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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good detail and resolution at low sensitivities
  • Excellent high ISO performance, very clean output with good detail
  • Compact dimensions for sensor size and lens range
  • Intuitive user interface with good number of external controls and customizability
  • Excellent build quality with metal body and comfortable rubber grips
  • Articulated screen useful for waist-level and high angle shooting
  • Very impressive image stabilization system
  • Good-quality built-in lens with versatile zoom range
  • Optical viewfinder is not great to work with but good to have in very bright light
  • Virtually silent shooting
  • Built-in 3-stop ND filter
  • Efficient CA and distortion correction with only minimal loss of quality at the edges of the frame
  • Good bundled raw converter with comprehensive feature set (Digital Photo Pro)

Conclusion - Cons

  • Very slow continuous shooting for this class of camera, no control over parameters in High-Speed Burst scene mode
  • Comparatively slow AF, slowing down further in macro mode
  • Limited close focusing capabilities require frequent switches to macro focus mode
  • Built-in zoom lens is relatively slow, especially at the tele-end
  • Slightly steep tone curve in the highlights can lead to blown highlights in high contrast scenes
  • DR correction, digital filters, noise reduction and other image parameters not available when shooting raw
  • Noise reduction not adjustable when shooting Raw+JPEG
  • Slightly 'conservative' feature set, no panorama mode or high speed video/stills modes
  • Simple video mode, no manual controls or external microphone socket
  • Jagged lines and other artifacts in video output
  • Below average battery life
  • Auto ISO only goes up to ISO 1600
  • Not possible to fit filters and a lens hood at the same time

Overall conclusion

The G1 X is Canon's first, by many nervously anticipated, venture into large-sensor compact cameras and, without a doubt, a particularly interesting addition to the marketplace. The G1 X is a hard camera to categorise though - it combines excellent 'large sensor' image quality across its ISO range with the compact camera convenience of a built-in 28-112mm equivalent zoom range and a relatively small, portable body. In theory, this should make it a compelling proposition for anyone who wants the image quality of an SLR and the compositional flexibility of a 4x zoom in a portable package.

Unlike many compacts (but in keeping with Canon's general design philosophy for its G-series) the G1 X offers a wide range of external controls, an articulated LCD and an optical viewfinder, which makes it not only an attractive second camera for SLR enthusiasts but also a potential alternative to entry-level SLRs or mirrorless system cameras in its own right (especially as most of those cameras are only ever used with their original kit zoom).

However, this being Canon's first large-sensor compact camera it appears the Japanese manufacturer still has some catching-up to do in at least one or two areas. The AF is rather slow, when compared to contemporary mirrorless system cameras, such as the Panasonic GX1 or the latest models of the Olympus PEN series. Combine this with the camera's dead-slow 1.9 frames continuous shooting rate and it's clear that the G1 X is not the tool of choice for any type of photography involving fast moving subjects.

Another limitation of the focus system is its (lack of) close focusing capability. You'll need to get used to switching frequently into Macro mode when shooting close-up portraits or other nearby subjects. At focal lengths of more than 50mm you have to switch to macro mode to focus closer than one meter. This slows the AF down even further.

In terms of feature set the G1 X offers most things a photographer could ask for but gadget lovers are arguably served better elsewhere. There is no built-in panorama mode and while Canon has implemented a number of digital filters, these are only usable when you shoot in JPEG only, so you don't have a raw file of the same image to process in a different way. The video mode is also very simple with no manual controls, slow-motion or control over sound recording.

All in all the the Canon G1 X can be a great photographic tool if it fits your requirements. It captures excellent image quality in almost any light situation and packs a very versatile zoom range into a compact package, eliminating the need for interchangeable lenses. In combination with its abundance of external controls this makes it a good proposition for bulk-conscious travel or landscape photographers.

However, if you prefer the flexibility of an interchangeable lens system, if a large proportion of your photography depends on a fast AF or continuous shooting, if you are planning to shoot creative video or if you like to play with digital effects and helpers in your camera you might want to look at competitors such as the Sony NEX-5N/NEX-7, the latest models in Olympus' PEN range or the Panasonic GX1. If you want an even more portable camera than the G1 X, a premium compact, such as the Fujifilm X10 or Olympus XZ-1, could be an option. Their smaller sensors don't capture the same high ISO image quality as the G1 X but this disadvantage is partly made up for by those cameras' faster lenses.

Image Quality

The G1 X's sensor has a lot in common with the current line of Canon APS-C DSLRs and this shows in the excellent image quality across the ISO range. That said, in terms of image processing and image quality options the G1 X is a PowerShot compact camera, meaning colors are pretty saturated and bright with a contrasty tone curve and occasionally unsubtle sharpening.

The high quality lens contributes to the end result with good performance across the frame and zoom range. At wide-angle there is some softness toward the edges of the frame (probably caused by the camera's distortion correction) but you'll have to zoom in to a large magnification so spot any imperfections. This decreases as you zoom in further until it is hardly noticeable at the tele end of the lens.

At high sensitivities the G1 X sets a new benchmark for compact cameras. You really only need to worry about noise and the effects of noise reduction at ISO 1600 and above where the Canon takes a quite heavy-handed approach towards both chroma and luminance noise. The end result are very clean pictures with slightly smeared low contrast detail. The latter is only really visible at large magnifications and easily rectified with some custom noise reduction in raw conversion. In any case the G1 X's high ISO performance is among the best we've seen from APS-C (or similarly sized sensor) cameras. That said, the G1 X's advantage in terms of sensor and imaging pipeline performance is at least partly offset by its slow lens. Other premium compact cameras, such as the Olympus XZ-1 or the Fujifilm X10, have smaller sensors but can, thanks to their fast lenses, stick to lower ISOs in dim lighting conditions.

Apart from noise reduction, raw conversion also gives you some post-capture flexibility in terms of white balance and other image parameters. The camera has a slight tendency to blow highlights in high contrast scenes and shooting raw gives you the opportunity to recover some of those areas as well but you'll struggle to increase the JPEGs' image detail.

When talking about image quality we definitely have to mention the fact that the G1 X does not allow you to change the JPEG processing when recording raw. You're stuck with the default settings for parameters such as dynamic range enhancement, noise reduction and color modes and other image parameters when shooting raw+JPEG. Depending on how you take photographs this might be a highly irritating limitation (and one which are disappointed to discover in such an otherwise well-specified camera). If you can live with this limitation though you'll find that the G1 X delivers excellent image quality across the ISO range without any nasty surprises.

Handling

In terms of both design and handling the G1 X is very similar to previous Canon G-series cameras such as the G12 but there are some differences. The new model sadly loses the G12's ISO sensitivity dial but retains the exposure compensation dial on the top-plate which makes exposure adjustments quicker and more intuitive than on most other cameras in its class. It is also slightly larger with the collapsed lens protruding further from the body. That said, in comparison to mirrorless system cameras, the G1 X arguably offers the better size/zoom range relationship and is ideal if you are in the market for a pocketable imaging tool with an all-round zoom range.

With its weighty body and rubberized grip the camera sits well in the hand and offers external controls for most essential shooting parameters, giving the sense of a tool designed for creative photography. Additional options can be accessed via the Func-menu, Canon's version of the ubiquitous quick menu, which means after the initial setup there's hardly ever a need to dive into the menu system.

The function of the dials and the 'S'-button can be customized and your most frequently used settings and parameters can be saved in the 'MyMenu'-menu and C-modes on the mode dial, allowing for personalized setup of the camera and predefined settings for specific shooting situations.

Despite the intuitive operation the camera comes with a few quirks and peculiarities which, depending on your shooting style and habits, might or might not be relevant to you. Nevertheless you should at least be aware of them. The most important ones are arguably the lens' limited close focusing capability and the slightly sluggish response of the ISO screen. The former means that in varied shooting situations you'll have to switch a lot between Macro and Standard focus modes. The latter can be a little annoying when frequently changing the ISO setting. The animated 'emergence' of the ISO screen looks nice but we'd much rather have it appear instantly.

The Final Word

Overall, the G1 X is an excellent camera for some but not for everyone. If you are aware of its shortcomings, such as the sluggish AF, limited close-focusing capability or lack of manual control in video, and think you can live with them, the Canon gives you great image quality and a versatile zoom range in a small package and without the need to carry a stack of lenses.

Canon deserves some praise for finally matching the G-series' excellent body and UI design with a large sensor and for launching something genuinely different in the otherwise rather uniform mirrorless and compact camera markets. There is some room for improvement for the 2nd generation of this product but for those photographers who can work around its limitations it can be a powerful photographic tool and therefore earns itself our silver award.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Canon PowerShot G1 X
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Optics
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Anyone who wants DSLR-like image quality and a versatile zoom range in a pocketable format.
Not so good for
Sports and action photographers, serious videographers
Overall score
76%
The G1 X is an excellent camera for some but not for everyone. The camera gives you great image quality and a versatile zoom range in a small package without the need to carry a stack of lenses. However, the sluggish AF, limited close-focusing capability, and lack of manual control in video mode will make some users look elsewhere.

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Comments

Total comments: 11
Sdaniella
By Sdaniella (2 months ago)

Canon:
G1X 15.1mm-60.4mm Zoom Lens
Max.Ap.Diam: 5.4mm (15.1/2.8) Wide
Max.Ap.Diam: 10.4mm (60.4/5.8) Tele
Horiz.AoV: 63.53° Wide
Horiz.AoV: 17.6° Tele

0 upvotes
biginabox
By biginabox (3 months ago)

Still the same flimsy, delicate lens and leaf design, I assume. No thanks.
After both a G10 and a G16 succumbed to 'shutter error' (the G16 within a week), it's manual transmission for me from now on. Something I make work by twisting with my fingers.
Come to think of it, I lose count of the number of my devices which have died simply because the 'automated' systems failed. VCR's, tape-decks, Minidisk players, and now cameras.

0 upvotes
rugosa
By rugosa (6 months ago)

I bought a G1X 2 weeks ago from a person that bought it for his wife for Christmas. She found it too much camera for her needs and so I bought it with about 10 shots total for $400. I usually shoot with a Nikon D300 and the Nikon higher priced lenses. For underwater and a light carry around I had a G10 for 5 years. After 2 weeks of shooting I must say that I'm amazed by the IQ of the photos this camera puts out. Low light shots up to ISO 1600 are allot better than my D300. It's not a perfect camera but then non of them are. Ordered a Canon 500D close up lens for it after seeing how well that worked on Marco Nero's photos with the G1X on www.pbase.com . This camera also shoots some very good underwater photos from examples I have seen on the internet so I picked up Canon's case on sale for my trips south. All told I think that although this camera is not for everyone most owners give it at least an 8/10. www.witnesstobeauty.com has another good review, great landscape photos

Comment edited 51 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Gunzorro
By Gunzorro (6 months ago)

I've been wanting this camera since it was announced. I'm primarily a DSLR shooter, and FF at that. I also have owned a G6 and currently G10 and S110. So, I'm pretty familiar with where this camera fits in and what a step it is for Canon to take.
I just bought a used version at a very nice price so will be trying it out in the near future.
I would have rated the camera a little higher, based on my past experience with Canon and reports I've read from reviews and owners. Particularly, Optics and Performance would have got a couple ticks up in my estimation. I think a 79 or 80 would have been appropriate -- being practically in a category of its own: attached zoom, large sensor, compact camera.
It won't be a camera for everyone, true. But if you want better IQ than P&S and use it as a second camera to your DSLR for quick grab shots and take-anywhere convenience, you should be well served! :)

0 upvotes
jan snks
By jan snks (9 months ago)

Image quality G1X, dpreview reports "excellent image quality across the ISO range without nasty surprises".
I would like to refer to the www.imaging-resourcing.com review of this camera. They reported a nasty Light Leakage phenomenon at higher ISO settings and short shutter times. This defect seems to be confirmed by Canon.
Would anybody comment on this ?

0 upvotes
millhoud
By millhoud (10 months ago)

I've noticed that the g1x took this studio shot at f7.1 , while other "enthusiast" compacts (g15 or p7700...) at f4.5. Could somebody explain me why's that? It would be nice to know the shutter speed too. Thanks

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (10 months ago)

It's to offer enough depth-of-field (it's a 3D target).

This has a sensor much bigger than the others, so needs to be stopped-down further in order to provide enough depth-of-field.

0 upvotes
millhoud
By millhoud (10 months ago)

Please sorry my ignorance, but to achieve this it has to use a slower shutter speed too or, thanks to the higher light-catching capabilities of the bigger sensor the g1x uses comparable shutter speeds as, say, the g15 or p7700 , with a smaller aperture?

0 upvotes
lem12
By lem12 (11 months ago)

If Canon increases DR able to at least match T2i and updates its Panorama mode (similar to the Sony's would be great), this would be true compact I'm looking for. I'll buy it no doubts!

0 upvotes
Wildbegonia
By Wildbegonia (11 months ago)

Almost but not there yet.

3 upvotes
Ponderer
By Ponderer (Aug 5, 2013)

G1x Cannons almost camera
Almost an APS-C sensor, Almost a good EVF, Almost enough lens magnification, Almost small enough. A good first try for a company that just started designing cameras.

9 upvotes
Total comments: 11