Canon PowerShot G1 X

This is a brief glimpse into the Canon PowerShot G1 X after owning it for 24 hours. A lot of you seemed to want to know what I thought of the camera, about 20 seconds after I posted a pic of the box on Twitter. I love the enthusiasm. So below is a quick and dirty review of the G1 X. Spoiler alert……. I like it.

The Canon PowerShot G1X Review
The hotly anticipated Canon PowerShot G1 X has finally landed in my hands. I have been looking forward to this since I played with the camera at CES in Las Vegas back in January. Canon had finally answered the call to produce a large sensor G series camera. It’s been since about the G7 that people began desiring such a camera. Some people think Canon may be late to the party, however I think they have delivered a unique product. A large sensor fixed zoom lens camera for under $800, and it’ll only get less expensive over the next 6 months.

I have read some people being critical about the size and price of the camera. I don’t think it could be much smaller. It has a large sensor, almost APS-C size and a zoom lens, which is unique for this segment. The camera is going to require a certain amount of size to house all this stuff. The size also works if you like the feeling of a camera in your hands. I’m 6’3 and have large hands, and I was able to operate all the functions of the camera with gloves on. If you want a jeans pocket camera with very good image quality, get a PowerShot S100. This camera wasn’t designed to be truly compact.

Look Ma! with gloves - Canon PowerShot G1 X

The Price?
It fits between the highly regarded Fuji X10 and Fuji X100. The X10 has a zoom lens, but only has a 2/3″ image sensor. The X100 has a slightly larger APS-C sensor, but a fixed focal length lens. The Power Shot G1 X is both those things and I think is priced accordingly.

I have only spent 24 hours with the camera, so I cannot give it a full critique at this time. However, I think a lot of us can tell within the first hours of use whether or not a camera is going to be for us. I knew after my first stroll around the town that I’d be using this camera a lot and it’ll probably remain by my side until the G2 X. If you’re a G user now, you’re going to feel right at home with the G1 X. The ergonomics, menu system and feel of the camera are about the same.

Chi-Cheemaun - Canon PowerShot G1 X

What about mirrorless?
Canon will be moving into the mirrorless segment sometime in 2012, and the G1 X may be a test in what consumer really want in a large sensor compact camera.

I currently have 2 camera systems with interchangeable lenses, one being Canon and the other being Leica. I personally have zero interest in investing in a 3rd system, though a lot of you may want that. This camera fits right in to what I want, and a lot of other photographers want. A relatively compact camera we can be confident taking out when we want to leave our EOS, M-mount or F-mount system at home. In the end we just want something that we can make good images with and have great quality image files to boot.

Features and Specs
The Canon PowerShot G1 X main features breakdown

  • 14.1mp 1.5″ CMOS Sensor
  • 4x 28-112 f/2.8-5.8 Zoom Lens
  • 1080p Video at 24fps
  • 3″ High Resolution Vari-Angle LCD
  • DIGIC 5
  • Intelligent IS

The G1 X is pretty much an upgraded over the G12 in every way, other than the 4x zoom as compared to the 5x zoom. The camera is slightly larger than the G12, but feels very familiar.

Large sensor goodness
All the specs aside, at the heart of this camera, the goal was to produce great quality files. The 1’5″ Canon made CMOS sensor is a great one, and easily the best to ever reach a compact camera in the Canon lineup. The sensor is 6 times larger than the one found in the PowerShot G12, and I noticed right off the bat the images produced were more detailed, had more dynamic range performed much better in high ISO. The sensor may be on par with the sensor in the T3i, 60D and 7D.

Great Lakes Liner - Canon PowerShot G1 X

The glass
The lens is terrific on the G1 X. I found it sharp across the entire frame and produces great colour and contrast. There was only the odd issue with fringing, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed in post. Another small, but unavoidable gripe is the size of the lens when it’s extended, it’s quite large. You will be noticed pointing it someone.

4:3 image ratio… noooooo!
The camera captures natively in a 4:3 aspect ratio, but you can switch it to 3:2 in the menu and see the guides in the LCD. If you import to DPP, you’ll also see the 3:2 crop guides. If you’re a user of Lightroom or Aperture, it should be pretty easy to get your shots to 3:2. That was the first thing I did to be honest. The 4:3 capture really is a non issue.

The Harbour - Canon PowerShot G1 X

I don’t think much has improved in this area, it feels as sluggish as I found the G12, so capturing those quick fleeting moments may prove to still be difficult. I will keep attempting to improve my predictive skills. It’s definiately not an issue that would kill my enjoyment of the camera, but I do wish it was snappier. I will also note the “bat light” also known as the AF assist beam is bright, very bright.

Optical Viewfinder
I wonder though if there’s a point in keeping the optical viewfinder around in the G series camera. I find it completely useless, as do most people I talk to. It only covers about 65% of the frame, which makes composing near impossible. Some size could possibly be cut from the camera if the OVF went away in the next incarnation of the camera. It’d be interested to know if there are people that demand the OVF remains a feature in the line going forward.

Getting abstract! - Canon PowerShot G1 X

The camera shoots full 1080p video at 24fps. The quality is excellent and you can even zoom while recording video. It’s slow, but it works. There is also a pretty useful electronic wind filter that works pretty well. The video will definitely be good enough for amateurs like me, and I’d love to see what a pro could do with it.

I took some video with the camera, all of it horrible. I’ll keep it to myself for the time being.

Street Shooting
A lot of people asked right off the bat if you can shoot street with the PowerShot G1 X. The answer for me right now is “sort of”. I found the autofocus too slow to shoot the way I like to shoot street. I switched the camera to manual focus, f8 and focused at about 2 meters and started shooting again. I found the shutter quick enough to capture what I wanted to most of the time, though not as good as an M9 or 5D Mark II. It will definitely take some more practice to work with the G1 X in a street shooting environment. Since I need to use the camera in this way some more, I won’t give a definitive review on how it is as a street shooting tool.

Trying some street - Canon PowerShot G1 X

The PowerShot G1 X is a unique product, no other compact all-in-one camera carries a large sensor and a zoom lens. While some may say it’s priced too high, I’m not inclined to agree. In a few months the camera will probably settle down to about $700 USD.

I have no issue with the size of the camera, it feels like a camera in my hands. I find the layout to be very good, although I wish the ISO dial was still there.

If you’re currently a G user, this camera will not disappoint. If you’re a DSLR shooter, you’ll be more than happy carrying this around when you want to the leave the EOS system at home. This camera will not be leaving my side for the next year or two.

The biggest plus of the G1 X is its superb image quality. The lens produces images that are sharp across the entire frame. The sensor produces wonderful detail, dynamic range and ISO performance. If nothing else, this should be the main selling point of the camera.

There are some rough edges that feel dated, like the autofocus (running theme with Canon?), however for me they were not deal breakers. A great, albiet not perfect addition to the PowerShot lineup.


  • Terrific feel and ergonomics
  • Excellent image quality
  • Good dynamic range
  • Lots of detail in the files
  • Decent shutter response if you’re in manual focus
  • Very good high ISO performance
  • Great lens, I found it quite sharp
  • Very good colour rendition to my eyes
  • LCD is very good, easy to see in direct sunlight
  • I like having a lens cap


  • As always, a terrible optical viewfinder
  • Autofocus is sluggish
  • ISO dial gone, and missed
  • The 4:3 aspect ratio may bother some, easily corrected with DPP or cropping yourself
  • Lens very long when extended
  • AF assist light may blind babies
  • Built in flash performance not great, wish they’d make a small “G” flash
  • Default camera strap not long enough for a tall guy

Buy the Canon PowerShot G1 X at B&H for $799