the G15.
The other big addition is built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which is a nice touch that allows you to share and transfer photos to smartphones, tablets and computers. Yes, we found it a bit clunky in both the initial setup and in general usage -- however once it's up and running, it works as advertised. Sadly there's no remote shooting capability with the smartphone companion app, however, which we'd like to have seen, as it's quite useful on Canon's Wi-Fi-enabled EOS DSLRs.
Apart from the few new features we just mentioned, the G16 is largely the same as its predecessor. On the inside, the Canon G16 has a slightly improved 12.1-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS sensor and the same 5x optical zoom (28-140mm equivalent) with a fast f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range. It also keeps the excellent macro shooting capabilities (focusing as close as 1cm!). We did however notice there's a slight reduction in fine detail and acuity compared to its predecessor's images, though image quality is still excellent for its class.
Read our Canon G16 Conclusion for our pros/cons and final verdict!