Canon Powershot G1X Review
April 2012, Carl Garrard
Canon Powershot G1X Review- Every once in a while a camera will come my way that blows my ship right out of the water. I'm glad its a rare occurrence because if it weren't I couldn't make that statement with the same enthusiasm or honesty. So, is the Canon G1X one of those rare cameras? First, know that I am a huge G12 fan- up to today's date it has remained my favorite all round serious compact camera.
G1X Price and Availability
Despite having used all of its major competitors if I had to choose only one, the G12 would be that camera. Although the G1X isn't officially announced as the G12's successor or replacement, I think we are smart enough as consumers to read between the lines here. The G1X is indeed that camera. Somehow I don't envision a G13 or G14 in the future, so lets just get used to the idea that the G1X is the new Powershot G series camera, and the G12 is "yesterday's news". Or, I could be totally off my rocker and the G1X ends up just being a one hitter quitter experiment.
Canon Powershot G1X Review- Differentiators
Here is a list of the main differentiating selling points of the G1X from my perspective. These are features that make the G1X stand out from competitors (including Canon's G12) and thus translate into being the main value of your hard earned money (they go for about $799.00 USD).
- All new 28-112mm f/2.8-5.8 lens with f2.8-f/16 aperture range (total, f2.8-f5.8 max)
- All new 1.5" sized 14mp CMOS Sensor
- New Digic 5 Image processor
- HS System Image stabilization (very much improved over past versions)
- 14 Bit Raw Files
Not a large list of advantages over the current direct competition (G12/P7100/X10 etc.)? You may think that right away, however... those are all big punches. Having a near APS-C sized sensor with a useful and sharp lens in front of it is a first for a camera of this class and size. It's definitely a whole different direction for large sensor compact cameras than is currently being pursued by just about every maker besides Canon.
The main advantage of the G1X over the smaller mirrorless cameras is a more compact and fixed lens, no dust intrusion or hassles, and includes a larger focal range than their comparable kit lenses. On top of those advantages it still includes a working optical viewfinder (which the other ones can't, and will not offer).
This has always been the advantage of compact cameras in general, and one of the main reasons why compact fixed lens cameras are still the best selling cameras of all time. This including the budget compacts all the way up to the G1X of course.
Canon Powershot G1X Review- Hands On Impressions
G1X Price and Availability
First things first- the looks of the G1X remind me more of German engineering that Japanese. The texture of the grip, the styling cues, all suggest a masculine form follows function design that when you hold it (that being key) all make sense instantly. The G1X has a simple but functional satin flat back exterior that makes for a pleasurable experience to the serious shooter. I will add I prefer the more durable exterior finish of the G12 vs. the G1X, but the G1X's finish is classier.
Wrapping my hand around the G1X for the first time I knew I had a winner in the handling department. What a great grip on the front, and back of the camera. The G1X is even more comfortable than all of the m4/3 cameras I've used of late (ep1/2/3, GF1, etc.). Again, the grip is outstanding and makes for very a comfortable hold in odd positions without engaging the controls on the back of the camera accidentally with the palm.
I can't emphasize just how good it actually is. It feels large but never bulky or in the way. Fingertips feel comfortable but are also able to really dig into it to hold the camera in odd positions quite securely- its even an upgrade from the G12's grip for example (which I really like). And as one of my good friends pointed out, there's something not quite Canon with the look and texture of the grip- and that, well, is a good thing!
Gone is the ISO dial, but its easily changed with a dedicated button on the circular controller/4way toggle. G1X Price and Availability
Lets keep things in perspective, the G1X is a compact large sensor camera, not much larger than any G series powershot before it. In fact the size really has no impedance on the situations I'd use it for anymore than any of the modern day G series Powershots I've used in the past (G7-12)- i.e. size is irrelevant for a camera of this caliber and market position.
Viewfinder is the same as every powershot G camera since the G7, it doesn't suddenly become irrelevant because the G1X is a more expensive camera and has a bigger sensor. I'd rather have an optical viewfinder than no viewfinder at all. Maybe Canon could have included contacts so that a separate EVF monitor could be attached on the hot shoe..., but honestly I wouldn't even use it.
There's no question the OVF looks out of proportion to the rest of the camera, and its dated, but that doesn't make it a useless tool by any means. On the contrary I've made observations about this viewfinder in my G12 review I still feel are totally relevant for the G12 (both good and bad sides). Nothing has changed my mind in this regard.
The fact that Canon kept it at all is truly remarkable considering cost cutting tactics manufactures are using as a replacement for optical finders (either no OVF at all or replacing them with an EVF as an accessory). So thanks Canon, I'm grateful you included it. I do like an optical finder in addition to live view- it's really the best of both worlds despite the fact that it's pretty tiny. In a camera of compromises (smaller compacts) it makes sense. If you can improve it, that would be lovely- you'd win a lot of hearts over with that decision.
- LCD Screen
G1X Price and Availability
Screens nowadays never really disappoint me and I don't see a huge difference between OLD and LCD screens personally. Key for my priorities are how versatile the screen is, and the G1X, like the G12 before it, have the best overall screen for this task. I love using it to shoot at low angles or for self portraits the best, but it has a lot more use than that even doubling as a sort of tripod mount if you use it correctly.
- Ports and Cover
I like how Canon has organized the plug in ports for the G1X all centrally located and organized behind a hard door, vs. a removable rubber grommet. I don't like fiddling with rubber grommets preferably but do use them. To me hard doors are the better of the two types even though they may not be as prone to taking abuse as a rubber grommet might.
- Overall Performer
Yet still, the G1X effectively dominates the one camera solution for travel. Its big sensor, versatile lens, and good controls- while still maintaining portability- make it a no brainer for serious photography work anywhere on the go. I'm so taken with the G1X, that I'm half tempted to pack up the family and go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks just so I can document our stay there- both from a serious photographic perspective, and as a family documenting father.
Versus m4/3 cameras: The G1X has a sealed 28-112mm lens against the body. It's smaller in dimensions when carrying the camera when its off. When a camera is on, I don't' really care how large a lens is because I am using it. But I do care when I'm transporting it. The G1X wins against all m4/3 cameras I've used in this regard- both physically and mentally (lack of stress).
Canon Powershot G1X Review- Image Quality and Lens
- Image Quality
I'd have no hesitations at all using the G1X for professional quality large prints at base ISO (meaning 24x36" prints). In some cases I'd prefer to bring the G1X over a DSLR for this very reason alone, anytime that is when I need/want a smaller form factor. This is without a doubt the first camera that I can say I'd print that large from that has these dimensions and bulk.
In other words, the G1X is the smallest camera I've used thus far with the best image quality of anything near its size- and that means both optically and at the sensor based level. That, is huge- don't underestimate the power of that option! And as you can see above, the G1X dwarfs Nikon and Fuji's options, and beats the m4/3 crowd as well (if you are insistent on comparing it too m4/3, I'm not).
It's not just the sensor that makes the G1X's magic image quality, its the way Canon processes those images both at the hardware and firmware level which seems to excel above all other makes and models. Pity though that Canon does not allow serious photographers (the ones Canon says it is courting) the ability to control the Jpeg output in noise control.
Actually its infuriating to me on a couple of levels and I'm glad I don't mind using Raw- Canon has to be counting on the majority of its shooters using Raw. It's either that or they have simply lost it. Canon, do us all a favor and give your serious photographers the choice of noise control- seems a waste of such a good processor and firmware that you don't. I mean, really.
- Canon Zoom Lens
For a sensor that large you'd expect a larger lens and especially one that starts at a relatively bright f/2.8 aperture. But Canon have done well to keep the lens relatively compact especially considering its 28-112mm (4x zoom) effective optical range. It's smaller compacted than any m4/3 kit lens I've used and yet has a longer range. It's also sharper but well get into that a bit more.
See below for example. This is a shot at the wide end of the lens, typically the weak spot for fixed lenses on fixed lens cameras. Heck usually the weak spot on any kind of lenses. But the G1X's lens is a superb lens indeed, corners are sharp and distortion is very minimal. Yes I shot this at f/8 but even wide open the G1X doesn't disappoint. I don't shoot landscapes wide open especially with larger sensor cameras :).
Macro area (below, max) isn't nearly as good as the G12, yet I usually don't regard cameras that use the wide end of a built in lens to be good macro cameras (usually, GRD III/IV are exceptions). Had the max magnifications been on the long end of the lens the G1X would be even more versatile for this task and better and creating background bokeh for closer subjects.
|Max Magnification Area|
That being said, this is the first serious compact that I can use and not ever really be concerned about image quality. Don't underestimate that point readers. And I repeat- this, is HUGE. I've used many serious compacts before, and although some are definitely better than others, it goes without saying that trying to get professional images out of a 1 1/7" sized sensor is pushing things a bit. Of course that Sony sensor in about 7 other cameras has, and will, continue to impress for its size. And Canon did the best with it. However this sensor- is a whole different ball game. It changes everything about compact cameras.
- Dynamic Range
|Worlds largest helium balloon back lit with the Sun|
- Fun Modes
- ISO Series
The following set of images coincides with each ISO setting of the G1X, these are out of camera Jpegs and samples of what the new Processor (and its tuning) are outputting only. Raw files contain more detail, dynamic range, and color depth.
- Quirps Related to Image Quality
These are not deal breakers at all for me I'll remind readers. I just think adding these two items would take greater advantage of Canon's excellent JPEG rendering in the processor they spend so much marketing resources to hype up. Even serious shooters don't always want to rely on Raw images.
The special Low Light mode is fully automatic and doesn't even allow you to lock the exposure. Pfft. and this is just one example of a bit too much automation in a camera that is supposed to court Canons most serious photographers.
While this may not be directly related to image quality it does affect the final image. The G1X has a horizon level that needs calibration. The below image shows how far my G1X loaner showed the horizon off canter- and yes it was perfectly level according to the camera.
|Glad I don't rely on the horizon level that often!|
I discovered a bug with the manual white balance setting when taking a reading of a white card/wall etc. For whatever reason the G1X would show a post reading image on screen that looked adjusted for the lighting, but after the image was made a few of the images would come out with a full green cast. This happened in indoor lighting and only on occasion (roughly 3 shots of about 125 made indoors).
|After manually taking a white balance reading with the G1X|
Canon Powershot G1X Review- Pre Conclusion Rant
Damn you G1X. Where were you on all the back country camping/photo trips/excursions I took in the Sierra Nevada Mountains? All the long distance trail running excursions that required a smaller camera yet I wanted a larger sensor? All of the family get togethers and long distance vacations and photo excursions I've taken in the last 5 years? Where have you been?
Better late than never I suppose, and the camera you replace (the G12) did pretty darn good :).
Canon clearly shows it's muscle and Powershot heritage with the G1X. This is indeed a very powerful package given its dimensions and excellent lens for the price. One thing that I admire about Canon (despite their consistent quirks) is their ability to be consistently strong in both offerings and innovation. The G1X is definitely innovative. The only other camera I'd compare it too is the Sony DSC-R1- another fixed lens camera with a slightly smaller than APS-C sensor. Also innovative. Yet the G1X is much much smaller and lighter than the R1 was. It's just as versatile with its LCD monitor if not more so in some circumstances and it seems mounted in a very durable fashion.
G1X Price and Availability
For now the G1X may seem a little bit overpriced but that's always the case for the early adopters. I think the price is in line as long as you factor in the built in lens to the equation when comparing to mirrorless or DSLRs. That said, I'm sure $699.00 would be a much better price point than its current $799.00 price tag for most considering the G1X. Remember too, the larger the sensor, the higher the price for a camera.
I consider the G1X a major upgrade because of its lens, better IS implementation, massive improvement in image quality, improved grip, and overall versatility as a serious photographic instrument. While the G12 (and Nikon P7100) are both that, the G1X just takes it to a higher level. Notice I'm not mentioning the X10 in this review.
That's not to say that the G1X doesn't lag a bit in some areas when compared to both cameras- because it does. However, when doing an overall global assessment of all 3 cameras the G1X has to be the best choice of the three when everything is taken into account. When I stop my mind from being too busy, I reflect on the fact that I've been spoiled. Camera after camera have come across my desk and its all to easy to take the G1X for granted. G1X Price and Availability
But, I resisted doing that in this case and came to a realization of what a remarkable camera the G1X is. I stop and look at the G1X and think- wow, how technology has truly grown, this is a game changing camera - yes it has it's quirks but I'm willing to bet the target market are really willing to look past those for now. I don't think it serves anyone well to sit around and over criticize the G1X for this very reason. Lets take off our spoiled hats for a moment and gain some clarity here.
As a consumer myself, the question I ask myself now is: Do I keep my m4/3 equipment and lenses, or, simplify my storage shelf and camera bag by just purchasing the G1X? It's a difficult proposition no doubt. The advantages of either camera/system are worth juggling. Myself aside, I try to think as a consumer buying my first "serious" camera. Do I buy the G1X at $800.00 or do I buy a mirrorless camera and two lenses for likely more than that? What are my priorities? Bulk, or versatility? Image quality is comparative enough even though the G1X wins here, so that shouldn't be a major consideration for most buyers. Another thought compares to DSLRS- do I buy a Rebel or other similar DSLR and lenses, or the G1X?
That answer can only come from the consumer. But if I were a new buyer now, I'd probably tilt the way of the G1X. Less to think about, more compact, better image quality- than a mirrorless system- all for about the same price with lenses of similar focal length. The G1X has certainly made me rethink the way I look at compact cameras.
Another thing I think is that prosumers ought to be jumping for joy for the G1X. It's the compact camera many have been asking for in many respects for YEARS. I look at my Sony V3, quite a good camera, and then the G1X, and can say that despite the unique IR features of the V3, this is the camera I'd want to rely on for serious photographic work- no matter the make or model of any maker before it.
G1X Price and Availability
Lets not underestimate the optical and image quality achievement of the G1X. Consumers can wish all they want but the fact of the matter is that there are physical limitations of optics that engineers face on every new camera design. 10 years ago the G1X would have been a miracle camera, unthinkable, 5 years ago a mind blower. Today, the G1X lens is class leading in regards of its size and focal length for the sized sensor it sits in front of. Remember, you don't get something for nothing.
You want a bigger sensor likely you are going to pay the price of a larger lens. However, Canon has done an excellent job at designing the lens around the large sensor of the G1X all the while it fits very compact into the body. Bravo to Canon for that achievement, alone.
While the G1X might not be the best all around performer its more of a one punch knockout of a camera than say the G12 is. Its big punch is that excellent lens and sensor and everything else is just icing on the cake around it. Certainly it can use some refining though, and by the time you read this review I'm sure Canon are quite aware of its weaknesses and already putting into place either firmware updates or design changes for the G2X.
Note: I like B & H Photo and Video, they are nice people and have fair prices, if you like the review take a look a them for me. Much appreciated.
G1X Price and Availability
As usual be safe and happy shooting!
- Grip- Love it, very comfortable and reassuring in many angles of holding
- Handling, very few niggles
- Battery life better than expected, slightly above average for a "compact"
- Image quality is superb at all ISO levels- especially for a camera this size
- Very nice build quality
- Excellent quality LCD screen on pivoting mount (versatile as all hell)
- Excellent Video Quality
- Included Optical Finder (rarer and rarer nowadays)
- Good set of customizable controls
- Buttons switches and dials - no complaint on operation or feel of any of them
- Zoom speed is quick
- Power up and Power off are fast (off is slower with lens fully extended)
- Nice pop up flash (little if no red eye as a result)
- Included hot shoe
- Fast Flash Sync speed puts DSLR's to shame
- Access door to cable ports instead of rubber grommet
- Flush mounted camera strap lugs (really makes the G1X comfortable, just like G12 etc)
- Good rear thumb pad/grip
- First fixed lens 'compact' ever to have real DSLR level image quality- best IQ in a compact to date
- Wide range of effect modes (see cons)
- Great all around imaging device, can handle a lot of photographic tasks (a huge pro here!)
- Slower to focus than G12, but not a complete turtle either
- Focusing issues (not locking on, or focusing on wrong subject) in certain situations, mainly low light level scenes. AF illumination lamp delays or doesn't come on at all, camera just sits there in your hand like a paper weight- firmware fix it Canon!
- Maximum magnification (optical) and focus distance are below average (50% crops do look good though)
- Bugs encountered (see recommended immediate improvements)
- No control of any manual controls in the scene modes or special effects modes
- Jpegs have no control of noise reduction- at all
- Jpegs have no control over sharpness/saturation/contrast in all but one mode
- Shutter release isn't as "sure" as the G12's sometimes I accidentally triggered it because the breaking point isn't clearly defined- a minor irritant
- Battery life could be a bit better but it's not bad either- can vary widely however depending on your management skills or patience level
- No paper manual, inexcusable for an 800 dollar camera
- No back up internal memory at all (at least include a few MB next time Canon!)
- Horizon level is off canter and needs major calibration
- Manual white balance bug needs fixing asap (green cast final image, even though image appears great on screen after reading)
- Better focusing speed in certain situations (lower light and bright light as well)
- Manual focus is lost after adjustment (pressing shutter release activates AF.. ) yes you read right, that is quite an oversight
- Horizon level is way off canter, needs calibration
- Capture Device
14.3 Megapixels, 1.5-inch CMOS
Approx. 15.0 Megapixels
Approx. 14.3 Megapixels
15.1 (W) - 60.4mm (T) (35mm film equivalent: 28 (W) - 112mm (T)
Normal: 1.3 ft. (40cm) - infinity (W), 4.3 ft. (1.3m) - infinity (T)
Auto: 7.9 in. (20cm) - infinity (W), 2.8 ft. (85cm) - infinity (T)
Macro: 7.9 in. - 2.3 ft. (20-70cm) (W), 2.8 ft. - 5.2 ft. (85cm - 1.6m) (T)
Real-image zoom viewfinder
- LCD Monitor
Approx. 922,000 dots
- Aperture and Shutter
f/2.8 (W) - f/5.8 (T)
- The following f/numbers are available in Av or M:
W: f/2.8, 3.2, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.6, 6.3, 7.1, 8.0, 9.0, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16
T: f/5.8, 6.3, 7.1, 8.0, 9.0, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16
- Differs depending on the zoom position
60-1/4000 sec. (Total shutter speed range)
- Shutter speed range differs depending on the shooting mode
Shutter speeds available in Tv and M:
60, 50, 40, 30, 25, 20, 15, 13, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3.2, 2.5, 2, 1.6, 1.3, 1, 0.8, 0.6, 0.5, 0.4, 0.3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/8, 1/10, 1/13, 1/15, 1/20, 1/25, 1/30, 1/40, 1/50, 1/60, 1/80, 1/100, 1/125, 1/160, 1/200, 1/250, 1/320, 1/400, 1/500, 1/640, 1/800, 1/1000, 1/1250, 1/1600, 1/2000,1/2500, 1/3200, 1/4000 (Units: sec.)
Back to TopExposure Control
*Optimal ISO speed is automatically set depending on the shooting mode.
- Light Metering Method
*1 Facial brightness is evaluated (Face Detect AE) in Face Detect. *2 Fixed to Center, linked to AF frame
- Exposure Control Method
- Exposure Compensation
Back to TopWhite Balance
- White Balance Control
*Facial color is evaluated in Face AiAF (Face Detect WB).
Adjusts the white balance separately for the main subject and the background when the flash fires.
Auto, On, Slow Synchro, Off
- Facial brightness is also evaluated in Face Detect
1.6-23 ft. (W), 3.3-10.2 ft. (T) (50cm-7.0m (W), 1.0-3.1m (T))
- Image brightness may diminish depending on the shooting distance.
5.0 seconds or less (battery voltage: 7.4 V)
Flash Exposure Compensation
+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
Back to TopShooting Specifications
- Shooting Modes
- Shooting movies is possible with the movie button
*1 Smart Auto also available for movies
*2 Movie Digest, Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Sports, Smart Shutter*5, High-Speed Burst HQ, Handheld Night Scene, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Stitch Assist
*3 High Dynamic Range, Nostalgic, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap
*4 Standard, iFrame Movie
*5 Smile, Wink Self-timer, Face Self-timer
- Photo Effects
* Adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue and skin tone are available.
- Not available in RAW and RAW+JPEG
- Self Timer
* Delay time (0 - 15 sec. (in one-second increments), 20/25/30 sec.) and number of shots (1-10 shots (in one-shot increments)) can be specified.
- Wireless Control
- Continuous Shooting
AF: Approx. 0.7 shots/sec. (in P mode)
LV: Approx. 0.7 shots/sec. (in P mode)
- Under conditions where the flash does not fire automatically.
- Differs depending on the zoom position.
* Max. of 6 continuous shots per burst
Back to TopImage Storage
- Storage Media
- File Format
- Image Recording Format
JPEG Compression Mode
Still Image: Exif 2.3 JPEG, RAW (14 bit, CR2 (Canon Original)) Video: MOV (Image data: H.264; Audio data: Linear PCM (2 channel stereo))
Videos: MOV (Image data: H.264, Audio data: Linear PCM (Stereo))
- Number of Recording Pixels
Large: 4352 x 2448, Medium 1: 3072 x 1728,
Medium 2: 1920 x 1080, Small: 640 x 360
Large: 4352 x 2904, Medium 1: 3072 x 2048,
Medium 2: 1600 x 1064, Small: 640 x 424
Large: 4352 x 3264, Medium 1: 3072 x 2304,
Medium 2: 1600 x 1200, Small: 640 x 480
RAW: 4352 x 3264
Large: 3264 x 3264, Medium 1: 2304 x 2304,
Medium 2: 1200 x 1200, Small: 480 x 480
Large: 2608 x 3264, Medium 1: 1840 x 2304,
Medium 2: 960 x 1200, Small: 384 x 480
1280 x 720 (30 fps*1)
1280 x 720*2 / 640 x 480*2
[Other than the above*3]
1920 x 1080 (24 fps*4), 1280 x 720 (30 fps*1) /
640 x 480 (30 fps*1)
*1 Actual frame rate is 29.97 fps.
*2 Shooting: 6 fps, 3 fps, 1.5 fps Playback: 30 fps*1
*3 Movies made in Movie Digest mode: 640 x 480 (30 fps*1) only.
*4 Actual frame rate is 23.976 fps.