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Canon G1 X

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Canon PowerShot G1 X Video Recording

Although it doesn't feature an interchangeable-lens design, the Canon G1 X is designed to appeal to photographers either seeking a more compact accompaniment or an alternative to an interchangeable-lens model. High-definition video is now a standard feature on almost all SLR and mirrorless cameras, and so it's no surprise to see the capability present on Canon's G1 X.

Much like the rest of its design, the G1 X doesn't aim to beat the more capable system camera models in terms of its feature set, but simply to provide enough capability to cater for every day shooting, and to do so in a reasonably straightforward, user-friendly manner. Hence, features like manual exposure control, external microphone connectivity, and adjustable frame rates are all absent. Instead, the G1 X provides features more popular with consumers, such as full-time autofocus, optical zoom during video capture, and stereo audio from an onboard microphone. There are also some fun options such as creative filters and My Color modes that let you tweak the look of videos in-camera.

For an interchangeable-lens model, the limited feature set might be a bit of a shame that there's not more control over exposure variables, etc., but in a camera like this it seems to make more sense to keep things simple. If you need the added flexibility of manual controls, you'll likely also want an interchangeable lens. For the typical consumer, and for spontaneous video when you leave your interchangeable-lens camera at home, the G1 X offers a good alternative to a dedicated camcorder or grainy smartphone video.

Canon G1 X Basic Video Specs

Canon G1 X Video: Image Size, Frame Rate, and Encoding

The Canon G1 X records at just three different video resolutions: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (aka Full HD / 1080p), 1,280 x 720 pixels (aka 720p), or 640 x 480 pixels (aka VGA). 1080p videos have a fixed capture rate of 24 frames per second; other resolutions use 30 frames per second. There's also an iFrame mode, which records in Apple's editing-friendly format with a fixed 720p resolution. The G1 X records all movies with H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression with stereo linear PCM audio, using an MOV container. No spec is provided for the sampling rate, though video players report 16-bit, 48 kHz, 1,536Kbps stereo audio, regardless of resolution.

The table below shows the specs for various video recording options.

Canon G1 X Video Options
High Profile MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Format (.MOV files)
Resolution
Frame Rate
Average Bit Rate (approx.)

1,920 x 1,080
(16:9 aspect ratio)

23.976 fps (progressive)

34 Mbps

iFrame 1,280 x 720
(16:9 aspect ratio)

29.970 fps (progressive)

36 Mbps

1,280 x 720
(16:9 aspect ratio)

29.970 fps (progressive)

24 Mbps

640 x 480
(4:3 aspect ratio)

29.970 fps (progressive)

11 Mbps

As noted above, the Canon G1 X offers only one video recording format: H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC. Compared to the older Motion JPEG formats still used in a few cameras, the G1 X's H.264 file format is rather more efficient in its use of memory card space for a given image quality level, but seems to be a bit harder for older computers to read. Continuous movie recording is limited to the smaller of either a 4GB capacity, or 29 minutes, 59 seconds for high-definition video, or one hour for VGA video. Canon recommends use of at least a Class 6 Secure Digital card to avoid issues with write speeds during video capture.

Here are some examples of video shot with our sample of the Canon G1 X:

Canon G1 X: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

Canon G1 X Video-Mode Zoom

Many fixed-lens cameras that lack mechanical control of the zoom position don't allow zoom operation during video capture, for a couple of reasons. The zoom operation itself can be obtrusive, causing shifts in focus and aperture across the zoom range, and operation noise the zoom drive motors can be picked up by the onboard microphones, resulting in untoward noise being captured. The Canon G1 X is somewhat less common in still providing for optical zoom operation during video capture, but with a twist. The zoom operation is much slower during video capture, doubtless in an attempt to keep zoom noise to a minimum. That seems a more reasonable tradeoff than disabling zoom altogether.

During zoom operation, noise is still picked up pretty clearly by the onboard mics, but it's less objectionable than in some cameras. There's a slight clunk as the zoom starts or stops moving, and a steady, low buzzing during operation.

As well as optical zoom, the G1 X allows use of digital zoom during capture. This, of course, degrades image quality noticeably as you zoom in, and is pretty soft by the time you reach the maximum 4x digital zoom (ie. 16x zoom when combined with its optical counterpart.) There's a brief pause between the optical zoom's maximum extent being reached, and the digital zoom starting, so it's not possible to smoothly zoom in all the way from wide angle to the 16x equivalent in one go.

Canon G1 X Video-Mode Focusing

Typically, consumer videographers and even some enthusiasts find the ability to provide live autofocus during recording pretty useful. Unfortunately, although the Canon G1 X does provide full-time autofocus during video capture, it is absolutely treacle-slow, which rather reduces its versatility. (It's not only the autofocus speed that's slow, but also the response time before an out-of-focus situation is detected.) It's not a limitation of the autofocus system, per se. While still slower than a typical system camera using contrast detection AF, the G1 X can still focus much more quickly in still-image mode or when a video isn't recording, than it does during capture. It isn't clear whether the significant reduction in focusing speed is a matter of processor power, or of Canon attempting to minimize the degree of drive noise picked up during autofocus operation, but either way, the net result is an autofocus system that's only of use for relatively static subjects.

Two focus modes are available for movie capture: Either Face AiAF (which locates and focuses on the dominant face in the scene), and Center (which focuses--as you'd expect--at the center of the frame). Although you can change the focus point size and position for still imaging, this is not applicable to movie mode.

Unfortunately, short of switching to manual focus before capture starts, there is no way to stop AF operation during movie capture. There's a positive in the relatively slow AF operation here, however. While you can't prevent autofocus drifting away from your subject if they leave the center of the frame, the relatively slow detection gives you plenty of time to reframe, and the slow AF operation means that the shift in focus isn't too obtrusive. (What minor hunting there the G1 X performs is likewise not too visible, for the same reason.)

Canon G1 X Video Exposure Control

Although some large-sensor cameras still use the same controls for video capture and still imaging, and therefore require use of a dedicated Movie exposure mode, the G1 X takes a middle ground. It allows movie recording from any exposure mode, but only provides a framing preview for high-def video when in its dedicated Movie exposure mode, since the aspect ratio of the sensor differs from that of HD video. If you want to frame accurately at the start of your videos, then, you'll want to use the dedicated mode regardless.

There is no choice of exposure mode. Instead, all videos are recorded with Program auto-exposure, and you have only two controls over exposure. You can deploy the camera's built-in three-stop neutral density filter to bias the exposure towards a combination of wider aperture / longer shutter speeds / higher ISO sensitivity (although the camera itself determines the mix), and you can adjust the overall exposure level with exposure compensation. Both variables must be set before capture starts. Although the camera can adjust the exposure level to account for changes in scene brightness during capture, the videographer cannot intervene to change the compensation bias without stopping first recording.

Canon G1 X Video Creative Options

As well as exposure compensation and the neutral density filter, you can also adjust the white balance, and access what Canon refers to as My Color modes before capture commences. These tweak contrast, saturation, sharpness, skin tones, and the overall hue to provide a variety of looks, including a black-and-white mode, and you can also create your own custom look as you would for still imaging.

Also available are a selection of special effect functions, called Creative Filters. Accessing these requires that you set the Mode dial to the Creative Filter position, rather than to the Movie mode, and only a subset of the available filters can be used for video. (If you try to record a video using one of the other filters, the G1 X will simply default to an unfiltered video.)

Available filters for video capture include Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Nostalgic, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, Color Accent, and Color Swap. Of these, there's one mode that comes at a cost: Miniature Effect movies play back at a greatly accelerated frame rate, and include no sound. You can choose between rates of 5x, 10x, or 20x by pressing the Metering Mode button, then rolling the front dial to choose the playback speed.

A more unusual option is the Movie Digest function, which debuted in a number of last year's small-sensor PowerShot models. Movie Digest is used to automatically capture up to four seconds of video from immediately before the moment of capture of each still image, by simply buffering video continuously from the moment the shutter button is half-pressed, and then saving the last few seconds of video once the shutter is tripped. The Movie Digest videos are stored by the camera, and at the end of a day's shooting, are automatically stitched together into a single video showing all of the day's clips in sequence. Where last year's models saved Movie Digests at VGA (640 x 480 pixel) standard-definition resolution, the G1 X will do so at 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) high-definition resolution.

Canon G1 X Video: Audio recording

The Canon G1 X can record audio via an internal, stereo microphone, comprised of two separate microphones located on the top of the front panel, flanking the hot shoe. (Although we don't have an objective way to test this, the minimal separation compared to that of the stereo mic designs in some competing models seems like it may provide a lesser stereo effect. The G1 X's right microphone port is also angled sideways slightly, where the left port points upwards, which again seems as if it might negatively impact the stereo effect subtly.)

Canon's only published spec for the G1 X's audio recording capability simply says "stereo", so we don't officially know the specification employed, although third-party players report 16-bit, 48 kHz, 1,536 kbps PCM stereo audio. Audio recorded with the camera's internal mic sounded quite clear, and although we do no tests to measure frequency response or sensitivity, we felt that the level of hiss in audio tracks recorded in quiet environments, was rather better than typical of an onboard mic. The camera's auto-gain system appears to do a good job of adjusting sensitivity as sound levels got louder or softer, with no evident "breathing" in transitions from high to low sound levels.

The G1 X did, however, seem more prone to wind noise than most cameras by default. Thankfully, there's a wind cut function in the Shooting menu, which helps out by reducing low-frequency noise.

The G1 X lacks external microphone connectivity, and unusually, doesn't even offer the ability to disable audio capture. Of course, it's a simple matter to strip the audio in post-processing.

Canon G1 X Movie Recording/Playback User Interface

The Canon G1 X makes movie recording simple. First, you optionally set the Drive mode to the Movie position. Then to initiate capture, simply press the dedicated Movie button on the G1 X's rear panel, and the camera will start recording video.

Normally, this is where we'd list the Movie-mode menu items, but the G1 X has no separate movie menu. In fact, the only menu items exclusively related to video recording are the choice of movie mode (Standard or iFrame), and movie resolution (1,920 x 1,080; 1,280 x 720; or 640 x 480 pixels), set using the Function menu.

Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello Effect")

Canon G1 X: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

Essentially every video capable digital SLR/CSC currently on the market exhibits some level of motion-related distortion called rolling shutter artifacts. These are caused because the image data is captured and then read off the chip sequentially by rows, rather than each frame's data being captured all at once. In the case of the Canon G1 X, this means that image data for the last row of a given frame is captured and read out around 1/24 - 1/30th second after the data for the top row was captured. The effect on moving objects is like that of a focal plane shutter in an SLR, but more pronounced, because the video frame is read out much more slowly than the slit of a focal plane shutter moves across the sensor.

For a camera that scans video frames vertically (as all do that we're aware of), rolling shutter artifacts will be most noticeable for subjects that are moving rapidly side to side, or when the camera itself is being panned horizontally. Verticals in the scene will appear tilted to the right or left, depending on the direction of camera motion. As an example, consider the case of a camera being panned from left to right, with a flagpole or other vertical object in the middle of the scene when recording for a particular frame begins: If the top of the object was centered horizontally when the first line of the video frame is acquired, by the time the last line of the frame has been captured, the bottom of the object will have shifted to somewhere left of center: As a result, the vertical object would appear to be leaning to the right.

Computer Requirements for Viewing HD Video

A typical computer these days has little trouble dealing with still images, but high-definition video can be another matter. Depending on the file format involved, it can take a pretty beefy computer to handle HD-resolution video playback without stuttering or dropping frames. The H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC image compression used by the Canon G1 X is one of the more compute-intensive formats, and its maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels means there's a LOT of data in each frame to deal with. The net result is that you'll want a fairly recent computer to play the G1 X's Full HD video files, and a pretty powerful machine for Full HD video editing.

You can of course view your movies on a standard-definition or high definition TV via either the composite NTSC / PAL or Mini-HDMI outputs (cable optional).