Canon Powershot G1 X review

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Testing the Canon Powershot G1 X for you readers….

Let’s take a closer look at the Canon Powershot G1 X large sensor compact camera with  14MP CMOS sensor and 28-112mm lens.

 

Canon surprised many photographers and interested onlookers with the release of the Powershot G1 X, a new kind of device in Canon’s digital compact range. Canon still doesn’t enter the mirrorless race as the G1 X does not allow for interchangeable lenses. It does, however, pack a large, 4:3 format sensor, six times larger than that of the G12, and slightly larger than those of the mirrorless Panasonic Lumix G, Olympus Pen and OM-D ranges.

With its CMOS technology, which has demonstrated its effectiveness on the S100 for example (see the Canon Powershot S100 test), and branded “HS” for High Sensitivity , the Canon G1 X’s 14 megapixel sensor peaks at ISO 12,800. Aimed at enthusiast photographers, the G1 X allows you to save RAW format images, a high-quality, powerful format in terms post-treatment flexibility, with 14-bit encoding resulting in SLR-type printed image quality..

 

canon powershot g1x review
The G1 X gets a built-in flash and an optical viewfinder (yes, a poor one).
The 28-112mm f / 2.8 to 5.8 lens.

Canon G1 X ergonomics: the G12 inheritance

 

It’s design is near-perferct: Canon G1 X inherits the fully tried and tested, SLR-inspired design of the G1, G2, G3 …. and G12. It features a double set of knurled steel dials for selecting shooting modes and exposure compensation, etc.. We regret however the loss of the sensitivity setting ring and the absence of a manual zoom ring, a pity considering that the lens barrel has plenty of room for it and does not completely retract into the body when you turn off the camera.

 

The Optical Viewfinder of the Powershot G1 X: a token presence

 

We’ll be quick to review the OVF. It’s there. That’s about it. It is as bad as on the G12: tiny, narrow, sketchy,… downright unpleasant to use. Too bad. An optical viewfinder is a real asset for an enthusiast camera (see the test the Fujifilm X-Pro1 ). We could do without this one…

Canon Powershot G1 X has a beautiful 3 “/ 921 000 dot screen. It is articulated, for enhanced protection and flexibility.

canon g1x review - screen
The beautiful 3 “/ 921 000 pixel articulated screen stands out as being even more enjoyable to use.

 

Canon G1 X review : when size matters

 

The G1 X is very attractive with its large sensor and excellent ergonomics. However, the price to pay is rather high in terms of weight and bulk.

  • Weight: The G1 X weighs a full 534 grams, 133 grams more than the already-quite-heavy-for-a-compact G12.
  • Dimensions: the G1 X is 1.64 cm thicker and almost half a centimeter taller and wider than the G12.

In the end, the G1 X fits easily into a big, winter jacket pocket. Forget slipping it into your jeans or shirt pocket. It is also seriously heavy. We strongly advise potential G1 X buyers to hold it before buying it. It seams only slightly bigger than the G12 on pictures, but in actual use, its bulk can be a bigger problem than you might think. Of course it still beats a DSLR in terms of size and weight.

 

canon g1 x review
The Canon G1 X gets a lot of the G12 / G15 DNA.

 

Stabalized, 4x Lens

 

The modest 4x lens, with its behind-the-times focal length (28-112 mm) is not very ambitious in terms of focal lengths and aperture. And though it is rather bright at the wide-angle end (f/2.8) it only opens to f/5.8 at 112mm. It uses the Canon IS optical stabilization system.

You may want to buy a camera with a large sensor to make the best of its ability to achieve background blur, but, then again, the small lens aperture at the telephoto end left us somewhat underwhelmed. It still accounts for rather large depth of field, typical of conventional digital compact cameras. Canon missed the target.

Considering its minimum focus distance, it often calls for macro mode to achieve close-up pictures.

On the positive side, apart from its excellent sharpness, the lens includes a 3EV gray density filter that can be activated to lower the exposure time while maintaining a large aperture, to create motion blur.

G1X_DXO3
The signal to noise ratio on the G1 X compared to the G12.

G1X_DXO4 G1X_DXO2 G1X_DXO1

 

Despite its powerful processor on paper (DIGIC 5) the Canon Powershot G1 X struggles to provide the responsiveness that we are entitled to expect from a premium compact camera released in 2012. The G1 X is slow. Autofocus lacks speed, and saving RAW + JPEG images to the memory card is sluggish. Today, more is expected of a compact camera: the small Panasonic GF5 mirrorless camera for amateurs will focus in just 0.09 s and even a classic compact like the Sony HX20V (A 25-1000mm) is able to focus in 0.13 s.In short, the G1 X is not built for action photography, far from it … but even in typical daily use, its phlegmatic streak becomes annoying over time and could make you miss out on many instant photo opportunities.

 

 

Canon Powershot G1 X review : the big HDR failure

 

The Canon G1 X provides an HDR mode by stacking three photos taken at different exposures which is significant compared to models that simply underexpose a single picture and enhance low and mid tones using software. Unfortunately, it is penalized by its indolent burst mode: without a tripod, the pictures will be too far apart, making it impossible for the G1 X to align them perfectly. We failed to achieve a single HDR photo freehand.

 

 

Image Quality: Canon Powershot G1 X vs Powershot G12

 

While it is bulkier and heavier than the G12, it also includes a larger sensor, its main asset in terms of image quality. Its sensor measures 18.7 x 14 mm and packs 14 megapixels while the G12 only has a 10 MP, 7.5 x 5.6 mm sensor. The pixel pitch thus goes from 2.03 microns on the G12 to 4.16 microns on the G1 X. This results in a much improved level of performance. The DxO Analyzer benchmark overall score (or DxOMark Score), goes from

  • 47 points for the G12
  • to 60 points for the G1 X

G1X_DXO5

Not surprisingly, sensitivity got the most out of the large sensor: measured in low light at 161 ISO on the Powershot G12, it reaches 644 ISO on the Powershot G1 X, a 2 stop difference.

 

View all Canon G1 X test results DxOMark.com .

 

Unfortunately, the new sensor on the G1 X does not reflect the progress of the new generation camera. In fact, it slips back to 10.8EV on the G1 X, down from 11.2 EV on the Canon G12. The maximum dynamic range is really the Achilles heel of Canon sensors, as it stalls under ISO 200. The G1 X does however have an advantage over the G12 past ISO 100, ranking is then reversed and the G1 X displays exceptional dynamic stability. At ISO 400, the G1 X offers an extra 2EV leeway compared to the G12.

As for color depth, the G1 X sensor offers 14-bit tonal gradation, against 12-bit on the G12, inching up its score.

The G1 X sensor dynamic range stops progressing below ISO 200.

With sensitivity 2 stops above the G12 and equivalent dynamics up to ISO 100, but better after ISO 200, the 14-megapixel CMOS sensor packed in the G1 X completely justifies the extra bulk.

 

Canon Powershot G1 X vs Panasonic G3 vs Sony NEX-5N

 

Given its size and price, many of you will hesitate between the Canon G1 X and a mirrorless camera. In fact, the sensor is a compromise between the point and shoot Micro 4:3 sensors and APS-C sensors such as those found on the Sony NEX.

Results are logical and relative to the size of the sensors: the G1 X scores 60 on the DxO benchmark, ahead of the Panasonic G3’s 56 points (but only a 4 point difference) and still far behind Sony’s famous 16-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor on the NEX-5N, which scores 77 points. The sensor is also at the heart of the Nikon D7000 and Pentax K-5.

The Panasonic G3 and Canon G1 X are equivalent when it comes to sensitivity, although one could expect the Canon to be better. As for the NEX-5N sensor, remarkable at high sensitivities, it is 2/3 stops above its two challengers. APS-C format is still an advantage in this regard. Ranking is the same in terms of dynamics.

Though the CMOS sensor on the G1 X is newer than the one on the Lumix G, it hasn’t made much progress. Despite its newer design, its only advantage is its being slightly larger. The APS-C format (especially on the Sony sensor) gives SLR and compact mirrorless cameras that feature them a significant advantage.

 

G1X_DXO45

Canon Powershot G1 X vs Canon EOS 7D

 

And how does the Powershot G1 X do compared to a Canon EOS DSLR, that it will often be replacing as a more compact and portable choice? All current non-full-frame Canon DSLRs except the EOS 1100D (in other words the EOS 600D, EOS 60D and EOS 7D), are equipped with the same APS-C CMOS, 18 megapixel imaging device. Compared to the EOS 7D, the modern design of the G1 X’s CMOS sensor doesn’t really boost its performance. In fact its performance remains slightly behind the EOS 18 MP SLR sensor. The lead it has on the G1 X sensor is again proportional to its few extra square millimeters. The G1 X offers good image quality, worthy of a same-class DSLR, as it only falls slightly behind the 7D in the DxO test: the Canon G1 X is 1/3 EV less efficient in low-light sensitivity and one stop behind in terms of dynamic range.

 

 

 

 

Image Quality – The Canon G1 X Field Test

 

Sensitivity: what a large sensor changes

 

In this collection of photos displaying details zoomed to 100% , you will notice the image quality is stable from 400 to 1600 ISO (we’ll skip the first two pictures that are blurry …. thanks to the AF …). Up to ISO 1600 you can use the G1X without a second thought thanks to the large and efficient G1 X sensor combined with Canon’s noise reduction and a powerful processor. Above ISO 3200 a few white specks appear. But even at ISO 6400 and 12800, the image is usable. A remarkable achievement.

And if you’re hesitating between two advanced Canon compact cameras, namely the G1 X and the S100, here is the same photo with the S100.

If you are interested in the G1 X, you love beautiful cameras and should definitely also consider the Fujifilm X10 with its 2/3″ sensor. Here is the same sample picture taken with the X10:

 

Canon Powershot G1 X image quality – the best in its class

Behind the bulk, the Canon G1 X offers a high quality combination: a large sensor and a quality lens. The compromise on bulk allows for excellent results in terms of image quality: the G1 X offers SLR quality and very detailed pictures at low sensitivities, exceptional for a compact camera at high ISO. The precision of its white balance sets it apart from the competition, even in difficult environments. On the other hand, the automated intelligent exposure settings are conspicuously absent and backlit subjects are a constant issue, while other compact cameras compensate exposure automatically when they detect a strong light source behind the subject.

Other than that, in terms of image quality, the Canon G1 X is a success.

 

Canon Powershot G1 X review : Conclusion

 

It will cost you 699 euros to get your hands on a Powershot G1 X. That’s the price of an advanced DSLR such as the Canon EOS 600D which will offer a more responsive autofocus, a true optical viewfinder, faster burst modes, a more complete video mode and slightly superior image quality with sensitivity up 1/3 EV and an additional stop in terms of dynamic range. Of course, it would all be packed in a bigger camera, and yet, the Canon G1 X does not stand out as being especially light or compact. Nonetheless, compared to a DSLR …

The G1 X is clearly aimed at expert photographers already equipped with a digital SLR such as the EOS 7D or EOS 5D Mark III and would like a second, more discreet and portable camera without sacrificing ergonomics and image quality. That’s precisely what the the Canon Powershot G1 X is.

Yet, apart from its uncompromising image quality and accomplished ergonomics, the PowerShot G1 X does combine several drawbacks: slow autofocus, poor viewfinder, limited and rather slow zoom lens… that can end up getting on your nerves. So, in our opinion, the G1 X won’t be elected number one enthusiast’s dream camera, but in the large-sensor-digital-compact category, the Canon G1 X is on its own.

Canon G1 X review: picture gallery

 

 


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