The Canon PowerShot G1 X hoodwinked the digital camera market when it was announced back in January at CES. Traditionally, no fixed lens point-and-shoot camera had ever dabbled with a large sensor before, if you exclude the very expensive Fujifilm X10. But even the X10’s 2/3 size sensor was not an unprecedented size upgrade from the 1/1.7-inch chips found in the Canon PowerShot G12, Nikon Coolpix P7100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. Canon has raised the point-and-shoot stakes by integrating a beastly 1.5-inch CMOS sensor within the PowerShot G1 X. To put that into perspective, the G1 X’s sensor is almost as big as an APS-C sensor, which is the standard size for nearly all entry to mid-level DSLRs. That’s right, the Canon PowerShot G1 X has a sensor that’s about the same size as the Canon EOS 60D’s sensor. Holy smokes!
As a result, it’s difficult to categorize the Canon PowerShot G1 X. The monster’s image quality is comparable to the best Micro Four Thirds and entry-level DSLRs on the market, therefore the G1 X can’t really be compared to a traditional point-and-shoot. But then again, the camera has a fixed lens and contains beginner level controls. On the other side of the coin, the Canon PowerShot G1 X is also one of the most capable manual machines in the photography world with a versatile f/2.8-f/16 aperture range, 60-second shutter speed and a 12,800 max ISO level. While the Canon PowerShot G1 X was one of my favorite cameras to date, I did run into a few snafus along the journey. Read the review for the full 411.
Canon PowerShot G1 X
- Manual controls out the wazoo in Photo mode
- Inspector Gadget-like external design
- Great image quality and awesome high ISO performance
- Vari-angle LCD with improved 922K resolution
- Excellent Playback mode
- Useless optical viewfinder
- Very limited control in Video mode, can only shoot 1080 at 24fps max, no Mic jack
- Focal length prohibits any kind of real macro shooting
- Underwhelming battery life
- Sluggish autofocus and slow burst mode
Ideal for: Street, portrait and landscape photographers. Long exposure junkies. Students and hobbyists looking to boost their photographic knowledge. Pros looking for a compact companion to their 5D Mark III.
Find it at: Canon product page.
Suggested Retail Price: $799.99.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Design
The Canon PowerShot G1 X has an external design that will send any serious photographer into a convulsive fit of excitement. It’s the Inspector Gadget camera, representing enough dials, buttons and shortcuts to make shooting a swift and painless process. First off, we’ve got the dial duo; one in the front and one in the back. Shutter speed and aperture adjustments were a breeze, but both dials could also be customized in other shooting modes to tackle anything from aspect ratio to white balance. Tack on an assignable Shortcut button, four-way directional pad with ISO, Focus, Flash and Display shortcuts, Focus Lock, Metering and Focus buttons, and the Canon PowerShot G1 X is a formidable force.
But I haven’t even mentioned the Exposure Compensation dial layered beneath the Mode dial. There’s also a popup flash and hotshoe located on top of the G1 X. Canon also improved the vari-angle LCD screen on the G1 X by increasing its pixel count to 922,000 dots, which offered a much crisper image and actually made the Manual Focus usable. Unfortunately, there were a few hiccups along the Revolution Highway, for the Canon PowerShot G1 X was saddled with an optical viewfinder that was entirely unusable due to the distorted, microscopic viewing pane. Also, the lens needs a special (expensive) adapter in order to use filters.
But perhaps the most disconcerting detriment on the Canon PowerShot G1 X is its lens. Not only does the lens offer a limited 4x optical zoom range, but macro shooting is nonexistent. The closest I could get to a subject in Macro mode was around eight inches, which is preposterous. As a result, I likened the PowerShot G1 X to a street or portrait cam, due to its 28-112mm (35mm equivalent) focal length. And one last thing. The lens protrudes immensely from the body of the PowerShot G1 X. I understand that the larger sensor necessitated fortified optics, but the camera felt as though it was zoomed to telephoto every time I shot at the widest angle.
Lastly, the Canon PowerShot G1 X is a large beast, with a size that falls under a Super Zoom and above a compact point-and-shoot. Despite its quirks, the G1 X features one of the best external designs any advanced photographer could ask for.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Features
The Canon PowerShot G1 X is not a point-and-shoot revolution merely because of its massive sensor. The camera’s feature set is vastly superior to anything else in the point-and-shoot circuit. Its only main competition is the Fujifilm X10, but when you stack the new Canon against the Nikon Coolpix P7100 or Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, there’s no contest. The G1 X is even significantly better equipped than its predecessor, the Canon PowerShot G12. We’ll start with the camera’s enticing set of manual controls, which includes a shutter speed that can reach depths of 60-seconds. This is awesome, since most point-and-shoots only offer a maximum of 15-seconds. This also meant that I was able to tackle long exposures with gusto, which is one of my favorite forms of photography.
Most point-and-shoots also provide limited aperture ranges, maxing out at f/8.0 if you’re lucky. The Canon PowerShot, thanks to its larger sensor and lens team, offers a versatile aperture range of f/2.8-f/16. This means I was able to play with depth of field, blurring out backgrounds for bokeh effects or cinching that hole down to make sure everything in my path was focused equally. Between the pro-level shutter speed and aperture ranges, the Canon PowerShot G1 X was already becoming my favorite point-and-shoot in the field, but its insane ISO range really tossed the cherry on the sundae. The Canon PowerShot G1 X can shoot at ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 12,800. Yowzers! My only complaint was that the Auto ISo range only topped off at 1600, and I would have liked a higher max ISO level.
Now while a substantial dose of quality manual controls makes me buckle at the knees, the Canon PowerShot G1 X had even more tricks up its sleeve. The camera featured a digital level meter that helped me keep the camera level for horizons and symmetrical shots. There was exposure bracketing, in-depth White Balance with color graph adjustment, built-in neutral density filter for capturing rolling waterfalls and such and even a Dynamic Range Correction in JPEG-only mode. Tack on a cluster of Scene modes and digital filters like HDR and Color Accent, and the Canon PowerShot G1 X never bored me in the slightest.
Of course, there were a few bumps along the road. First off, the G1 X was sluggish when using the autofocus and the camera’s 4.5fps continuous burst mode was slow compared to other models in this price range. I also expected a better battery life out of the larger pack in the G1 X. But perhaps the most disappointing flaw on the Canon PowerShot G1 X was its lack of Video features. While the camera was a dynamo in Photo mode with manual controls up the yin yang, I couldn’t even adjust the exposure in Video mode. Furthermore, there was no Mic jack! No Mic jack!? Even the Nikon Coolpix P7100 has one of those handy holes. That right there led me to the conclusion that the Canon PowerShot G1 X is suited far more for advanced photographers than it is videographers.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Image Quality
The reason this camera is so revolutionary is that no other manufacturer had stuffed a sensor this large inside a fixed-lens point-and-shoot until Canon blasted out the G1 X. We’re talking about a 14-megapixel 1.5-inch CMOS sensor. To put things in perspective, the new 1.5-inch Canon CMOS chip is almost as big as an APS-C sized sensor found in DSLRs like the Canon 60D and Nikon D7000. The G1 X’s new sensor is slightly larger than a Micro Four Thirds sensor and is just under the dimensions of Sigma’s Foveon X3 chip. Yes, it’s even bigger than the sensor in Fujifilm’s more expensive X10 fixed lens prosumer camera. I’ve been asking for a point-and-shoot like this for years!
So it did not come as much of a surprise to find out that the Canon PowerShot G1 X cranked out the best point-and-shoot imaging performance I’ve seen to date. Forget the days of puny 1/2.3-inch and 1/1.7-inch point-and-shoot sensors. Canon has officially formed the Point-and-Shot Major Leagues, and the G1 X serves as a discerning platform upon which all future point-and-shoots will be judged. Colors, detail, gradation and the whole shebang were reminiscent of the Canon EOS Rebel T3i’s performance. But the camera’s most impressive feature was its low light capability, providing one of the best high ISO demonstrations I’ve seen to date, and that statement is not limited solely to point-and-shoots. Still image quality with the Canon PowerShot G1 X is so good that I would use the camera to replace an entry or mid-level DSLR. In fact, it’s the only piece of photographic weaponry that I brought with me on a recent press trip.
The Canon PowerShot G1 X can capture 14-megapixel still images in JPEG, RAW or RAW+JPEG. Intriguingly enough, there was not much of a staggering difference between the RAW quality and the JPEG quality. RAW colors were richer when I compared them to their JPEG counterparts in Adobe Lightroom, but detail was usually a dead heat, sometimes the JPEG took the edge. At high ISO levels, the difference between RAW and JPEG quality was the most noticeable. The RAW images exhibited more grain and noise, yet retained much finer detail than the JPEG images, which were a bit muddier, but saddled with far less grain. Because of this, most photographers will not miss out when shooting primarily in JPEG mode, though pros will definitely want to shoot in RAW+JPEG mode.
Now if you’re a serious videographer with high hopes for the Canon PowerShot G1 X, this next portion of the review might make you cry. Without a doubt, the video quality on the G1 X was not what I had expected it to be. First off, the highest quality I could record in was 1080p 24fps, which is great for a cinematic effect and not much else. Then there was the lack of control in video mode and no Mic jack. But when it came down to the pixels, the G1 X just didn’t have it. Curves and edges exhibited jagged lines and the overall detail was amiss. Sure, static bright light recording looks nice and low light sensitivity is impressive, but don’t consider the Canon PowerShot G1 X a double threat when it comes to Photo and Video modes.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Still Image Samples
Canon PowerShot G1 HD Video Samples
The Buffalo Call
And now our journey with the revolutionary Canon PowerShot G1 X must come to an end, although I really don’t want to return this camera to Canon. The true Buffalo Call with the Canon PowerShot G1 X is that this thing truly is a revolution within the land of small sensor point-and-shoots. Its still image quality, features and external design are its best strengths, and many street and portrait photographers will benefit the most from the G1 X.
However, the Canon PowerShot G1 X is not particularly suited for advanced videographers or macro hunters. The camera’s lens needs some fine-tuning in order to abolish that ridiculous 8-inch minimum Macro proximity. Its autofocus is slow and the continuous burst mode lags behind the competition. Also, I’d like to see a better battery life and improved optical viewfinder next round.
But if the aforementioned cons don’t particularly effect the way you shoot, then the Canon PowerShot G1 X is a winner. Photographers who specialize in portraits, street photography, landscapes and long exposure night shooting will be very happy with the Canon PowerShot G1 X.