Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on March 21 2012

Fresh out of my typewriter is the in-depth Canon PowerShot G1X review. The PowerShot G1X is a prosumer camera with a larger-than-average image sensor, 4X optical zoom, a flexible 3 inch LCD, full manual controls and Full HD movie mode. Visit the Canon PowerShot G1X photo gallery to view sample pictures taken using the camera.

The PowerShot G1X is the flagship camera for the 2012 Canon PowerShot lineup. Launched earlier this year, the Canon PowerShot G1X house a big 1.5 inch-sized (diagonal) 14 megapixel CMOS image sensor, a first for a Canon compact fixed lens camera. The new image sensor is much larger than those found on typical compact cameras (and 6 times larger than the one on the old PowerShot G12, to be exact) and slightly larger than the Micro Four Thirds image sensor found on Panasonic and Olympus interchangeable lens cameras. It’s also close to the size of sensors used in digital SLR cameras.

What’s all of that mean for folks looking to get this camera? Essentially, you’re going to get “big camera” image quality in a compact digital camera, which is the Canon PowerShot G1X. The Canon PowerShot G1X sports both full manual controls (lots of controls, including RAW image mode) for photography enthusiasts and an array of scene modes and automatic shooting features for beginners. It also has a high-resolution 3 inch LCD that’s flexible for angled shots, an optical viewfinder, two control dials, a hotshoe for external flashes and Full HD movie mode. Read on to find out if this is the ultimate all-in-one camera for you.

In the camera box

The Canon PowerShot G1X comes with a pretty decent bundle, though I’m surprised Canon didn’t include a lens hood, especially considering the price of the camera:

  • Canon PowerShot G1X camera
  • NB-10L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Standalone battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cap with retaining strap
  • USB cable
  • Camera CD and digital user’s manual

The Canon PowerShot G1X supports SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. The camera can perform faster with a high-speed memory card, and a good starting capacity depends on what you plan to do with the camera.

If you plan on shooting a lot of RAW images and movies, a 16 GB or 32 GB memory card would be a good place to start but if you plan on shooting mostly still photos in JPEG, an 8 GB SDHC card will be quite sufficient. Either way, make it a high-speed memory card so the camera can perform better and write files more quickly to the card.

The Canon PowerShot G1X uses the lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which looks similar but is NOT the same kind used in Canon’s entry-level EOS Rebel models such as the Rebel T3i, Rebel T3 and Rebel T5i. The camera doesn’t do very well in terms of battery life with a rating of 250 shots per charge using the LCD live view mode (that’s down from the 370 shot rating on the old PowerShot G12, and lower compared to 350 shots on the competing Nikon Coolpix P7100; though neither of these cameras have image sensors as large as the one on the G1X). Switch live view off and go for the optical viewfinder, and battery life on the PowerShot G1X increases to a much better 700 photos per charge.


Removable ring for PowerShot G1X accessories

The Canon PowerShot G1X supports a wide range of accessories, as you would expect from a high-end prosumer camera, except conversion lenses. I suspect we may see Canon launch some lens accessories or third party conversion lenses and adapters might eventually pop out in the market for the PowerShot G1X but they will be rare even if that happens. For now, the ring around the lens is removable for the sole use of attaching an adapter to mount an optional pair of macro lights to the PowerShot G1X. There’s an optional lens hood which protects the lens from flare and filter adapter which lets you attach 58 mm filters to the camera. There is also a cabled remote control so you can take photos from afar, though the cable is just 2 feet long.

The Canon PowerShot G1X also supports external flash units, whose appeal lies in increasing flash range, reducing chances of redeye, allowing you to use high-speed sync shutter speeds, create a wireless flash setup and in the case of Canon’s 320EX Speedlite, there’s a video lamp on that flash which comes in handy when recording movies in low-light. The Canon PowerShot G1X supports both Canon and third party flashes, though only Canon models will work automatically with the camera without requiring prior manual adjustment. Canon’s flash models include the super basic 270EX II, wireless slave supporting 320EX and 430EX II and 580EX II. You will need a master controller to control and fire flashes in a wireless setup, which only Canon’s dedicated Speedlite Transmitter and 580EX II flash support.

Other accessories available for the PowerShot G1X include a waterproof case for taking the camera down to 40 meters (130 feet) underwater, AC adapter, HDMI cable, A/V cable for older televisions without HDMI and various camera cases.

Camera Tour

The Canon PowerShot G1X is not a really small camera. The G1X fits somewhere in between the size of a compact super-zoom camera and entry-level digital SLR models like the Canon EOS Rebel T3 or Nikon D3100. The camera measures 116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7 mm (4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6 inches) and weighs a slightly hefty 534 g (19 ounces) loaded with its battery, which means you won’t be able to fit it in your pants pocket but it will go into backpacks, camera bags and large purses with ease.

The Canon PowerShot G1X has excellent build quality with a nice and chunky feel, since the camera is made mostly of metal. Moving parts like the popup flash, lens barrel and bottom compartment door feel sturdy. The camera has good ergonomics with a raised front grip, dedicated controls for various shooting functions and a sizeable lens barrel for steadying the camera with your left hand. One thing that I did not like was how the exposure compensation dial is easily turned when pulling the camera out of your bag, so be sure to check frequently that it didn’t get changed by accident.

The PowerShot G1X sports a 4X optical zoom lens which covers a relatively short range of 28 – 112 mm. The lens has an aperture range of f2.8 to f5.8 and has optical image stabilization to help reduce the chances of taking blurry photos. For a camera with such a large sensor, the Canon G1X’s lens is very competitive compared to kit lenses on large sensor cameras and digital SLR models; such kit lenses are typically larger in physical size, cover only a standard 28 – 88 mm and have aperture ranges of f3.5 – f5.6.

The Canon G1X has a new Intelligent IS system where the camera can detect and choose (you can’t select it manually) the most effective image stabilization mode. You can, however, switch between Shoot Only and Continuous image stabilization which dictates when the system kicks in to stabilize photos.

There are a couple of things surrounding the lens: an autofocus assist/self-timer countdown light, optical viewfinder window and to the lower right of the lens, a button to release and remove the ring around the lens to attach optional macro lights.

The Canon PowerShot G1X has a manual popup flash which comes up when you pull the switch on the top of the camera and closed by manually pressing down on it with your finger. This is a good thing since the flash never comes up unless you specifically want to use it. The flash on the Canon G1X is quite powerful with a range of 50 cm to 7 m (1.6 to 23 feet) at wide-angle and 1 to 3 meters (3.3 to 10 feet) at telephoto.

Towards the grip of the Canon PowerShot G1X is the command dial which is used for adjusting exposure settings on the camera. You’ll be using this in conjunction with the scroll wheel on the back of the camera; making adjustment of settings a breeze on the Canon G1X.

One of the signature features of the PowerShot G series cameras is the flexible flip-out and rotate LCD, which the Canon G1X inherits from its predecessors.

The LCD on the PowerShot G1X measures 3 inches in size and has a high resolution of 922,000 dots. You can flip out the LCD and rotate it up/down for creatively angled photos such as over-head shots or hip-level photography.

You can also rotate the screen to face yourself for self-portraits. The display on the PowerShot G1X has good outdoor visibility and excellent low-light visibility.

The LCD can be folded inwards towards the camera to protect it when not in use. This position is also useful when you don’t want to fill the screen with nose smudges when using the viewfinder.

Alternatively, the LCD can be placed in a more conventional position. If you prefer switching off live view to conserve battery life, the Canon PowerShot G1X has an optical viewfinder above the LCD. Quite obviously, the viewfinder has its own viewing tunnel and isn’t linked to lens itself so it isn’t as accurate or big as the ones found on digital SLR cameras. The viewfinder also shows a mere 75% of the frame and you’ll be able to see the lens barrel for most part of the zoom range (it doesn’t hinder photo composition but it will surely annoy some folks).

Flanking the viewfinder on the Canon G1X are two status indicator lights (for focus lock, power status and flash status) and an eyesight correction knob used by glasses wearers for focusing the viewfinder image. There are also two buttons, one on each side of the viewfinder, which are the shortcut/print marking button and playback button. You can assign the shortcut button to just about any shooting function or menu option on the G1X.

On the upper right corner of the camera, there’s a dedicated movie start/stop button for activating the video recording feature anytime. There is a cluster of four buttons surrounding the navigation pad on the Canon G1X: the top two are for focus point selection (delete photo in playback) and focus + exposure lock (jump between photos in playback) respectively, while the buttons on the bottom are for adjusting metering mode and bringing up the camera menu.

Manual focus with center enlargement on the PowerShot G1X

The Canon PowerShot G1X has a 5 way navigation pad with a scroll wheel surrounding it. The scroll wheel has good tactile feedback and is used for adjusting aperture in manual mode, manual focus, scrolling through menus and photos in playback and more. Each of the directional buttons also has its own assigned function:

  • Up – ISO (Auto, 100 – 12800 in 1/3 step increments)
  • Down – Display (Toggle information shown on the LCD or switch it off for using the viewfinder; the camera lets you customize two sets of information to show)
  • Left – Focus mode (Auto, macro, manual focus)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off, slow sync; redeye reduction and other flash settings available in menu)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

Taking pictures

Live view on the Canon PowerShot G1X

The Canon PowerShot G1X shows everything you can ever dream of on its live view display. Exposure settings, shooting information, live histogram, zoom and battery indicators and even a visual shutter speed/aperture scale (they appear when adjusting those settings) are all present. The Canon G1X also adds a nice touch with a digital level indicator for tilt, which tells how you need to hold the camera to prevent taking a crooked picture.