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Canon G12 vs Olympus E-420

The Canon PowerShot G12 and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2010 and March 2008. The G12 is a fixed lens compact, while the E-420 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/1.7-inch (G12) and a Four Thirds (E-420) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 10 megapixels.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon G12
versus
Olympus E-420
Canon G12   Olympus E-420
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 Four Thirds lenses
10 MP, 1/1.7" Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
720/24p Video no Video
ISO 80-3,200 (80 - 12,800) ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.8 LCD, 461k dots 2.7 LCD, 215k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.1 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
370 shots per battery charge500 shots per battery charge
112 x 76 x 48 mm, 401 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 440 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot G12 and the Olympus E-420? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon G12 and the Olympus E-420 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon G12 vs Olympus E-420
Compare G12 versus E-420 top
Comparison G12 or E-420 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is notably larger (39 percent) than the Canon G12. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the G12 nor the E-420 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the G12 has a lens built in, whereas the E-420 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the E-420 and their specifications in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the G12 gets 370 shots out of its NB-7L battery, while the E-420 can take 500 images on a single charge of its BLS-1 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon G12 112 mm 76 mm 48 mm 401 g 370 n Sep 2010 499 i
2.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599 i
3.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499 i
5.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429 i
6.
 
Fujifilm X10 117 mm 70 mm 57 mm 350 g 270 n Sep 2011 599 i
7.
 
Nikon P7800 119 mm 78 mm 50 mm 399 g 350 n Sep 2013 549 i
8.
 
Olympus E-450 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499 i
9.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699 i
10.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699 i
11.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699 i
12.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699 i
13.
 
Panasonic FZ150 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 528 g 410 n Aug 2011 499 i
14.
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499 i
15.
 
Panasonic G2 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599 i
16.
 
Panasonic LX5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Jul 2010 499 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The G12 was launched at a lower price than the E-420, despite having a lens built in. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon G12 features a 1/1.7-inch sensor and the Olympus E-420 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-420 is 423 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 4.6 and 2.0. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Canon G12 and Olympus E-420 sensor measures

Even though the E-420 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 10 megapixels. This implies that the E-420 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 4.74μm versus 2.07μm for the G12), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. It should, however, be noted that the G12 is much more recent (by 2 years and 6 months) than the E-420, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The Canon PowerShot G12 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 80-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-420 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

G12 versus E-420 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the E-420 has a markedly higher DXO score than the G12 (overall score 9 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon G12 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/24p20.411.2161 47
2.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.4527 56
3.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.7230 54
4.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.5165 46
5.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.2179 47
6.
 
Fujifilm X10 2/3 12.0 4000 30001080/30p20.511.3245 50
7.
 
Nikon P7800 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/30p21.211.7200 54
8.
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.5512 56
9.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.3536 55
10.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.4548 55
11.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.0494 51
12.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none...... ..
13.
 
Panasonic FZ150 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.410.9132 40
14.
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.1411 52
15.
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.3493 53
16.
 
Panasonic LX5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p19.610.8132 41

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The G12 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-420 does not. The highest resolution format that the G12 can use is 720/24p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The G12 and the E-420 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon G12 and Olympus E-420 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon G12optical n 2.8 461 swivel n 1/4000s 1.1 Y Y
2.
 
Olympus E-420optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
4.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
6.
 
Fujifilm X10optical n 2.8 460 fixed n 1/4000s 10.0 Y Y
7.
 
Nikon P7800921 n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
8.
 
Olympus E-450optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
9.
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
10.
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-400optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
13.
 
Panasonic FZ150202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0 Y Y
14.
 
Panasonic G10202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
15.
 
Panasonic G21440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
16.
 
Panasonic LX5optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y Y

The G12 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-420 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-420 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the G12 only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon PowerShot G12 and Olympus E-420 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon G12Ystereomono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-420Y-----2.0---
3.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
4.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Fujifilm X10Ystereomono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Nikon P7800YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-450Y-----2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-520Y-----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-410Y-----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-400Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic FZ150Ystereo---mini2.0---
14.
 
Panasonic G10Ymono---mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic G2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic LX5Ymonomono--mini2.0---

Both the G12 and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The G12 was replaced by the Canon G15, while the E-420 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Canon G12 or the Olympus E-420 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Canon PowerShot G12:

  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/24p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.8" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (461k vs 215k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the E-420 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (112x76mm vs 130x91mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the E-420).
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 6 months of technical progress since the E-420 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-420:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 1.1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (500 versus 370) out of a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in March 2008).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the G12 emerges as the winner of the contest (11 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

G12 11:08 E-420

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon G12 and the Olympus E-420 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the G12 or the E-420. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon G124/5+73/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 499 i
2.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599 i
3.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499 i
5.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429 i
6.
 
Fujifilm X10....76/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2011 599 i
7.
 
Nikon P78003/5....4/54.5/5 Sep 2013 549 i
8.
 
Olympus E-450......4/54/5 Mar 2009 499 i
9.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/10072/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699 i
10.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699 i
11.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699 i
12.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100..4/54/5 Sep 2006 699 i
13.
 
Panasonic FZ1503/5+ +76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2011 499 i
14.
 
Panasonic G103/5..70/1004/54/5 Mar 2010 499 i
15.
 
Panasonic G2....72/1004/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599 i
16.
 
Panasonic LX54/5+73/1004.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon G12:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-420:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon G12 vs Olympus E-420

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon G12 Olympus E-420
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2010 March 2008
    Launch Price USD 499 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon G12 Olympus E-420
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/1.7" Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 7.6 x 5.7 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 43.32 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 9.5 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 4.6x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3648 x 2736 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 2.07 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 23.04 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/24p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 80 - 12,800 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 TruePic III
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 47 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.4 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.2 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 161 527
    Screen Specs Canon G12 Olympus E-420
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.46x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.8inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon G12 Olympus E-420
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.1 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Canon G12 Olympus E-420
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon G12 Olympus E-420
    Battery Type NB-7L BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)370 shots per charge500 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 112 x 76 x 48 mm
    (4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 401 g (14.1 oz) 440 g (15.5 oz)

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