Canon PowerShot G12 - £380/$420
A quick glance is all that's needed to confirm the Canon G12's advanced aspirations. The front, top, back and sides are crammed with sophisticated features, controls and connections. The camera may look a bit daunting to beginners, but serious photographers will delight in the instant availability of functions such as ISO and Exposure Compensation, which have their own clearly calibrated dials.
The features list is long and impressive, adding options like an HDR shooting mode and high-def movie capture, both of which were absent on the preceding Canon G11. Even so, maximum movie resolution is only 720p rather than full 1080p, but it's backed up by an excellent hybrid IS (Image Stabiliser) system that counters positional shift in the camera, as well as the usual angular vibration.
The G12 also features Canon's HS system, which combines a high-sensitivity sensor with DIGIC 4 image processing in a bid to deliver 'exceptional low-light shooting capabilities'. That's the theory, at least. The standard ISO range stretches from ISO 80-3200, but an expanded ISO 12800 setting is available as an added extra, with a much reduced 2.5MP image size.
Overall handling is excellent, with the chunky body enabling a natural grip, despite the cluttered control buttons. The Canon G12 is also the only camera in this group to feature a fully articulated LCD screen, which is great for shooting from tricky angles and also for taking self-portraits.
The G12's AF system is very accurate and pretty quick, even when shooting in low lighting conditions. The metering system is practically foolproof and delivers perfect exposures almost every time. Overall image quality is very good when shooting in JPEG mode, and excellent if you choose to shoot raw files.
Despite Canon's claims, the PowerShot G12 isn't exactly a star performer at high sensitivity settings, and noise is very visible in images taken above ISO 800.
Images tend to be more punchy than from most Canon DSLRs, with plenty of vibrancy and contrast, yet highlights are retained well.
Sharpness and detail resolution is very good in the ISO 80-400 sensitivity range, but it does drop off noticeably from ISO 800 upwards.
ISO 200 at 100%
ISO 3200 at 100%
Despite Canon's claims, image noise at high ISO settings is merely average, and very noticeable in the ISO 1600-3200 range.
Accurate Auto White Balance helps to ensure good colour performance is maintained in wide-ranging lighting conditions.
Image test verdict
Very good in the ISO 80-400 sensitivity range, image quality is still perfectly acceptable at ISO 800, with plenty of vibrancy to boot.
Read our Canon PowerShot G12 review