This was Canon’s early 2012 surprise announcement. As we were expecting a Powershot G13 or G14, as we were anxiously waiting for canon to unveil the EOS 5D Mark III, Canon came with something brand new on the premium compact camera market : the Powershot G1 X. We announced it here and previewed it there. The Canon G1 X is a very attractive compact camera with a CMOS sensor which size is in between Micro 4:3 and APS-C sensors, a nicely designed 4x 28-112mm zoom lens, Full HD video recording and a user interface that reminds us all of the EOS DLSR and that the G12 also offers. It is obvious that Canon wanted to offer EOS DSLR users a high-quality compact digital camera as many competitors are coming with hybride mirrorless cameras improving image quality in a pretty compact form factor and as newcomers take the lead (Fujifilm X100…). Canon replies with the talent it can show sometimes, unveiling the G1 X, a compact camera based on an hybrid sensor size : slightly bigger than the 4:3 (Olympus Pen, Panasonic Lumix G) and a bit smaller than APS-C sensors.
How does this new sensor behaves ? Let’s find that out thanks to the review of the Canon G1 X sensor, just posted by our partners at DxOMark.com.
Canon Powershot G1 X vs Powershot G12
Since the Canon G1 X has been announced, we keep on comparing it to the G12. Both cameras are very near : same user interface, same 3″ / 921,000 dots swivel screen, but when G12 sensor is a small 7.5×5.6mm (10 megapixels), the G1 X sensor is a much bigger 18.7 x 14mm sensible area. Its pixel pitch of 4.16 microns is twice bigger than the 2.03 micron of the G12. As a result of this surface difference, performance is substantially improved.
The global performance indicator, the DxOMark Score of 47 points on the G12 seems quite modest in comparison to the 60 points of the G1 X. The low-light ISO score is the area where the G1 X makes the biggest progress : ISO644 when the G12 was measured at ISO161 : 2 full EV better. This better senstivity, combined with DIGIC 5 processor power and refined noise reduction algorythm will undoubtedly lead to a huge improvement of image quality at highest ISO settings on the G1 X over the G12. (see full G1 X test results at DxOMark.com)
But… I have spotted a score which is a bit of a deception to me : the dynamic range is about the same (11.8 EV for the G1 X and 11.2EV for the G12) when we could legitimately have expected better scores on the newly designed camera. But pushing a bit further my analszis of these data, I found that the G12 is performing a better dynamic range at its lower ISO setting. And this setting is ISO80 only. Also, when you push the ISO setting higher, the G1 X sensor dynamic range is surprisingly. At ISO400, the G1 X offers 2EV extra exposure room than the G12.
Regarding the color depth,keep in mind that the Powershot G1 X has a 14-bit per pixel sampling, for 12-bit on the G12.
To put that in a nutshell, with a sensitivity 2 EV better thant the G12, and a dynamic range, if equal at ISO 100, turns out to be an other 2EV better at ISO400 and higher, the 14-megapixel CMOS sensor performance of the Canon G1 X fully offsets the extra weight and money… but we wish Canon had made some progress in terms of dynamic range so that the G1 X ISO 100 and ISO200 settings could give the photographers a few EV extra exposure freedom.
Canon Powershot G1 X vs Nikon V1 vs Sony NEX-5N
The sensor of the Powershot G1 X is a comprise between the 4:3 sensor of M43 mirrorless cameras and APS-C sensors of DSLR and Sony NEX / Samsung NX mirrorless cameras ? OK, I have measured the G1 X performance and compared it to the Panasonic G3 and Sony NEX-5N to see how the new sensor behaves and what to expect…
And I got pretty logical results here as the sensor size remains what seems to determine the hierarchy here. With a DxOMark Score of 60 points, the G1 X is only slightly better than the Panasonic G3 (56 points), of which its sensor is only slightly larger. But, the super sensor of the Sony NEX-5N (the same APS-C CMOS sensor that I love in my Nikon D7000, and that you can also find in the Pentax K-5 DSLR) is way above competition : its DxOMark Score reached 77 points.
I was disappointed that the G1 X review revealed that the G1 X and G3 sensibility are about the same as I was expecting more from a new generation of sensors. Panasonic keeps on using the same MOS sensor on its M43 range since 2008… The ISO champion, the Sony Exmor sensor, shows 2/3EV higher scores on DxO benchmark over its competitors.
The hierarchy remains also the same on a criteria I pay a lot attention to : the dynamic range. The Sony NEX-5N sensor is 2EV higher that what the G1X (and the Panasonic G3) has to offer. Too bad for one shot HDR images… (I’ll show you how in a tutorial video coming soon).
This means that :
- with a more modern sensor than the old 4:3 MOS that Lumix G cameras get, the Canon G1 X doesn’t really bet them at all,
- an APS-C solution (NEX mirrorless or APS-C DSLR) is still above the G1 X in terms of image quality.
(see full G1 X test results at DxOMark.com)
Canon Powershot G1 X vs Canon EOS 7D
Lets now have the Canon G1 X compared to one if its pears in Canon’s cameras range : Canon EOS DSLR. Today, Canon EOS 7D, EOS 60D and Rebel T3i / EOS 600D all share the same 18-megapixel APS-C CMOs sensor. I have chosen the EOS 7D as it is obvious that the Powershot G1 X is aimed at advanced photographers, EOS 7D owners. Against the EOS 7D, the G1 X is, again, not really taking any advantage of its newer sensor design and its performance score are slightly behind the EOS 7D although it is equipped with an already old sensor which is now aging. The EOS 7D advantage over the G1 X is in proportion with the few extra square mm of its sensor.
So, with the Canon Powershot G1 X, you can count on an image quality that is very very near what you can expect from a Canon, Nikon or Pentax DSLR (APS-C) and any other large sensor mirroless camera (Samsung and Sony), but it will remain slightly under these cameras. The Canon G1 X is 1/3EV inferior to the EOS 7D in low-light ISO and 1EV shorter in terms of dynamic range.
Canon did not seize this opportunity to really improve its technology. The G1 X is a very good sensor, but does not get any advantage because of its modern design. It has been 3 years since Canon did not make any progress in sensors. Its residual noise kills the extra 2EV dynamic range, the competition, and Sony first, is offering to the photographers.