Canon PowerShot G1X Review - Performance, Image Quality and Verdict Review

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The Canon G1X switches on and becomes ready to shoot in a fraction under four
seconds which hardly makes it the fastest camera out of the blocks.
Autofocus modes are limited to a user-selectable single-point FlexiZone
mode with good frame coverage that extends quite close to the edges and
corners; a fully automatic Face AiAF mode that priorities face detection
and which is capable of detecting more than one face in the same scene;
and, lastly, a Tracking AF mode that works adequately with slow-moving
subjects but struggles with fast-moving ones.

Overall AF speed
is actually a little bit slow for a camera of this type, price and
specification; it certainly doesn’t feel like a big improvement over the
G12. Even in good light the time taken for the AF to lock on to its
target is far from instant, while in less than ideal light conditions it
slows down even further. While this won’t have any dramatic effect on
considered shots where time isn’t an issue, it does limit the camera’s
ability to take snatched, candid shots – especially in poor light.

What
is of more concern, however, is the poor close focusing distance of the
28-112mm zoom. Canon claims the minimum focus distance as 20cm when the
camera is being used in Macro mode although we measured it as closer to
23cm. Taking the camera out of Macro, minimum focus distance jumps to
around 35cm, and that’s at its 28mm widest! Zoom in a bit and you’re
soon looking at around 1.5meters minimum distance, and just under two
metres at 112mm. The upshot of all this is that it’s hard to recommend
the G1 X as a serious tool for dedicated Macro enthusiasts.

Processing
times are, on the whole, are fairly respectable although hardly
class-leading either. We did find the sluggish AF performance slowed
things down someway when using the camera in Single-shot drive mode
though. In fact, in repeated tests, we were only able to reel off four
full-res JPEGs inside ten seconds. Switching to Raw capture this dropped
to three, with the same result in simultaneous Raw and JPEG shooting.

Switching
over to Continuous mode (whereby the camera only focuses for the first
image), we managed eight full-res JPEGs inside ten seconds, although Raw
(and also simultaneous Raw and JPEG) capture was actually slightly
faster at around 10 frames. Lastly, with the camera set to Continuous AF
(where the AF remains active throughout the burst) the speed dropped to
around eight frames per 10 seconds in JPEG only, seven frames in Raw,
and six on simultaneous Raw and JPEG.

Overall image quality is,
as might be expected, very good indeed. There are many aspects that
particularly impress. The first of these is the optical quality of the
28-112mm fixed zoom. This produces really impressive, almost DSLR-like
levels of sharpness and detail and across the whole frame too, with only
occasional instances of purple fringing on high-contrast borders
letting the side down. As might be expected, there is some barrel
distortion at 28mm however this soon disappears as you extend the zoom.
Thanks to the larger sensor, it’s also possible to get some
fantastically shalllow depth of field effects – just so long as you can
work around the close-focusing issues mentioned above.

Colour,
tonality and white balance are another three areas in which the G1 X
excels. Canon has a deserved reputation for making cameras that produce
pleasingly vibrant and snappy colour while managing to remain lifelike
and the G1 X is no exception. Of course, you can fine tune the way you
want your images to look using the My Colours menu, with a ramped-up
‘Vivid’ and toned-down ‘Neutral’ offered alongside settings such as
‘Positive Film’ and ‘Lighter Skin Tone’ to name but four options. White
balance is perfectly consistent when left on the AWB setting, which is
one less thing to worry about.

Metering is accurate and reliable
on the whole especially when the camera is being used in flat or even
lighting conditions. High-contrast situations are a little trickier due
to the fact that the metering system relies heavily on the positioning
of the FlexiZone AF box. In such situations a ‘wrongly’ placed box can
lead to blown highlights. Thankfully, the EV Compensation dial is found
within easy reach on the top of the camera, with /-3EV on offer to
correct matters.

Perhaps the biggest single strength of the G1 X,
however, is ISO performance. Frankly, we were blown away by just how
well the G1 X handles noise at higher sensitivities. While ISO 100 to
400 might be expected to deliver noise-free results given the size of
the sensor (which they do), it’s from ISO 800 to ISO 3,200 that really
impresses – even at the higher settings, the G1 X’s images keep noise
almost entirely at bay while retaining plenty of fine detail, even in
shadow areas. The top settings of ISO 6,400 and 12,800 do show a gradual
decline in quality along with an increase in noise, but even these
remain perfectly usable at smaller sizes.

Verdict
The
Canon G1 X is the company’s latest flagship advanced compact and
benefits from a bespoke sensor that is only slightly smaller than what
Canon uses in its APS-C equipped DSLRs. The advantages of this larger
sensor are immediately clear to overall image quality, with the G1 X
offering class-leading performance in this respect. However, in other
areas the G1 X lets itself down somewhat with sluggish operation and
niggly performance issues. Image quality purists may well be willing to
forgive these flaws, however anyone in the market for a snappy advanced
compact with quickfire operation may well be slightly disappointed.

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