The PowerShot G1 X is the king of Canon's point-and-shoot cameras. It's the latest in a long and distinguished line of high-end semi-pro devices in chunky, sturdy bodies.
It's about as no-nonsense as you can get, with few concessions made to aesthetics in the push to put as many settings as possible within easy, immediate reach. It largely does away with the need to trawl menus and helps you get your best shot as quickly as possible.
It is, in short, a serious camera for serious photographers that proves pretty conclusively that great photography has nothing to do with whether or not you own a dSLR. It can be yours for around £700.
Build and design
You'll almost certainly choose the G1 X on account of its specs, but that's rather missing the point. The real advantage is the way it's been built. The 3-inch display folds out from the back and rotates through 270 degrees. You can fold it back on itself to sit facing out from the body like a regular pocket camera, and tilt it around corners -- or forwards and backwards -- to frame precisely the shot you're after. There's also an optical viewfinder if you prefer working that way. They're becoming something of a rarity these days.
The regular scene mode dial is set within a larger dial to handle exposure compensation (+/-3EV in 1/3 EV steps), which lets you tweak exposure without having to hold a button or navigate the menus.
The optical zoom is only 4x, but it's still equivalent to 28-112mm on a 35mm camera, which is better than most dSLR starter kit lenses. Maximum aperture is a bright f/2.8 at wide angle and f/5.8 at full telephoto. The really clever stuff goes on behind this though.
The sensor is 18.7x14mm, which is just slightly smaller than the APS-C chips Canon uses in its consumer dSLRs. These run to 22.2x14.8mm. In theand they accommodate 18 megapixels, but in the G1 X, this resolution has been trimmed slightly to 14.3 megapixels. So the pixel density is almost identical, allowing for photosites of equivalent size that will deliver similar quality.
Furthermore, because the G1 X will save its output in RAW format (as well as, or instead of, JPEG), it retains the same level of information from the sensor as a dSLR. This gives you far more flexibility when it comes to editing your shots, allowing you to change white balance and exposure in post-production.
Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 60 seconds, while sensitivity tops out at a massive ISO 12,800, having kicked off at ISO 100. Combine the longest exposure with the lowest sensitivity -- and, if necessary, the in-built neutral density filter -- and you can expect to shoot some beautiful night-time scenes.
It's compatible with a whole range of EOS accessories for dSLRs, including transmitters, fire remote flashes and Canon's Speedlite hotshoe-attached flashes. The ring surrounding the lens also unscrews so you can attach filters, adaptors and a lens hood.
It's highly customisable too. As well as two positions in which to save your own custom settings on the shooting mode selector, you can change the functions of the front and back wheels, assign a feature to the shortcut button that sits beside the viewfinder, and build a custom menu within the firmware containing only your most used controls.
As you'd hope from a camera so tightly packed with high-end hardware, the G1 X output is first class. Colours are a close match for the originals, there's plenty of detail in the results and illumination is uniform across the frame.
Its macro range was the only disappointment. It won't take you any closer than 20cm in wide angle and 85cm at full telephoto. However, that's not to say it's best forgotten.