Canon G1 X Hands-On

Canon G1 X

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.

Canon G1 X

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.

Canon G1 X

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.

Canon G1 X

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.

Canon G1 X

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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  1. says

    Sorry, I don’t understand .
    About CANON G 1 X :
    – you write … ” I has some time with a pre-production model…”
    Did you mean : … I had some time … ? or what ?

  2. Matthew says

    While this camera makes a great addition to the G series lineup, I think the bulkiness and slow lens will drive people to other 4/3 options especially for the price. Canon could have made it a fixed 35 or 40mm lens with an aperture of f/2 and I think it would have been easily competitive with the X100 and m4/3 offerings.

  3. ChokDK says

    Honestly – the zoom could prob. have been bigger without big troubles for those who want to carry it around.
    2012 is not for x4 zooms :)

    The rest of the camera seems to be a great idea all in all.

  4. says

    Dear Eric: The last metaphor is very acute. Doubtless, Canon G1X is a new lineage and surely will be a success, but I’d rather, it´s just my taste and need, have an interchangeable lens Super G !!! The Fuji looks awesome in many aspects. I was checking some samples (focus-numerique) and for a while -just a while- I think if it would be a good idea to switch… I love my Canon gear; let´s see how is that 5DIII.

  5. Sandy S says

    The problem with the Canon G series over the years is that they nickel and dime you death! They come out with the G11 with poor video performance and then make you buy the G12 to get 720 dpi rather than make the G11 a 720 dpi. Now with the G1X they put a 4 to 1 zoom on a seemingly great camera and now you must wait for the G2X to get the 5 to 1 I suppose! Marketing always takes precedence over the consumer.

  6. says

    Great review, thanks! :-)

    When the G1X was first announced last month, I thought it was nothing but an updated version of the PowerShot G12. After I went through its specifications, I realized that I was mistaken. The G1X’s specifications actually lean towards the EOS dSLR than garden variety G-series compacts. Except that it doesn’t appear in the form of a dSLR but that of a super-sized G12.

    Here are some vital clues that support my beliefs:

    – 1.5 inch CMOS sensor (that’s not 1/1.5″, folks).
    – A crop factor of 1.85x vs the 4/3rds format with a 2x crop factor (the smaller the value, the better)
    – Shallower DoF than any mainstream compact camera.
    – ISO up to 12,800. On the small sensor camera like the G12, pushing to ISO 12,800 would be meaningless and full of noise. I can’t even push my G12 beyond ISO 1600 without getting grainy images.
    – Large internal buffer, capable of 4.5fps at full 14MP resolution. My G12 can’t even achieve 2.5fps in continuous shooting mode at full resolution.
    – 14-bit RAW D/A converter, vs the G12’s 10-bit converter.
    – Large 15.1-60.4mm f/2.8-5.8 zoom lens with a 4x zoom range. Most premium dSLR lenses have a zoom ratio of less than 6x. Even the highly regarded Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens, which itself costs about nearly twice of the G1X, has a zoom ratio of only 4.38x.
    – An aperture that stops all the way to f/16. I haven’t found a regular compact P&S that needs f/16, as their lenses have irises that are already tiny to begin with.

    I don’t think the G1X’s zoom lens is that slow, even with f/5.8 at the telephoto end. Slower against what?

    Compared to the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, then yes, it’s a slower lens. Against, the G12’s lens with a f/4.5 max aperture when fully zoomed in, the G1X’s lens is actually much faster. We need to compare the G1X against a competitor that also has a 1.5-inch sensor, but to date Canon’s the only one with this odd-sized sensor.

    I noted that many people don’t know the difference between aperture values and aperture sizes, which are totally different things. An aperture value of f/2.8 with a dSLR lens lets in more light than f/2.8 with the G1X’s lens, which in turn, allows more light than f/2.8 on a PowerShot G12. This is because the aperture sizes of the three lenses are unequal. The lens with the largest aperture size for the same f/stop wins and also has the shallowest depth-of-field.

    It’s all simple math. To know a lens’ aperture size, you need to divide its actual focal length (not in 35mm equivalent) by its aperture value. To simplify things, let’s compare three lenses with a field of view of 28mm and also with a max aperture of f/2.8.

    Let’s start with the PowerShot G12’s lens first. Its native focal length is 6.1mm. At f/2.8, its aperture size is:

    6.1mm / 2.8 = 2.18mm

    Now let’s measure e.g, the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 prime lens:

    28mm / 2.8 = 10mm

    Finally, the G1X, which has a native focal length of 15.1mm at its widest:

    15.1mm / 2.8 = 5.39mm

    You can see that the G1X has an aperture size of almost two-and-a-half times larger than the G12’s, but nearly half the size of the EF 28mm lens.

    I can’t blame the folks who heavily criticize the PowerShot G1X for being expensive, heavy, large, short range zoom lens, slow apertures, etc – because at first sight the G1X looks nothing more than an oversized PowerShot G12. If you look at it from Canon’s perspective, a longer zoom range with a faster aperture equals higher production costs and a much heavier and bulkier camera. You can’t have your cake and eat it too – something has got to be traded off in the process.

    This is a niche market, advanced digital camera for those who don’t want a system camera (interchangeable lenses) but want something that is much better than the G12. Adventurers and mountain climbers would appreciate something like the G1X.

    Canon is also not part of the Four Thirds consortium (Olympus and Panasonic are), therefore the G1X didn’t sport a 4/3rds sized sensor. That’s why Canon decided to come up with its own 1.5″ sized sensor for this camera. The only thing that I feel the G1X lacks is in the aesthetics department. It’s not a rather good looking camera. ;-)

  7. Scott says

    I don’t think it’s too big….I’m not a fan of tiny cameras with fiddly controls.
    I was initially disappointed by the speed of the lens, but most entry level DSLRs are sold with a kit lens that’s 3.5 at the short end, and 5.6 at the long.

    I think this might be a great travel/tourist camera, compact but not tiny, and mostly for outdoor photography.

    It IS a little expensive. If I were in this market now, the Canon Rebels are pretty close in price, a little more flexible, but bulkier.

    And maybe its somewhat homely appearance would discourage thieves……


  1. […] Canon G1 X Hands-On 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 has some time with a pre-production model at CES 2012. Check out my initial hands-on impressions below. January 17, 2012 […]