Canon G12 vs. Nikon P7100 vs…

2011 PhotoPlus Camera Reviews Canon Featured Nikon Point and Shoot

Canon G12 vs. Nikon P7100The 2011 Holiday Season is upon us and I’m sure a lot of photographers would love to receive either the Canon PowerShot G12 or the Nikon Coolpix P7100 as a gift. The Canon G-Series cameras have long been among the most popular compact digital cameras – especially for serious photographers who want something small, light and powerful to compliment their digital SLR gear. The Nikon Coolpix P7100 is Nikon’s answer to the Canon G-Series cameras. I took a closer look at both cameras at the recent PhotoPlus show in New York and was reminded how nice they really are. I decided to compare the G12 and P7100 to find out where the key differences lie. Both cameras are built very well and have a much more professional feel than the average compact camera. They also both have full manual exposure controls, an optical viewfinder, adjustable LCD displays and a flash hot shoe. Both the Canon G12 and Nikon P7100 make a very good compact alternative to a digital SLR. They’re great when you don’t want to carry a bulky DSLR and lens, for travel photographers, or for photographers on a budget who want a solid, full-featured camera. But which one is really the best? And is there an even better alternative?

Canon PowerShot G12 vs. Nikon Coolpix P7100

Both the Nikon Coolpix P7100 and Canon PowerShot G12 look and feel great and both share a lot of the same main features. Really, they’re both very good cameras. So to find out where the advantages may or may not be, we’re going to have to dig deeper into the features and specs:

Canon PowerShot G12 Nikon Coolpix P7100
MSRP US $499.99 US $499.95
Sensor 10-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CCD 10.1-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CCD
Image size 3648 x 2048 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
Video 720p (1280 x 720) at 24 FPS with stereo sound 720p (1280 x 720) at 24 FPS with stereo sound
Lens 5x 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 (35mm equivalent) with optical image stabilization 7.1x 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 (35mm equivalent) with Lens-shift VR
LCD display 2.8-inch 461k-dot tilt-swivel LCD 3-inch 921k-dot tilting LCD
Optical viewfinder Yes Yes
Sensitivity ISO 80 to 3200 ISO 100 to 3200, expandable to ISO 6400
Exposure control Separate aperture and shutter speed control dials Separate aperture and shutter speed control dials
Shooting modes P, M, A, S, Smart Auto, 19 scene modes P, M, A, S, 19 scene modes
Burst rate 2 FPS 1.2 FPS
Flash Built-in + hot shoe Built-in + hot shoe
File format JPEG, RAW (CR2), MOV JPEG, RAW (NRW), MOV
Battery capacity Approximately 370 photos (LCD monitor on) Approximately 350 photos (LCD monitor on)
Size 3.0 x 4.41 x 1.9 in. (76.2 x 112.1 x 48.3mm) 3.1 x 4.6 x 1.9 in. (76.9 x 116.3x 48mm)
Weight 12.4 oz. (351g) 14 oz. (395g)
User Reviews Canon PowerShot G12 User Reviews Nikon Coolpix P7100 User Reviews
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After making that specs table (tons of fun!), I think the Nikon Coolpix P7100 comes out on top – mostly because of the longer 7.1x zoom range. The price, resolution, sensor size, video specs, exposure controls, burst rate, battery life, etc. – are almost exactly the same for both cameras. If I’m going to be packing a “compact” camera that doesn’t fit in my pocket, I’d like it to have more than a 4x zoom lens. Also, based on my experience with both cameras at the PhotoPlus Expo, the Nikon feels better. It’s got a nice grippy, rubberized finish and a seriously solid body. It’s not that the G12 feels plastic or poorly built – it feels good, too. But I think the P7100 feels better. Of course, if you already own a Nikon or Canon flash, then you should probably go with the camera that is compatible with your flash.

Nikon Coolpix P7100 Premium Compact Camera

Canon PowerShot G12 Premium Compact Camera

A Better Alternative
Now, let me offer an alternative to both cameras. Although the G12 and P7100 are nice options for photographers who want a smaller full-featured camera for casual photos, I think this type of camera has outlived its usefulness. Instead, I recommend anyone who’s considering a G12 or P7100 to take a look at the many compact system cameras (also called EVIL and mirrorless) that are now available. Olympus and
Olympus E-PM1 Pen Camera - Costs Less than A G12 Or P7100!Panasonic were the first, with their Micro Four Thirds format partnership. Sony and Samsung followed with APS-C sensor (the same size sensors used in entry-level and mid-range DSLRs) mirrorless cameras. This spring, Pentax announced their tiny, interchangeable lens Q camera. And most recently, Nikon announced their new “1″ mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera system. One of the most important features of compact system cameras (except for the Pentax Q) is they all have larger sensors and significantly better image quality than either the Nikon P7100 or the Canon G12. Most of the time when I use a compact system camera I don’t feel like there’s any compromise compared to my digital SLR! Prices for compact system cameras start *below* the $499 MSRP of the P7100 and G12 (click on the Olympus E-PM1 Pen photo, above right). So you can have an interchangeable lens camera with better image quality for less money. It’s hard to argue with that, isn’t it? The only real compromise is the G12 and P7100 are a little smaller since the lenses collapse into the camera when they’re turned off.

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I know this article isn’t going to change everyone’s mind about the Canon G12 and Nikon P7100. But it’s my job to educate and I’ve been surprised how many people aren’t aware of the compact system camera option. If a smaller camera is your main goal, then I think a pocket-sized compact like the Canon PowerShot S100 makes more sense. It has most of the features and control of the Canon G12 and the image quality is just as good, but it fits in your pants pocket. However, I know some photographers want something smaller than a DSLR but with some heft and a pro feel. And like I said in the article intro, when I saw the G12 and P7100 at PhotoPlus I was surprised at how well they’re built and how good the controls are. They really feel like professional cameras. Neither camera fits in a pants pocket. But turned off, with the lenses closed, they’re small enough for a coat pocket. And both cameras have great image quality compared to other compact cameras. They should be totally useable at ISO 400 and ISO 800 is useable if you really need it.

No doubt, there are going to be a lot of photographers who disagree with me about choosing a compact system camera over the Canon G12 and Nikon P7100. I welcome your opinions and encourage you to post your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Maybe there are some benefits to the Canon G12 and P7100 that I am not aware of. Same goes for compact system camera users – please add your thoughts to the comments. The more comments we have the more useful this article becomes. And if you own any of the cameras mentioned, please write a review in our user reviews section.

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Nikon Coolpix P7100 Intro >>

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Richard says:

    You’ve missed the point about the raison d’etre of the P7100. I don’t own the camera but I can see why Nikon built it. It appeals to the serious photgrapher as a secondary camera to their DSLR when they don’t want to carry a heavy camera around while travelling and can accept a slight compromise on quality.
    It also has a good zoom range and the lens fully retracts. None of the four thirds cameras have a similar zoom range and the lenses which do stick out considerably which defeats the purpose of a compact camera.
    Furthermore the Nikon has a viewfinder (even though it’s not great) which is great for people who don’t like using the LCD. It also has a great selection of manual controls which makes life a lot easier for SLR owners who don’t want to keep going into the menu to make their choices.
    All in all, Nikon have nailed it and should be congratulated for this attempt

  • Burton Anes says:

    On Saturday and Sunday, Nov 12 & 13, I was at the Fuji booth at the Austin Photo Expo playing with the new Fuji X-10 and comparing it to my G12 that I always have with me. It has an f2 lens, is much easier to hold because is is narrower than the G12, and was immune to flare from the huge light at the next booth when I snapped some photos of that rep who was partially standing in front of the light (unlike the G12 that had the whole photo covered with haze). Very nice camera. Wish the lens wouldn’t stick out as far when the camera is off because I keep my little camera in a belt case. And hadn’t looked for a moveable LCD screen, but read there is none. Also, the ISO was not as easily available as the G12. I considered buying it then, but wasn’t ready to pay the premium price over the G12 right now. I’ll wait for the full reviews and let the price come down a little… and then decide.

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for mentioning the lens. You’ve got a very good point. And that is the reason I chose the Nikon over the Canon in this article. I have a 14-150mm (28-300 equivalent) Micro Four Thirds lens but with that lens mounted the Pen cameras are too big for a coat pocket. Still, for me, the flexibility and better image quality of the Pen cameras more than make up for the camera being a bit larger than the P7100. If I reallly want a small camera, I carry my Canon PowerShot SX230 HS, which has a 14x 28 – 392mm (equivalent) zoom lens and actually fits in my pants pocket.

    I thought about mentioning the Fujifilm X10 in this article but in the interest of keeping it simple I decided to leave it out. So thatnks for dropping it into the comments. That’s perfect :-)

    One thing to keep in mind about the X10 is it has a larger sensor (2/3-inch vs 1/1.7-inch) than either the Nikon P7100 or the Canon G12. So, in theory, the image quality should be better. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a hands-on article I wrote about the X10 – it’s not actually a review but I think it will still be useful for some people:

  • Carl says:

    great honest reviews, I purchased a P7000 when it was originally released, as I already had A Nikon DSLR. The P7000 was returned because I found using it so frustrating, slow and with features that weren’t well implemented. I was so disappointed in Nikon. So I brought a Sony Nex5 as I wanted a smaller camera for those days when I didn’t want or need the SLR. Yes the picture quality is better on the Sony, but it is bigger than the compact P7000, which meant that it did get left at home some days, I also found that making changes were not quite as easy as the SLR. That’s why the Sony’s up for sale now and the new P7100 is on order. While I accept the image quality will not match the Sony, I will always have A camera with me, which is instantly adjustable with all the external controls just the way I like it. So for me it’s much better to have a camera with me and get the picture, even if it’s not quite the quality it could be.
    So yes there is a place for Pro compacts, one those places is in my pocket and yes it does fit in a pair of jeans.
    If I could find A compact camera system with the same range, price and size then I would have that instead. But on every count the P7100 wins for me
    with regard to image quality and sensor size, yes the P7100 has a smaller sensor but it also has the least pixels when compared to compact camera systems/SLR’s. The Fuji X10 that’s mentioned above, has a lager sensor but 2 additional megapixels crammed into that extra space, light site density in the important factor that very rarely gets quoted. This would open up most peoples eyes to the true differences and how close it is between some cameras that most people would not consider as similar in quality. While I understand that LSD is only one factor of how good a camera is, it is one of those factors that’s miss represented by the manufactures for marketing reasons and misunderstood by the general puplic. Saying this though I do still understand that the P7100 will not perform quite as well as the other types of camera spoken about here, my point is it not quite as bigger difference as most people make out.
    Just my thoughts

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