As an advanced compact it comes as no surprise that the Canon PowerShot G1X is able to record 14-bit Raw image files as well as regular JPEGs. Maximum output at 14MP is 4352 x 3264 pixels, but it’s also possible to shoot at 7MP, 2MP and 0.2MP. Alternative aspects include 16:9, 3:2 and 1:1, along with the decidedly portrait orientated 4:5.
Sensor size and resolution aren’t the only areas to receive an upgrade over previous G-series models. Whereas the G12’s movie recording abilities max out at 720p HD the G1X ups the ante to 1080p Full HD at 24fps, backed up by 720p HD and 640 x 480 VGA quality options. Sound is recorded in stereo, but there’s no port for an external microphone, which is a silly slip up. Sensitivity has been boosted too, with the G1X offering ISO 100 to 12,800 in standard mode – compared to the G12’s top setting of ISO 3200.
Indeed, there are very few areas where the G1 X is unable to trump the G12. The only obvious exception being that the optical capabilities of the G1X’s fixed zoom have been reigned in to 4x – as opposed to 5x on the G12. Nonetheless, the new lens still offers the 35mm focal equivalent of between 28mm and 112mm. Maximum aperture rises incrementally from f/2.8 at 28mm to f/5.8 at 112mm and the lens further benefits from Canon’s Image Stabilisation (IS) technology for up to four stops of anti-blur control at slower shutter speeds and longer focal lengths.
One welcome carry-over from previous models is the built-in 3-stop Neutral Density (ND) filter that allows you to shoot at slower speeds in brighter conditions. A practical application of this feature is the ability to capture moving water in landscape compositions. In addition to the ND filter, the G1 X also offers an automatic HDR mode that can automatically capture and then blend three images at different EV values for enhanced dynamic range.
You can achieve some great flowing water effects using the Canon PowerShot G1 X's inbuilt ND filter
On the back of the camera sits a 3in, 921k-dot vari-angle LCD monitor. This is attached to the camera via a side-hinge, which enables the screen to be pulled away from the body and rotated through 270-degrees. This offers plenty of flexibility for shooting at odd angles, or for composing self-portraits with. One further benefit is that the screen can be folded back in towards the body to protect it from scratches when the camera’s not in use.
Should you want to hold the camera to eye-level then there is a small optical viewfinder, although it does feel a bit self-defeating in use owing to the fact that it’s a) tiny and b) only covers 77% of the frame at a slightly offset angle from the true lens view. It's a useful backup for quick composition, though, particularly in bright conditions.
In terms of overall size, the G1X is noticeably bigger than any of its G-series predecessors and is, by some distance, the largest advanced compact currently on the market. Indeed, it could even be said that it stretches the very idea of ‘compact’ to its limits. While the body accounts for a small proportion of its increased dimensions, it’s primarily the larger lens that accounts for the extra bulk, jutting out from the body by around 35mm rather than sitting flush like previous models. This is pretty much unavoidable however, and stems from the fact that larger sensors require a wider image circle, which in turn requires a larger lens. All said and done though, the G1X does just about remain small enough to fit inside a coat pocket.
As with previous G-series models the handgrip is a relatively bulky albeit low-profile affair. Despite or perhaps even as a result of this, it’s actually quite a comfortable camera to hold, with the roughly textured hard rubber finish on the finger-grip and thumb-rest making it feel quite secure in the hand too.
There’s a good range of physical controls on board that enable direct access to most of the most regularly used settings. We did find that the ergonomics of the camera and the way it sits in the hand led to us inadvertently pressing the Func Set button on more than a few occasions though, which can be annoying if you happen to be in the middle of composing a shot and the in-camera quick menu suddenly pops up on to the screen. And while the menu layout is intuitive enough (especially to precious Canon owners) it does feel a tad sluggish to browse.
Befitting its status as an advanced compact, the G1X offers the regular DSLR quartet of exposure modes, namely Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual. These are supplemented by a fully Automatic mode for those point-and-shoot moments, 13 individually selectable Scene modes and a surprisingly generous selection of Creative Filter digital effects. Rounding things off are two user-defined Custom exposure settings.