Canon PowerShot G16 camera

A small camera with lots of functions and good versatility

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Canon PowerShot G16
  • Canon PowerShot G16
  • Canon PowerShot G16
  • Canon PowerShot G16

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Small size
  • F/1.8 lens
  • Fast performance

Cons

  • Wi-Fi didn't always work properly for us
  • Screen isn't hinged
  • No EVF

Bottom Line

Canon's PowerShot G16 is a solidly built compact that supplies good versatility thanks to its f/18 lens and fast overall performance. We suggest considering it if you want something with a fixed lens that can capture images in high detail.

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Canon’s PowerShot G16 is a small and sturdy compact camera that can capture clear and vibrant photos if given the chance. It's a little camera from a series that’s been in business since the year 2000 and this is the 13th version (Canon skipped the G13 and G14 and added G1 X in 2012). It’s not all that different to last year’s G15, but it adds a couple of features that make it stand out as one of the best ‘prosumer’ compacts on the market.

Scroll to the bottom of the review to see sample photos taken with this camera.

A versatile shooter

The PowerShot G16 has an upgraded image processor compared to the G15 (it uses a Digic 6 rather than a Digic 5 processor), and Canon has also added an integrated Wi-Fi module that works reasonably well to get photos off the camera and onto a phone, tablet, or laptop. The G16 is also a faster camera than the G15 (this was noticeable when we paired it with a high-speed SanDisk Extreme Pro SD card), but it doesn't look or feel too different to the G15.

A 28-140mm lens sits in front of the camera's 12.1-megapixel sensor. It has an aperture of f/1.8 at the widest angle and f/2.8 when zoomed all the way in, and it gets as small as f/8 in bright conditions. This lens gives the camera very good versatility. You can use it to shoot macro photos and portraits very easily (our favourite task with this camera), or you can use it on landscapes and buildings. Importantly, the wide aperture gives you good scope for shooting indoors or in other dimly lit environments without having to push the ISO speed too high and the shutter speed too low (it goes down to 250sec in manual mode). The other good thing about the lens is that it can render a beautiful background blur when used at its widest aperture.

Strong build quality

Perhaps the most notable at-a-glance aspect of the G16 is its build quality. It's a camera that feels sturdy in the hand, and it has been designed with good usability in mind. It's not overly heavy (it rested at 354g on our digital scales), and it feels well balanced while shooting. Because the screen doesn't have a hinge on it, the body feels streamlined, and the flash is located in a little pop-up compartment on the left side, rather than always being visible at the front, which we think makes the camera look neat and sophisticated.

The only thing we don't like about the build is the automatic lens protector that's used instead of a user-removable lens cap, which would make the camera bulkier. It has two parts that meet in the middle to cover the lens, but they got stuck a couple of times in our tests. We should also mention that, depending on how you treat the camera, the mode and exposure dials can inadvertently shift from the original positions that you have set. If you're careful with the camera when transporting it, then these won't move.

Controls on the body are plentiful, and this is because the camera is aimed at those of you who either already know about photography, or want to learn more. Aperture and shutter values can be changed via separate dials (one for the right index finger and one for the thumb at the rear), and there is a dedicated dial at the top that allows you to play with the exposure compensation. You can use the exposure compensation dial to make your photos suit your mood, but only when using manual or one of the semi-manual modes.

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The ISO setting can be brought up with the press of a button and changed via the rotating dial at the rear, and there is also a dedicated button for bringing up the moveable focus point. This, too, can be changed by moving the dial. There are also buttons for switching to manual focus mode, macro mode, exposure lock mode, and for bringing up the quick menu. There are many settings you can play with in the quick menu, including white balance, bracketing, colour mode, and drive.

Quick performance

We'll talk about the drive briefly because it's an interesting aspect of this camera that adds to its usefulness as an all-round photography tool. You can employ two continuous drive (burst) modes: standard and auto focus. Standard mode is the fastest as it doesn't re-focus an image if the focal point changes during the burst of shots, while auto focus will bring the subject into focus as it moves while frames are being recorded. With the SanDisk Extreme Pro SD card, the G16 recorded JPEG images at a rate of 9.6 frames per second (fps), and it didn't slow down at all. When using an older class 4 Panasonic SD card in the same mode, the frame rate was 6.1 and the rate of capture slowed dramatically after 5sec. Using auto focus continuous mode on a moving subject, the rate was 4.8fps (with the SanDisk card).

Basically, it's a very quick camera that will come in useful when taken to sporting events or anywhere else you need to capture some quick action. It also has swift shot-to-shot performance when it's operating normally. The lens responded with minimal lag to zoom commands, and focus operations occurred accurately and quickly as long as there was enough light and our subject wasn't too close. The camera's boot-up time was also fast — it took approximately one second. Settings could be changed quickly enough on-the-fly, but we think there is room for improvement here to make the system even more responsive to the dials.

What you see is what you get

You can frame shots by using the 3in screen, which has one great feature: what you see is what you get (aka WYSIWYG). Any changes that you make to the exposure are reflected on the screen in real-time, and when you press the shutter button, you are merely telling the camera you want to keep what you seen on the screen. It's a feature we always go on about when reviewing Olympus cameras (see the Olympus PEN E-P5 as an example), so we're thrilled that the G16 also has it.

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The screen is bright and clear, but it's no match for a bright day. It can be hard to see exactly what you're shooting outdoors unless you shade the screen, and focusing can be especially difficult. We found it was best to select the focus point of our shot manually when shooting outdoors, just to make sure that the camera picked up the spot that we intended to be in focus. You get an optical viewfinder just above the screen, but an electronic viewfinder (EVF) is lacking. We missed having the ability to tilt and rotate the screen, which meant that shots from low and high angles were not easily executed.

Picture quality

We really like the results that we obtained from the PowerShot G16, with most photos exhibiting good detail and default colour saturation in JPEG mode (you can also shoot in RAW mode if you want to play around with the colours yourself). Photos displayed slight patterning when they were viewed at the pixel level, with close-up shots and macros looking the crispest of the lot. For the most part, you can crop photos to a certain degree without too much definition being lost, but you will have to determine this on a case-by-case basis with the types of photos you've taken because 12.1 megapixels isn’t all that much to play with compared to some cameras in other market segments that you may be used to.

Primarily, we enjoyed shooting in macro mode, and also shooting objects up close in general. The circular background blur that the lens is capable of producing makes photos look fun and interesting, but depending on your experience with a camera, the lens' narrow focus can be a tad hard to control. There were instances where we thought we had the right focal point in our shot, but it turned out that it was actually a little off to the side of where we intended.

If you shoot at the widest angle of the lens, there may be noticeable distortion on vertical lines, and this could make photos of buildings look skewed, for example. Scrutinising images very closely, we saw a small hint of chromatic aberration, but it wasn't immediately noticeable, and definitely wasn't a problem. If you're just uploading small photos to Facebook, Flickr or other sharing services, it won't be noticeable at all. As for noise in low-light conditions, the G16 can do a good job even up to ISO 3200, as long as you don't plan on looking at the photos at their native size (or cropping them). If you do, you'll notice lots of speckles and softness. All that starts to become noticeable above ISO 800 when you scrutinise the photos closely, but the camera still manages the higher ISO speeds quite well.

Wi-Fi file transfers

One of the most surprising features on the PowerShot G16 is Wi-Fi. It works in a simple-to-understand manner, and sometimes it even works reliably. To use it, you have to enter playback mode on the camera, and then press the button with the blue logo of an antenna. This will give you a couple of options: you can set up the camera to transfer photos to a laptop or desktop PC on your network, or you can set it up to transfer photos to a mobile device. (When setting up the Wi-Fi connections, we wished the screen supported touch — we kept touching the screen to press 'OK' and to select other on-screen settings).

The neat things is, the transfers occur over your existing wireless network, and once you set it up, the camera remembers it. The only thing you have to do after that is add any different devices that you want the camera to communicate with (these will also be remembered). If you want to transfer files to a smartphone, you will have to install the Canon CameraWindow app, and then tell the camera that you want to allow the connection to the phone. From the phone you will be able to browse photos and select the ones you wish to transfer. They are sent at their native size. Of course, if you're out and about, you will have to set up your phone as a hotspot so that the camera can connect to it directly.

It wasn't always reliable, though. We were able to easily transfer photos onto a Windows 7 laptop, but we had no luck getting photos onto two Windows 8 laptops on the same network, even though the camera was visible as a device to connect to. It’s also a battery draining feature on a camera that otherwise has very good battery longevity.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the Canon PowerShot G16 is a great compact camera if you're after something that you can have a lot of control over, and something that will deliver very good overall picture quality. We love the WYSIWYG screen, the fast lens, and the way the lens renders backgrounds. Macros and close-ups are capable of delivering highly detailed results.

In addition, it's a camera that feels solid, and it's intuitive to use. The lack of an EVF is a sore point, and the lack of a hinge on the screen can limit the way you use the camera in certain situations, but the body is more streamlined because it doesn't have these features.

Definitely consider this camera if you want a fixed lens model that's small, yet versatile enough to be useful for all types of photos, even action shots and long exposures.

Sample photos

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This was taken at ISO 3200. Apart from washing out the text on the screen due to over-exposure, it doesn't look too bad.
This was taken at ISO 3200. Apart from washing out the text on the screen due to over-exposure, it doesn't look too bad.

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From the most recent Sydney Kings game: this was taken at almost full zoom with an ISO of 400, and in conventional burst mode.
From the most recent Sydney Kings game: this was taken at almost full zoom with an ISO of 400, and in conventional burst mode.

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