Rather uncharacteristically, Canon has given us very little access to its PowerShot G1 X II or information about it, but they did give us a chance to handle a prototype model back at CES. The camera itself won't be available until April, but we got the chance to get our hands on one at the CP+ 2014 show in Yokohama. We'll bring you hands-on photos from the show if they are. However, it's still possible to deduce some information about the camera, based on that experience and the information that has been made available.

New form-factor - No built-in viewfinder

Unlike its predecessor, the G1 X Mark II doesn't follow the styling of the regular G-Series of camera. Instead it more closely resembles the company's EOS-M mirrorless camera, with some of the G-Series' direct controls grafted onto it. The lens looks a lot like the original G1 X's but now features twin control dials - one of which spins smoothly for controlling features such as manual focus, the other of which features click-stops, for controlling settings such as aperture.

This re-crafting of the body means there's no longer room for a viewfinder - instead those who want one can pay extra for an optional electronic unit. There will be some who'll resent having to pay extra to buy an additional viewfinder, having already spent $799 on a compact camera. But, given how indifferent the tunnel-type finder was on the equally expensive G1 X, it's a move that may actually be welcome to anyone who wanted a smaller camera, or who prefers using the rear screen.

The G1 X II will be sold in Europe with an accessory grip included; US models will not bundle the grip, instead it will be offered as an optional accessory.

The camera market has progressed tremendously in the two years since the original G1 X was launched, with the arrival of Sony's RX100 and ever-smaller mirrorless models, leaving potential buyers with considerably higher expectations of how small and how capable cameras can be. For the G1 X Mark II to succeed, it had to be smaller and faster than its predecessor. It's certainly achieved the former, and has added NFC-mediated Wi-Fi to broaden its capabilities and appeal. Canon's rather likeable touchscreen interface is a nice addition, too.

Multi aspect-ratio sensor

Canon says the G1 X Mark II is based around a new sensor, though it's always hard to tell exactly how much has actually been re-engineered. Although Canon's marketing material talks about the Mark II having a 18.7 x 12.5mm sensor, we're pretty confident that it's actually the same size as the G1 X's (nearer 18.7 x 14mm).

Sensor sizes:

Camera NameSensor formatCrop FactorSensor dimensions
(mm)
Sensor area
(mm2)
Nikon D5300 APS-C 1.53 23.5 x 15.6 367
Canon Rebel T5i APS-C (Canon) 1.62 22.2 x 14.8 329
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II 1.5"-type (4:3 crop) 1.92 17.9 x 13.4 240
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II 1.5"-type (3:2 crop) 1.92 18.7 x 12.5 234
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Four Thirds 2.00 17.3 x 13.0 225
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II 1"-type 2.72 13.2 X 8.8 116

What's changed is the way that area is used. In a manner that will be familiar to users of Panasonic's GH1, GH2, LX3 and LX5, the G1 X Mark II never uses its entire sensor, instead taking different crops from it.

The G1 X Mark II's pixel dimensions show that it's cropping from a sensor that's larger than the imaging area, allowing it to offer the same angle-of-view for both the 3:2 and 4:3 aspect ratios.

The 18.7 x 12.4 mm sensor size that Canon has been quoting appears to refer to the 3:2 crop area - the sensor itself is the same size as the one in the original G1 X.

So, while the camera's sensor is the same size as its predecessor's, all the aspect ratio modes offer a 1.92x crop factor, rather than the G1 X's 1.85. This is how the camera is able to switch between 3:2 mode and 4:3, while still offering the same diagonal angle of view, and also how it's able to offer a slightly stretched 24-120mm equivalent range from a 12.5-62.5mm lens (rather than 28-112mm from a 15.1-60.4mm unit).

Improved lens specifications

As well as offering a slightly broader zoom range, the Mark II is also able to boast a considerably faster aperture range. F2.0-3.9 not only means it's at least 1EV faster throughout its zoom range, it's also considerably rangier and brighter than the standard 18-55mm lens you'd usually find on the Rebel we compared it to earlier.

The brighter lens also gives the G1 X II a considerable advantage over the current zoom compact crown holder - Sony's RX100 II. Taking sensor sizes into account, the Canon should receive around 0.7EV more light at the wide end of its lens, and 1.7Ev at the long end. Its 24-120mm range is also usefully more flexible than the RX100's 28-100 reach.

Overall

We're also promised that the focus speed of the Mark II has been improved over that of the original camera, and that it now offers a 5cm Macro mode for closer focusing. If both these promises are lived up to, then it goes a long way to addressing our biggest concerns about the G1 X.

The other point to address is the value proposition (or 'price' in common parlance). Just like its predecessor, there are two ways of looking at the G1 X II: as a large and wildly expensive compact camera, or as a cut-price 'Rebel' with a faster, more capable lens built in to a much more compact body. Which you think is true will depend on your perspective, but if placed alongside cameras such as the Ricoh GR, the Fujifilm X100S or the Nikon Coolpix A, the price suddenly doesn't seem so outrageous.

We look forward to getting to have a proper play with the PowerShot G1 X Mark II, and will report back as soon as we have.