Originally Posted: March 11, 2012
Last Updated: October 29, 2012
The Canon PowerShot G1 X ($799) may look like "just another G-Series camera", but it's got one big trick up its sleeve (or should I say, its lens). The G1 X features a 1.5" (18.7 x 14.0 mm), 14.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, which is 6.7 times bigger than the already larger-than-average sensor in the PowerShot G12. The G1 X's sensor is even larger than what's in the Nikon 1 System and Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras. Larger sensors mean better quality photos -- especially at high sensitivities -- so I have high hopes for the G1 X in the image quality department.
A comparison of camera sensor sizes, with the G1 X in blue
Based on an illustration by Digital Photography Review, used with permission.
Aside from the sensor, the other big differences between the two cameras are zoom power, LCD size/resolution, movie resolution, and size/weight. The G1 X retains the same basic design and feature set of the G12 (which will remain in the Canon lineup), along with its optical viewfinder, loads of dials and buttons (many of which are customizable), RAW support, and plethora of accessories. The table below spells out exactly what's different between the two cameras:
As you can see, the PowerShot G1 X is better than the G12 in most respects. However, its lens is less powerful (and slower at the telephoto end), the flash is weaker, and battery life is considerably worse. That said, it has a lot going for it, too.
Can the PowerShot G1 X offer D-SLR quality photos in a (relatively) compact body? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
Despite its $799 price tag, the PowerShot G1 X has a rather unremarkable bundle. Here's what you'll find when you crack open the box:
- The 14.3 effective Megapixel PowerShot G1 X digital camera
- NB-10L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Neck strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
- 35 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM
As with all of their recent cameras, Canon neither builds memory into their cameras, nor includes a memory card in the box. So, unless you have one already (which you probably do), you'll need to buy yourself an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card right away. You're going to want a 4GB card at the very least, and larger if you plan on taking a lot of Full HD videos. A high speed (Class 6 or higher) card is recommended for best performance.
The PowerShot G1 X uses the NB-10L lithium-ion battery, which contains 6.8 Wh of energy. That's down from the 7.8 Wh battery used on the G12, and you know what that means. The PowerShot G1 X takes 250 shots per charge, which is an almost 50% drop compared to the G12. Why Canon downsized the battery on their flagship PowerShot is beyond me.
Anyhow, here's how the G1 X compares to other cameras with larger-than-average sensors:
As the table illustrates, the PowerShot G1 X's battery life is the lowest on this small list of cameras. Thus, you may want to pick up a spare battery, which will set you back around $60. You can only use the optical viewfinder instead of the LCD to save some juice.
When it's time to charge the NB-10L, just pop it into the included charger. This charger, which plugs directly into the wall, takes about 110 minutes to refill the battery.
The G1 X supports most of the accessories used by the G12, with the exception of conversion lenses. Here are the most interesting accessories for the G1 X:
In addition to those, the G1 X also supports a pair of macro lights, both of which require the MLA-DC1 adapter in order to attach to the camera.
Canon has one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter CameraWindow, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ZoomBrowser in Windows and ImageBrowser on Macs. The software lets you e-mail or print photos, upload videos to YouTube, and do some editing, as well. Available photo editing features include trimming, redeye removal, level/tone curve adjustment, and color tuning. While the Browser software can view RAW files, it cannot edit them -- see below for another option. Movie editing tools in Image/ZoomBrowser include trimming and frame grabs.
For editing RAW images you'll need to use Digital Photography Professional, which is a very capable product. Here you can adjust exposure, highlight and shadow detail, the tone curve, noise reduction, and white balance. There are also tools for reducing lens distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing. If you'd rather use Adobe Photoshop instead, just make sure that you have version 6.7 RC1 or newer of their Camera Raw plug-in.
Also included with the G1 X is PhotoStitch. PhotoStitch can take photos that you've lined up using the Stitch Assist feature on the camera, and combine them into a single panoramic image. The only thing easier is if the camera did it automatically, which the G1 X does not.
Unfortunately, Canon only supplies a 35 page "basic manual" in the box with the G1 X. It'll get you started, but for more details, you'll need to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The manuals themselves aren't what I'd call pleasure reading, but they will certainly answer any question you may have about the camera. Instructions for the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.
Design & Features
The PowerShot G1 X is essentially a larger version of the G12. If you've used any of the recent G-series cameras, you'll feel right at home here. The camera is constructed mostly of metal, and it feels very solid in your hand. It would've been nicer had the right hand grip been a bit larger, given the heft of the camera. The G1 X has more than its share of buttons, though thankfully they usually perform just one function. You can tell that the camera is target toward enthusiasts, as there are direct buttons for AF point selection, metering mode, and AE/AF lock, plus a dial for exposure compensation on the top of the camera.
Here are a couple of side-by-side photos of the PowerShot G12 and G1 X:
|The PowerShot G1 X (at right) is a giant version of its little brother, the G12|
Besides the obvious size differences, you can see that the G1 X now has a pop-up flash (instead of a fixed one), and a slightly larger grip. The top view shows how the dedicated ISO dial has gone the way of the dodo bird on the G1 X, with that function now controlled by the four-way controller. On the back view comparison you can see that some buttons have moved around, with the most notable change being that red-colored movie recording button. The G1 X's LCD is also a bit larger than the one on the G12.
Above you can see that the G1 X is definitely a "handful". Below is a chart comparing the size and weight of the "larger-than-normal sensor" group that I used in the battery comparison:
The first thing to point out is just how much larger than G1 X is compared to the G12: 50% in terms of volume, and 40% for weight. In fact, the G1 X is the largest and heaviest camera in the group by a large margin. It's definitely not a pocket camera, so plan on slinging it over your shoulder or carrying it in a bag.
Alright, now it's time for a tour of the G1 X. Use the tabs to flip between various views of the camera.
The first thing to see here is the G1 X's very large lens. Not in the zoom power sense (it's only 4X), but in terms of bulk. It's simple, really: the G1 X's sensor has a larger surface area, so the lens needs to be big enough to send enough light to it. The lens is certainly unremarkable in the spec department: it has an F2.8-5.8 maximum aperture range, which means that it's quite slow at the telephoto end. The focal range of the lens is 15.1 - 60.4 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 112 mm. If you want to use filters on the camera, you'll have to buy the adapter mentioned in the previous section, which screws right onto the lens.
Something else to point out about the lens is that it's not close-up friendly. In regular shooting mode, the minimum focus distance is 40 cm / 15.6 inches, versus 5 cm / 2 inches on the PowerShot G12 (at full wide-angle on both). In macro mode, the focal range drops to 20 cm / 7.9 inches on the G1 X, as opposed to 1 cm / 0.4 inches on the G12. Unless you're in Auto mode, where the camera switches between normal and macro mode automatically, you may be switching between the two focus settings frequently when taking photos of subjects in close proximity.
This probably goes without saying, but the G1 X features Canon's optical image stabilization system. This helps to reduce the risk of blurry photos, and it smooths out your movies, as well. New to the G1 X is Intelligent IS, which chooses the best IS mode (normal, panning, hybrid, dynamic, powered, tripod) depending on the situation.
By far, the G1 X's biggest feature (no pun intended) is its 1.5" CMOS sensor. I've already told you about how much larger the sensor is than other compact and interchangeable lens cameras, and why this is beneficial. We'll see if the sensor delivers on its promises when we get to the photo quality discussion.
At the top-right of the photo is the G1 X's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 7.0 m at wide-angle, and 1.0 - 3.1 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). If you want more flash power, you'll want to consider attaching an external flash to the G1 X's hot shoe.
Just above the grip you can see the camera's front dial, a feature which is very rare on compact cameras. To the right of that is the AF-assist lamp, followed by the optical viewfinder.
The last thing to see here is the release for the ring around the lens barrel, which you'll only remove when attaching the adapter for a macro ring flash.
As with the G12, the PowerShot G1 X features a rotating LCD display. Unlike its cheaper sibling, the G1 X's display is 3 inches in size, versus 2.8". when flipped out to the side, the screen can rotate a total of 270 degrees, which is handy for shooting over people in front of you, or when the camera is on a tripod. The LCD can also be put in the "traditional" position (shown on the next tab), or closed entirely.
Here you can get a good look at the G1 X's 3-inch LCD. This screen has 922,000 pixels, so everything is ridiculously sharp. Outdoor visibility is good (though a few cameras do it better), and in low light the screen brightens up nicely, so you can still see your subject.
Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. The viewfinder is good-sized, and displays 77% of the frame. One thing to note is that you will see the lens in the lower-left corner of the viewfinder for roughly the first half of the zoom range. Something else I noticed that is that my nose tended to rest against the LCD when using the viewfinder, so keep that cleaning cloth handy. You can adjust the viewfinder focus by using the diopter correction knob on its left side.
Moving on to buttons now -- to the left of the viewfinder is the customizable Shortcut button, to which you can assign virtually any menu option. Over on the other side we find the playback and movie recording buttons.
Diving down below, we have four buttons that surround the four-way controller / scroll wheel combo. The four buttons are for focus point selection, AE/AF lock, entering the menu system, and adjusting the metering mode. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation and reviewing photos, and is also has direct buttons for adjusting the ISO, flash, and focus mode settings, as well as what information is displayed on the LCD. The scroll dial can be used for adjusting manual exposure settings, menu navigation, and photo viewing.
Here's the top of the G1 X which, as you saw earlier, looks a bit different that the G12. At the far left is the flash release, with the flash itself (closed here) above it.
In the middle of the photo is the hot shoe, which will work best with one of Canon's many Speedlights. You can control a Canon flash using the G1 X's menu system, and features like AF-assist, wireless control (with the 580EX only), and high speed x-sync are available. If you're using the new 320EX flash, you can also take advantage of its LED lamp for movie recording. Using a non-Canon flash means that you'll probably have to set exposure manually on both the camera and the flash. You're also limited to a x-sync speed of 1/250 sec.
Straddling the hot shoe are two pinhole-size microphones. Continuing to the right, we find the mode dial, with the dedicated exposure compensation dial below it. I'll tell you all about the mode dial options after the tour.
The last things to see here are the power button, with the combination shutter release and zoom controller above that. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.5 seconds. I counted sixteen steps in the camera's 4X zoom range.
The only thing to see here is the speaker, which is located just below the strap mount. The flash is popped up here, and the lens is at full wide-angle.
While it looks like the ring around the lens can rotate (for zoom or focus), alas, it does not. The only time you'll remove it is when you're attaching the adapter for an optional ring flash.
On the opposite side of the camera are its I/O ports, which are protected by a plastic door of good quality. The ports here include USB + A/V output, wired remote input, and mini-HDMI output.
Below those is a port through which you'll feed the power cable for the optional AC adapter.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here.
On the bottom of the G1 X you'll find a metal tripod mount (hidden from view here) and the battery/memory card compartment. The tripod mount is neither centered, nor in-line with the lens, and if you've got the camera on a tripod, you won't be able to access the battery or memory card. The door that covers the battery/memory compartment is of average quality.
You can see the NB-10L lithium-ion battery over on the right side of the photo.
When composing photos on its LCD, the G1 X offers a live histogram, electronic level, and grid lines (not shown)
Let's kick off our discussion of the G1 X's features by talking about the items found on its mode dial. Here's what you'll find on it:
If you're someone who wants a point-and-shoot experience, then just pop the camera into Smart Auto mode. There, the camera will select one of thirty-two possible scene modes for you, even detecting if you're using a tripod. Another nice feature of Smart Auto mode is that it will automatically switch between normal and macro focusing, which comes in handier than you'd think. I wish an Auto Macro option was available in all shooting modes!
I want to talk about a few of the Creative Filters and Scene Modes, and will begin with HDR, which stands for high dynamic range. In this mode, the G1 X will take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value (which is not adjustable). Those three shots are combined into one, with the end result being a photo with better shadow detail and fewer clipped highlights. Since the camera doesn't take the shots quickly enough for handheld usage, you will need to use a tripod. Here's a real world example for you:
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As you can see, the HDR photo is much more pleasant to look at than the original. You can see the details on the ceiling, and highlight clipping is reduced (but not eliminated). If you're in a high contrast situation and have a tripod handy, this feature is well worth using.
Here's a quick rundown of the other Creative Filters and Scene Modes that don't need examples:
- Movie Digest: in this mode, the camera will record 2-4 seconds worth of video before every still; the results are compiled into a single video comprised of the days events; I don't really understand the point of this feature, but there you go.
- Smart Shutter: choose from smile detection, or cool wink and face self-timers; smile detection waits until someone in your photo smiles, and then it'll start taking photos; the wink self-timer takes a photo two seconds after someone in the frame winks at the camera; face self-timer takes a photo 2 seconds after a new person (presumably the photographer) enters the frame
- High-speed Burst HQ: the camera takes six photos in a row at 4.7 frames/second; do note that the LCD goes black while shooting is in progress
- Handheld Night Scene: the camera takes several exposures and combines them into a single photo, which (hopefully) reduces blur and noise
- Stitch Assist: helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching into a single panorama (using the bundled software)
White balance fine-tuning
Manual controls include those for shutter speed and aperture, as well as white balance and focus. As you'd imagine, the RAW format is also supported. The G1 X can bracket for both exposure and focus, but not for white balance. There are two spots for custom white balance settings, and you can fine-tune it, as well. There is no way to set the color temperature, which is a bit surprising on this high-end camera. Another handy feature is an electronic level (pictured earlier), which works for both landscape and portrait photography.
Moving onto menus now, I want to start with the G1 X's function menu, which is activated by pressing the center button on the four-way controller. Here are the most interesting options you'll find there:
- DR correction (i-Contrast): reduces highlight clipping; choose from off (default), auto, 200%, or 400%; ISO will be boosted as high as 400 in order to make this feature work
- Shadow correction: brighten the dark areas of a photo, with off or auto being the options here
- My Colors: enhance colors or skin tones, take B&W or sepia photos, or manually adjust contrast/sharpness/saturation
- Self-timer: choose from the usual 2 or 10 second times, or use the custom setting and choose the number of shots and delay that you want
- AF frame: choose from face detection (9 faces max), tracking AF, FlexiZone, or center; the FlexiZone feature lets you pick any area in the frame on which you'd like to focus; you can adjust the size of the AF point in by pressing the Menu button while you're positioning the focus point
- ND (neutral density) filter: reduces the amount of light coming through the lens by three stops, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds or larger apertures than you could otherwise
- Still image aspect ratio: select from 4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 1:1, or 4:5
- Image type: choose from JPEG, RAW, or RAW+JPEG; a RAW image is about 21 MB in size, while a Large/Fine JPEG is around 3.8 MB
Now I'd like to show you the DR Correction feature in action. There are four settings: off (default), auto, 200%, and 400%. As I mentioned, the camera needs to boost the sensitivity in order for this feature to work, so you'll want to use Auto ISO (with a range that goes to at least 400) if you use this feature. Here's what you can expect from this feature:
|DR correction off
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|Auto DR correction
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|200% DR correction
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|400% DR correction
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With the DR correction at its default setting -- off -- you can see quite a bit of highlight clipping. That's surprised me, given the size of the G1 X's sensor. With the setting moved to Auto or 200%, the highlight clipping is noticeably reduced. For best results, though, you'll want to use the 400% setting. That boosts the ISO to 400, but on this large-sensored camera, that's not as big of a deal as it would be on a regular compact.
|Shadow correction off
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|Shadow correction on
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What can I say, other than the Shadow Correction feature does its job, without a noticeable increase in noise. For those of you wondering: yes, you can use both DR and shadow correction at the same time.
Shooting menu, with help info at bottom
The rest of the shooting-related options that I want to talk about can be found in the PowerShot G1 X's main menu. The menus are attractive, easy-to-navigate, and feature an available "hints & tips" feature that describes each option (but take up an extra row in the menus). The notable features here are:
- Digital zoom: normally I tell people to turn this off, but if you're willing to lower the resolution, you can use it without a reduction in image quality; for example, dropping down to 7 Megapixel gives you 5X of total zoom power
- Servo AF: the autofocus system continues to run with the shutter release halfway-pressed, which is helpful for moving subjects
- Continuous AF: similar to the previous item, but the focusing stops when you halfway-press the shutter release button
- Redeye correction/lamp: choose from digital removal, a "pre-flash" using the AF-assist lamp, or both; these are found in the Flash Settings submenu
- ISO auto settings: choose the highest sensitivity that you want the camera to use, as well as how quickly it'll boost it (rate of change = how slow of a shutter speed it'll use)
- Hg lamp correction: here's a new one -- this removes a greenish tint that may occur when shooting scenes lit by mercury lamps
- Blink detection: the camera will warn you if someone in the frame had their eyes closed
- IS settings: choose from continuous or "shoot only" stabilization, or turn it off entirely; the Powered IS mode is for shooting at full telephoto, and should be turned off when panning or walking
- Set Dial Functions: choose which exposure settings are adjusted with the front and rear dials
- Set Shortcut button: you can assign almost any camera setting to this button on the rear of the camera
- My Menu: you can store up to five of your favorite menu items onto this separate menu tab; you can even make the camera go here first, instead of the regular shooting tab
Now I'd like to tell you about the PowerShot G1 X's movie mode, which is now capable of Full HD recording. You can record video at 1920 x 1080 at 24 frames/second with stereo sound, until the file size reaches 4GB (which takes about 14 minutes). While filmmakers like the 24 fps frame rate, regular folks may find it a bit choppy. If you don't mind dropping down to 1280 x 720, you can record at 30 frames/second for about 20 minutes. A VGA resolution is also available, with a recording time limit of 30 minutes. You can also use Apple's poorly marketed iFrame codec, which is supposed to be easier to edit.
The camera lets you use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie, though it moves very slowly. The camera focuses continuously, so everything stays in focus. The image stabilizer is also available, which keeps things shake-free. There are no manual controls available in movie mode, unless a wind filter counts. Most of the Creative Filters I told you about earlier can be used for movies, as well as stills.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting. Be warned, it's a large download!
Aside from the slight choppiness, the video quality is pretty good!
The PowerShot G1 X has a pretty nice playback mode. Some of the notable features here include:
- Movie Digest playback: I told you about this feature earlier; here you can play back the VGA-size video of the day's events
- Smart Shuffle: a bizarre feature which shows four photos similar to the one you're viewing
- My Category: assign a category to a photo, which is then transferred over to the "Browser" software; if a photo was taken via a scene mode, the camera may have done this automatically
- i-Contrast: brightens dark areas of your photo
- Redeye correction: digitally remove this annoyance from a photo
- My Colors: apply color effects (vivid, monochrome, sepia, etc) to a photo you've taken
- Jump: move through photos by date, category, file type, whether they're tagged as a favorite, or in groups of 10 or 100
- Erase range of photos: I normally don't mention image deletion features, but the ability to select a range of photos without having to click your way through thumbnails is very handy
Photo editing functions include the ability to rotate, resize, and crop. Movies can have unwanted footage trimmed off of the beginning or end of a clip, which is always handy.
The PowerShot G1 X shows just basic information about your photo by default. Pressing "down" on the four-way controller reveals more (including a histogram), and if you press "up", you'll then see a RGB histogram.
The G1 X moves very quickly through photos, though you may want to turn off the fancy between-photo transitions for the best performance. If you really want to go quickly. use the rear dial. There you can also jump through photos by date.
Performance & Photo Quality
Despite its status as the flagship Canon PowerShot, the G1 X is a very average performer (and sometimes a bit worse than that). The thing that bothered me the most were the camera's autofocus speeds. While other manufacturers recent cameras have very fast AF systems, the G1 X -- like all Canon compacts -- is behind the times. The table below summarizes the camera's overall performance:
Yeah, that's pretty disappointing for a $799 compact camera. If you're shooting action or sports, you might want to find a camera with a more robust autofocus system. If you're not, then the G1 X is probably "good enough".
Does it fare better in terms of continuous shooting speed? There are four full resolution burst modes on the camera, though one of them (Continuous LV) is for manual focus and fireworks mode only, and will not be included below. That leaves us with regular continuous (locks AE/AF on first shot), continuous AF (adjusts focus and metering between each shot), and High-speed Burst HQ, a scene mode. Here's what you can expect from all of those:
The only mode in which the G1 X is genuinely fast is in its High-Speed Burst HQ scene mode. Do note that most settings are locked up in that mode, with ISO set to Auto. The LCD also blacks out during shooting, so you'll need to use the viewfinder to track a moving subject. Also, while my G1 X kept shooting in the other burst modes, that could be due to my extremely fast memory card -- so your results may vary.
So how does the G1 X's photo quality shape up? Let's take a trip through our standard tests and find out.
I have no complaints about how our macro test photo turned out. Colors look good, without the color casts that often appear under our studio lamps. The subject is nice and sharp, with plenty of detail captured. I looked far and wide for any signs of noise, but couldn't come up with anything.
Earlier in the review I mentioned the G1 X's unusually long focus distances. In macro mode, the closest you can get is 20 cm -- twenty times further than on the PowerShot G12. In regular shooting modes (aside from Auto, where the camera switches into macro mode automatically), the minimum distance is 40 cm. When taking photos of subjects that were relatively close to me, I was often frustrated 1) by the need to switch to macro mode when I normally wouldn't need to, and 2) finding out that I still couldn't lock focus due to the long minimum focus distance in macro mode. One thing's for sure: the G1 X is definitely not for close-up photographers.
Aside from some highlight clipping, our night test scene looks good. We've got good sharpness from edge-to-edge, no funny color casts, and lots of detail. The only beef I have with this image (and the G1 X in general) is some highlight clipping. Purple fringing levels were very low. You can take shots like this using the camera's manual exposure controls, or just let the G1 X figure it out by itself in auto mode.
Now let's use that same night scene to see how the G1 X performs at high sensitivities in low light. If you want to see how the G1 X compares to the G12 in this non-scientific test, click here to open up the G12 review.
There's very little difference between the ISO 100, 200, and 400 crops, aside from slight increases in noise. ISO 800 has a bit more noise and noise reduction artifacting, but you can still make large prints at that setting. Detail loss is more obvious at ISO 1600, but it's still good enough for small and midsize prints, and perhaps larger if you shoot RAW (more on that in a second). Details really start to go south at ISO 3200, so I'd save that one for desperation, and shoot RAW if possible. I would avoid the top two sensitivities -- at least if you're using the JPEG format.
Now let's see if we can't make those ISO 3200 and 6400 night photos look a little better. I took the RAW image and converted it with Adobe Camera Raw, applied some noise reduction, and then sharpened things up. Here's how that turned out:
There is definitely something to be gained by shooting RAW on the PowerShot G1 X. At the very least, you get a reduction in highlight clipping. You also get back some detail, which works at ISO 3200, but not so much at ISO 6400. We'll do this test again in a bit using our studio test scene.
The PowerShot G1 X tries to eliminate redeye in two ways. First, it'll fire the AF-assist lamp a second or so before the photo is taken, with the goal of shrinking your subject's pupils. I've found that this rarely works. The second part of the removal system is a digital system (which needs to be turned on in the Flash Settings menu), which tries to get rid of whatever shows up in a photo. Much to my surprise, the two systems did their jobs, producing a photo with very little redeye. If you do run in to any red eyes, then there's also a tool in playback mode with which you can remove it.
There's very little barrel distortion to speak of at the wide end of the G1 X's 28 - 112 mm lens. Corner blurring and vignetting aren't issues, either. Clearly a big part of the price of the G1 X is its high quality lens.
Okay, now it's time to see how the PowerShot G1 X performed across its ISO range in normal light. As usual, I'm using our standard test scene, which means that you can compare the results with other cameras I've tested over the years. Remember that the crops below only show a small area of the total scene, so view the full size images too!
Here's where the PowerShot G1 X really struts its stuff. You get buttery smooth images all the way through ISO 1600, with ISO 3200 looking very clean, as well. Try that with a PowerShot G12 (we will in a moment, actually). Things get softer and noisier at ISO 6400, and color saturation drops a bit, as well. ISO 12800 is still usable for small prints, especially if you shoot RAW.
Speaking of which, I'm going to run those ISO 6400 and 12800 photos through my RAW conversion process. Let's see how they look after a quick touch-up:
There's a nice improvement for both the ISO 6400 and 12800 shots, especially in terms of sharpness, detail, and color. sure, you get a little bit of noise, but it's better than the somewhat mushy JPEGs. I'd say that it's definitely worth shooting RAW at high sensitivities on the G1 X, though you won't need to do so until you reach the highest sensitivities.
So how does the PowerShot G1 X compare to other cameras? Below are ISO 3200 crops from the G1 X and G12, along with the Olympus E-P3 (a Micro Four Thirds camera), and the Canon EOS Rebel T3i (an APS-C digital SLR). Let's see how the G1 X holds up:
Canon PowerShot G1 X
Canon PowerShot G12
Canon EOS Rebel T3i
The first thing to notice is how the G1 X wipes the floor with its little brother, the PowerShot G12. I'd say that it also handily beats out the Olympus camera, which uses a slightly smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor. At 100%, the G1 X also appears to top the Rebel T3i, but I have a feeling that the two images will look very similar if you downsize the 18 Megapixel images from the Rebel to match the 12 Megapixel resolution of the G1 X.
Overall, I'd say that the PowerShot G1 X lives up to the "portable D-SLR" moniker -- at least in terms of photo quality. It takes photos with vibrant colors and plenty of detail, with very low noise levels (especially in good light). Photos are sharp, yet maintain the "smooth" appearance that owners of Canon D-SLRs will be familiar with. The high quality lens is sharp from one edge of the frame tot he other. The camera's main problem is highlight clipping, which surprised me given its sensor size. The easiest way to deal with this is to use the DR correction feature, though that requires boosting the ISO a bit. Thankfully, the small boost in sensitivity won't make images much noisier, so it's worthy trade-off. I did not find purple fringing to be an issue on the PowerShot G1 X.
Now, it's your turn to evaluate the G1 X's photo quality. Check out our large photo gallery -- maybe printing a few of the images if you'd like -- and then decide if the G1 X's image quality meets your needs!
The PowerShot G1 X is Canon's flagship compact digital camera, and in most respects, it earns that title. For those looking for a compact camera which can rival that of a D-SLR or interchangeable lens camera, look no further. That said, the G1 X is a large, bulky camera with a slow lens and sluggish performance in several areas. More on that in a minute. The G1 X's design should be familiar to anyone who's used a PowerShot G-series camera in the last several years -- except it's 50% larger. The G1 X is definitely not a pocket camera, but it'll travel well in a bag. Build quality is solid in all areas, as it should be on this $799 camera. The camera is heavy but easy to hold, though I wish that the right hand grip was a bit larger. The G1 X has more than its share of buttons and dials, which may seem intimidating at first, but they save a lot of trips to the menu. The front dial is a nice touch for when you're shooting in the manual exposure modes.
At the heart of the G1 X is its lens/sensor combination. The lens specs are unremarkable: it's a 4X zoom equivalent to 28 - 112 mm, with a maximum aperture range of F2.8 - F5.8. I have to think that the lens would've had to have been even larger than it already is to lower that maximum aperture range. The lens does have a minimum aperture of F16, which maximizes depth-of-field. Something that I didn't care for about the lens is its lengthy minimum focus distance. In regular mode, it's 40 cm, dropping to 20 cm in macro mode. I was often frustrated by having to manually switch between normal and macro AF when shooting subjects that were close to me (though the camera will switch by itself in Auto mode). Naturally, the G1 X has optical image stabilization, and the camera will select the right IS mode for the situation. Behind all those lens elements is the highlight of the G1 X: it's 1.5-inch, 14.3 Megapixel sensor. This sensor is way bigger than what you'll find on a regular compact, and is larger than both the Nikon 1 and Micro Four Thirds system sensors.
On the back of the camera is a beautiful 3-inch LCD that flips to the side and rotates a total of 270 degrees. The screen has 922,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp, and its outdoor and low light visibility is quite good. There's also an optical viewfinder that shows 77% of the frame, though do note that part of the view is blocked by the lens at the 1X - 2X zoom positions. The G1X is quite expandable, with support for an external flash, lens hood and filters, underwater housing, and a wired remote
The G1 X's feature set is very similar to that of the PowerShot G12. That means that you get a scene-selecting Smart Auto mode, plenty of scene modes and Creative Filters (special effects), and full manual exposure controls. The G1 X can bracket for both exposure and focus, fine-tune (but not bracket) white balance, and save images in the RAW format. Enthusiasts will also like the customizable button, menu, and spots on the mode dial. Some other handy features are DR Correction and HDR, both of which reduces the G1 X's fairly strong highlight clipping. The former works by boosting the ISO, while the latter combines three different exposures into one, but requires a tripod. There's also an electronic level to help keep your horizons in line. The G1 X has a Full HD movie mode that records at a somewhat choppy 24 frames/second with stereo sound and use of the optical zoom and image stabilizer. Despite the camera's flagship status, movie recording is a point-and-shoot experience, unless a wind filter counts. The video quality, however, is quite good.
Camera performance is not one of the G1 X's strong suits. It starts up quickly enough (1.5 secs), but after that, performance is average at best. The most frustrating part of all this is the autofocus performance, which feels like it's stuck in 2007. I've used cameras costing hundreds less that focus quicker than the G1 X, so Canon really needs to up their game in this department. Expect focus times starting at around half a second, leading up to a second at the telephoto end of the lens, or in low light. Shutter lag was barely noticeable, and only at slow shutter speeds, and shot-to-shot times were respectable. While the G1 X has a high speed (4.7 fps) burst mode, it's limited to just six shots, with the LCD blacked out and ISO boosted. The regular modes can shoot infinitely (or at least until I stopped counting), though at less than 2 frames/sec. Battery life was below average in the "compact camera with a larger-than-average sensor" category.
The area in which the G1 X really shines is in terms of photo quality. Exposure is generally accurate, though the camera clips highlights a lot more than I would've expected. The easiest workaround is to use the DR correction feature -- it'll take care of the vast majority of the highlight clipping, though the ISO will be boosted as high as 400 (which isn't a big deal on the G1 X). You can also use HDR to reduce the highlight clipping, though you'll need a tripod for that. Otherwise, the news is very positive. Colors are nice and vibrant, and the G1 X captures a lot of detail in its photos. Noise levels are low through around ISO 1600 in low light, and ISO 3200 in good light, which puts it about on par with APS-C interchangeable lens cameras and D-SLRs. You can reduce noise further by shooting RAW and doing some basic post-processing. Purple fringing was minimal, and happily, so was redeye.
if you've got $800 burning a hole in your pocket and want a semi-compact camera with D-SLR image quality, then look no further than the Canon PowerShot G1 X. It's not for action photography (due to its sluggish focusing and burst modes) nor is it great for close-ups, but for virtually every other situation, the G1 X delivers. I'm hopeful that Canon's next large sensor camera will have a faster lens, snappier performance, and improved battery life, but for now, the G1 X is easily good enough for me to recommend.
What I liked:
- Excellent photo quality, with low noise until highest ISOs
- Solid build quality, with lots of dials and direct buttons
- Optical image stabilization
- Super high resolution 3-inch rotating LCD display
- Optical viewfinder is always a nice touch
- Full manual controls, including RAW support
- Smart Auto mode picks a scene mode (and the proper IS setting) for you
- Tons of scene modes and Creative Filters
- Dynamic range correction and HDR features improve image contrast (though the latter requires a tripod)
- Customizable button, menu, and spots on mode dial
- Handy electronic level
- Built-in neutral density filter
- Redeye not an issue; if it does become one, a removal tool is available in playback mode
- Records Full HD (1080/24p) video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom
- Very expandable, with optional external flash, lens hood and filters, underwater housing, and wired remote
What I didn't care for:
- Likes to clip highlights (hint: use DR correction)
- Lens on the slow side at telephoto end
- AF performance needs improvement
- Long minimum focus distances mean frequent switching between normal and macro AF when subjects are close
- Design annoyances: bulky body, lens visible through viewfinder, can't access memory card slot when using tripod
- Movies are a bit choppy due to 24 fps frame rate; no manual controls available
- Unremarkable burst mode
- Below average battery life
- Full manual on CD-ROM
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the PowerShot G1 X and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our huge photo gallery to see how the PowerShot G1 X performs in real life!