Canon supersizes G series sensor

With a new model entering the top of its enthusiast compact camera line, Canon introduces the largest sensor available in that market segment.

LAS VEGAS--Slipping in at the top of Canon's enthusiast G line of PowerShots, the G1 X introduces the largest sensor yet for enthusiast compacts with fixed lenses.

I'm really excited by what's happening in the enthusiast compact market; interchangeable-lens cameras seem to have spurred development in the fixed-lens models, presumably as people learn as a side effect of ILC marketing that you don't need a camera the size of a dSLR to get dSLR quality. A lot of people think that Canon's missing out by lagging in its ILC development--and it is. But the G1 addresses a growing part of the market, composed of people who don't really care about changing lenses and just want better photo quality.

That presupposes that the G1 X will deliver better photos than the G12, but it sounds at least like all the pieces for better photo quality are in place. The 1.5-inch sensor isn't quite as large as it sounds, but it's still larger than all but the significantly more expensive, APS-C-size Fujifilm X100. Coupled with the support for 14-bit image data, claimed better noise reduction and white-balance algorithms in the Digic 5 processor, the only wild card is the lens.

First, here's how its specs stack up against the competition (except for the Nikon Coolpix P7100--no room in the chart):


 Canon PowerShot G12Canon PowerShot G1 XFujifilm FinePix X10Fujifilm FinePix X100Olympus XZ-1Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution)10-megapixel CCD14.3-megapixel CMOS12-megapixel EXR CMOS12.3-megapixel CMOS10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch
7.6 x 5.7mm
1.5-inch
18.7x14mm
2/3-inch
8.8 x 6.6mm
23.6 x 15.8mm1/1.63-inch
8.1 x 6mm (approx)
1/1.63-inch
8.1 x 6mm (approx)
Sensitivity rangeISO 80 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 - ISO 12,800ISO 100 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 (expanded)/ 200 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Lens28-140mm
f2.8-4.5
5x
28-112mm
f2.8-5.8
4x
28-112mm
f2-2.8
4x
35mm
f2
1x
28-112mm
f1.8-2.5
4x
24-90mm
f2-3.3
3.8x
Closest focus (inches)0.4n/a0.43.90.40.4
Continuous shooting1.1fps
frames n/a raw
4.5fps
6 JPEG
7fps
8 JPEG/n/a raw
5fps
10 JPEG/8 raw
2fps
23 JPEG/8 raw
2.5fps
JPEG/n/a raw
ViewfinderOpticalOpticalOpticalOptical/EVF switchableOptional EVFOptional OVF or EVF
Autofocusn/a
Contrast AF
n/an/a
Contrast AF
49-area
Contrast AF
11-area
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
Meteringn/an/a256 zones256 zones324 arean/a
Shutter15-1/4,000 secn/a30 - 1/4,000 sec30 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 min60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 16 min60-1/4,000 sec
FlashYesYesYesYesYesYes
Hot shoeYesYesYesYesYesYes
LCD2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch articulated 922,000 dots2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
610,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilizationOpticalOpticalOpticalNoneSensor shiftOptical
Video (best quality)720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo720/30p Motion JPEG AVI720/30p AVCHD Lite
Mono
Manual iris and shutter in videoNon/aNoIris onlyNoYes
Zoom while recordingNoYesYesn/aNon/a
Mic inputNon/aNoNoYesNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)390 shots250 shots270 shots300 shots320 shots400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.4 x 3.0 x 2.04.6 x 3.2 x 2.64.6 x 2.7 x 2.25.0 x 2.9 x 2.14.4 x 2.6 x 1.74.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces)14.218.912.415.89.69.2
Mfr. Price$499.99$799.99$599.99$1,195.95$499.99$499.99
AvailabilityOctober 2010February 2012November 2011March 2011January 2011August 2010

In addition to the new larger, higher-resolution sensor, the G1 X boosts the size and resolution of the LCD. The minimum aperture is also up from f8 to f16.

Many of the new features, like the multi-area white balance and Intelligent IS, which launched with the S100, work only in auto mode; Intelligent IS autodetects what type of stabilization is necessary in both still and video modes, and the updated white balance does better scene analysis. It also introduces face recognition, and can store up to 12 faces with some limited associated metadata. You'll find a bunch of multishot modes, including five-shot HDR, though I find Canon's implementations so-so. Like the G12, it has a built-in neutral-density filter.

I admit some disappointment in the lens specs, however; I was really hoping for an f2 or faster lens, as most competitors are incorporating these days, especially for $800. The battery life is also pretty sad for a camera in its price class. And it might be bigger and heavier than some people are willing to put up with. Also, that fancy-looking knurling on the lens barrel? Totally for show.

As for the G12, Canon says it will remain in the lineup for at least the first half of the year.

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