Body, controls and handling

Canon's PowerShot G5 X isn't the smallest compact zoom camera out there, but the advantages to that additional size include room for plenty of control points, a decent grip, and more. Let's take a closer look and see what works about the camera's design, and what needs some work.

Key takeaways:

  • Built-in pop-up electronic viewfinder is small but bright
  • Touch interface on the tilting screen is polished and responsive
  • Good direct controls, decent customization
  • Comfy grip
  • Strong Auto ISO implementation
  • Premium-feeling build, except for the lens control ring
  • Good wireless connectivity
  • So-so battery life

Overall design and handling

Canon's G5 X Mark II on the left, G7 X Mark III on the right.

Not only will the G5 X Mark II look familiar to anyone who's seen Canon's G7 X lineup, but it also shares a lot of its design features with Sony's RX100-series. They even share a similar amount of direct control points (save for the G5 X II's dedicated exposure comp dial), though the Canon's buttons and dials give you more feedback when you use them.

For the most part, the G5 X II has the look and feel of a premium, well-built product. The rubber on the grip is nice and sticky, and textured paint helps keep the camera feel less slippery and more secure in your hand. We wish the pop-up electronic viewfinder had 'one-touch' operation like the latest Sony cameras, as the current two-step process makes for a slightly more clunky experience.

The G5 Mark II's flash isn't huge and powerful, but it's handy for some situations.

Next to that EVF is a pop-up flash, which will combine with the leaf shutter to give you fast sync speeds and enable to give you some good flash fill-light during the daytime, if not offer a ton of power at night. As we mentioned earlier, the screen on the G5 X II is a tilt-only affair, and won't swing out to the side. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice the eye-sensor for the EVF on the top of the screen as well.

The built-in EVF makes daytime shooting, particularly when shooting into bright light sources, much easier than having to rely on a rear screen.
Processed in Adobe Camera Raw | ISO 125 | 1/500 sec | F1.8
Photo by Carey Rose

In terms of ports, the G5 X Mark II comes with a USB-C connector and a micro HDMI port - notably, it lacks the microphone port that Canon bestowed upon the G7 X Mark III. As with previous Micro USB-equipped models, the G5 X II can charge over USB, though you may find you'll need a more powerful charger than, say, the one that came with your phone.

My main gripe with the handling? The lack of any sort of damping between the clicks of the lens control ring makes it feel chintzy and hollow, and the fact that all the other controls feel more refined and well-damped makes the lens ring's cheapness stand out that much more. And we should note that there is no switch to make the ring's action 'smooth' - it's permanently clicky. This means it's great for changing 'stepped' settings like exposure compensation, but it's not ideal for manually focusing while shooting video.

Controls and customization

Aside from the viewfinder pop-up lever, all of the G5 X Mark II's controls are visible here - including a dedicated wireless button on the righthand side, and a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the top.

The general control layout is pleasant to use. The shutter button has good half-and-full-press feel, and is surrounded by a zoom toggle. The exposure compensation and mode dials have just the right amount of resistance, though the rear dial that doubles as a four-way controller is a bit fiddly.

The touchscreen interface is, as typical for Canon, polished and responsive: you can tap to move your focus point or initiate tracking, use the touchscreen to navigate the menus and images in playback, and also drag around with your eye to the finder to move your autofocus area. This last behavior, called 'Touch and Drag' in Canon vernacular (and 'touchpad AF' by nearly every other manufacturer), also allows for some customization. You can specify which portion of the screen is active, so you don't accidentally move your AF point with your nose.

Customization options are a little limited overall - there are a wealth of options for the Movie Record button, decidedly fewer for the 'star' button, and the only two options for the rear dial are 'Standard' and 'Off.' While we expect this will be sufficient for a broad swath of users, we'd like to at least see the same spread of options for both the Star and Movie Record buttons.

Settings assignable to the Star (*) button:
  • AF-ON
  • AF-OFF
  • AE lock
  • FEL (flash exp. lock)
  • Off
Settings assignable to the Movie Record button:
  • Movie record
  • One-touch IQ setting (toggle or hold)
  • Aspect ratio
  • Raw burst mode
  • ISO
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer
  • ND filter
  • Metering mode
  • Picture style
  • White balance
  • Touch shutter
  • Touch and drag AF
  • One-shot <-> Servo AF
  • AF method (area)
  • AF point selection
  • Peaking
  • Digital tele-converter
  • Create folder
  • Eco mode
  • Switch between VF / screen
  • Display off
  • Off
Settings assignable to the lens control ring:
  • Standard
  • Exposure comp
  • ISO
  • Focus
  • WB correction
  • Step zoom
  • Auto lighting optimizer
  • Aspect ratio
  • Off

Although the on-screen Q menu is fairly comprehensive, it cannot be customized, to either add or subtract options as you see fit.

The built-in panorama scene mode is a nice feature to have, when 24mm just isn't quite wide enough.
Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 125 | 1/500 sec | F3.2
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

There's an array of scene modes that you can use as well. Most won't be terribly interesting to more advanced photographers, but the motion panorama option may be useful (though it's JPEG only), and there is a 'Star time-lapse movie' scene mode that's the only way to get something that approaches a time lapse feature (there's no other option for this in the menus), and it spits out a ready-made video for you.

Wireless options

The G5 X Mark II comes with Canon's latest wireless connectivity implementation, meaning you get Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi (there's no NFC), and you can activate Wi-Fi by hitting a small button on the camera's side.

We've found that with modern Canon cameras, it's best to start with the Bluetooth connection first, instead of skipping straight to Wi-Fi. The Bluetooth connection is a cinch to set up and then, as soon as you launch the app or choose to send an image from the camera, it will automatically transition to the faster Wi-Fi connection to transfer the image with no further input required from the user. Setting up the Wi-Fi connection first is just a bit more of a hassle, and sometimes the app refuses to recognize the camera.

Auto ISO

The G5 X II comes with an excellent Auto ISO interface, allowing you to specify your desired ISO range, as well as a minimum chosen shutter speed. But you can also have the camera automatically choose a shutter speed based on your focal length, and bias this faster or slower depending on what you're shooting.

You can use Auto ISO in manual exposure mode, so you can specify your shutter speed and aperture and let the camera determine the brightness by varying the ISO value - and you can bias this using the exposure compensation dial. This is also possible while shooting video.

Battery life

Battery life is, as with just about every compact enthusiast zoom camera on the market, pretty limited. It's just the price to pay for having a powerful camera that still fits in your coat pocket. It's got a CIPA rating of 230 shots, but in our experience, a single battery will get you through a day of frequent shooting, provided you turn the camera off between shots. And enabling Eco mode will help further as well. Still, probably best to have a spare battery or a (powerful) USB power bank handy.