Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review - The Canon PowerShot G1 Mark II looks to build upon the performance and feature set of its predecessor at the top of the manufacturer's compact camera line-up.
Canon’s G series of compacts has long been the first port of call for many photographers who are happy with a compact camera but want to start taking their photography a touch more seriously.
Last year Canon decided to take the G series in a slightly different direction with the Canon G1 X. The model took a big step up in terms of sensor specification boasting a larger 1.5in chip – more in line with CSCs than similar advanced compacts.
Despite the boost in the sensor size, the Canon G1 X still featured a host of characteristics those familiar to PowerShot G cameras of yore would instantly recognise, and the Canon G1 X Mark II following on along a similar theme to its predecessor.
The original G1 X wasn’t without criticism when first reviewed, and so naturally the question is asked as to whether the G1 X has ironed out these concerns or whether it’s still an ultimately flawed model at the top of Canon’s tree.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review – Features
For all of the criticisms of the Canon G1 X – and there were certainly several – one area where it certainly impressed was with regards to the camera’s sensor and therefore its image quality.
The model featured a 1.5in CMOS sensor which measured in around 16% larger than Micro Four Thirds sensors found in some CSCs, and perhaps most eye-catchingly only 20% smaller than Canon’s own APS-C-type sensor found in the models entry-level DSLRs.
It’s no surprise then that the Canon G1 X Mark II retains the same sized sensor as its predecessor, although there is a slight drop in resolution, with the Mark II now featuring a 12.8MP resolution.
What this drop in resolution does mean is that the individual megapixels on the sensor are larger, and as such they should offer better light gathering capabilities.
The sensor isn’t the only area of the camera’s specification that’s received a modification in comparison to its predecessor, with the models lens also receiving some attention.
Out goes the camera’s 4x optical zoom and in comes a 5x optical zoom benefiting from an increase in focal length at both the wide and the tele end – now covering a focal range of 24-120mm in 35mm equivalent terms.
The lens also benefits from an improved maximum aperture of f/2 at the wide angle, dropping to a still-impressive f/3.9 at the tele end.
Canon’s proprietary Image Stabilisation system is another feature that’s a welcome presence on the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II, meaning images should retain sharpness even at the far end of the zoom.
Another welcome addition, and certainly an improvement for the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II, is the new DIGIC 6 image processor. Canon claims that this latest chip minimises image noise and will cut down on shutter lag by over 50%.
One disappointing omission on the G1 X Mark II an optical viewfinder. This is sure to disappoint G series purists as it is in fact the first ever G series model to come without an optical viewfinder as standard.
If you can’t possibly do without an optical viewfinder then all is not lost, as Canon does allow for the connection of an EVF through the hotshoe accessory port, although as you might expect it does come at an extra cost.
Although the model’s viewfinder has been dispensed with, the model does benefit from an impressive touchscreen LCD. The screen measures in at 3in, features a 1,040k-dot resolution and is of the hinged vari-angle variety.
The screen’s real highlight is its touchscreen functionality, delivering a level of performance that you would normally expect from the manufacturer’s entry-level DSLRs.
Some final highlights on the camera’s specification include built-in Wi-fi and NFC connectivity, a pop-up flash and a 3-stop ND filter for creative long exposures.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review – Design
Where the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II does impress is in its build quality. The model features the combination of an aluminium exterior and stainless steel chassis, with the two resulting in a camera which is a touch heavier than the previous model in the series, although certainly feels assuringly robust.
This extra weight is also relatively well managed, as thanks to a new sculpted handgrip the camera sits well in the hand. The only reservation here is that the handgrip does appear to be a bit of an afterthought and not entirely integrated to the design of the camera.
In terms of the handling, on the whole all of the regular controls are well laid out and function well in operation.
For example, the camera’s mode dial is placed on the corner of the body for easy control with the thumb, while the rear control ring is also similarly easy to access while shooting.
Further impressive controls include the dual control rings around the camera’s lens barrel which can be customised to whichever shooting setting you either use most regularly or require at a certain moment.
The only real criticism of the controls is that occasionally they are a touch easy to knock and, as they’re not to firmly fixed, you can find yourself accidentally changing the camera settings.
Also, the playback and Wi-fi buttons are placed within easy knocking reach and would have been better placed elsewhere.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review – Performance
One of the most disappointing areas of performance with the original G1 X was the camera’s AF system. As such, it’s interesting to see whether Canon has managed to remedy the situation with the Mark II.
The model features a new 31-point AiAF system which, on the whole, improves upon the predecessor.
Although it’s not quite as fast as some of the very best hybrid focus systems on the market, it’s still does well in most situations.
In low light conditions, for example, the model also benefits from a bright white AF assist beam, and it’s only in the truly most challenging lighting conditions that the camera finding itself returning to the hunting issues seen in its predecessor.
This improved focus performance also benefits from some excellent touch AF functionality, while the manual focus ring also helps when it comes to fine-tuning the settings while shooting.
The fact that the viewfinder has been removed from the camera’s body, and thus available at an extra cost, will no doubt irk some G-series aficionados. It’s not all bad news however, as the new EVF is much better in terms of performance than the optical version found on its predecessor.
Video performance is another area the Mark II does well in. Thanks to the camera’s 5-axis dynamic IS system, as well as 30fps HD shooting, you can rely upon the G1 X Mark II to deliver smooth videos even in slightly more challenging shooting conditions.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review – Image Quality
One of the real strong points of the original G1 X was its impressive image quality, and on the whole the G1 X Mark II replicates these impressive results.
Colour and white balance
As you might expect for a high-end Canon compact, you can rely upon the G1 X Mark II’s auto white balance to deliver consistent results in a variety of different lighting conditions.
In terms of colour reproduction, the G1 X Mark II delivers punchy tone, with red and blues particularly well represented in good lighting conditions.
The natural reproduction is such that images rarely need any post production work, thanks to the even saturation and white balance.
On the whole the metering system on the G1 X Mark II is dependable, although there is a slight tendency to deliver brighter exposures than darker with a view towards preserving details in the highlight areas of the images.
As a result it’s often necessary to dial in the exposure compensation dial to between -1EV and -2EV, although this isn’t always the case and it’s by no means uncommon for such a camera.
The G1 X Mark II also delivers a good level of dynamic range, almost at a level competing with Canon’s entry-level DSLRs
Despite a slight drop in the resolution of the sensor in comparison to its predecessor, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II still manages to resolve around 26 lines per millimetre (lpmm) at the base ISO settings.
As you might expect for an advanced compact featuring a larger than average sensor, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II handles noise at higher ISO settings well.
There’s very little noise evident at the very base ISO settings, and even at ISO 6400 the sensor resolves a level of detail around 20lpmm – well ahead of some competing models in its class.
It must be stated that above this setting detail really does drop off, and the maximum ISO 12,800 is best avoided at all costs.
Raw vs. JPEG
Although Canon does a good job of in-camera image processing when it comes to JPEG files, when you inspect how the camera handling image noise at higher ISO settings it’s certainly worth noting the importance of shooting Raw.
Although the sharpening of JPEG files isn’t particularly over aggressive, fine detail is compromised.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review – Verdict
If you’re looking at the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II as a direct comparison to its G1 X predecessor, there’s certainly no denying the fact that it’s a marked improvement.
Not only is the image processing improved, but the new lens means that issues with focusing and macro work have also been addressed.
However, it’s important to consider the camera in isolation and also bear in mind that Canon has had some two years to improve on the predecessor.
As such, there are certainly still areas where the camera disappoints – for example, the battery life of 240 shots is a let down, the handgrip feels a touch bolted on and the new AF system, while improved, isn’t in the league of some hybrid AF systems currently on the market.
Then there’s the price – at around £750, and now lacking a viewfinder, it’s certainly an expensive bit of kit and as a result it’s lined up against some very impressive competition.
As a result, you have to say that it continues to miss the mark of what PowerShot G-series purchasers would require from a flagship model.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of images captured with the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II. For a wider range of image head on over to the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II sample image gallery.
Canon has unveiled the PowerShot G1 X Mark II, an upgrade to the G1 X that features a design that has been reworked from the ground up, both on the inside and out. The G1 X Mark II boasts a 1.5-type CMOS sensor, with a surface area twice as large as that in many of its competitors.
The new sensor configuration is able to adapt and capture images using the full width of the lens’s image circle regardless of which ratio is being used to capture, whether 3:2 at 12.8 megapixels or 4:3 at 13.1 megapixels. While this is slight downgrade from the G1 X, the pixels on the sensor are much larger – 4.5x larger than those on the PowerShot G16 – allowing for greater light-gathering capabilities.
The sensor works with Canon’s DIGIC 6 image processor, which Canon says operates up to 2.4x faster than its predecessor. This not only means cleaner, less noisy images and videos but also a 56% reduction in shooting lag – so Canon says, at least. It allows for a few new feature modes too, such as Background Defocus and handheld HDR.
The external design of the G1 X II is now a stainless steel chassis and aluminium exterior, but chief among the new features is a brand new ergonomic grip. On looking at the camera it’s the first thing you notice and the way it’s been bolted to the body means you can’t help but think that it looks like a bit of an afterthought.
Canon Europe had fed back to the designers that the grip needed to be larger, and they certainly managed that. It protrudes a fair way out of the body, and has the effect of making the camera feel larger in the hand.
Also new to the G1 X II is an f/2.0-3.9 24-120mm 5x optical zoom lens, which features a 9-blade aperture, a minimum focal distance of 5cm for macro work, and the option to digitally double the extent of the zoom.
The lens is particularly chunky, larger than that of the G1 X. I was pleased with how robust it felt and how strong the grip was. The customisable Dual Lens Control rings are also a very nice touch, allowing you to alter functions like zoom, aperture, and shutter speed with speed and precision.
Improved on the G1 X Mark II is the AiAF system, which more than triples the PowerShot G1 X’s nine AF points to an altogether more muscly 31. The density and wide coverage of the points makes for accurate and fast lock-on, and the overall effect is AF that’s really quite a bit faster than that of the G1 X. It’s impressive stuff.
Touchscreen functionality is something Canon has done well in the past and I’m pleased to report that the 3-inch tiltable specimen on the rear of the G1 X is no exception. It’s strikingly responsive, just as it was on Canon’s DSLRs like the EOS 100D. It doesn’t sit flush with the body and protrudes at the rear.
There’s also the option to attach an electronic viewfinder via the hotshoe: an EVF-DC1. It’s incredibly sharp and clear, as you’d expect from a cool 2.3million dots of resolution.
The G1 X Mark II is able to record Full HD 1920×1080 30p movies with stereo sound, utilising the optical zoom if the user desires. A dedicated Movie Record button is positioned in a manner very similar to the Sony Alpha 7 and 7R, practically on the side of the body.
Wi-fi capabilities have been beefed up too, with the addition of NFC functionality for instant pairing. A welcome development is the ease with which you can access Wi-fi – a button positioned alongside the thumb rest is within easy reach. Installing the Canon CameraWindow app allows for controlling the camera remotely with smart devices.
The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is expected from May 2014, priced at £749.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II ReviewFirst Impressions
Even based on spec alone, it’s clear that the G1 X Mark II has made a lot of sensible improvements over its predecessor. The beefed up AF is most welcome, but what’s impressive is how many sensible control adjustments Canon has made to make the camera just that little bit smoother to operate. The chunky, protruding handgrip may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it does mean the camera feels robust in the hand. We’ll have to see if the images from the G1 X II match all the other things Canon seems to have gotten right.