Canon Powershot G-series: The full history [Video]

The Canon PowerShot G1 launched in 2000, and since then there have been 10 Canon PowerShot G cameras in the series. Based on feedback from our members, Which? has campaigned for more compact cameras to feature optical viewfinders. But the G-series is unusual in having retained one from the beginning.

Of course, it’s more expensive than most compact cameras, but in honour of this achievement we thought we’d take a look at how this range of cameras has changed over the years, and how those changes affected its performance in our camera lab tests.

You can see every version in action in the video below – scroll down for a more detailed history and comparison graphic.

Canon PowerShot G-series video

Canon PowerShot G-series history

The Canon PowerShot G-series of cameras offer hands-on manual controls in a compact body. The cameras have been well-received, and consistently perform well in our tests. The one exception being the Canon Powershot G7, which was a turning point in the history of the series and wasn’t a Which? Best Buy.

The notable changes from the original G1 to the current G12 include the jump in resolution from 3.3Mp to 10Mp. The resolution peaked in 2008 at 14.7Mp, but subsequently it was dropped.

The original Canon PowerShot G1 had an articulated 1.8-inch screen. The size was increased to 2-inches on the G6 and then 2.5-inches on the G7, however the screen on the G7 was fixed in place. The fixed screen then grew to 3-inches, before the articulated version returned on the G11 and was trimmed down to 2.8-inches.

Compact Flash memory cards were in use up until the PowerShot G7, when SD memory cards took over. It was only as recently as the latest Canon PowerShot G12 in 2010 that we saw HD 720p video recording.

Canon PowerShot G-Series timeline

Click to enlarge

Canon PowerShot G12 member reviews

The Canon PowerShot G12 is a popular camera among Which? members. ‘Trashman’ writes:

Like many others this is a backup for my Canon DSLR kit but I have to admit I am tending to use the G12 more and more. The features are great, it’s tough and very reliable and the benefits of RAW make more than a substitute for my other cameras … get one you will not regret it.

Log in and leave your own user reviews on the Canon PowerShot G12 here.

Canon Powershot G13 or Canon PowerShot G14?

A new Canon PowerShot G camera didn’t materialise in 2011, so we fully expect the next model to launch this year. Canon has skipped the G4 and G8 naming of cameras, so may decide to skip G13 and launch a Canon G14.

Other than 2011, 2005 was the only year since the launch of original G1 that didn’t see a new PowerShot G announced, and the Canon G7 that then arrived in 2006 brought with it a substantial redesign, so perhaps the next G camera will be quite a removal from the current line up.

Among the new features likley to appear on the next Canon G camera is Full HD video at 1080p resolution, but what else would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below.

More on this…

15 replies

  1. I was excited after reading the write up of the G12. So went to look at one, Credit Card in hand. All the features looked excellent and easy to use, but when I checked out the optical viewfinder I was very disappointed to find it did not represent the full picture to be taken. So I did not buy it.

  2. Be excited with the G12 if you enjoy taking photographs on a tripod. You don’t need the optical viewfinder because the twist screen is excellent for this. Set for a 2 second shutter delay for pin sharp pics. The quality of images in low light is excellent – party pics, town shots at night, fireworks etc. Image quality of all shots in RAW is impressive. Battery life good. Hopefully the next model will go a bit wider to 24mm and improve on the fiddly control dial on the back but even if it doesn’t the G12 is a camera to enjoy.

  3. Got fed up and sold all my medium format slr and dslr gear and predictably soon after found I needed a camera to take some high quality shots for a website and some magazine adverts but didn’t want to reinvest in any high end gear so bought the G11 as a friend had raved about his G5 and I’d always wondered about the G series. After getting used to the smaller button layouts compared to the canon DLR have found it to be exellent and image quality great for its size and format. Pictures from it have been used for theatre posters and flyers, are in a museum, have been used on various websites and also in a number of magazines in editorial and adverts.

    What I’d ultimately like canon to produce is a camera that is as portable and compact and feature rich as the G11, but has the robust build and takes a picture comparative in quality (contemporary speaking) to those my beautiful fuji gsw690 (long since sold as well) could make….next G– could be a fraction bigger so I don’t push a button by mistake with my clumsy fingers.

  4. This message was emailed by a Which? member, so I thought I’d paste it here:

    The tech section showing the evolution of the Canon G Series of cameras is interesting. I was persuaded to switch to digital when a friend of mine bought a G1 and I saw the superb results from this. I bought a G2 as a result. Your video looks a bit odd as it doesn’t actually show the G2 switched on – the lens is not forward as it is when switched on – perhaps you didn’t have a charged battery! The other item of interest is the comment that the resolution of this camera is suitable for prints ‘up to 7″ x 5″‘. I used to have a print and copy shop in which I displayed an A2 size print done from a 2 megapixel Canon camera owned by one of my customers. I used to earn my living doing hand colour prints from colour negatives and transparencies and I would have been happy to have a print that size as good from a 6cm square original!!

  5. My wish list for the G14:
    – 6x optical zoom
    – 24mm like the S100 already has
    – HDR (better than G12)
    – DiGiC 5 (surely)
    and the winner
    the same type CMOS sensor as in the G1X obviously not the same size as in the G1X but the biggest they could shoehorn into G12 body without making it look like and feel like a tank,

  6. I’m an ex-pro photographer and since retiring, I’ve decided to downsize. I still have my Nikon DSLR gear and lenses but needed something light and compact for those walks on which we oldies are supposed to increasingly clog up country lanes.

    I bought the G12 shortly after it went on sale and found it pretty much ideal. However, and although I’m no pixel-peeper, there have been times when I wished I’d been carrying my Nikon D7000. It could very well be that the forthcoming G1X from Canon could give me the final bit of quality edge that I’m looking for.

    If it does then I might even consider unloading everything else I own. There comes a time when accumulating photo gear becomes an unhealthy pastime, so watch out e-bay, I may soon have a few things I want you to get rid of.

  7. A good brightline viewfinder with a double-image Rangefinder in the centre as an alternative to autofocus (as Leica M9), and as large in physical sized sensor as possible coupled with an excellent quality f2 or better zoom lens starting at 24mm equiv but personally would prefer wide aperture and top quality resolution to wide zoom range – so 24-90mm f2 zoom anybody?

  8. I wish the lenses had wider apertures, to allow more creativity with depth of field (as well as low light). But things seem to be getting worse as we go forward. I remember my old SLRs typically had apertures of f/1.4. The cheaper lenses might have had smaller apertures of f/2. But now look what’s happening with these digital cameras. You can see from the history of the G series above. The first one had a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2-2.5. Not bad, but nothing special, since they have a smaller sensor than 35mm film and therefore f/2 on a digital camera is smaller in absolute terms (millimetre diameter) than an f/2 for 35mm film and therefore cheaper to make. But what’s happened as the cameras “progressed”? The new ones have f/2.8-4.5. Why are the lenses getting thinner? And the latest one, the G1X, is f/2.8-5.6. So at full zoom, you only have a small number of stops in aperture adjustment.

  9. Ben, I like your reviews and respect the knowledge you bring to them. But I found the ‘G Series’ time-travel painful to watch. The gimics were amateurishly done, distracting from what was a serious review and I found it patronising. (Also distracting was a more basic filming problem: the head-room kept disappearing). IMHO, Which? doesn’t need to mindlessly follow the herd. Maybe best to leave that stuff to Dr Who.

    I’ll assume it wasn’t your idea.

    1. Thank you Keith. It’s good to hear feedback on the videos we produce. Video’s still a relatively new medium for us and there’s lots to learn. The Canon time travel video certainly wasn’t a typical video for us, but it was a good experiment nonetheless. We’re certainly not planning any more time travel pieces. I’ll share the disappearing head room feedback with the production team.

  10. I’ve had a G9 and now a G12 to complement my DSLR, and have found them both superb cameras. The only thing that I really wish for now would be a hybrid viewfinder. I’m now long sighted and a can’t see the rear screen properly without reading glasses. The current optical viewfinder is next to useless; a hybrid viewfinder like some of the Fuji X100 would be perfect.

  11. I would like to see a function for continuous shooting at intervals from 1 second to 60 seconds and then from 1 minute to any number of minutes (60 minutes?) .

Create account

You can leave a reply without having a WordPress account, but if you do register you can upload an avatar. A WordPress account is not connected to your Which? login and cannot be used to login to or any other Which? services.

Sign up