Direct Comparison – Canon G9-G10-G11

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This post may cause some of you to reboot. Sorry for that. Not everybody is a photography geek. However, since I find myself today with all three of my Canon G series cameras at the office, I decided to make an extremely unscientific comparison of them. Canon has been all over the map with megapixels in the G series. The G9 was 12 and shot pretty good pictures. The G10 went to 15 and gave amazing detail in good light conditions, but was too noisy for the low light levels that make such sweet available light shots. The G11 gives you  10 megapixels. Why the backtracking? To give you a better all-round experience. Fifteen megapixels are overkill for most uses. And, the “buckets” are too small to catch enough photons to keep the sampling fair. Remember, all this dancing around of pixel counts was done without changing the size of the sensor.

Anyway, that’s way too much detail for most folk and the geeks already know what I’m talking about. Here’s a series of three shots at my bolted-to-the-wall computer in my office. All were shot at ISO 1600, which is adequate for most indoor shooting without flash as long as there are no kids or pets in the shot and you can brace a little to avoid motion blur. Just the ticket for those romantic, candle-lit dinners. All of these are a small portion of the centre of the frame – about a 300% enlargement:

Here’s the G9:

It’s noisy, no doubt, but it’s not unmanageable. I’ve made no compensation for megapixels here and the shots are compressed with JPG, so it’s not a technically sophisticated comparison, to say the least. Non-photographers probably won’t even notice the differences.

Here’s the G10 image:

We have to click all of these to really see the detail. If you do, you will probably note much more noise and a generally poorer image. That’s because of trying to cram 15 million pixe3ls on something smaller than your little finger nail.

Here’s the G11 image:

I would certainly call this better than the G9 or G10. There’s less noise and it is of the manageable kind, using a good noise filter such as Noise Ninja Pro. The detail level is better and the whole thing simply looks better.

So much for low light. How about normal shooting? I grabbed this image in front of my office today on the G11:

Nice and clean for a snapshot, but it doesn’t tell us much.

Here’s a blowup from the G9:

Pretty crisp. You can read the PNG on the plate.

Here’s the G10:

Not so hot. I didn’t get the apparent size the same, but you an still tell that it appears a bit blurry compared to the G9. Again, more pixels doesn’t necessarily make a better camera.

Here is the shot from the G11:

Frankly, I can’t see a lot of difference here. That’s to be expected. At high light levels, we shouldn’t expect to see much, although my imagination whispers that there is more detail in the shadows and highlights for the G11. This is is one of the Holy Grails for point and shoot cameras – low noise, high dynamic range. The extra detail in the shadows and highlights make a huge difference when you’re trying to achieve magnificence on a budget.

So, what does MadDog think?

Well, first MadDog wonders if anybody cares. I took this shot with the G11 in miserable lighting conditions at ISO 1600. The G11 has a swivel screen, so you can do all of those exciting things with a camera that you’ve only dreamed about. Just don’t tell me about them. I’m as happy as a clam. I can’t wait to get it into its UW housing and take it diving on Saturday.

I’m probably going to start carrying my G11 as my daily camera, though I’m a bit nervous about that, given the security situation here. When my G9 was stolen and thrown to the pavement, it still worked, except in the UW housing, Still they are tough cameras. I can’t think of many cameras with which you could club a thug unconscious and then take his picture.

I’ll still use the G10 when I need massive detail. Good light and lots of pixels can’t be beat for some jobs. But, my new sweetheart is the G11.

I’m so fickle.

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28 Responses to “Direct Comparison – Canon G9-G10-G11”

  1. Mari Says:

    Hey Mad Dog,

    Congratulations on aquiring your Canon G11. I liked your comparisons, and found your post quite informative and useful as another layman photography geek.

    I’m afraid I am a Nikon faithful (currently with a Nikon D90) but…but I have a compact Sony Cyber-shot DSC- T900 and a Canon camcorder. Both are a joy.

    I am always keen for good shots in low light and find that an ISO 800 or 1600 worked better depending on how bad the lighting was. I seldom use my Nikon flash gun but since Sunday evening (farewell pics were horrifically blurred) I think I’ll use the flash gun even when ISO is set at 800 or 1600. My Sony self-adjusts the ISO levels depending on the lighting so I don’t have to worry about that – it’s a beauty in that sense. I used it for all my recent snow photos and some photos in low light especially at Church.

    I enjoyed your underwater pics with your G10 and look forward to the pics from your G11 in that environment.


  2. Mari Says:

    Mad Dog,

    Forgot to mention that when I set the ISO to 800 or 1600 on the Nikon D90, I take all shots on the Auto P setting – once in a while on Auto A or S depending on what and how I really want to capture at that moment. I find that the Auto setting which triggers off the built-in flash can over expose the photo so I stopped using it unless I really have to.


  3. Colin Huggins Says:

    Your photography “analysis” with various forms of equipment, leave me amazed, confused, bewildered and God only knows what else!

    I loved this report:
    Don’t ask me why, but I think of nudibranchs as the furry little bunny rabbits of the sea. They’re not furry. They don’t breathe air. They have no legs. They do sometimes, however, have what may appear to be ears, but are not. Here’s a little funny-bunny Nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa) for you:

    When I saw the report, my first, very wicked impressions were, “Good God a nudist beach in Madang”!!!!

    Does this thing shown actually swim?

    The report by you either above or below showing the footpaths (?) of Madang were very distressing to view. Such a pity for what could have been.

    You certainly go into great detail and it is remarkable. So good to view. I have forewarded your site to friends to see, here in OZ , Europe and the USA. I’m surprised that they haven’t made a comment – maybe your technical skills frighten them?


  4. Steve Goodheart Says:

    So happy for you! And the upshot, is we’ll see the results of the new capabilities of your new tool/piece of art right here on the blog.

    Go MadDog!


  5. MadDog Says:

    I have a couple of sunrise shots from today. Nothing special yet.

  6. MadDog Says:

    Thanks, Mari. My first dive with it this weekend will tell a lot. I’ve been looking for less noise and more dynamic range, which is exactly what the G11 is supposed to give me.

    I wish that I could afford a camera with a bigger sensor. That alone solves a lot of problems. Aside from the price, though, I just can’t carry around a big DSLR every day – it gets in my way and slows me down. I’ve promised myself I’ll never walk out my door without my camera. I’m a photographer. When I was in another world, I never walked out the door without my gun – same premise. So, for me, the G11 is perfect. It covers 99% of a professional’s needs (just check out the G11 Flickr site: and it fits in a pouch hanging from my belt.

    My first tests indicate that the noise at ISO 1600 is manageable – the first time that I’ve seen this in a G series camera. It may even work at the special “low light” setting which pushes to 3200. I haven’t tested that yet.

    When walking around town I use a custom button that pops in all of my favourite settings. However, when I’m shooting seriously, I set my camera on full manual. It takes a few seconds to get everything the way that I want it, but it pays off when you open the RAW file and have all of those delicious settings available.

    Keep shooting and send me your favourite shots. I’ll do a GUEST SHOTS post on you.


  7. MadDog Says:

    You’re going in the right direction by staying away from the auto settings except for casual snaps. I’ve been a photographer all my life, so the controls and their cross-effects are burned into my mind. I now do all my serious shooting in the full manual mode with spot metering turned on. I make a lot of use of the exposure lock button. My sequence is set my shutter speed or aperture for what I need (action or depth of field), point the spot meter to the area that I want to expose for, press the shutter half way, reframe, shoot.

    I bet you use a very similar method. Send me shome shots!


  8. MadDog Says:

    Woah, Colin, you pack a lot into a comment. Very efficient!

    I wouldn’t have bothered to do that post except a lot of people ask me, “What camera should I buy?” Of course, there’s no proper answer to that. All I can do is say why I like what I’ve got. Now, what I’d LIKE TO HAVE, if I could afford it – that’s another story.

    In actual fact, there IS a sort of floating nudist colony in Madang.

    Some nudies DO swim – they’re called “Spanish Dancers” – try Googling it with “nudibranch”. You’ll be amazed. I’ve seen them only a few times.

    My sadness for Madang reflects yours. Such promise wasted. I lay it all at the feet of elected officials.

    Thanks for spreading my URL to others. I wish all of my readers were so courteous.


  9. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Hadn’t thought about “Spanish Dancer” nudis in a long time, and then remembered their amazing, flowing movement in the water, and had to go watch a video or two…simply magical! Thanks for mentioning them, and of course, I love your images in the post…

    This was my favorite YouTube short video:

  10. Colin Huggins Says:

    Yes – just have and naturally was not sure of what was in store for me.
    Such an amazing “fish”, I suppose????

    The fact that you are displaying all these remarkable photos, really should be seen by more.
    Schools – (Biology classes) I think would benefit. Have you ever suggested this to US and
    Australian educationalists?
    You’d be wasting your time with the PNG education system – they seem to be in total
    disarray and at the rate they are going, education as it was pre-Independence will soon be
    no more!

    I make it a habit of viewing your blog every morning.


  11. MadDog Says:

    Hi Colin. Yeah, the Spanish Dancers are amazing, though more like worms in their anatomy than fish. Try YouTube. There’s some amazing videos there of them swimming through the water.

    I can’t imagine anything more completing in my life than if my drivel became classroom fare. However, I’m not holding my breath. It’s not that I couldn’t produce the product. It’s just that I still have to eat and my web postings don’t make me a dime. I do it for love and everybody knows that Money Can’t Buy Me Love.

    I agree that if education in PNG could just manage to get back to where it was in 1975 it would be an order of magnitude improvement. Anybody care to argue that? I didn’t think so.

    Thanks for being a steady reader, mate. You must have a cast iron stomach.


  12. Alber Serra Says:

    Nice post! I’m also very happy with G11

  13. MadDog Says:

    That makes two of us, mate.

  14. Tris Says:

    Great stuff- thanks for the comparison. Yeah, I’ve been really suspect of the recent trend to up the megapix on each new iteration of the same camera without a proper rework, but the G11 looks like they’ve taken the quality piece a bit more seriously. After all, anything much about 10MP is, as you say, overkill with few exceptions.

    That said, I’m currently tempted by the Canon EOS 7D, which has a brand-new and extremely sharp 18MP sensor, as well as the ability to shoot 1080HD video through SLR lenses… a beauty, and relatively reasonably priced (AUD 1,500 from the right retailer)- a nice compliment to my current 400D and 5D…

    Wow… I’m a cameraholic… If I wasn’t talking to a guy who has 3 Powershot G-series cameras at his desk I would almost feel bad… ;o)

  15. Walter Ybarra Says:

    Hey guys, this is good wook!

  16. Mari Says:

    I love cameras too…just discovered a new one yesterday but my conscience ruled that I stay away from it so I did.

    I like your full manual mode…one day…perhaps one day…I get to that stage. Haven’t been uploading any pics on Flickr perhaps…one day…lol

    Am coming home soon to head up a govt office and hope we can stay in touch. We could use some of your underwater shots – good publicity of tourism.

    Am off to Church in an hour then at midday to a Kiribati national day celebrations – got my camera (Nikon D90) charged up and ready – just hoping it stays dry with lots of sunlight otherwise the tricky bit comes in – whether to use my flashgun or not. I carry my small Cannon Ixus 200 15 just in case.

    Have a great day.

  17. MadDog Says:

    Don’t fail to contact us here, Mari. What camera did you turn down?

  18. Mari Says:

    Sure will Mad Dog. When I get there i’ll let you know.

    The camera I turned down was a Nikon Coolpix. I might pick one up on one of my travels.

    Have a great week.


  19. Nice Taking Pictures With Canon Pro photos | Video.Canon. Says:

    […] Comparison – Canon G9-G10-G11 Image by Boogies with Fish… This post may cause some of you to reboot. Sorry for that. Not everybody is a photography geek. […]

  20. Donna Halpern Says:

    I know virtually nothing about cameras and was hoping you could answer a question for me. My daughter has the G10 and I purchased the G11. I noticed her photos zoom in so much better than mine. Wow! I must be imagining that she is getting so much closer. So we sat down next to each other and took the same identical shot. No doubt about it, her photo subject was (it seemed) at least 1/3 larger than my shot. Can you explain why this would be? Does it have something to do with the 14.7 megapixels vs the 10 megapixels on the G11? I am so bummed I have the G11, but at this point, can’t justify buying a G10. Thanks.

  21. MadDog Says:

    Donna, that is exactly why the G11 shots can be enlarged more before pixelisation becomes visible. The G10 has half again as many pixels available. If you were shooting at low light levels you would appreciate why they went back to 10MP. Fifteen megapixels is too many for the small sensors in these cameras. The high ISO levels necessary for shooting in low light levels produce way too much noise in the image on the G10, because each pixel is only 2/3 the size of the ones on the G11, so it can’t gather as many photons in the same amount of time.

  22. Donna Halpern Says:

    Thank you for answering Jan and also making it (more or less) understood. So the point being, even though my camera can’t get in as close, I have the advantage of enlarging my subject on PSE without pixelization. Therefore, I should shut-up and hug my G11. Hey wait a minute. This would also mean I should forget about getting the Canon SX30 IS…same large megapixels and same small censor (with a 35X megazoom). I also have the Panasonic Lumix FZ-35 (megapixels 12.1). A better camera overall for closeups than the Canon SX30 IS? Thanks once again,

  23. MadDog Says:

    Hmmm . . . Donna, maybe I should explain a little more. The DISTANCE of the cameras from the subject is not the issue, as long as both are shooting from the same distance. The difference is the number of pixels which are available to create the image. The more pixels you have available, the more you can enlarge the image (make it “closer”) before it starts to look chunky because there are too few pixels making up that portion of the image which you are trying to see. You can see it larger, of course, but you won’t see it clearer, because the details are lost in the pixelisation.

    Lets say you take two identical images from the same distance with the G10 and the G11. If you enlarge each image 500% (or whatever it takes) you will begin to see the individual pixels much better in the G11 shot than in the G10 shot, because there are more pixels still available in the 500% enlarged view in the G10 shot than in the G11 shot – half again as many more, in fact.

    The secret here is obviously get closer! The G11 can beat the G10 in some cases, especially if you have little light and have to resort to 200 or 400 ISO to get the image. I much prefer the G11, since I do mostly available light photography. I don’t think that I have ever used my G10 since I got my G11.

    Want to buy it?

    I’d have to look at the specs on the other cameras you mentioned. Actually, that Canon SX30 IS sounds tasty with the 14.1 MP and the 35X optical zoom. The only problem is that some of those super-zoom lenses get very soft and blurry at maximum. I’d be interested to see if you have any good images taken with that camera at max zoom.

  24. Donna Halpern Says:

    Gotcha! I will keep the G11 and be happy. No thanks on the G10, but Ebay is getting some good prices. Real mixed reviews on the Canon SX30 IS. Some folks are very happy with it, others think Canon is trying to capitalize on the ignorance of “snapshot” consumers by playing with numbers. Can’t comment as I don’t own the camera and haven’t viewed real time photos.
    Thanks again for your help.

  25. Xmap Says:

    I work in a Biology lab and we are in contact with a company that is making a modified tripod for us to photodocument DNA samples. The company has a set up made for the G11 however we would like to use the remote capture feature present on the G9 or G10. In order for this to work the position of the tripod mount, lens and the lens focal length must be the same. Can you tell me if these measurements are the same between the Canon g9,g10 and g11?

  26. MadDog Says:

    Xmap, I reckon that these specs could be found deep in the camera manuals. However I’m going to make an educated guess and say yes, since all three cameras seem to share the same lens.

  27. Jane Hults Says:

    Thanks for explaining the megapixel mystery in the 3 cameras. Could you explain why the G 10 and 11 are more expensive than the new G12? I plan to buy the G12 today, but am mystified by the price differences.

  28. MadDog Says:

    Jane, I haven’t noticed a price decrease for the G12. It sound’s a little crazy to me, eh? If I did not have both a G10 and a G11, I’d as quickly as possible run out and grab a G12. The new CMOS sensor is great and I like the changes in the controls. It has much less noise at high ISO settings. I like it.