Canon PowerShot G5 X review: The G5 X is good, but for the price it lags behind the best

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The Good The Canon PowerShot G5 X has a great viewfinder and a comfortable shooting design for serious photographers.

The Bad It can be frustratingly slow, with a short battery life.

The Bottom Line Sluggish performance and a more limited feature set than similarly priced competitors hold the Canon PowerShot G5 back from being a leading contender among its peers.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

With the same 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor and 24-100mm f1.8-2.8 lens as the G7 X, the Canon PowerShot G5 X targets basically the same enthusiast photographers, but with a photo-nerdier design that includes a very nice high-resolution built-in OLED electronic viewfinder, hot shoe and a more useful flip-and-twist articulated touchscreen rather than the selfie-oriented flip-up screen. It's a fine camera, but unless the more useful display and above-average viewfinder matter most to you, then it doesn't really stand out from the pack.

The camera runs $750 (£650, AU$990) which puts it right in the middle of the crowd of cameras with similar specifications.

Image quality

As expected, given that it incorporates the same sensor, lens and image-processing engine, the G5 X's photo are very similar to those of the G7 X. JPEGs look very good at low ISO sensitivities, with saturated colors, nice contrast and a tonal range that can handle moderately contrasty lighting well.

At low ISO sensitivities, JPEGs look sharp (if a tad oversharpened), which is typical for cameras in its sensor class. The lens delivers pretty good edge-to-edge sharpness, though if you're not completely parallel to the scene the edge distortions become unusually pronounced, even at about a 50mm-equivalent angle of view.

Depending upon the light, JPEGs are usable through ISO 1600; beyond that the photos become visibly noisy and mushy from noise reduction, though they retain enough detail up through ISO 6400 that you might find them acceptable. You can regain some sharpness by processing the raw, but not a lot of detail in highlights and shadows.

As with the G7 X, the video looks good, with few artifacts, but not terribly sharp compared to competitors with 4K support.

Analysis samples

In JPEGs, you can start to see some smudging in just slightly out-of-focus areas at ISO 400. By ISO 800 there are obvious processing artifacts, but that's common for the 1-inch sensors. The automatic white balance under our test LED lights biases a little to purple, though it's within acceptable limits overall.

Lori Grunin/CNET

At the higher ISO sensitivities you lose a lot of detail and sharpness to noise and noise reduction. At ISO 1600 there's some color noise, and at ISO 3200 you start to lose quite a bit of dynamic range as well.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Like many cameras with 1-inch sensors, you don't have a lot of dynamic range to recover blown-out higlights or dark shadows. The G5 X did manage to pull back the sky and recover detail in the highlight areas on the building, but as is typical the clouds go gray/brown.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Canon pushes the color saturation in its default settings, rendering some slight hue shifts in the reds. However, most people will probably find the colors pleasing.

Lori Grunin/CNET

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