Although the new Canon PowerShot G1 X may not be the new Compact System Camera a number of sources were speculating, this manual control, large sensor compact is still impressive to behold. That's the key feature of this new model - it features a 1.5in CMOS sensor that's very almost the same size as Canon's APS-C sensors. That's a big sensor for such a compact, which ought to make final image quality significantly better than previous G-series models.
Physically there are few differences between it and the previous G-series models. The model looks like a larger PowerShot G12, but its the inclusion of new control dials that sets the camera apart from its predecessors. There's an exposure compensation dial sat underneath the main mode dial on top of the camera, as well as a front thumbwheel.
The 4x optical zoom lens starts at a wideangle 28mm and can zoom to 112mm. Canon claims that the lens is made using many of the same standards as its EF lens range, meaning the G1 X ought to have exceptional optical quality and sharpness. Surrounding the lens is a bayonet-attachment hood, which can be twisted off to allow for a 58mm filter adapter to be attached. However this isn't a lens hood, despite its appearance. We suspect that future wideangle and teleconverters will be made available, but there's no concrete news regarding this as yet.
The G1 X's optical viewfinder is a pleasant surprise and improvement beyond its G12 cousin. Able to zoom in conjunction with the lens, the screen is large and bright enough to use with comfort. However there's no information regarding the field-of-view which doesn't match up to the holy grail of 100% - meaning when shooting via the viewfinder an area around the edge of the frame won't be visible but will be captured.
The G1 X's LCD screen has a 921k-dot resolution and produces an excellent preview with a faithful exposure range. It remains to be seen how it performs under bright sunlight as we've only seen this model indoors. One standout feature is the vari-angle bracket that means the screen can be tilted and twisted through any given angle.
In use the G1 X's focus feels fast and
accurate, much like the existing G-series or PowerShot S100.
Much like previous G-series models the G1 X is comfortable to handle. A pronounced grip and ample hand space makes it easy to hold for lengthy periods, and the majority of the important controls are a finger stretch away. The front dial is useful, especially when in full manual control, although the rear dial feels a touch flimsy.
The PowerShot G1 X's built quality does feel somewhat plasticy, it's not got the kind of metallic finish or metal build quality that we'd like to have seen. And for £700 that's a bit of a let down. The lens, too, is operated by a standard zoom toggle around the shutter, so there's not the fluid, DSLR-like use of a focus or zoom ring that would be desirable at this level.
The G1 X's flash is relatively small, but extends enough to avoid catch-lens shadows. But what's more exciting is the TTL hotshoe that offers full Speedlite compatibility, including wireless control if a transmitter is attached.
Although our time spent with the camera was brief, it felt like a faithful PowerShot G-series experience. None of the test shots that were taken could be retrieved from the camera as it's a pre-production model. The layout and design are familiar to the G12, making the camera easy to use. Although we can't yet assess image quality, that's the one aspect of this camera that sounds the most exciting.
*Updated 10:40 PST, 12th Jan 2012