Canon G16 £529.99

8th Nov 2013 | 16:00

Canon G16

Canon's workhouse G series premium compact gets refreshed

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

If you're looking for a good workhouse camera to carry around with you, then the Canon G16 a good bet. Take a look at the Canon S120 though if you need something a touch more pocket friendly – it features the same sensor.

Like:

Full manual control; Raw format shooting; Built-in Wi-Fi;

Dislike:

No touchscreen; Limited flexibility with digital filters; Can't use Wi-Fi for remote shooting;

Overview

Scores in depth
Canon G16Canon G16Canon G16Canon G16Canon G16

The Canon GXX series has long been considered the natural back-up camera for DSLR users, especially those already familiar with the Canon brand.

As such, the outward design of this range has changed little from its first incarnation. The Canon PowerShot G16 is no different, looking outwardly almost identical to the year-old Canon PowerShot G15 it replaces. But of course, inside there have been a few notable changes.

First up is the sensor. While it remains the same pixel count, at 12.1MP, and physical size, at 1/1.7-inch, Canon says that the CMOS sensor is a completely new design, featuring back illumination.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

The Canon G16 now includes inbuilt Wi-Fi, something which Canon's David Parry says is "pretty much essential" for new compacts.

What Canon is most keen to shout about, and perhaps the most exciting new feature, however, is the Digic 6 processor. This is Canon's latest generation of processor which enables some pretty special things, most notably an impressively fast 9.3fps (JPEG, without continuous autofocus), which doesn't have a buffer - in real terms that means you can, in theory, keep on shooting until your card runs out. It also means you can shoot a sequence, stop shooting and be ready to shoot again.

It should also mean that low light performance is once again improved. The Canon G16 is capable of shooting at up to ISO 12800. Canon also claims that AF speed has been significantly improved - apparently it is 41% quicker than its predecessor, the Canon G15.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Two new creative modes have been created for this camera. Background Defocus shoots two photos, one completely in focus, one out of focus, then combines the two images to produce DSLR-style background defocus effects. This is done in-camera automatically.

The second is Star Mode, which has been designed with night time photographers in mind. Canon says that it is so confident of the camera's low light capabilities that it actively wants to encourage photographers to use it in pitch black conditions.

Star Mode is a fully automatic mode that triggers the best settings for capturing night time skies. It's also capable of recording star trials and creating time-lapse movies - again, all captured and created within the camera without the need for post-processing. HDR mode has also been improved to include new digital filters.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Manual Focus Peaking has been introduced for the first time in a Canon compact camera. It's a technology that has existed in Canon's range of video cameras before, and we have seen it from other manufacturers fairly recently. The sensitivity of focus peaking can also be set depending on how strong you want it to be. Different colours can also be set, which can be useful depending on the subject you're shooting.

As found on the Canon G15, the Canon G16 features an f/1.8-f/2.8 5x optical zoom lens, with a maximum wide-angle of 28mm. At its full telephoto zoom it offers a 35mm equivalent of 140mm and a maximum f/2.8 aperture.

The exterior of the camera is pretty much identical to its predecessor, the Canon G15. Canon says that this is because it has been honed throughout the years and is one that consumers feel comfortable with.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Canon has also announced a replacement for the Canon S110 in the shape of the Canon S120. That takes a lot of the features of the Canon G16 but places them in a slimmer body, and is worth investigating if you're looking for something a little more pocket-friendly.

When the original Canon G series camera launched it had far less competition that it does in the current market. Probably the biggest competitor for this camera is the Sony RX100 II, as well as the Nikon P7700.

The Canon PowerShot G16 will have a full price of £529.99 (around US$830/AU$920), making it slightly more expensive than the Nikon but a fair bit cheaper than the Sony.

Build quality and handling

Much of what can be said about the G16's build quality and handling is true of its predecessor, the G15.

The G15 slimmed down considerably from the G12 by removing the articulating screen, and Canon has evidently received sufficient feedback that this welcome to keep the same design for the latest iteration of the camera.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Canon isn't shy about targeting cameras at the advanced photographer – it often refers to DSLR owners in marketing materials. This is reflected in the number of dials and direct access buttons found on the camera. On the top are two overlapping dials, a mode dial for switching between the various exposure options on the camera, including fully automatic and semi-automatic modes (aperture priority and shutter priority). There's also space for a couple of custom groups of settings, which is pretty useful if you often find yourself shooting one particular type of scene, such as monochrome or low light.

Slightly underneath this dial is the exposure compensation dial, which is handily reached by the thumb and is something that was a welcome addition to last year's G15.

In order to change the aperture or shutter speed (depending on the mode you're shooting in), a small dial on the grip at the front of the camera is used. This is easy to reach with your finger when holding the camera one-handed. If you're shooting in fully manual mode, the dial at the front of the camera is used for aperture, and the scrolling dial on the back of the camera is used for shutter speed.

This scrolling dial on the back of the camera doubles up as a four way directional pad, which is used with other buttons to make changes to settings. There's been a slight rejig when compared with the G15, with some buttons being moved around. For instance, there is now a dedicated ISO (sensitivity) button instead of it being found as one of the options around the navigational dial. This seems to come at the expense of a dedicated metering button which is now missing.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Around the navigation dial, you'll now find access to focusing types, flash types and a way to quickly switch to manual focusing. There's also a Display option for changing the settings displayed on the screen.

There's a fairly wide array of other buttons on the back of the camera, including a dedicated one for changing the autofocus point. This is styled in the same way as the button on Canon's range of DSLRs, so if you're coming from owning one of those, you'll be at home here. This AF position button also doubles up as the button to activate Wi-Fi when you're in playback mode.

To change the AF point you simply need to press the AF point button then use the directional keys or scrolling dial to reach the point you need. Although this is easy, it's not the quickest of operations so you may find leaving the AF point in the centre of the screen and focusing and recomposing is speedier for fast unfolding action.

All of the camera's operation is carried out via these physical buttons as there's still no touchscreen for the G series. This seems like a bit of a shame when you consider that the S range has an excellent one, but perhaps this is to keep costs down or maybe it's because the camera is aimed at traditionalists.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Zooming in and out of the G16's 5x optical zoom range is smooth and fluid and is achieved via a switch around the shutter button. You can switch on digital zooming in the menu, but only when you're not shooting in raw format, which is a bit of an annoyance. When you have digital zoom activated, the zoom will pause slightly before straying into digital territory to allow you to keep an eye on using only the optical zoom.

Canon hasn't changed its standard compact camera menu for some time, so if you're an existing owner, you shouldn't have any trouble here. It's pretty sensibly arranged but you may find you don't use it all that often anyway as a sort of quick menu, accessed by hitting the function button in the centre of the scrolling dial, has all of the settings changes you're likely to want with any sense of immediacy.

To access the Wi-Fi element of the camera, first of all you need to be in playback mode since all you can do is share / upload existing images. If you register with Canon Image Gateway you can share directly from the camera to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. It's a little annoying having to do this separately from the camera using a computer, but once it's done it's pretty easy to use.

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You can also set up your smartphone or tablet to send the image to for uploading and sharing if you don't have access to a Wi-Fi network at the time. Again, once the initial set-up has taken place it's very quick to share between devices.

Anyone that is stepping up from another Canon compact camera, or perhaps an older G series model, should be very much at home with the G16.

Performance

The Canon G series has always put in a fantastically solid performance, and happily the G16 is no different.

Once again Canon has manufactured something which is capable of producing excellent images, while also managing to improve on its predecessor.

Canon PowerShot G16 review

Colours are very well saturated, displaying the pleasing tones that we've come to expect from Canon cameras. If you want to add extra punch to your images, you can shoot with "My Colors", which reproduces certain types of film stock, such as Positive. It's worth noting that you can't use these while shooting in raw format though.

If you want to experiment with different filters and so on, there is also a dedicated mode for such things, where filters such as fish-eye and toy effect are included. Some of these are great fun to experiment with, and we'd recommend having a go with all of them to see if they appeal. Again, you can't shoot with them in raw format, and as it's a separate mode you also lose control over settings such as aperture, which is a shame.

Leaving the camera to do a lot of work for you is no problem with the G16. Automatic white balance does an excellent job of producing accurate colours, though it does tend to err slightly towards the warm side of things when shooting under artificial lights. Similarly, all-purpose metering does a pretty good job in the majority of conditions, only suffering slightly under high contrast situations, in which case switching to spot metering is beneficial.

Focus speed

Focusing speeds are generally pretty quick and accurate, although they're not as instant as the speeds displayed by some of the better compact system cameras on the market. Focusing is a little slower in low light, but again it's generally accurate when it does get there. Macro focusing can be activated for shooting frame filling close-up shots, with the G16 capable of producing some finely detailed macro shots, especially good for nature and flower photography.

Low light performance really needs to impress with cameras like this, especially when it's in direct competition with the high performing Sony RX100 II. Shooting at mid-range sensitivities such as ISO 800 does show some evidence of image smoothing if you examine images at 100%, but the amount of detail kept is generally pretty impressive, while noise is relatively low. Images look great at normal viewing and printing sizes, such as A4.

If you increase that sensitivity to the higher reaches of around ISO 3200 for example, then more image smoothing does start to appear along with more evidence of noise. Again though, if you're sharing or printing at normal or small sizes then the pictures are more than adequate. The good news is that as the lens is capable of stopping down to f/1.8, you may find you don't need to use higher sensitivities all that often anyway.

Intelligent IS helps when shooting handheld in low light or at the far end of the telephoto lens, keeping images sharp and blur free even at relatively long shutter speeds. The G16 is also fitted with a Digic 6 processor, which helps with the fast frame rate of up to 9.3fps. The processor also means that you can be shooting continuously until you got the shot you need without having to wait for very long buffer times.

Images taken at the far end of the telephoto zoom lens display a good level of detail. There is a significant loss of detail when using the digital zoom, as is to be expected, but it's useful to have if you really need the extra reach. You could also shoot in raw format and crop into an image in post production if you need to keep a raw version of the file.

Image quality and resolution

JPEG

Canon Powershot G16

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 100 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 200 score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 400 score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 800 score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 1600 score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 3200 score: 14 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 6400 score: 10 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 12800 score: 10 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Raw

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 100 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 200 score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 400 score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 800 score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 1600 score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 3200 score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 6400 score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 12800 score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image.)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Canon G16 with its predecessor, the Canon G15, as well as its main rivals, the Nikon Coolpix P7800 and the Sony RX100 II.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Canon Powershot G16

The G16 actually performs slightly worse than the G15 in our labs test, although the results are reasonably similar. It's also pretty closely tied with the Nikon P7800, although it does lag behind at almost every sensitivity. It is the Sony RX100 II that is the real performer in this chart though, beating all of the other cameras by some distance.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Canon Powershot G16

Here we can see a marginal improvement from its predecessor, but it is still beaten by the Nikon P7800 at every sensitivity. Again, the RX100 II is out in front.

Canon Powershot G16

In terms of dynamic range, the G16 is one of the best performers here, being reasonably close, but better than, its predecessor. It also beats the P7800 by quite some margin. The RX100 is better at lower and higher sensitivities, but is almost tied with the G16 in the middle of the range.

Raw dynamic range

Canon Powershot G16

The G16 puts in a consistent performance, beating both its predecessor and the Nikon, but not by a huge margin. Although it performs better at the lower end of the sensitivity run, from ISO 400 and above, the Sony RX100 performs significantly better than all of the cameras.

Sample images

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The G16's automatic white balance does a good job of producing accurate colours in mixed lighting conditions, but metering has struggled slightly here, making the subject slightly underexposed.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The G16's maximum aperture if f/1.8, making it ideal for use when shooting portrait images.

Canon G16 review

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Colours straight from the G16 are bright and punchy, with a good level of saturation and accuracy in subjects such as skies.

Canon G16 review

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At its widest point, the G16 offers an equivalent of 28mm, making it ideal for capturing a good variety of subjects. Canon's S120 goes slightly wider at 24mm, though.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Here, despite the high-contrast nature of the scene, chromatic aberration isn't visible even when zooming in at 100%. There is a fractional amount of fringing, but it's not noticeable at normal printing and web sizes.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The G16 features 5x optical zoom. Here's a picture shot at the widest point of the lens - 28mm equivalent.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

This image was shot at the telephoto end of the optic, which offers an equivalent of 140mm. Impressively, even at this far reach of the telephoto optic, the lens is still able to stop down to f/2.8.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon's ZoomPlus technology is available to boost the zoom's capability up to 10x. Detail is retained impressively well here, making it a viable option if you do need that extra bit of reach.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Standard digital zoom is also available, to push the zoom capability up to 20x. There's less detail here, but again, if you really need to get closer it's a nice option to have, especially if you're only sharing images online.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The G16's macro focusing capability allows you to get very close to the subject to fill the frame with detail rich close-ups.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The G16's f/1.8 aperture allows you to get creative with shallow depth of field effects.

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Shooting at mid-range apertures, such as f/8 allows us to determine the sharpness of the camera's lens. Here we can see that the image is reasonably sharp throughout the image, with some evidence of loss of detail in the corners when zooming at 100%. At normal printing and web sizes however, detail is kept well.

Digital filters

A number of digital filters are available to use on the G16, accessible via a dedicated mode.

Filters are as follows:

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Canon G16 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 80 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Raw

Canon Powershot G16

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 80 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Canon Powershot G16

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Verdict

Canon always produces solid performers in its G series cameras. While that's appealing to the traditionalist crowd, it is now fighting a harder battle than ever before to keep market share in the crowded premium compact market.

While it's true that the G16 is capable of producing excellent images, it doesn't quite compete with the excellent Sony RX100 II which is sitting comfortably at the top of the bestseller lists.

Canon seems to be committed to keeping the same (relatively) small sensor, but this does have its advantages, namely in price. For the moment at least, it's significantly cheaper than its Sony rival.

This will be a camera appreciated by advanced photographers, with full manual control and raw format shooting joined by a satisfying number of direct access dials and buttons. It's a bit of a shame there's not more flexibility with the more 'creative' aspects of the camera, such as digital filters and film simulation modes only being available in raw format, and the former meaning you lose control over manual settings such as aperture.

The addition of a Digic 6 processor is excellent news for both low light image quality and for boosting the very fast continuous shooting mode, making this a good candidate if you need to photograph fast moving action, perhaps for things such as street photography.

On that note, it's great to see Canon including inbuilt Wi-Fi on the G series. It's a welcome addition that is fairly easy to use making sharing images much quicker. It's a shame that you can't remote control the camera though.

We liked

The G16 is a no-nonsense premium compact that builds on the already excellent reputation of the G series. You get great image quality in a reasonably small body that still manages to cram in lots of direct access buttons and dials to make the advanced photographer feel plenty at home.

We disliked

We're not sure if it's a price thing, but it seems like a strange omission to leave out a touchscreen on a camera like this, especially when its sibling camera (the S120) has such an excellent device. It makes things like selecting the AF point so much quicker, so we'll be surprised if Canon continues to leave one out of the next generation of G series cameras. If you're a traditionalist though, there's not too much to dislike about the camera.

Final verdict

The G16 marks another incremental upgrade for the G series of compacts, which remains a solid and reliable camera in the now fairly crowded premium compact market. Canon has carved out a good reputation with this series, but it's already facing fierce competition from the Sony RX100 II which sits at the top of the current best-seller lists.

It's good to see the addition of Wi-Fi, and the Digic 6 processor does make a noticeable difference, but it's ultimately not a camera to get overly excited about.

Excellent image quality is assured though, and if you're looking for a good workhouse camera to carry around with you a lot, then it's a good bet. Take a look at the Canon S120 though if you need something a touch more pocket friendly – it features the same sensor.

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