Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 20.2MP 1-inch CMOS image sensor
  • 25x 24-600 mm f/2.8-5.6 optical zoom lens
  • DIGIC 6 image processor
  • 3.2" tilting touch screen LCD (1.62M dots)
  • 5-axis intelligent image stabilization system
  • Full 1080p HD Video Recording @ 60p, 30p & 24p
  • Headphone jack
  • Stereo input jack
  • HDMI live feed
  • Built-in ND filter (3 stops)
  • 720 and VGA @ 30fps also available
  • RAW shooting
  • PSAM + Bulb Modes
  • UHS-1 compatible SD card slot
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Dust & water resistant magnesium alloy body
  • Pros
    • Outstanding image quality in all shooting conditions
    • 25x optical zoom lens
    • Lens moves fast throughout zoom range
    • Above average shutter lag and burst performance in JPEG versus other large zoom cameras
    • High-quality, large LCD screen that's a touch screen and that tilts up to 180 degrees
    • Mode dial, EV dial, and command dial on top panel
    • Manual focus works well
    • Camera's buttons and dials are well-placed
    • Full zoom available in movie recording
    • Excellent battery life in real-world shooting conditions
    • Good mix of manual and automatic shooting modes
    • Plenty of special effect shooting options
    • Expensive starting price
    • No built-in viewfinder
    • Problems with camera shake when using maximum telephoto setting and hand holding G3 X
    • Slow burst mode performance in RAW
    • Bulky camera that weighs more than 1.5 pounds
    • On the model I tested, interior components of lens seemed to slide around when G3 X was powered down
    • LCD's color accuracy seems to be a little off
    • Movie special effect options could be better
    • Camera's main menu screen could be redesigned to take advantage of touch screen
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured (with start-up image enabled) = 2.2 seconds
    • Power up to first image captured (with start-up image disabled) = 2.2 seconds
    • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 0.1 seconds
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = 0.2 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay without flash = 2.0 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 1.2 seconds with review Off
    • Shot to shot delay with flash = 2.9 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.9 seconds with review Off
    • Continuous Mode, One Shot AF = 10 frames in 1.6 seconds @ 20M
    • Continuous Mode, Servo AF = 10 frames in 3.1 seconds @ 20M
    All tests were taken using a SanDisk Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    The Canon PowerShot G3 X certainly has some of the same drawbacks that you find with other fixed lens, large zoom cameras, but its extremely good image quality more than makes up for those issues. Add in a tiltable, high-resolution, touch screen LCD, a 25x optical zoom lens, a good mix of manual control and auto shooting modes, and great battery life, and the G3 X is a really good camera. The only items holding it back from being an unquestioned recommended model is the lack of a viewfinder and its hefty $1,000 suggested price tag.
    Pick This Up If...
    You need high-end image quality in a large zoom, fixed lens camera, you don't mind carrying a tripod for telephoto photos, and you can fit this model's high price into your photography budget.
    Large zoom, fixed lens digital cameras are tempting pieces of equipment. After all, the focal length range and extreme telephoto options available with a large zoom camera simply can't be duplicated with a pocket-sized point-n-shoot model. And finding a DSLR lens that can match the telephoto capability of a large zoom, fixed lens camera is a very expensive proposition.

    Unfortunately, such large zoom lens cameras have their drawbacks. Achieving great image quality in these units typically is a hit and miss proposition. Camera shake is often a problem, especially when shooting at the far end of the telephoto range. Shutter lag will cause you to miss some spontaneous photos. And they're nearly always bulky units, more similar in size to a DSLR than a point-n-shoot model.

    So while large zoom cameras look like great models at first glance, often times they seem to end up disappointing photographers in some key areas. Still, that large telephoto capability is extremely tempting, which means camera makers will continue developing these types of models, looking for the combination of performance and telephoto capabilities that will work well for a wide range of photographers.

    With that in mind Canon's latest large zoom camera, the PowerShot G3 X, is a pretty impressive model. Even though it has a 25x optical zoom lens, its image quality is above average in the large zoom category. Canon gave the G3 X its latest image processor for good operational speeds, and the model has a 3.2-inch LCD screen that can tilt 180 degrees. Versus other large zoom cameras, this PowerShot model's battery life is outstanding.

    Canon's PowerShot G3 X still has some shutter lag problems, and camera shake is an issue when you have the zoom lens extended. The model I tested had a few other minor oddities that may have been related to this particular unit itself.

    All of those pluses and minuses add up to a pretty good camera ... at least until you see the price. Canon has placed an MSRP on the PowerShot G3 X at a penny shy of $1,000. That's an extremely high price for a fixed lens camera, especially considering you could purchase an entry-level DSLR with a couple of lenses for far less. Still, you almost certainly can't fit a DSLR zoom lens with a 600 mm maximum focal length into that $1,000 budget, so the G3 X has an advantage there.

    While the PowerShot G3 X's image quality can't quite match that of a DSLR, this Canon model creates sharp and vibrant photos throughout the zoom range. It offers a 1-inch CMOS image sensor with 20.2-megapixels of resolution. I was very pleased with the image quality the G3 X produced throughout a variety of shooting conditions. You can shoot in RAW, JPEG, or both image formats at the same time, and plenty of special effect features are available.

    The primary area where this model struggles is in terms of slightly blurred photos from camera shake when shooting at the maximum focal length of the zoom lens. Had Canon given the PowerShot G3 X a viewfinder, it would be easier to hand hold this unit and shoot photos without camera shake, as it's easier to hold the camera steady with it pressed against your eye. You'll definitely want a tripod to use with the G3 X. (You can add an electronic viewfinder to the camera's hot shoe for an additional cost.) The camera has built-in image stabilization that Canon says will provide four stops of performance. But, I still had some camera shake problems with this model.

    This camera's 25x optical zoom lens is very impressive, offering a 24-600mm equivalent focal length range, which gives the Canon G3 X great flexibility for both wide angle and telephoto images. The lens moves quickly, passing through the entire zoom range in about 1.5 seconds. The maximum aperture of the lens is quite fast for a camera in this class, offering a f/2.8 setting at the minimal focal length and a maximum f/5.6 setting at the maximum focal length.

    I have to mention one of the camera's oddities here. While carrying the PowerShot G3 X with the camera powered down, the interior components of the lens feel as if they're sliding back and forth slightly. This gives the camera an unsteady feeling and makes me question how sturdily the camera is built. To be fair, the unsteady lens wasn't noticeable when the camera was powered on, and it didn't affect the camera's performance or image quality. It's possible this issue was only with the model I tested, rather than the entire production line, but I wanted to mention it.

    As with outdoor photos, low light photos are of a good quality. The Canon PowerShot G3 X has a popup flash unit that does a very good job, or you can add an external flash unit to the hot shoe. When increasing the ISO setting, you'll notice minimal noise at ISO settings around 1600 and 3200, but the only ISO settings where noise is consistently a significant problem is starting at 8000 to the maximum setting of 12800.

    Movie quality is very good with this camera, and you'll have access to the full 25x optical zoom lens while recording video. You can shoot full HD video at speeds of 60 fps, 30 fps, or 24 fps. Canon also included both microphone input and headphone jacks, to further enhance the camera's video and audio capabilities.

    The G3 X's performance levels are well above average for a large zoom model too. It can shoot at speeds up to 5.9 frames per second in JPEG in burst mode with the focus point set on the first image, regardless of which focal length you're using. (You'll shoot at closer to 3 fps if using autofocus tracking in burst mode.) RAW format burst mode performance slows considerably though, requiring about 7.5 seconds to record five RAW photos.

    Shutter lag is almost non-existent at the minimal focal range. And the PowerShot G3 X's shutter lag is shorter than average versus other large zoom cameras at the maximum focal range.

    The PowerShot G3 X's LCD screen is an above average model, offering 1.62 million pixels of resolution in an tiltable screen. It can tilt up to 180 degrees, allowing for selfies and odd-angle photos. The color accuracy of the LCD screen seemed to be a bit off on the model I tested, as the colors didn't quite match what I saw later on my computer screen after downloading the photos. This issue didn't affect image quality though; it completely was related to the LCD screen itself.

    It's also a touch screen LCD, which helps to make the G3 X easy to use, especially for those moving from a beginner camera to this more advanced model. The inclusion of a Q menu screen allows you to use the touch screen to make quick changes to common settings, which is nice. It would've been even better if Canon had redesigned this unit's main menu screens to include more icons and allow a navigation similar to a smartphone, but the G3 X still uses a primarily text-based menu screen.

    The screen displays plenty of help for beginning photographers in a variety of shooting modes. For example, when you press many of the buttons on this model, you'll see an explanation appear on the screen for the feature. However, this causes some delays in the camera's operation. For example, when you twist the mode dial you'll see a message on the screen for a full 3 seconds, which is far longer than necessary to read the quick description. You can remove the message early by pressing the shutter button halfway, but this feature makes the camera seem a bit sluggish at times. You also can remove these hints and tips through the camera's menus, thankfully.

    The Canon G3 X has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity, which is a handy feature. You can connect to other cameras, a smartphone, a wireless printer, or a Wi-Fi network. And while using wireless connectivity will drain the battery much more quickly than using it for everyday photography, the PowerShot G3 X has well above average battery life. My tests showed I could shoot in excess of 400 photos per battery charge, while also using the screen to review images, making changes to the settings, and shooting an occasional video -- everyday shooting conditions, in other words. Canon's estimation for battery capacity is 300 shots, so the G3 X outperformed the manufacturer's rating in my tests, which is a rare occurrence.

    As with most large zoom cameras, the G3 X has a bulky camera body, measuring more than 4 inches in thickness with the lens powered down. The right-hand grip is just the right size to make this model easy to hold and use, although at more than 1.5 pounds, you're going to want to use a tripod with this camera a lot of the time to avoid camera shake. I thought the camera's buttons were of a good size and layout to use comfortably, and the inclusion of an EV dial on the top of the camera is a nice feature.

    Bottom Line - The Canon PowerShot G3 X is an impressive camera, providing great image quality, plenty of easy-to-use features, a large zoom lens, and very strong battery life. While it has some of the same problems that you'll find in other large zoom, fixed lens cameras, such as camera shake at the full telephoto range, the G3 X is able to provide above average burst mode performance and shorter than average shutter lag problems versus other large zoom cameras. The maximum focal length on the 25x optical zoom lens is 600mm (equivalent), which is very impressive, while the G3 X offers a wide angle of 24mm, giving this camera great versatility. Canon gave this model a high-resolution touch screen LCD and a great mix of advanced and beginner shooting modes. The biggest drawback to this model is the fact that Canon did not include a viewfinder, which makes it tough to hand hold this camera and avoid camera shake, especially at the maximum zoom range. It also had an odd instability in the interior components of the lens when the G3 X is powered down, and the LCD screen's color accuracy seemed a bit off. Ultimately, though, the PowerShot G3 X's image quality will win you over. With a 20.2-megapixel 1-inch CMOS image sensor, this model creates sharp and vibrant photos in nearly all shooting conditions. I was able to create impressive 13-by-19-inch prints with this camera that looked amazing while testing the G3 X at the same time as I tested the Canon Pro-100 printer. Extremely sharp prints at large sizes are not something that every large zoom lens camera can accomplish. Then again, with a starting price of nearly $1,000, the Canon PowerShot G3 X needs to be an impressive model. I did like the PowerShot G3 X a lot, but I'd like this camera far more at a lower price point and with a viewfinder. Taking cost out of the equation, the G3 X is one of the best large zoom, fixed lens cameras I've had a chance to use, making it well worth considering.

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