In terms of operational performance the Canon G1 X has something of a split personality. The camera turns on quickly and the lens only requires a short moment to extend. Although we wish the ISO adjustment screen appeared instantly rather than being animated and 'emerging', the G1 X's user interface, whether you are using the external buttons or the on-screen menus, generally reacts swiftly to any user input. Browsing and zooming in review mode is as responsive as we would expect from a camera in this price bracket and the shutter-lag is essentially nonexistent.
However, where the G1 X lacks behind some mirrorless system cameras is the continuous shooting speed and AF speed. A continuous shooting rate of 1.6 frames per second is the slowest we've seen in a long time and won't be too useful when trying to capture fast-moving action. You can switch to a 4.5 fps scene mode but in turn you lose most manual control over image parameters. The AF system works reliably but compared to cameras like Panasonic's current Lumix G-series range, it's distinctly sluggish.
We've also noticed that live view becomes a little laggy when the camera is attempting to focus. This isn't a problem most of the time but when the light levels drop, the system starts to hunt, and the camera effectively locks up during this process.
Ultimately of course the G1 X is not meant to be a sports or action camera and most users will not require a super-fast burst mode or professional-level AF, but this doesn't mean that they wouldn't appreciate them. Even for fairly everyday shooting requirements like your kids' soccer match or capturing your skater friends' freestyling attempts the G1 X can be frustratingly unresponsive compared to the best of its mirrorless competition. Panasonic's G-series Lumix cameras, for example, offer significantly better autofocus performance.
Continuous Shooting and Buffering
In terms of continuous shooting the G1 X's specification isn't spectacular. In JPEG capture mode, if you switch the drive mode to continuous and hold the shutter button down with a fast card (a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I SDHC card in our case) you can shoot continuously until you run out of space. However, you'll be shooting at 1.9 fps - hardly blazing speed, by today's standards. This goes down further to 1.2 fps and 1.1 fps when switching from JPEG only to RAW and RAW+JPG respectively.
As if that wasn't slow enough the cameras slows down further as you move the zoom position toward the wide-angle setting, where the maximum JPEG continuous shooting speed is only 1.6 fps. We suspect the further delay is caused by the distortion correction that has to be performed by the JPEG engine at these focal lengths. On the plus side there is no discernible buffering/writing delay after you finish shooting a burst.
|Frame rate||1.9 fps||1.2 fps||1.1 fps|
|Number of frames||until card full||until card full||until card full|
|Buffer full rate||n/a||n/a||n/a|
All timings performed using a 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I SDHC card (90MB/s)
Another disadvantage of continuous shooting mode on the G1 X is that the camera cannot maintain a live view feed in continuous shooting. On the screen you see a sequence of still frames in real time after they've been captured and while they're being buffered which makes it virtually impossible to follow a fast-moving subject while panning the camera, unless you use the 'well it's better than nothing' optical finder. That said, it almost doesn't matter, with the slow continuous shooting rates and its relatively short lens the Canon G1 X simply is not the tool of choice for fast-paced action or sports photography.
If you find yourself needing a faster frame rate than the very sluggish 1.9 fps of the standard continuous shooting mode you've got the option to switch to the 'High-Speed Burst HQ'-mode which is hidden among the camera's scene modes. At 4.5 frames per second and a maximum of 6 frames per burst (JPEG only) it is still not exactly impressive. Exposure, ISO and white balance are fully automatic in this scene mode. In good light the mode tends to use shutter speeds faster than 1/500 sec which makes it usable for fast-moving subjects but Auto ISO limits itself to ISO 1600, which means you may run into motion-blur issues in lower light. To make things even more difficult, in this mode the screen is blank while you are shooting a burst, meaning you are forced to either pan blindly after pressing the shutter button, or resort to the optical finder for a rough approximation of composition.
Autofocus speed / accuracy
The G1 X is Canon's first mirrorless large-sensor camera and the AF system is where this lack of development experience shows just a little bit. The AF is, as you would expect from a contrast detect system, reliably accurate, but it is not as speedy as some competitors in the mirrorless system camera bracket of the market such as the Panasonic GX1 or the latest models of the Olympus PEN series, and noticeably less positive in marginal light.
|This is a raw conversion of an image taken at ISO 3200 in low light (1/30th sec). The G1 X's AF is not the quickest around but with relatively static subjects, such as the person in this portrait, it works reliably, even in very low light.|
There is a very obvious delay between half-pressing the shutter button and the focus locking on. The focusing time increases further when focusing at the long end of the lens and in low light where you'll occasionally see some 'focus-hunting'. That said, as long as your focus area is contrasty enough, the lens will almost always eventually focus even in very dark conditions. The AF illuminator can help but always illuminates the center of the frame, rendering it useless when moving the AF away from the center.
If you can live with the sluggish focus speed the G1 X's minimum focus distance could still be a problem. At the wide end of the G1 X's zoom minimum focus is 40cm and this increases to 1.3m at the tele-end of the zoom. At 50mm it's already 1.1m which means that for close-up portraits, for example across a dinner table, you have to switch to macro mode, which lets you get closer but slows the focusing speed down further. Don't forget to switch back to standard focusing mode afterwards though to avoid trouble when focusing on a subject in the distance in your next shot, as the G1 X cannot focus to infinity in macro mode.
For most users this is unlikely to be a massive problem all the time but you should get used to the idea of frequently having to change between Macro and Standard focus mode when using the G1 X in varied shooting situations - not something we can remember having to do to the same degree with any other modern camera.
The G1 X comes with the same NB-10L battery pack that is used in the Powershot SX-40 superzoom camera. It's got a capacity of 920mAh which, according to Canon, is good for 250 shots (CIPA standard). While shooting our sample images for this review we found the battery life to be approximately in line with Canon's but the real number will depend a lot on your shooting conditions and operational habits. 250 images is not an awful lot compared with a midrange DSLR but you should typically have enough juice for a day of casual shooting. For more intense imaging sessions it's probably a good idea to bring a spare battery.
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