Lens details

The G1 X's core capabilities are of course defined by its lens, which is an entirely-new 15.1-60.4mm F2.8-5.8 design. It offers a 28-112mm-equivalent focal length range, and in terms of depth of field and background blur, behaves much as an F5.2 - F11 optic would on a full frame camera. The lens is also fitted with a built-in 3-stop neutral density filter that can be engaged to allow the use of slower shutter speeds, for example to blur moving subjects such as flowing water.

The G1 X lens 28-112mm equivalent 4x zoom lens offers a very versatile focal length range that covers most general photography needs. However, the obvious downside of a built-in kit-lens type zoom is that it doesn't cover the extremes. There are no wide-angle or tele attachments available for the G1 X, so if your portfolio contains a large proportion of extreme wide angle and telephoto shots the Canon might not be the right tool for you.

Wide-angle (28mm equivalent) Telephoto (112mm equivalent)

The table below shows the maximum aperture reported by the camera vs focal length; the minimum aperture is an entirely sensible F16 across the range (any smaller would result in considerable diffraction blurring). We've also shown the approximate focus distance ranges promised by the camera in both normal and macro AF modes. These may come as a considerable shock to existing G-series users, but reflect the awkward reality that as actual focal lengths increase, minimum focus distances tend to follow.

Equiv FL (mm)
28
35
50
85
110
112
Maximum aperture
F2.8
F3.5
F4.5
F5.6
F5.6
F5.8
Minimum aperture
F16
F16
F16
F16
F16
F16
Focus range (Normal)
40cm - inf
50cm - inf
1.1m - inf
1.5m - inf
1.4m - inf
1.3m - inf
Focus range (Macro)
20-70cm
20cm - 1m
30cm - 1.5m
60cm - 1.8m
70cm - 1.8m
85cm - 1.6m

The upshot of this is that the G1 X's close-focus capabilities are distinctly limited, especially in comparison to smaller-sensor compacts such as the Olympus XZ-1. It can manage across-the-table head and shoulders portraits just fine, but nothing you'd realistically describe as 'Macro' (maximum magnification is approximately 0.08x at wideangle, and 0.07x at telephoto, giving a minimum subject area fractionally smaller than a 10"x8" print). Film compact ex-users will sigh in recognition, but photographers used solely to small-sensor digicams may be less forgiving.

ND-Filter

The Canon G1 X offers a built-in ND-filter which can be activated in the Func-menu. This feature is very useful when you want achieve a slow shutter speed in relatively bright light conditions. The picture below of a water feature in the park was taken on an overcast day. Nevertheless, even at the lowest ISO setting (ISO 100) and using the smallest aperture (F16), 1/15 sec was the slowest shutter speed that could be achieved. The ND-filter 'swallows' three stops of light and brings the shutter speed down to 1/2 sec, achieving a more visually pleasing rendition of the flowing water.

ND filter off - 1/15 sec / F16 / ISO 100 ND filter on - 1/2 sec / F16 / ISO 100
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Image stabilization

The G1 X comes with Canon's latest optical image stabilization, which the company claims should allow the use of hand-held shutter speeds 4 stops slower then usual before shake-induced blur becomes a problem. The system offers Canon's latest 'Intelligent IS', which automatically switches between modes dependant upon subject, choosing from Normal, Panning, Macro, Tripod, Dynamic (for movie work), Powered (for telephoto) and Dynamic + Macro modes.

Canon's image stabilization system in the GX 1 is truly impressive and in our experience comes very close to meeting these claims. In our measured studio tests at full tele (112mm equivalent) and with the 'powered IS' turned on we could still achieve a very high percentage of sharp images at a shutter speeds as slow as 1/30th sec. With IS totally turned off we needed a shutter speed of 1/250 sec to achieve the same result,and at 1/30 sec we did not get a single sharp shot.

This image was taken in very low light at an approximate equivalent focal length of 75mm. The shutter speed was 1/20th sec at ISO 6400. The G1 X's excellent image stabilization system in combination with the sensor's low-light capabilities allow for hand-held photography in very low light.

When shooting in stills mode the 'Powered IS' option does not make much difference but it is very useful when shooting videos at longer focal length where the stabilization effect is clearly visible in the resulting footage. This is especially useful in crowded spaces where there it's not possible to shoot video with a tripod. You can see a low-light video sample which was shot with the 'Powered IS' option on our video page.

Sensor size and aperture:
Relationship to low light image quality and background blur

The G1 X has a much larger sensor than other fixed-lens compacts, which implies it should offer much better high ISO image quality. But for fixed-lens cameras, that's only half of the story, and lens speed plays a crucial role when considering low light performance. Smaller-sensor cameras such as the Olympus XZ-1 and Fujifilm X10 sport lenses which are rather faster than the G1 X's, by a stop or more at wideangle and two stops at telephoto. This means that, under any given lighting, you can always use lower ISOs with these cameras if you want to, by opening the lenses up to get more light into the camera. This will go some way to offsetting the G1 X's larger-sensor advantage - especially at telephoto.

Much the same reasoning applies when considering how well each camera will be available to deliver blurred backgrounds when shooting portraits. Here the optical calculations deliver an answer that some may find surprising: when shooting portraits at the long end of the zoom with the lens wide open, the G1 X will offer little advantage over either the X10 or XZ-1 in terms of subject isolation and background blur. Of course this isn't anywhere near the whole story with regard to overall image quality, but it's worth knowing.

Overall, though, the G1 X's combination of large sensor and 4x zoom lens still provides more compositional flexibility, coupled with equal or better low-light capability, when compared to a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera used with a typical kit zoom (14-42mm F3.5-5.6 or 18-55mm F3.5-5.6). It should also overall outperform smaller-sensor compacts like the X10 and XZ-1. However it's important to understand that the differences won't necessarily be as great as sensor size alone might suggest.

The portraits below visualize what we've been trying to explain in this section. For the first example we took images toward the long end of the zoom of the Canon G1 X and the Olympus XZ-1 respectively (approximately 112mm equiv). At this zoom position the G1 X's largest aperture is F5.8 but the XZ-1 can still open the lens up to F2.5, offsetting the smaller sensor size and generating a background blur that is close to the G1 X.

Canon G1 X, F5.8 Olympus XZ-1, F2.5

For the second example we took an image of a still life under low tungsten light. At the focal length these pictures were taken at (approximately 93mm equivalent) the Olympus XZ-1 offers a maximum aperture of F2.2 which is 2.7EV faster than the G1 X's F5.6. Both images were taken at a shutter speed of 1/60th sec. On the G1 X we needed ISO 6400 to achieve this shutter speed. On the Olympus, thanks to the fast lens, we could reduce the sensitivity to ISO 1000 and still achieve a similar exposure. The G1 X image still looks a little cleaner but it's probably fair to say that in shooting situations that require high sensitivities the XZ-1's faster lens offsets quite a large proportion of the Canon's advantage in terms of sensor performance.

Canon G1 X, ISO 6400, F5.6, 1/60 sec Olympus XZ-1, ISO 1000, F2.2, 1/60 sec
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