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

Canon's more feature-packed enthusiast compact has all the right hardware, but doesn't really stand out from the crowd.

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
8 min read

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.


Canon PowerShot G5 X

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.

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.

Canon PowerShot G5 X full-resolution photo samples

See all photos

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

Enlarge Image

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
Enlarge Image

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
Enlarge Image

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
Enlarge Image

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


The good news is that the G5 X is faster than the G7 X, and at 1.5 seconds, powers on and shoots faster than its competitors. While that's competitive, these cameras tend to be slow starters overall. Plus its autofocus performance, comparable to the others at 0.2 second in good light and 0.3 in dim, is better than the G7 X's.

However its shot-to-shot time, a measure of how quickly the camera is ready to shoot again after taking a photo, is still pretty bad at 0.9 second for JPEG and 1.1 seconds for raw. That's not just in lab tests; in practice, the camera feels frustratingly slow to respond.

Continuous-shooting performance matches that of the G7 X at 4.6 frames per second, with autofocus, for at least 20 JPEGs.

Single-area autofocus worked a lot more consistently in this camera compared to the G7 X. As usual, the complete autofocus setting never selects the proper subject; it's really only useful when you want the entire scene in focus, as it selects as many AF areas as possible. Face AiAF works OK for stills, but it can be too easily distracted by faces or facelike objects moving through the frame.

As with the G7 X, though, the camera has a too-short battery life, and the three-bar battery level goes straight from two bars to blinking red with no stops in between.

Shooting speed

Sony RX100 IV 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.2 2.1Panasonic Lumix LX100 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.5 2.5Canon PowerShot G5 X 0.2 0.3 0.9 1.1 1.5Sony RX100 III 0.3 0.1 0.5 0.5 2.0Canon PowerShot G7 X 0.5 0.8 1.1 1.4 1.5
  • Shutter lag (typical)
  • Shutter lag (dim)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Note: Seconds (smaller bars are better)

Continuous-shooting speed

Sony RX100 IV 5.7Canon PowerShot G7 X 4.6Canon PowerShot G5 X 4.6Panasonic Lumix LX100 4.1Sony RX100 III 2.1
Note: Frames per second (longer bars are better)

Design and features

While it's not the prettiest camera I've used lately, the G5 X is, for the most part, functionally designed. Unlike many of its competitors, it has a real grip (yay!), with a front adjustment dial above it.

On the top left sits the mode dial, with the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes, plus a saved-settings mode; a movie mode which lets you select from short-clip recording, manual settings or iFrame movie (an old low-resolution legacy format); and Creative Shot, which automatically brackets effects.

Like most of today's enthusiast compacts, there's also a ring around the lens that can be mapped to a variety of controls such as aperture, stepped zoom, ISO sensitivity and so on. The ring feels very clicky, which can be disconcerting when using it to manually focus, and there's no option to silence/smooth the operation. The camera does have focus peaking, however, which helps in manual-focus mode.


The flash doesn't pop up automatically in Auto mode; you have to lift it up.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the right, there's a physical exposure compensation dial, power button, and zoom switch on the shutter button. The back is typical Canon, with an exposure lock button, autofocus area button, playback and menu buttons surrounding the back dial, which has buttons for drive and focus modes, flash on/off (if the flash is up), display options and focus mode (auto, macro or manual).

The thumb rest is comfortable, but Canon put the video record button flush into it. Though that's convenient for thumb-based operation, it's occasionally hard to feel and press.

But it's got a responsive, articulated touchscreen and a fairly large, comfortable viewfinder. Unlike the G7 X, the G5 X doesn't have an automatic selfie mode (despite the fact that you can flip the LCD to face front for easy self-operation), but it does offer some specific options, such as skin smoothing and background defocus.

While its physical features are nice for the money -- namely, an electronic viewfinder, articulated display and built-in neutral-density filter -- the G5 X's software feature set is pretty minimal. It lacks 4K video, interval/time-lapse shooting or advanced ways to use its relatively limited set of effects, for example.

During playback, the drive-mode button brings up the connectivity options, including transferring photos between cameras, connecting your a mobile device, connecting to a computer, printing and "direct" upload. I was excited to think that Canon wasn't forcing you to sign up for its superfluous Canon Image Gateway service anymore.

When you choose direct upload connection it initially makes you agree to giving up some privacy and provide Canon with an email address. It then emails you -- saying you have to create an account with Canon Image Gateway. Dang sneaky, Canon. (You also can't connect to a computer without syncing through CIG.) As always in this case, you're better off just connecting to your mobile device and uploading that way.

Connecting to a mobile device is straightforward, and uses the same procedure as most cameras: the best method is to set the camera as an access point and then connect the phone to it. NFC on launches the Camera Connect app, but only in a "dumb" mode -- you can only push selected images down to the device from the camera. Even though they're connected, you can't go to the home screen of the connect app and start remote shooting or manage location information. You have to exit and then manually launch the connection again to do that. There's a direct-connect button on the side of the camera, but all that does it bring up the screen that searches for an access point; if you want to use the camera as the AP, it never seems to remember that.

Remote shooting works well and maintains the connection, but the app still doesn't support control over the full roster of settings, including white balance, metering and exposure mode.

For a complete accounting of its features and operation, download the G5 X's manual (PDF).


If I forget about the frustrating moments when I missed shots because the camera didn't recover fast enough, then I do like the G5 X as a general-purpose camera for photographers who like to fiddle with settings but not use a lot of other features. It's got a comfortable design and takes nice photos that look about the same as those from other cameras with similar sensors. But with so many choices available, it doesn't clearly stand out from the crowd.

Comparative specifications

Canon PowerShot G5 X Canon PowerShot G7 X Fujifilm X70 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP HS CMOS 20.2MP HS CMOS 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 20.2MP Exmor R CMOS
Sensor size 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8 mm)
(13.2 x 8.8 mm)
(23.6 x 15.6mm)
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 2.7x 1.5x 2.7x
OLPF Yes Yes No Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 125 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800/25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 -ISO 6400/ISO 51200 (exp) ISO 80 (exp)/ISO 125 - ISO 12800
Lens (35mm equivalent) 24-100mm
24 - 70mm
Closest focus 2.0 in/5 cm 2.0 in/5 cm 3.9 in/10 cm 1.9 in/5 cm
Burst shooting 4.4fps
(5.9fps with fixed focus)
31 JPEG/n/a raw
(6.5fps with fixed focus)
3 fps
unlimited JPEG/n/a
(8fps for 10 frames JPEG)
(10fps with fixed focus and exposure)
(mag/ effective mag)
2.4m dots
100 percent coverage
None None OLED EVF
1.44m dots
100% coverage
Hot shoe Yes No Yes No
Autofocus 31-area
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
77-point phase-detection AF
49-area Contrast AF
Contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter speed 250 - 1/2,000 sec 250 - 1/2,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec (1/32,000 electronic shutter); bulb to 60 minutes 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Metering n/a n/a 256 zones n/a
Metering sensitivity n/a n/a n/a n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/60p @ 36 Mbps XAVC S
1080/60p, 30p, 25p, 24p @ 60Mbps; 720/120p
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes n/a Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB/29:59 minutes 4GB/29:59 minutes 14 minutes 29 minutes
Optical zoom while recording Yes Yes n/a Yes
IS Optical Optical None Optical
LCD 3 in/7.5 cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Flip-up touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Tilting touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash No No n/a No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 215 shots
(1,250 mAh)
210 shots
(1,250 mAh)
330 shots
(1,800 mAh)
320 shots (LCD);
230 shots (Viewfinder)
(1,240 mAh)
Size (WHD) 4.4 x 3 x 1.7 in
112 x 76 x 44 mm
4.1 x 2.4 x 1.6 in
103 x 60.4 x 40.4 mm
4.4 x 2.5 x 1.8 in
113 x 64 x 44 mm
4.0 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches
101.6 x 58.1 x 41 mm
Body operating weight 13.3 oz (est.)
377 g (est.)
10.7 oz
302 g
12 oz (est.)
340g (est.)
10.2 oz
289.2 g
Mfr. price
Release date (US) November 2015 October 2014 February 2016 June 2014

Canon PowerShot G5 X

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Image quality 8