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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 G12 Canon PowerShot G1 X Fujifilm FinePix X10 Fujifilm FinePix X100 Olympus XZ-1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 14.3-megapixel CMOS 12-megapixel EXR CMOS 12.3-megapixel CMOS 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
7.6 x 5.7mm
8.8 x 6.6mm
23.6 x 15.8mm 1/1.63-inch
8.1 x 6mm (approx)
8.1 x 6mm (approx)
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 12,800 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 (expanded)/ 200 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Lens 28-140mm
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 n/a 0.4 3.9 0.4 0.4
Continuous shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a raw
8 JPEG/n/a raw
10 JPEG/8 raw
23 JPEG/8 raw
JPEG/n/a raw
Viewfinder Optical Optical Optical Optical/EVF switchable Optional EVF Optional OVF or EVF
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a n/a
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256 zones 256 zones 324 area n/a
Shutter 15-1/4,000 sec n/a 30 - 1/4,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 min 60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 16 min 60-1/4,000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
LCD 2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch articulated 922,000 dots 2.8-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 stabilization Optical Optical Optical None Sensor shift Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 720/30p Motion JPEG AVI 720/30p AVCHD Lite
Manual iris and shutter in video No n/a No Iris only No Yes
Zoom while recording No Yes Yes n/a No n/a
Mic input No n/a No No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 390 shots 250 shots 270 shots 300 shots 320 shots 400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.4 x 3.0 x 2.0 4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6 4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces) 14.2 18.9 12.4 15.8 9.6 9.2
Mfr. Price $499.99 $799.99 $599.99 $1,195.95 $499.99 $499.99
Availability October 2010 February 2012 November 2011 March 2011 January 2011 August 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.