The Canon G1 X was a bit of a surprise from the only major camera manufacturer without a mirrorless interchangeable lens system. While it doesn’t offer interchangeable lenses, the G1 X features an image sensor that’s bigger than the Nikon 1 and Micro Four Thirds (Panasonic and Olympus) cameras. I had some time with a pre-production model at CES 2012. Check out my initial hands-on impressions below.
As you can readily see, the Canon G1 X bears a striking similarity to the previous G-series compact cameras, albeit a larger/heavier chassis and lens construction. The G1 X is as big or even bigger than the camera bodies from the Nikon 1 series and Micro Four Thirds; however, the 4x zoom lens compacts more conveniently than most other interchangeable lens options.
The pre-production model that I used seemed to be ready to roll. Overall, the camera is as snappy to operate as my current Canon G12. AF was fast and accurate. And, based on what I could see from the back of the LCD, the high ISO performance looks as impressive as you would expect from the near-DSLR-sized image sensor.
The G1 X’s sensor dimensions measure 18.7 x 14mm. Compare this to Canon’s APS-C DSLRs at 22.3 x 14.9mm, Micro Four Thirds at 18 x 13.5mm, and Nikon’s 1 Series at 13.2 x 8.8mm. The sensor size on the G1 X provides about a 1.85x crop factor.
What all this means is that the G1 X has the potential to offer gorgeous 14MP images and full 1080p video with plenty of bokeh to spare thanks to the bigger sensor format.
Existing PowerShot G-Series users will have no trouble picking up the G1 X and shooting with it. The familiar mode dial is still in place; however, the exposure compensation dial has been moved from the top-left and stacked under the mode dial. This makes room for a pop-up flash on the top-left, which gets the flash a little further away from the large lens barrel. The ISO dial has been removed from the top with access now on the back of the camera and expanded up to ISO 12800. Additionally, the shutter button feels more like a proper shutter button instead of the little eraser-head-sized button on the G12.
A direct record video button is on the rear of the G1 X next to a rubberized thumb pad. This is something the G12 sorely lacked. The tilt/swivel LCD should be familiar to G12 users. The G1 X’s display is 3-inches and sports a 922k-dot resolution.
The ability to use Canon Speedlites with the G1 X makes it an exciting little-big camera for strobists out there who fancy their TTL controls. Finally, the G-series will offer some powerful strobe options with little compromise on image quality.
A couple of downsides that are almost immediately noticeable with the G1 X – lens speed and focus distance. At the short end, the G1 X offers a rather bright f/2.8 max aperture; however, at full tele (112mm equivalent) the max aperture drops to f/5.8, which is rather slow even by compact camera standards. As a comparison, the G12 offered a max aperture of f/4.5 at full tele (140mm equivalent). Of course, Canon is butting up against the laws of physics and the practicality of lens size, so f/5.8 it is.
Additionally, the minimum focus distance at full tele is 4.3-feet. For the sake of reference, the minimum focus distance on the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens is 3.9-feet at all focal lengths. It’s not an everyday composition but 4.3-feet at 112mm just feels a little limiting. Of course, the camera does offer a macro mode, which gives you a focus limiter at full tele for a range of 2.8-feet out to 5.2-feet. That said, its still a couple of button presses away to get there and back with the macro mode.
All in all, the Canon G1 X looks and feels like a great camera. The image quality seems to offer some real promise with such a compact package. With the G1 X, the lines are really beginning to blur between DSLR, mirrorless and point and shoot cameras. The G1 X feels like a point and shoot camera wearing big boy pants.
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