For the last several years, I have been lugging a Canon Digital Rebel with a pretty sizable 28-200mm zoom lens up and down the mountains. The zoom works great and the wildlife photos have been fun, but I have been somewhat unhappy with the nearly three pounds of weight, as well as the limitations of the lens: I can't take great wide-angle photos from the summits. There are lens conversion factors, which I won't get into, that makes my lens more like a 43-311mm lens.
Enter the Canon PowerShot G11 Digital Camera. I received this for Christmas from my wife who wanted to lighten my load on the trail. And that it is. At 12.5 ounces, it shaved nearly 3 pounds off of my camera gear (more if I choose to bring more lenses on the Rebel) and I get to take true 28mm wide-angle photos, which have been a treat so far. It only goes to 140mm on the long end, so I will have to use my woodsman's skills to get close enough to photograph any wildlife.
You can manually set the ISO on a prominent dial, which is an improvement over the Rebel in placement and range. The Rebel is 100-1600 and buried under one level of menu, and the G11 is 80-3200 and on the top of the camera. I typically set it at 80 and put the camera in Av mode and shoot away.
All of the photos on my trip reports since Christmas have been taken with the G11, and I am pretty pleased. The camera takes pictures in RAW format, which allows me to tweak the settings in a way that the photos from the Rebel allowed me to do. However, the RAW format on the G11 is a newer version than that of the Rebel, so I am forced to use their included software, rather than simply browse through Windows Explorer, which has their own RAW viewer, which works fine with my older Rebel. I am getting used to using the software and I have simply updated my process.
The colors, sharpness and overall picture quality seem to be pretty comparable to the Rebel, although I feel that the Rebel somehow takes better pictures due to the overall package, including the lenses and sensors, etc. But, since I am mainly shooting pictures for the web, then any image quality issues are negligible. It has 10 mega-pixels, which are more than necessary for what I am doing.
The G11 boots up in a split second, so I never miss a photo. The build quality seems pretty solid; the parts that need to be metal are metal and the rest is a reinforced plastic. There are manual controls all over the place and I am able to set it to the general settings to give me the same results as my Rebel. In order to get a correctly exposed shot of the sky through the window in my office, I was able to quickly dial down the exposure compensation and got the shot I was looking for.
The camera shoots video, which is great, but it also shoots in standard definition, which is not. Obviously, they will release an HD version in the future, but for now, this will have to do. I will still bring my Flip Video camera with me on the trail for shooting quick HD video.
Another thing I don't like about the camera is that when you hold it in one hand, which I do quite a bit when I have trekking poles, sometimes it is easy to hit the scroll wheel on the back and start changing some fairly important menu settings. This has not resulted in any loss of photos as of yet, since I notice the menu pop up before I've taken any pictures.
Some great features include a customizable button on the back, which I haven't used yet, but can be programmed to anything you want it to do. Also, the "delete all" function is safely buried within the menu, so you don't have to worry about unfortunate accidents.
Another feature is the flip-out LCD lens, which is helpful for taking shots of yourself and reviewing video and photos. It looks great in bright sunlight and seems to be pretty accurate in picture color and exposure. This is something I did not have on the Rebel.
The battery seems to last forever, but then again, I rarely, if ever, use flash. Your mileage may vary.
Can shoot in RAW format Compact and light Bright LCD screen that flips out 180 degrees Professional features have prominent, rugged dials at your fingertips Shoots video
Newer RAW format not native to Windows Dial on back of the camera easy to press Can be pricey compared to competition Video in only Standard Definition
Overall, I am very happy with this camera as an SLR replacement. It's heavier than most point and shoot cameras, but the photo quality, as well as the functionality more than makes it worth its weight.