Body & Design
It's clear from even a casual glance that the G1 X is a PowerShot G-series camera cast in the 'traditional' design mold. Canon's PowerShot G range has always been focused on offering an involved photographic experience and has improved generation-on-generation. The G1 X offers solid build quality and well-placed controls in a way that feels somehow pre-digital in its dependence on external buttons and dials, rather than menus and on-screen displays. An optical viewfinder and high-resolution flip-out/swivel LCD increase its versatility in a range of different shooting situations.
However, whereas previous G-series models didn't offer any significant image quality improvement over some of Canon's more pocketable compacts (the G12 and the S95 share the same sensor, for example), the G1 X's much larger sensor promises a meaningful increase in critical image quality.
The move to a sensor so closely related to that used in Canon's EOS 7D DSLR also means that the G1 X is able to offer 1080p24 movie shooting. This movie-capturing capability is recognized with the addition of a direct movie record button on the camera's shoulder. Two tiny holes on the top plate - one behind the flash, one next to the mode dial - conceal the stereo microphones used to record audio.
The G1 X has a pop-up type flash unit (the elevation is necessary to avoid shadowing by the lens at wideangle), which is activated by a little switch behind it on the top plate. The built-in flash unit has no remote control capabilities but the G1 X's hotshoe will accept the ST-E2 transmitter unit for off-camera flash control.
The exposure compensation dial has been shifted compared to the G12 to below the mode dial, where the ISO dial is located on the smaller-sensor camera. Consequently this control has been displaced to the 'up' button on the 4-way controller, and the subsequent rearrangement of rear button functions sees the self-timer option disappear into the FUNC menu. On the plus side, exposure compensation is now available to +/- 3 stops, in 1/3 stop increments.
Top of camera controls
The G1 X uses much the same control layout as the PowerShot G12, which as far as we're concerned counts as a good thing. The top plate plays host to the power button, zoom lever (concentric with the shiny silver shutter button), and two chunky, positive dials to set exposure mode and exposure compensation. The power button is slightly recessed and requires holding down to a moment to turn the camera on, which should reduce the risk of accidental activation. This button subtly lights up green when the camera is powered up.
There's also an EOS-like control dial at the top of the handgrip, positioned for operation by your index or middle finger. It's used to change primary exposure parameters such as aperture in Av mode and shutter speed in Tv mode. Overall this makes exposure control straightforward and direct; Canon DSLR users in particular will feel immediately at home here.
Rear of camera controls
The back of the G1 X is positively bristling with buttons, which means you get direct access to a wide range of functions - more in fact than you get on some entry-level SLRs. The 4-way controller offers direct access to focus and flash modes and ISO sensitivity, while clustered around it are buttons for auto-exposure lock, metering pattern and AF area selection. The FUNC button brings up Canon's familiar sub-menu for changing settings such as drive mode and while balance, while the 'S' shortcut button on the top left shoulder is programmable, and can be assigned to give direct access to an additional functions such as self timer, drive mode, or AF lock.
By default, the rear dial does nothing directly except control shutter speed or aperture in M mode (you can choose between the two, with the front dial controlling the other). However it can be assigned to other functions - you'll find details on the operation and handling page of this review.
Other body elements