Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 14.3-Megapixel Backside Illuminated, 1.5-inch CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • DIGIC 5
  • 3.0-Inch, 922,000 dot, Vari-Angle LCD Screen
  • 4x Optical zoom lens: 28-112mm (35mm equivalent)
  • f/2.8 max aperture
  • HS (High Sensitivity) System
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • Smart Auto Mode
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Intelligent IS
  • HDR Mode
  • Handheld Night Scene
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • Smart Auto handled lighting situations better than program mode
  • Various manual exposure control options
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • HS system and new image sensor produce amazing image quality
  • Incredibly low image noise levels at all ISO levels
  • DIGIC 5 processor produces amazing burst rates
  • Intelligent IS is ready for any shooting situation
  • Vari-Angle LCD is great for tough shooting situations
  • Hot Shoe accepts all Speedlight flash units
  • Amazing shooting performance
  • HD video quality is outstanding
  • Macro focus is almost nonexistent with a minimum focus range of only 7.9-inches at wide angle
  • The AF system did a lot of focus hunting / searching and failing to achieve focus in various lighting conditions
  • Optical viewfinder is not reliable where framing is concerned
  • Battery Life is not very good when using the LCD screen
  • No audio input to match great audio with the great video capabilities
  • Quite pricey at $799 USD
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.5 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 5/10 to 1.1 seconds, depending on light and zoom
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.34 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.50 seconds
  • Sequential burst = 1.92fps
  • Sequential burst RAW = 0.98fps
  • High Speed Burst = 5fps up to 6 full sized images
  • All tests were taken using an SanDisk Extreme Pro Class 10 UHS-1, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Canon PowerShot G1X is a compact digicam designed to produce the highest image quality possible. Made up of dSLR quality parts and features, the only thing holding it back are some focusing and pricing issues.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a professional quality compact camera that has the image quality to compete with a dSLR camera, but is much more suited for traveling and other casual shooting situations thanks to a smaller body.
Canon's first major update to the its G-series cameras is the PowerShot G1X, taking the place of the PowerShot G12 from 2 years ago. Targeted at more advanced users, the G1X has been loaded with new, exceptional quality parts and features that lift the image quality much higher than that of just about any other compact point-n-shoot camera that you will find. It sports a newly designed 1.5-inch, 14.3-Megapixel, high-sensitivity (HS) CMOS imaging sensor, DIGIC 5 image processor, 4x optical zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 (W), pop-up flash unit and Canon's Optical Image Stabilizer. They have also included all of their top shooting modes and features including RAW image capture, scene recognition auto, 1080p HD video capture, a rotating and tilting 3.0-inch Vari-angle LCD, and all of Canon's "Intelligent Features." This all combines to give you amazing image quality and performance, unlike anything you have seen before in a non-interchangeable lens camera.

Since the G12 two years ago, Canon has kept the same body shape and a similar control layout, but they have gone above and beyond with upgrading its internal features. They updated the imaging sensor from a 10-Megapixel, 1/1.7-inch HS CCD to a much larger 14.3-Megapixel, 1.5-inch HS CMOS. This new sensor gives each pixel more surface area allowing it to capture more light and greatly improving low-light image quality. This image sensor is just slightly smaller than the APS-C image sensors used in the EOS dSLR line. It is actually 6.3x larger than the image sensor from the G12.

The new image sensor has been accompanied by Canon's new DIGIC 5 processor. With more power and a better build and structure, it provides better overall image quality, noise reduction and faster performance than the DIGIC 4. This processor also fuels the new multi-point Auto White Balance system that checks multiple areas in the image for better color.

A few of the other new features include a new, but shorter 4x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 28-112mm. With a maximum aperture of f/2.8, it is another way that Canon has pushed the low-light performance on the G1X. They have upgraded the LCD screen to a new 3.0-inch, 922,000 dot Vari-Angle LCD screen as well as the real image optical viewfinder. A 14-bit RAW image capture for the highest quality image capture and editing and the combination of the Optical Image Stabilizer and Intelligent IS to keep you handheld and motion images sharp, round off the collection of new and exciting features.

As with the G12, there have not been too many changes to the body of the G1X, although they have a made a few small improvements. First they have added a dedicated video recording button, allowing the camera to record video in any shooting mode. They have hidden the flash by making it a pop-up unit, although it does not pop up itself in the automatic shooting modes. It also seems like they have tightened up the exposure compensation wheel on the top, and provided just a little more room between the LCD and the rear control wheel, making both of these easier to use and control.

Framing and composing your images can be accomplished with the camera's real image zoom optical viewfinder or its 3.0-inch, 922,000 dot LCD screen. The optical viewfinder does not show you all of the information that you will see on the LCD screen, but it is a great way to save battery power on a trip and it gives you the feel of shooting with a dSLR. The viewfinder also zooms with the lens, but it does not show you the entire image that the camera is going to capture. When comparing it to what is seen on the LCD screen, it shows you a lot less, meaning coming up with a composition strictly from the viewfinder is almost impossible. Another issue is that when the camera is at the wide end of the zoom, the lens of the camera blocks the bottom left corner of the frame so you cannot see what is behind it. The vari-angle LCD is great for tough shooting situations and self-portraits. It shows you loads of useful information about your image and shooting settings, and even shows an electronic level when needed. It also allows you to view any images or videos that you have captured. The incredibly high-quality screen allows you to see all of the fine details and is great for checking focus.

For our outdoor image samples, we captured all of our images in both auto and program modes. Both shooting modes produced excellent results, with excellent exposure, accurate colors, and all of our shots were incredibly sharp. Between the trees, bricks and lily pads you can see how well the camera captures high resolution images and how crisp and clear they are. It is quite obvious though, that the auto mode handled the higher dynamic range much better than program mode did. You see a lot less overexposure in the clouds and other bright areas in auto mode. Program mode seemed to produce a brighter image most of the time, which was the cause of the overexposure in these images.

Composing your shots is assisted by the camera's 4x optical zoom lens, featuring a maximum aperture of f/2.8-5.8 and a 35mm equivalent of 28-112mm. This is a very versatile range, equivalent to that of a medium length, standard zoom lens for a dSLR. It will allow you to capture a vast landscape at the wide end, while zooming in close enough to single out an individual subject in a group a little further away. The telephoto end is also great for close-up portraits. Shooting in macro mode was a little disappointing though, as the camera does not focus at a very close distance; the minimum distance from the lens is 7.9 inches for the G1X, but only 0.4-inches for the G12.

Looking at our indoor images really shows us how amazing the image quality of the G1X is for a compact digicam. For our sample images, we set the camera to Auto mode with the flash and ISO set to auto, then each ISO setting without the flash at f/8.0 in aperture priority mode. Our sample images show an incredibly sharp image at the focus point in the middle of the image. Even shooting at f/8.0, we can see that there is still some softness around the edges of the image due to shallow depth of field. Looking closely, we can see that the finer details in the image don't start to disappear until you get to ISO 1600. After that the noise slowly starts to become more noticeable at each ISO setting, but the image stays acceptable (for each setting) all the way up to 12,800. With this camera's abilities, this setting should still only be used if absolutely necessary. The camera's pop-up flash unit is useful in close-up situations, but the real story is the hot shoe that accepts any Canon Speedlite flash for maximum power and control.

One major issue that we noticed throughout our tests, but really stood out while capturing our indoor samples, was the camera's trouble focusing. In almost all lighting conditions, even when the camera was using the focus assist light, the faster we tried to take consecutive images, the more the camera would fail to achieve focus. It would consistently "hunt" for focus, and then give use the yellow failed to focus box, accompanied by the failed AF sound and a blurry live image.

Our portrait shot shows the camera's ability to focus an expose for the face that is detected within the frame. The face itself is unbelievably sharp and the exposure is excellent. Even at ISO 640, the face is so sharp that you can see the all of the detail in the skin, hair and eyes. In both auto and portrait modes, the camera quickly and easily detected and followed any faces that came into the frame, taking all of the worry out of capturing a great portrait. Looking at our subject's eyes, you can see that there was absolutely no redness caused by the G1X's popup flash unit.

We tested two of the camera's special shooting modes, HDR and Handheld Night Scene. The handheld night scene is a great mode if you do not have a tripod on-hand. It allows you to capture a decent image as the camera takes three shots and combines them to create an image with far less noise than any of the individual images. But, as you can see with our sample, it in no way compares to what the camera is capable of if you were to take the time and shoot your night images correctly with a tripod. Secondly the HDR mode also captures 3 images at varying exposure levels (one regular, one overexposed, and one underexposed) to be combined in-camera for a HDR effect. This mode worked very well, but you have to settle for what the camera comes up with, it lacks the adjustment ability of a good HDR computer program that gives you control over how the final image comes out.

The G1X's larger sensor and f/2.8 lens make this an outstanding camera for capturing your HD home movies, both indoors and out. It is great at low-light situations which will keep most of the noise out of your indoor movies as long as there is decent lighting. Outside, you will see brilliant color and a sharp, smooth playing video. The camera's stereo microphones and electronic wind filter provide better than average sound for a compact camera, but the lack of an audio input is a little disappointing; especially since you do have a hot shoe that would allow for an external mic to be mount up top. Besides a computer, your movies can also be played back on a TV or HDTV with the included standard definition A/V cable or optional HDMI cable. The on-camera controls mirror that of a DVR, giving you frame by frame control over the videos. There is also a basic video editing suite on the camera, that allows for some basic cuts and edits to your movies.

Powering the G1X is a 7.4V, 920mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. With Canon's claims that the battery is able to supply the camera with enough power to capture up to 250 images with the LCD or 700 images without it, this sounds like a great battery life. But, since the optical viewfinder isn't the most enjoyable to use, the 250 images per charge claim with the LCD on is a bit disappointing for a camera in this category and price range. While completing our tests, we were only able to capture approx. 190 images and several short videos before the battery exhausted. This did include some extended use of the menu and playback systems, but due to this we highly recommend you consider adding a spare battery or two to your purchase, especially if you are going to be traveling with this camera. The included portable quick charger makes it easy to keep extra batteries charged and on hand at all times.

Bottom Line - The Canon PowerShot G1X, Canon's new flagship compact digicam, has been built to impress all around. They have given it a newly designed 1.5-inch CMOS imaging sensor, DIGIC 5 image processor and a 4x, f/2.8 optical zoom lens. With a very similar design to its predecessor the PowerShot G12, it has a familiar feel for anyone who has owned a G-series model before. The G1X's image quality is excellent; possibly the best you will find from a non-interchangeable lens compact camera in our opinion. But, the camera does have a few performance issues that can get annoying. Focus hunting and the lack of a good macro mode may deter some of you. With a MSRP of $799.99 USD, this outstanding camera has a lot to offer, like dSLR-like quality in a compact package, However, at this price point you are entering the entry-level dSLR and EVIL / ILC territories, so be sure to determine which features mean the most to you.

You can check out the price of this camera on Adorama by clicking here.

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