Canon G1 X Mark II
12th Feb 2014 | 04:01
Canon seems to have returned to top premium compact form with the updated version of its G1 X camera.
Build quality and handling
The premium compact camera market used to be pretty much owned by Canon. The much lauded G series was the ultimate in functionality for those that wanted high image quality but didn't want to lug around a heavy DSLR.
However, in recent times other manufacturers have overtaken Canon's once unquestionable dominance. The Sony RX100 II is currently the biggest seller in this area of the market, while products like the Fuji X100S offer something a little more unusual.
The original Canon G1X, when it was launched, was met with a fair amount of derision. Aside from its good image quality, there were a fair few problems with it, and it seemed like a niche product without a certain audience.
Canon hasn't rushed to replace the camera, but now, after making a series of much needed improvements, the Mark II is here – and it looks exciting and something that could put Canon back at the top of the premium game.
The biggest selling point of the G1X was its large, 1.5 inch sensor. It's not too far off APS-C sized and over twice the size of the sensor found in the Sony RX100 II (and the Nikon 1 compact system camera rage). It comes as no great surprise therefore that Canon has kept the best part of the camera, redesigning the rest of the package around that.
For starters, it has a new lens. It now offers a 5x optical zoom, which is an equivalent of 24-120mm in 35mm terms. More impressively, that zoom range features a maximum aperture of f/2 at the wide end, rising to just f/3.9 at the telephoto end.
Canon has also improved the minimum focusing distance, bringing it down to just 5cm – a big improvement from the 30cm minimum focusing distance of the original camera, which was one of its biggest problems.
The latest image processor, Digic 6, can be found in the camera. This helps to facilitate quicker operational speeds, less of a shutter lag and full HD video recording. Low light shooting should also be much improved, with the pixel size being significantly larger than those on the G16 for increased light pick up.
On the back of the camera is a three inch LCD screen, which is now touch sensitive. Whereas the G1X's screen was fully articulated, Canon has taken the decision to make it tilting for a sleeker overall body size. It tilts downwards and also all the way forwards which is useful for self-portraits.
Canon has also decided to remove the optical viewfinder. This isn't a massive deal as it wasn't a viewfinder with a lot of fans as, although it had optics, it was basically just a hole in the top of the camera and not as useful as the type of finder a DSLR has. Instead, Canon has developed an electronic viewfinder which can be purchased separately if you want one.
It's becoming pretty standard now, so it's pleasing to see Wi-Fi and NFC technology included in this camera. Canon has also updated its free CanonWindow app for iOS and Android so that remote shooting is finally available.
Build Quality and Handling
The G1X II has a better appearance than its predecessor, not only having a more modern appearance, but also seeming to have a higher quality.
A grip on the side of the camera will be found in European models only. Canon says that Japanese and American audiences preferred the flatter look of the camera without the grip. I used the European version of the camera and find it very comfortable to hold and use, it's a fairly pronounced grip which helps the camera to sit very comfortably in the hand.
One of the most useful features of cameras such as the Canon S120 is its customisable ring around the lens for changing certain parameters. Fans of that type of control will be pleased to know that the G1X II features two such rings, which can both be customised to a particular function. You might for instance want to set one to aperture and another to shutter speed.
On top of the camera is a mode dial for switching quickly between the various modes on offer, such as fully automatic and semi-automatic modes (aperture priority and shutter priority). There's also space here for up to two groups of custom settings – a useful addition if you're often shooting one particular type of scene.
A good proportion of the back of the camera is taken up by the three inch touchscreen. It is joined by the standard four way navigational pad – if you've ever used a Canon compact before you'll certainly be at home here.
The touchscreen is a capacitive device, just like those you would find on an iPhone, and in the pre-production model I used was very easy and intuitive. You can set the autofocus point using it, as well as using it to swipe through played back images. It's nice to see Canon including a touch sensitive screen on a camera which is so squarely aimed at enthusiasts – something which other manufacturers seem to think is not welcomed by anybody but beginners.
A dedicated button is available for accessing Wi-Fi functionality. It's great that Canon has finally updated its app to give remote shooting. You can't control a lot from the app itself, you'll need to do all of that before setting up the remote link, which is a bit of a shame, but perhaps it's something that will be improved with app or firmware updates further down the line. Either way, it's good to have the ability to do this at all, rather than just the ability to send images and videos to other devices as before.
It's difficult to give any kind of verdict at this stage in the review cycle, but we have very high hopes for the Canon G1X II.
We didn't have a problem with image quality of the original camera, but its handling was a little odd. The fact that it keeps the sensor is good news as we know it to be a good performer, and with the latest Digic 6 processor, we can expect even better image quality.
Autofocus performance was something that brought the overall experience of using the G1X down, especially the close focusing distance. I only had a limited time with the new camera, but I was very impressed with the improvements that have been made. For starters, close focusing is pretty good and you should now be able to get some decent close-up images with this camera and not have the frustration of only being able to shoot things which are relatively far away.
The new processor also brings autofocus speeds up to scratch, making it competitive on the market. General operational speeds also seem to be very quick. We'll be keen to test this out further once a full production sample becomes available, especially as this is one of the key selling points of the new camera.
The premium compact camera market is an interesting place to be right now. This seems to be a genuinely decent piece of kit which I can see a lot of photographers being tempted by, especially those who are loyal to the Canon brand.
By keeping the same sensor, but basically rebuilding the rest of the camera's key components around it, Canon has produced something which could potentially worry the likes of Sony and Fuji – it will be interesting to see how sales figures shape up.
Look out for a full review of the Canon G1X II in due course.