Canon refreshes its PowerShot G Series with something spectacular
Bridge cameras fit neatly between the compact designs that are purely for recreational shots and the semi-pro DSLRs and because of that they can often offer the worst of both worlds. I'll be up-front about the Canon PowerShot G16 and say that this is such a good camera that it made me entirely reassess why I need a DSLR in the first place.

Canon's Powershot G series are large by compact sizes and small by DSLR and they've drawn praise and brickbats with each new generation. The G15 that preceded this one took some justified flak for having features removed from the G14, a few that have now returned with this model.
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On paper, this looks like a nice but possibly unexceptional camera. It uses a relatively small 12.8 megapixel sensor to deliver 12.1 megapixel stabilized shots using a 5x optical zoom lens. That lens is 6.1 - 30.5mm (35mm equivalent: 28 - 140mm) and f/1.8-2.8, so there's plenty of light being captured for indoor/night shooting.

Many compacts might match this spec, but where the G16 really starts to show its superiority is in how clean the images are and how little light it needs to work with.And if fast shooting is your thing, like in sports photography, the G16 is exceptional. This is the first bridge design I've seen that can fire continuously at 9.3 fps until the memory card is full something many DSLRs couldn't sustain. That's great and with a target-following auto focus, they're mostly going to be perfectly sharp.


In an attempt to please both the semi-pro and the snapper, Canon has included a huge array of features on the G16, some of which are wonderful and others that are really silly. In the wonderful pile is some stunning night photography modes designed to capture stars and even make night sky timelapses.
There's also the now ubiquitous triple-frame HDR and special options for snow and even underwater shooting. That last feature needs an expensive underwater Canon housing that is rated to 40m depth. For those used to DSLR, there's also a full spectrum of manual options, which is as comprehensive as many lens changeable cameras and there's even a stop adjustment wheel.


I like that side of the G16 personality most, because some of the compact feature side leaves me cold. Why anyone would select to have their images converted into B&W in-camera is totally beyond me. More useful are the face recognition modes, which include not only the ability to avoid shooting people with closed eyes but can also initiate a self-portrait after detecting a wink. Actually, Canon takes these features a bit too far. With the G16 it's possible to identify people with a photo, provide their birthday and then it knows who to focus on in a group on that special day. That's spooky.

Whatever it's doing and however it does it, there's a common thread here and it's the delightful quality of the pictures it takes, even in challenging light environments. After using it for a week, I became confident that Auto mode generally made good choices and it's relatively simple to select special scene modes if you want them. There's a flash built in and a flash shoe, but it rarely a necessity to deploy either.

For someone who takes lots of technical shots, the G16 is nearly perfect, being able to focus down to just 1cm and Canon even makes a special ring flash attachment extra for close work.
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After such a glowing report, I need to mention a few things that just don't work like I'm sure Canon intended. There's a viewfinder, the inclusion of which is marred by it being partially obscured by the lens shield when it's extended. I was also disappointed that Canon didn't place the tripod mount directly under the optical focal point, for panoramic shooting. And at this price, most customers might be disappointed to discover that the display isn't touch sensitive.

However, what irks me more than anything else is that Canon included Wi-Fi without actually considering how people might actually use it practically. What most photographers want is the ability to take a shot and have it then automatically appear on their laptops or tablets for higher resolution reviewing. You can do this with the G16, but only if you've got connection to the internet and the Canon Image Gateway. That necessitates a Wi-Fi access point, making it unworkable for locations shoots.

Those points aside, this is a remarkably good design, which is probably only surpassed by the Sony RX100 II in this market sector, but that costs much more.As a significant trade up from my trusty Canon IXUS, the G16 has plenty to offer at this new competitive price.