When I got the Canon G1X as a birthday present I thought I was getting an upgrade from my G10. To be honest I’ve had my G10 for over three years and remain very happy with it. G10 photos when taken with the external flash are reasonably good. So why would one consider upgrading to the G1X? Indeed except for the new sensor and better video shooting quality, the G1X actually looks like a downgrade from the G12.
WHAT I LIKE
The G1X features a large CMOS sensor that is just 20% smaller than those found on digital SLRs. This 1.5” CMOS sensor is about 6 times larger than that found in most digital compact cameras. So the theory is that you should be able to get better, sharper shots with the G1X compared to other cameras. Alas the CMOS sensor is the primary and mostly significant saving grace of this camera – it’s mostly downhill from here. Ok, before I list out the litany of misfires, the G1X is able to capture 14-bit RAW image files (if you are into this) and, like the other G series, can shoot in lower resolutions of 7MP, 2MP and 0.2MP for those occasions when you have to sacrifice quality just to be able to take some photos. It can take 16:9, 3:2 and 1:1 aspect ratios in addition to the standard 4:5.
A feature I like with some of the EOS cameras is the ability to shoot HD video. The G1X shoots 1080p Full HD at 24fps. You can downgrade this to 720p and 640×480 VGA if the need arises. Finally with an ISO range of 100 to 12,800 in standard mode, the G1X ups the ante in light sensitivity compared to its predecessors. For instance, the G12’s top setting is ISO 3200.
Thankfully, Canon kept the built-in 3-stop Neutral Density filter allowing you to shoot at slower speeds in bright conditions. The G1 X supports HDR mode that can automatically capture and then blend three images at different EV values for enhanced dynamic range. This is a cool trick to have when you are not absolutely sure what the best light setting is for a particular scene.
One of the things I liked with the G11 and G12 was the vari-angle LCD monitor. This allows you to shoot at odd angles. You can also fold it back towards the body to protect it from scratches when the camera is not in use.
Like my old G10, the G1X offers multiple exposure options including Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual. In addition to full automatic mode, it has 13 individually selectable Scene modes and a selection of digital effects.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
Here we go. The G1X’s optical zoom has been downgraded from 5x on the G12 to 4x. So if you’re a budding paparazzi this camera may not be your default compact of choice.
Few compact cameras with the exception of the Canon G series come equip with an external viewfinder. This feature is great for shooting in bright conditions. However, the G1X only covers 77% of the frame and at a slightly offset angle from the true lens view. So you will need to remember this when composing the shot otherwise you may inadvertently crop your shot.
One of the attractions of compact cameras is the small built for easy portability. Unfortunately, Canon forgot this concept when they created the G1X – it is noticeably bigger than the G12 and arguably stretches the definition of ‘compact’. The lens of the G1X is huge as it juts out of the body by around 35mm rather than sitting flush like my old G10. I understand this is because of the larger sensor used – It requires a wider image circle, which in turn requires a larger lens.
Having used the G1X for sometime now, I noticed that the camera is sluggish when going through the menu of controls and features. Unfortunately this sluggishness is not limited to when skimming through the control menus.
The G1X autofocus speed is very slow for an expensive camera. In good light and with a target that is a reasonable distance the AF was unable to lock (and therefore shot). This becomes progressively worst as lighting conditions degrade. I’ve been disappointed on several occasions when I need to shot a moving object. This inability to focus on a target gets even more serious when taking macro shots. Let me make it simple for you – if you like taking macro shots a lot, this isn’t the camera for you.
This slow speed extends to burst mode. Once again the G1X fails miserably here. For an advanced compact camera like the G1X and with a heritage like Canon you wonder what were the engineers thinking when they were designing the G1X.
I will be at fault not to give credit where credit is due. The G1X takes very good images when the settings and conditions are right. For the prosumer photographer, the ISO performance of the G1X will be its saving grace. Canon engineers have done their homework here with the G1X delivering almost noise-free images from 100 to 3200. You do start to see some noise at ISO 6400 and 12800 but, come on, this is a compact camera – not a DSLR.
As someone who has been taking photos for more than 30 years, the G1X fails in so many other ways that you can argue, Canon cannot be forgiven for letting these technical slips go unnoticed. So many factors influence the outcome of a shot. End of the day though if the camera can’t focus, the shot can’t be taken, and you’ve lost that fleeting memory. What do you do?
I am guessing that some of these deficiencies can be corrected with a software tweak. So far, Canon hasn’t been forthcoming on this.
If you want one of those video reviews, try this one: