Canon G1 X £699

3rd Mar 2013 | 16:20

Canon G1 X

A premium compact camera bursting with high-end features, the Canon G1X is here

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Simple assembly; Ideal for location and studio use; Well constructed yet lightweight;

Dislike:

Further accessories likely to be needed; Pricey; Can be awkward if holding for extended periods of time;

Introduction

The new Canon PowerShot G1 X - commonly shortened to Canon G1 X, or even Canon G1X - occupies the top spot in Canon's prestigious G-series compact camera range, offering a truly impressive array of high-end features.

Launched at CES in January 2012, the new digital camera is aimed at advanced photographers in search of a high-quality, take-anywhere primary camera and/or backup for their DSLR.

To that end, the Canon G1 X is packed with advanced technologies designed to deliver the very best performance.

Canon G1 X review

It may not be the compact system camera (CSC) that everyone was expecting to see from Canon, nor is it a direct replacement for the highly popular Canon G12 (that is the Canon G15) - rather, it's something in between.

As such, it's difficult to slot the Canon G1 X into any one particular category and so - as Canon is keen to point out - it's just as tricky to determine natural rivals for this new camera.

The Canon PowerShot G1 X's specifications make for very impressive reading. It boasts a 14.3MP CMOS sensor that's almost the same size as an EOS DSLR's, sporting a pixel structure and size that's equivalent to that on the entry-level Canon EOS 600D's CMOS device.

Canon G1 X review

The latest generation Digic 5 image processor drives this camera's performance and promises to deliver richly-detailed shots with well-controlled noise, while the Canon G1X's fast, 4x optical image stabilisation (IS) zoom lens incorporates a new design using Ultra High Refractive Index Aspherical (UA) elements for supreme image quality.

Factor in a 3-inch, high-resolution, articulated LCD, built-in flash, optical viewfinder and an impressive ISO sensitivity range that tops out at an unprecedented (among G-series cameras) ISO 12800, and you can appreciate why we were incredibly keen to take the Canon G1 X out for a spin the minute it arrived.

You can also begin to appreciate why its recommended retail price is £699 in the UK and $799.99 in the US.

Features

Canon G1 X review

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At the heart of the Canon PowerShot G1 X beats a large 4:3 aspect 14.3MP CMOS sensor and the latest Digic 5 image processor.

The sensor size - measuring 18.7mm x 14mm - is just over six times bigger than the one featured in the Canon PowerShot G12, and is just a shade smaller than the APS-C sensors used in entry and enthusiast-level EOS DSLRs. This ensures top-notch image quality and - potentially - lower levels of noise at high ISOs.

The latter point is reinforced by the integration of Canon's latest-generation Digic 5 processor, which - as we've seen with PowerShot S100, PowerShot SX40 HS and Canon EOS 1DX - is very capable of handling large volumes of data at speed, as well as keeping noise under tight control.

Canon G1 X review

Canon's latest-generation Digic 5 image processor determines the speed at which data is processed, enabling the Canon G1 X to shoot 1080p movies at 24fps and keep up with the action in its High Speed Burst HQ mode. It's also responsible for the way in which noise is handled and JPEGs and moving images are compressed.

Like many of the latest cameras we've seen recently, Canon has chosen to equip the PowerShot G1 X with an articulated screen, which proves useful when shooting movies, macro subjects and from high/low perspectives, for instance.

The 3-inch LCD screen - which boasts a pleasing resolution of 920,000-dots - is bright and detailed, with a wide viewing angle and effective anti-reflective coating that means it remains usable in all but the very brightest of conditions.

Canon G1 X review

The Canon G1X also offers a small, but nonetheless useful optical viewfinder as an alternative means of composition.

A first for a G-series compact, the Canon G1 X boasts a comprehensive sensitivity range that spans ISO 100-12800, with on-chip noise reduction promising a clean performance in low light.

Full HD (1080p) movie recording capability at 24fps is another key item in the Canon G1 X's feature-set, bettering the lower-resolution modes seen on some other potential rivals' spec sheets.

Canon G1 X review

With a 4x optical zoom that offers a range equivalent to 28mm-112mm on a 35mm camera, the Canon G1 X covers you for most everyday shooting situations.

And its new design - developed specifically to marry with the larger sensor - shows off Canon's impressive level of expertise when it comes to optical performance.

Canon G1 X review

Additional features including full manual control, raw file shooting capability and innovative technologies such as Canon's Intelligent IS all help to bolster the Canon PowerShot G1 X's impressive set of functions.

The latter option is able to analyse the focal length, distance to the subject and to interpret any form of camera movement before selecting one of seven different IS modes - including Macro and Panning, for example - to suit the situation.

Build quality and handling

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The formula for this new breed of PowerShot may be unfamiliar, but its styling and control layout have been kept in line with the rest of Canon's G-series compact cameras, so previous owners will feel instantly at home with the interface.

The Canon G1 X's stainless steel chassis lends it a robust feel, creating the impression of a solid camera that's likely to withstand the rigours of daily life in the hands of an advanced enthusiast/ professional photographer.

Being larger (though perhaps not by as much as you might expect) and heavier than the older Canon G12 - which occupies the space below the Canon G1 X in the PowerShot camera hierarchy - the new flagship model is less compact-like, closer in fact to the sort of dimensions seen with some of the latest CSCs.

Canon G1 X review

While not easily pocketable, the Canon G1X is still fairly small and unobtrusive-looking and, as such, is less likely to attract attention when you're dabbling in a bit of street photography, say, than your full-size DSLR would.

All of the buttons and controls on the Canon G1 X seem well placed, with the thoughtful inclusion of both front and rear command dials to improve the experience of altering settings in any of the manual modes.

The chunky top panel of the camera hosts a responsive shutter release that's encircled by a spring-loaded zoom lever, alongside an illuminated power button that sits flush to the body.

Canon G1 X review

Stacked on top of a large metal exposure compensation dial is the slightly smaller exposure mode dial. The former offers precise control over the exposure in your shots, with three stops of adjustment in either direction. The latter provides fast access to 10 different modes, 10 Creative filters, 15 Scene modes and a point-and-shoot Auto mode.

Whenever you want to take more control over your settings, the camera also offers Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes, plus two user-customisable slots (C1 and C2) for you to store your own combinations of settings for frequently-encountered situations.

The adjacent metal hotshoe that's invaluable for attaching accessories such as an external Canon EF flashgun sits beside the Canon G1 X's miniature, manually-operated pop-up flash, which nestles inside the camera body until it's activated.

Canon G1 X review

Offering an alternative to the versatile articulated LCD screen, the inclusion of the optical viewfinder in the Canon G1 X's design may not instil past owners of similarly-endowed PowerShot cameras with much enthusiasm, thanks to their tiny dimensions.

Happily, however, Canon has made some improvements with the PowerShot G1 X's viewfinder, which is a little larger and more usable than that of its predecessors; albeit a far cry from Fuji's exemplary 'hybrid' optical/electronic innovation seen on the Fuji FinePix X100.

Around the back, the simple control layout makes the Canon G1 X easy to get to grips with. There's a dedicated movie button providing one-touch access to the camera's HD movie mode, plus further buttons to alter settings such as the AF point location, switch metering modes and to access the main menu system.

Canon G1 X review

Soft key access to the ISO, Flash, Display and AF mode options are located on the four-way navigation, with the central 'Func/Set' button calling up a handy on-screen quick menu that's overflowing with further options to tweak and hone.

This combination of physical controls and shortcuts to on-screen options makes the Canon G1 X a pleasure to shoot with. There's a comprehensive level of manual control available if you want it, and plenty of automatic and creative options there when you don't.

Performance

With a maximum aperture of f/2.8, the Canon PowerShot G1 X's lens performs well in low light, enabling you to keep the ISO as low as possible as the light deteriorates. At the telephoto end of its range, the maximum aperture drops to a less impressive f/5.8, though.

But the camera's excellent IS system does a decent job of making up some - but not all - of the shortfall when it comes to keeping things steady.

Canon G1 X review

At 4x optical zoom, the lens provides a 28-112mm (35mm equivalent) range - a respectable selection of focal lengths to cover a variety of everyday situations, although it's slightly less versatile than the Canon G12's 5x optical zoom (28-140mm f/2.8-f/8 - 35mm equivalent).

On the other hand, the Canon G1 X's larger sensor does mean that you can achieve much-coveted shallow depth-of-field effects when shooting wide open, with beautifully blurred backgrounds that are normally out of the question when using a compact camera with a smaller sensor.

Canon G1 X review

14-bit raw shooting ability - combined with the well-engineered lens - means that you can really make the most of this camera's potential. Raw files are incredibly detailed and expand upon the already impressive dynamic range that's present in JPEGs taken straight out of the camera.

We found there was plenty of additional detail to be retrieved from areas of particular brightness and shadow: a bit of tweaking here and there is usually all that's needed to make raw files from the Canon G1 X really sing.

Canon G1 X review

As we've come to expect from Canon's PowerShot range, the colours captured in shots under a variety of different conditions are accurate, yet vibrant, with raw files providing further scope for perfecting how you want your images to look.

The metering and Auto WB systems perform consistently well, while in our real-world tests, noise also proves to be impressively well-controlled across much of the Canon G1X's native ISO sensitivity range.

Canon G1 X review

HD movies are crisp, clean and smooth, thanks in part to the Canon G1 X's excellent built-in Intelligent Image Stabilisation (IS) system. You get to keep full use of the zoom lens while recording, and the AF system does a decent job of keeping up with your subject.

However, as is often the case with many movie-enabled cameras we've seen recently, the noise from the lens as it focuses and zooms is picked up on the soundtrack.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Canon G1 X, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 200 the Canon G1 X is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them please read the resolution charts explained article.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Hands on: canon g1 x review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 100, score 22 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 200, score 22 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 400, score 20 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 800, score 20 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 1600, score 20 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 3200, score 18 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 6400, score 14 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 12800, score 14 (see full image)

Raw

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 100, score 22 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 200, score 22 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 400, score 22 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 800, score 22 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 1600, score 20 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 3200, score 18 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 6400 , score 14 (see full image)

Hands on: canon g1 x review

ISO 12800, score 14 (see full image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG Signal to Noise Ratio results

Canon powershot g1 x review, jpeg signal to noise ratio

As we might expect, JPEG images from the Canon PowerShot G1 X show an increased signal to noise ratio performance over the Canon PowerShot G12. Although at ISO 100 there is little difference in the results from the G1 X and the Canon EOS 600D, the EOS 600D has the edge at ISO 200, however, above ISO 400 the G1 X produces better signal to noise ratio results.

Raw/TIFF Signal to Noise Ratio results

Canon powershot g1 x review: tiff signal to noise ratio results

Our TIFF image (after conversion from raw) results show that the Canon PowerShot G1 X and the Canon EOS 600D have similar signal to noise ratios up to a sensitivity of ISO 800. Compared with the Canon PowerShot G12 there is a marked improvement in noise performance showing good lowlight shooting ability.

JPEG Dynamic range

Canon powershot g1 x review: jpeg dynamic range

This chart indicates that the Canon PowerShot G1 X captures a wide tonal range throughout its sensitivity settings and even at ISO 12800 a good amount of tonal detail can still be captured.

TIFF Dynamic range

Canon powershot g1 x review: tiff dynamic range

Across its sensitivity range the Canon PowerShot G1 X produces raw files which, after conversion to TIFF just out performs the Canon EOS 600D and captures a wider tonal range than the Canon PowerShot G12.

Sample images

Canon g1 x review

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MACRO:In Macro mode, the Canon G1 X's fast lens helps to produce sharp shots with a beautifully shallow depth-of-field.

Canon g1 x

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ACCURATE: JPEGs taken straight out of the camera demonstrate the Canon PowerShot G1 X's ability to capture faithful colours and a superb level of sharp detail.

Canon g1 x review

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RAW:Raw files from the Canon G1 X provide plenty of scope for further manipulation

Canon g1 x review

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BLACK AND WHITE: Punchy black and white conversions can be made easily.

Canon g1 x review

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DEPTH OF FIELD:With the aperture set to f/2.8, it's possible to achieve the sort of shallow depth-of-field effects that aren't normally possible with a typical compact camera.

Canon g1 x review

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DETAIL:Bags of fine detail and pleasing colours are common characteristics in the Canon G1 X's images - whichever exposure mode you choose to work with.

Canon g1 x review

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ZOOM IN:Zooming in to 100% reveals a clean, sharp performance, with the camera's fast lens and Intelligent IS system enabling you to keep the ISO low when shooting in gloomy conditions.

Sensitivity and noise

Canon g1 x review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Canon g1 x review

ISO 100

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 200

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 400

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 800

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 1600

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 3200

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 6400

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Canon g1 x review

ISO 12800

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Verdict

Priced at £699 (RRP) in the UK and $799.99 in the US, the Canon PowerShot G1X costs more than some entry-level DSLRs, so Canon's really taking a gamble when it comes to estimating the level of appeal its unprecedented new compact camera will have.

Thankfully, however, the manufacturer has backed up the Canon G1 X's price tag with a whole host of high-end features that go a long way towards justifying its cost.

As with any new model - particularly one that pioneers a new category in a manufacturer's product range - there's nearly always some room for improvement somewhere. However, overall we're impressed with the Canon G1X's feature-set and its real-world performance.

We liked

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The Canon G1 X offers a superb level of manual functionality, a good range of customisable features and is capable of producing stunningly detailed full-resolution images.

High quality components such as its 920,000-dot LCD, metal hotshoe and technologies such as its Digic 5 processor all add up to an impressive performance.

We disliked

While the Canon G1 X's lens helps to produce sharp, detailed shots, its maximum aperture (f/2.8) isn't quite as fast as some alternate model's offerings, nor is its 4x optical zoom range as all-encompassing.

In addition to its high price-point - which may put it out of reach for some - it's also quite heavy and bulky, making it less pocketable than some rival compact cameras.

Final verdict

Whether you're looking for an everyday workhorse that provides complete manual control over settings or you want a more portable back-up for your current DSLR, the Canon G1 X delivers a pleasurable handling experience and is capable of producing superb results - particularly if you shoot raw files.

You'll need deep pockets to invest in this prestigious camera, but - if you can stretch to it - you'll be glad you did.

The Canon G1 X impresses on all fronts, delivering excellent handling and great results across its comprehensive range of exposure modes. Pricey it may be, but this camera's real-world performance goes a long way towards justifying its price tag.

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