Canon G1 X Mark II

9th May 2014 | 08:06

Canon G1 X Mark II

Canon seems to have returned to top premium compact form with the updated version of its G1 X camera.

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Canon has made some much needed improvements to the G1X Mark II, but it still occupies a slightly strange space. It's a great backup camera to your DSLR, but it won't fit in your pocket.

Like:

Small size, large sensor; Touchscreen; Built-in Wi-Fi;

Dislike:

High price; No viewfinder; Limited raw functionality;

Introduction, build quality and handling

Ratings in depth
Canon G1 X Mark IICanon G1 X Mark IICanon G1 X Mark IICanon G1 X Mark IICanon G1 X Mark II

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 few problems with it, and it seemed like a niche product without a certain audience.

Canon G1X II review

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 range). 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 G1X II review

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, reduced shutter lag and full HD video recording. Low light shooting should also be improved. The pixel size is significantly larger than those on the G16 for better 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.

Canon G1X II review

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.

As already mentioned, the G1X takes on the Sony RX100 II in the premium compact market, but it also arguably takes on the smaller compact system cameras, such as the Panasonic GM1, Nikon 1 series and the Samsung NX Mini. It's also worth considering Canon's other range of G series compacts, including the G16. As it has such a large sensor, it also makes sense to pitch it against the Fuji X100S, which uses an APS-C sized sensor (slightly larger than the G1X II's device), and a fixed lens.

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.

It's much heavier, and a lot bulkier, than some of the high-end compact cameras on the market, so you're not likely to be able to fit this into a trouser pocket – it should find a suitable home in a jacket pocket or bag though. Its heaviness also means that you'll probably want to support it with a second hand when shooting, rather than holding it one-handed.

In Australia and USA, the camera will not ship as standard with a grip on the side of the camera, though European models will. 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.

Canon G1X II review

One of the most useful features of 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.

Unfortunately, you can't set the rings to any function you want to use – for instance, while shooting in aperture priority, the smaller ring can only control aperture or exposure compensation. Never the less, it's a useful way of working.

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.

Canon G1X II review

The touchscreen is a capacitive device, just like those you would find on an iPhone, and is 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 some other manufacturers seem to think is not welcomed by anybody but beginners.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Pressing the function/set button in the middle of the navigational four way pad brings up a sort of quick menu which gives you access to most of the commonly used settings, such as white balance, image aspect ratio and timer. All of the directional keys around the navigation pad also have a function too – for instance, left accesses macro focusing, while down accesses sensitivity settings. There is also a customisable 'shortcut' key just to the right of the thumb grip – you can assign one of 24 different settings, including timer, aspect ratio, raw and jpeg shooting.

Two different modes are available for the creative type, first of all there's Creative Shot, which will apply five different random effects to an image and save them all – along with a clean version of the image. There's also a filters mode which allows you to choose one particular settings, such as Poster Effect. While you have more control, you won't be able to save a clean (raw format) version of the image should you need it down the line.

Canon G1 X Mark II

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 means to send images and videos to other devices as before.

Performance

We didn't have a problem with image quality of the original G1 X, 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 expected even better image quality.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Happily, this seems to be very much the case. Images straight from the camera are bright and punchy, displaying that pleasing Canon saturation that we've come to expect from pretty much all of the company's cameras from compacts right up to DSLRs. You can alter the colour output in camera, but only when shooting in JPEG, which is a bit of a shame. Never the less, it's quite useful for certain subjects, such as landscape, if you're not too bothered about shooting in raw format but want to give colours, such as green, a bit of a boost.

The camera's metering system copes pretty well with the majority of subjects, producing well balanced exposures most of the time. I found during my test that I rarely needed to dial in exposure compensation.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Similarly, the camera's automatic white balance is very impressive. The G1X II copes impressively well when faced with artificial lighting, producing very accurate colours even under mixed or neon lighting, which is pleasing to see. If you do find it's not coping well with artificial lighting, switching to a more appropriate white balance setting is easy.

Detail is rendered well across the frame, and it's here that the larger sensor seems to really make the difference. Detail is apparent not just at normal printing and web sizes (A4 and below), but also when zooming in to 100%, where you can see fine detail, something which most compact cameras often fall down on.

Canon G1 X Mark II

In terms of low light, high sensitivity shooting, the G1X produces some beautifully clean JPEG images at higher speeds. At ISO 3200 for instance, you will see some incidence of image smoothing and loss of detail, but only when examining very carefully at 100% – the Digic 6 processor really does seem to be doing a great job of keeping noise levels down, while crucially not removing too much detail.

At mid-range sensitivites such as 800 or 1600, noise is barely apparent at all – there are some flecks to be seen when examining at 100%, but even then only if you're really hunting from them, the cleanness of images at this speed is also very impressive. When looking at an image at normal printing or web sizes, the overall impression is indeed excellent.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Comparing JPEGs with raw format files, there's a very noticeable difference in the amount of noise present at sensitivities such as ISO 3200. Here you'll see both chroma and luminance noise, but there is more detail to be seen. This means you can use your own image editing software – either the supplied Canon software, or something from a third party, such as Photoshop, to add your own noise reduction and control the output exactly as you want it.

Canon G1X II review

Autofocus performance was something that brought the overall experience of using the G1X down, especially the close focusing distance.

The G1X Mark II removes some of these problems, if not solving them completely. It can now focus as close as 5cm, which is a big improvement on the previous generation. Generally, autofocusing speeds are very quick, and the ability to quickly change the autofocus point using the touchscreen helps with accuracy and composition.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Another improvement that has been made is to the zoom range, which now offers 5x optical, boosted by a digital offering. At the furthest reach of the telephoto optic, detail is resolved very well. Using the digital zoom is helpful if you feel you need the extra reach, and while quality is diminished when examining at 100%, for normal sharing sizes, it's more than acceptable, and handy to have if the 120mm equivalent isn't quite enough. Bear in mind you can't shoot in raw format and use the digital zoom though, so you'll need to switch this off first.

A number of different filters are available for those who want to get creative with their shots. Unfortunately, those found in the filters mode are starting to look a little dated, with Canon not refreshing or introducing any new filters for quite some time now. Still, it's worth experimenting with them to see if you like them – my personal favourite is Toy Camera mode. You can also use Creative Shot mode, which will automatically select five different effects to apply to an image – some of these are fun, and it's a shame you can't manually select these filters elsewhere.

Image quality and resolution

JPEG

Canon G1 X Mark II

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

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 100 score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 200 score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 400 score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 800 score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 1600 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 3200 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 6400 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 12800 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Raw

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 100 score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 200 score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 400 score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 800 score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 1600 score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 3200 score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 6400 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 12800 score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution 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.

Here we compare the Canon G1X Mark II with the Canon G1X, Sony RX100 II and the Fuji X100S.

JPEG Signal to Noise Ratio

Canon G1X II Signal to noise ratio

Here we can see that the Canon performs very closely to the original G1X in terms of signal to noise ratio for JPEG images, which is pretty unsurprising considering both cameras share the same sensor. On the flipside, however, both the Sony RX100 II and the Fuji X100S beat it, with the Sony RX100 II putting in the best performance as a whole.

Raw Signal to Noise Ratio

Canon G1X II signal to noise ratio TIFF

Here in the raw files (after conversion to TIFF), we can see that the Mark II appears to be beaten quite significantly by its predecessor, the G1X. However, this is probably indicative of a reduction in the amount of sharpening that is applied to files, allowing you to add your own to your own preference. Here, the Sony RX100 II puts in a consistently good performance, as foes the Fuji X100S.

JPEG Dynamic Range

Canon G1X II JPEG dynamic range

For dynamic range, the graph is a little more complicated. The Canon G1X Mark II puts in an almost identical performance to its predecessor, the G1X, which again is not particularly surprising. It's a relatively flat shape across most of the ISO range, only dipping at the ISO 3200 point, which suggests a good, consistent performance. Similarly, the Fuji X100S has what appears to be a pretty flat dynamic range, but images from this camera tend to have very pleasing contrast.

Raw Dynamic Range

Canon G1X II TIFF dynamic range

For raw format files (after conversion to TIFF), the Mark II puts in a better performance than its predecessor, especially at the lower end of the sensitivity scale. It beats the other cameras on test at the very lowest sensitivity (ISO 100), but its beaten by the Fuji X100S and the Sony RX100 II throughout the rest of the sensitivity range. Never the less, the graph shows that the G1X Mark II gives you plenty of scope to adjust colours and contrast in post-production when working with raw format files should you need to.

Sample images

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

The G1X II is suited to a wide range of shooting subjects, with a 5x optical zoom and a fast maximum aperture throughout the focal range.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Having a tilting screen makes it easier to compose from awkward angles, while using the screen to fire off the shutter release is handy if the camera is in a slightly awkward position.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

The G1X II is capable of capturing very clean images at high sensitivity settings, such as ISO 3200.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Colours are bright and punchy directly from the camera.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

The new closer focusing distance of 5cm allows you to get closer to the subject than the original G1X allowed.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

At its widest point, the G1X Mark II offers a focal length of an equivalent of 24mm, allowing you to capture a wide view of the scene.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

The 5x optical zoom offers an equivalent of 120mm, which should be flexible enough for the majority of shooting situations.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

However, if you need extra length, you can engage the camera's digital zoom functionality, and although quality is somewhat diminished at this range, it is helpful if you need it.

Digital filters

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Canon G1 X Mark II

Click here to see full resolution image.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Canon G1 X Mark II

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

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 100 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 200 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 400 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 800 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 1600 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 3200 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 6400 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 12800 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Raw

Canon G1 X Mark II

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

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Canon G1 X Mark II

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

The premium compact camera market is an interesting place to be right now.

The G1X II is a genuinely decent piece of kit which I can see a lot of photographers being tempted by it, especially those who are loyal to the Canon brand.

After taking its time to update the G1X range, we had pretty high hopes for its successor, and happily I have not been disappointed with what the camera is capable of. Bright and punchy colours, tons of detail and low noise in high sensitivity shooting situations, mixed with improved operation speeds and focusing all lead to a worthwhile upgrade.

On the other hand, the G1X II is bulky and heavy in comparison with other compact cameras – there's no getting away from that fact. Due to the large sensor, it has to be, but don't expect this to be something you can easily slip into a pocket. That may be a little offputting for somebody looking for something which is conveniently portable – in which case the Sony RX100 II still sits pretty at the top of the premium compact market.

If you can live with the large size, the G1X II is great to use – with the large touchscreen making it easy to set the autofocus point and the customisable buttons and rings around the lens allowing you to work however you want.

We liked

Rather than rushing out an upgrade to the G1X, Canon has taken its time to produce an upgrade which is actually an overhaul rather than a tweaked version of the old camera. The new Digic 6 processor makes for superb low light performance and super quick operation speeds.

We disliked

The G1X II has to be large to facilitate its very big sensor, but it results in a camera which is bulky – it's larger than some of the compact system cameras currently on the market, which means that it's not pocketable and, if that's what you need from a second camera, you will be disappointed. On the other hand, some will enjoy the camera's large size and weight, as it makes it feel like a 'serious' camera.

Final verdict

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.

For now, with its high price and bulky build, I can't see the G1X II taking too many sales from the current king of the compacts, the Sony RX100 II. However, image quality is better than from the Sony, so if you are looking for the ultimate in performance from something which is (relatively) pocketable, this is the camera for you – especially if you already have an affinity with the Canon brand.

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