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Canon PowerShot G1 X review: Canon PowerShot G1 X

Canon PowerShot G1 X

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
6 min read

Canon PowerShot G1 X

Canon PowerShot G1 X

The Good

The <b>Canon PowerShot G1 X</b> delivers excellent photo quality and a nice shooting design.

The Bad

Two flaws stand out: the camera's underperforming lens and sluggish shooting speed.

The Bottom Line

A big camera capable of shooting some lovely photographs, the Canon PowerShot G1 X's slow lens disappoints given its high price.

What you think about the Canon PowerShot G1 X depends upon whether you view it as a cheap alternative to the Fujifilm X100 or an expensive competitor to a lot of other fixed and interchangeable-lens models. That's because the price of the camera sets it apart from the crowd as much as the large-ish sensor does. But despite delivering on image quality and having a pretty nice shooting design, the lens, and to a lesser extent the shooting performance, hold it back from being worth the price.

The camera gets high marks for photo quality, though it's not significantly better than lower-priced ILCs like the Olympus E-PL3 or the Sony Alpha NEX-5N.

One advantage Canon retains over its rivals is the excellent JPEG processing and noise reduction, which allows it to produce extremely clean photos as high as ISO 400 and seriously usable ones up through ISO 3200. Color and exposure look great as well. The lens has good center sharpness, but not the greatest edge sharpness.

Movies look fine for casual shooting: decent sharpness and exposure with minimal rolling shutter, but quite a bit of aliasing (jaggies) and a relatively narrow tonal range. The lens does zoom and focus quietly while shooting, though. For the most part, it's comparable with fixed-lens competitors.

Unfortunately, the G1 X gets relatively low marks for performance, partly because of its sluggish shot-to-shot speed--even slower than the G12's--and partly because of some disappointing lens characteristics.

It powers on and shoots in 1.9 seconds, which is slow but typical for this type of camera. It takes 0.4 second to focus and shoot in good light, and 0.7 second in dim, both of which are par for this course as well. But time to shoot two sequential JPEGs is 2.4 seconds, rising to a seriously sad 3.2 seconds for raw.

I suspect this lag is because of poor buffer management, since it seems like the camera won't even attempt to focus for the second shot until it's cleared. That might explain why the flash shot-to-shot time is faster than raw, at 2.8 seconds. Its continuous-shooting speed sags as well at 2fps, but this isn't really a camera you'd want to burst with.

That said, the camera didn't feel as sluggish to shoot with as the data would imply. Perhaps I didn't notice because I spent a disproportionate amount of time dealing with the small-apertured lens and its bizarre focusing-distance constraints.

First, I'd expect a wider-than-f2.8 maximum aperture on an $800 camera. But more important, I expect it to be a lot faster than f5.8 at 112mm-equivalent. Not only does that compare poorly with similar focal ranges on the less-expensive XZ-1 and Fujifilm X10, but it's worse in practice: it's only f2.8 at 28mm. By 31.5mm it's jumped to f3.2. Here's the progression of maximum apertures available at the crossover focal lengths:

  •    •  f2.8 at 28mm
  •    •  f3.2 at 31.5mm
  •    •  f3.5 at 34.5mm
  •    •  f4 at 37.5
  •    •  f4.5 at 44.7
  •    •  f5 at 56.2mm
  •    •  f5.6 at 75.7
  •    •  f5.8 at 112mm

This isn't a gripe about depth-of-field; the larger sensor size of the G1 X allows for shallower DOF at narrower apertures than the smaller sensors in the Olympus and Fujifilm cameras. It's about light constraints at reasonably short focal lengths.

And that's only one problem. The other is the lens' minimum focusing distance. First, it can only focus as close as 7.9 inches, and that's in macro mode; in standard focus, it's a more common 1.3 feet. Even the G12's lens focuses as close as 2 inches in normal mode. More annoying, the camera can only autoswitch between macro and standard focus modes in complete Auto. It means unlearning habits about lens settings and spending too much time jumping in and out of macro modes.

  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
1/1.7-inch 1.5-inch
(18.7 x 14mm)
2/3-inch 23.6 x 15.8mm 1/1.63-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 12,800 ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 (expanded)/ 200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 80 - ISO 3200
Lens 28-140mm
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 7.9 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
2.5 fps
JPEG/n/a raw
Viewfinder Optical Optical Optical Optical/EVF switchable Optional EVF Optional OVF or EVF
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
11 area
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256 zones 256 zones 324 area n/a
Shutter 15-1/4,000 sec 60-1/4,000 sec 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 No No Iris only No Yes
Zoom while recording No Yes Yes n/a No n/a
Mic input No No 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 18.8 12.4 15.8 9.6 9.2
Mfr. price $499.99 $799 $599.99 $1,195.95 $499.99 $499.99
Availability October 2010 February 2012 November 2011 March 2011 January 2011 August 2010

Bigger, heavier, and boxier than the G12 and with a pop-up rather than front-mounted flash, the G1 X nevertheless looks and feels quite similar to its older sibling. Overall, I like the design, though the function button behavior can get a little frustrating: unlike other cameras, which automatically hide the menu when you press the shutter button, Canon's remains until you press the function button again. As a result, I frequently found myself scrolling around the options when I thought I was changing the shutter speed. Otherwise, I like the flip-and-twist LCD--it's bright and big--and though the optical viewfinder is quite small, it's useful to have. And the buttons and dials feel responsive and well laid out.

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.

A lot of people think that Canon's missing out by lagging in its ILC development--and it is. The G1 X targets a growing part of the market, composed of people who don't really care about changing lenses and just want better photo quality. But, ironically, its disappointing lens makes a better case for getting an ILC in this price segment than for buying this fixed-lens option.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Olympus E-PL3
Fujifilm FinePix X10
Canon PowerShot G12
Olympus XZ-1
Canon PowerShot G1 X
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Canon PowerShot G1 X

Canon PowerShot G1 X

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6Image quality 8