Don't let the fact that Canon included the Powershot moniker with its G1 X Mark II camera make you think this model resembles some of the really thin, inexpensive models that share that Powershot name.
Canon's latest high-end fixed-lens camera creates incredibly sharp and vibrant images thanks in large part to an advanced 1.5-inch CMOS image sensor ... something you won't find on any beginner level Powershot camera.
The G1 X Mark II, a successor to the Canon Powershot G1 X from a couple of years ago, certainly doesn't feel like a cheap model either, as it has a sturdy, hefty design.
This advanced model includes a hot shoe, a tiltable touchscreen LCD, and built-in WiFi and NFC capabilities. You can make use of several advanced shooting modes, as well as a manual focus feature.
Certainly Canon has given this model far more power and capabilities that what you'll find on the typical Powershot camera.
With a suggested price of about $800 you should expect plenty of power with the G1 X Mark II. For that price you could pick up an entry-level DSLR camera with a kit lens ... and have a bit of money left over.
For those seeking a small fixed lens camera to serve as a backup and/or a secondary camera to a DSLR, the G1 X Mark II can provide the image quality you're used to with an entry-level interchangeable lens model.
While the Canon G1 X Mark II excels in portrait photography, it likely won't appeal to those seeking to shoot nature photos or landscape photos. This model certainly will capture beautiful, colorful photos of those scenes, but it only offers a 5x optical zoom lens, which won't allow you to capture animals from afar.
And the Powershot G1 X Mark II did have some problems in my testing creating sharp photos when the scene didn't have a definite focus object. The autofocus mechanism struggled a bit in those types of scenes, such as when shooting a scene of a field of prairie grass for example. The autofocus was slow in low light photography too. In Program mode the camera also tended to try to shoot at a large aperture/small f-stop number, even when shooting outdoors, which made it difficult to achieve a sharp focus front to back in the scene. Just take the time to ensure a sharp autofocus and the aperture setting you want before recording this type of scene.
And if you're planning to take your camera hiking and are looking to save a bit of weight with a smaller fixed lens camera, the G1 X Mark II isn't going to give you a significant benefit versus a small DSLR. This is not a small camera, measuring 2.61 inches in depth and weighing more than 1 pound, meaning you may be able to carry a small DSLR instead of the G1 X Mark II and only sacrifice a little bit of space and weight in your bag.
Unfortunately despite such a large size, Canon didn't include a viewfinder with this model, as it did with the original G1 X. You can add an electronic viewfinder to the G1 X Mark II's hot shoe for a couple of hundred dollars.
Although a viewfinder is missing, Canon gave the G1 X Mark II a host of advanced features and components that many of the latest intermediate and advanced models have.
- Tiltable LCD. You can tilt the LCD screen 180 degrees upward and 45 degrees downward, which helps to make up for the lack of a viewfinder. When shooting in bright sunlight you can negate problems with glare by tilting the LCD.
- Touchscreen LCD. Touchscreen model cameras are easier to use, especially for beginners. But it would have been nice if Canon had redesigned the camera's on-screen menus and controls, giving users more of a reason to want to use the touchscreen. During many of my test sessions with the G1 X Mark II, I just stuck with using the camera's buttons, forgetting that the model even had a touchscreen, because the display design doesn't lend itself to naturally using the touchscreen.
- High resolution LCD. The 3-inch LCD offers 1.04 million pixels of resolution, giving this model a very sharp display screen.
- Wi-Fi and NFC. Wireless connectivity is popular on newer cameras, and Canon included this feature with the Mark II. It's a little tricky to set up and use, but it does work once you invest the time.
- Fast lens. The Canon Mark II's lens is quite an improvement on the previous model. The G1 X Mark II offers an f/2.0 to f/3.9 lens aperture, better than the f/2.8 to f/5.8 lens aperture found on the original model. The latest model has a 5x optical zoom lens versus the 4x optical zoom with the previous model.
- Latest processor. Canon included the DIGIC 6 image processor with the G1 X Mark II, which is an improvement over the DIGIC 5 processor found with the G1 X model. You'll also find better continuous shooting capabilities with the Mark II over the original version (5 frames per second versus 2 fps). The Canon G1 X Mark II is a fast performer in most circumstances, although it does slow down quite a bit when shooting with the flash.
Another interesting aspect of the Powershot G1 X Mark II is found with its image sensor. You can shoot both 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratio images with this model using the same field of view with both aspect ratios. Not many cameras can pull this off, and even with this model you'll have to sacrifice a bit of potential resolution to achieve this feature. The G1 X Mark II's image sensor can record about 15 million pixels of resolution, but it is limited to 12.8 million effective pixels at a 3:2 aspect ratio and 13.1MP at a 4:3 aspect ratio.
The primary problem you may find with images with the Canon Mark II is losing detail in the shadows in highly contrasted scenes. This model seemed to create quite a bit of noise in those shadowed areas. As mentioned previously this shouldn't be a problem when shooting portrait photos in a studio setting, which is the Canon G1 X Mark II's sweet spot.
When shooting images you'll have access to a variety of shooting modes, including all of the manual shooting modes you'd expect with an advanced camera. To make changes to settings like aperture or shutter speed, you'll twist the step ring on the base of the lens. You'll also need to use the step ring on the lens to open certain shooting menus, such as the special effects menu or the scene menu.
While the step ring gives the G1 X Mark II an operational feel that's more like a DSLR camera, I found the ring to be a little awkward to use. It's set too close to the camera body to be easily accessed, and it seemed to "skip" a few times when I was trying to use it to change special effect modes for example. With the touch screen display available Canon could have done a better job with this aspect of the camera's design.
I've noticed some camera reviewers complaining about the small size of the Mark II's right-hand grip. While it is quite a bit smaller than what you'd find on a DSLR or large-zoom model, I didn't mind the hand grip's size. This is an aspect of the camera that will come down to personal preference, so if possible test the size of the hand grip with your hands before you purchase this model. Because of this camera's thickness and heft, even if you like the size of the right-hand grip I definitely wouldn't try shooting one-handed with it.
The power button was awkwardly designed as well, tightly placed to the left of the mode dial. Because the power button is so small, I almost felt like I was reaching around the mode dial to find the power button. Don't expect to be able to always find and press the power button successfully when you're blindly reaching for it in a hurry, meaning you may miss some spontaneous photos.
Then again this isn't the type of camera that you're probably going to be using at your child's outdoor sporting event or at an outdoor family gathering, where you may need to turn on the camera in a hurry. The small optical zoom lens limits its usefulness when trying to shoot over a distance.
It also would have been helpful if Canon had placed the G1 X Mark II's memory card slot in a compartment on the side of the camera, rather than putting the memory card and battery in the same compartment on the bottom of the camera body. Because of the tiltable LCD and the strong portrait capabilities of this model, you'll probably be using it while attached to a tripod quite often, so having a memory card slot accessible on the side of the camera body would've been a really nice feature.
Battery life is a disappointment with this hefty camera. Canon estimates the G1 X Mark II can shoot about 240 photos per battery charge, and my tests showed that number is closer to 200 in real-world testing conditions. If you try to use the Mark II's built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, the battery life will be quite a bit less. Having a built-in viewfinder would've helped with battery life.
Bottom Line - Even with a variety of obvious bells and whistles on the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II, the loudest bell with this model is one you can't directly see -- its 1.5-inch image sensor. This feature gives the G1 X Mark II the ability to create extremely sharp images, easily comparable to what you'd find with an entry-level interchangeable lens camera. This model has a couple of image flaws, and the G1 X Mark II struggles a bit both in low light scenes and in outdoor scenes with high contrast. But when using the Powershot G1 X Mark II in a studio setting for portrait photos, you won't find many fixed lens cameras that can match its photo quality. Canon included a host of advanced features with this model beyond the large image sensor, including a tiltable touchscreen LCD, plenty of manual control and customization options, and a fast f/2.0 lens. Even with all of these features the price of the G1 X Mark II, starting at about $800, is beyond what I'd like to see, because this model has a handful of drawbacks. The power button is too small and the step ring is a bit awkward to use. The Canon G1 X Mark II is a chunky camera that weighs more than a pound, which means you won't be saving much weight versus carrying a small DSLR on a hike or when traveling. And with the G1 X Mark II's 5x optical zoom lens, it's not a great candidate for shooting photos of your child's soccer game or of a far-off nature scene on vacation anyway. This model has good speed much of the time, but it struggles when shooting with the flash or in low light scenes. That's quite a list of drawbacks for a camera with an $800 price tag. If it wasn't for the Mark II's outstanding image quality, this model wouldn't have much appeal. But its image quality is so good that it makes up for those drawbacks. If you're someone who is seeking a good fixed lens camera that excels in portrait or product photography, the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II is an option well worth considering. With a cost of several hundred dollars though, you'd probably be expecting an amazing camera, and the G1 X Mark II just misses that description.