Canon G1 X Mark II Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II
Resolution: 13.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1.5-inch type
Lens: 5.00x zoom
(24-120mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-12800
Shutter: 60-1/4000
Max Aperture: 2.0
Dimensions: 4.6 x 2.9 x 2.6 in.
(116 x 74 x 66 mm)
Weight: 19.5 oz (553 g)
MSRP: $800
Availability: 04/2014
Manufacturer: Canon
13.10
Megapixels
5.00x zoom
1.5-inch type
size sensor
image of Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II
Front side of Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera Back side of Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera Top side of Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera Left side of Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera Right side of Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- First Impressions

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Preview posted

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Beauty shot

Two years ago, Canon announced its first -- and until now, only -- entry in the large-sensor, fixed-lens camera market, the PowerShot G1 X. And what an entry it was -- until the G1 X, no manufacturer had introduced a large-sensor compact with a zoom lens. Not surprisingly for such a groundbreaking entry, the G1 X took home a Dave's Pick award despite a few rough edges here and there. Now, the Canon G1 X Mark II offers a response to those criticisms, and looks to be an altogether more well-rounded camera for it.

At the heart of the Canon G1 X Mk II is what Canon describes as a new, self-created CMOS image sensor. It's still described a 1.5-inch type chip, but it has a lesser surface area than that in the original G1 X.

Sensor width is unchanged at 18.7mm. So, too, are the maximum pixel width, and the total resolution of 15 megapixels. The height, though, is abbreviated somewhat, at 12.5mm in the new camera, versus 14mm in its predecessor. That leads to a reduction in the total pixel count. By our math, it's close to 13.6 megapixels, down from 14.3 in the G1 X.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Sensor aspect ratios

Note that we said "by our math" -- Canon rates it somewhat differently, because neither of the two most typical aspect ratios match the masked aspect ratio of the sensor. The Canon G1 X II now defaults to a more photographer-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio, for a pixel count of 12.8 megapixels. It also offers an alternate 13.1-megapixel, 4:3 aspect mode. The 3:2 aspect uses the full width of the sensor, and the 4:3 aspect uses the full height, with both modes offering roughly the same diagonal angle of view.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Front view

This difference could well be related to the new lens, which we'll come to in a moment. The lack of change in total resolution, pixel width, and ISO sensitivity -- still 100 to 12,800 equivalents -- would tend to back up the theory that the actual sensor area is unchanged, and it's merely masked a little tighter. But enough of the speculation.

The new sensor is paired with a DIGIC 6 image processor, upgraded from the DIGIC 5 of the earlier camera. And here, there's a big difference to be had. One of our bugbears with the G1 X was its extremely pedestrian performance. In terms of burst rate, the G1 X Mark II still won't win awards, but it's a lot swifter overall.

The maximum full-resolution burst rate is now 5.2 frames per second, up from 1.9 fps in the earlier camera. With autofocus, you'll still manage 3.0 fps, up from 0.7 fps in the original G1 X. Of course, these are manufacturer-supplied figures, but we're looking forward to testing them for ourselves in the lab. If it lives up to the claims, this by itself would make the G1 X II significantly more pleasant to shoot with.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Top view with lens extended

The G1 X Mark II also has a new lens, and this too solves a shortcoming of the earlier camera. The original G1 X's lens had a nice, bright f/2.8 wide angle, but it rapidly dimmed down to f/5.8 by the telephoto position. The Canon G1 X II's optic is altogether more exciting, starting at a very bright f/2.0 wide angle, and only falling to f/3.9 at the telephoto position, despite offering more zoom range. And there's also a new nine-bladed aperture, up from six blades in the original, a change that should yield more attractive bokeh.

And many of us will be pleased to see the original 4x 28-112mm equivalent range expanded at both ends to a 5x range of 24 to 120mm equivalents. That's everything from a very generous wide angle to a modest telephoto, and the Canon G1 X Mark II still offers rather more at both ends than do Sony's popular (but smaller-sensored) RX100 and RX100 II compacts.

There's another important difference between the G1 X and its successor in the lens department, too. Specifically, in their lens barrels. That on the earlier camera was wrapped with a removable trim ring. Press a button and this could be removed to mount accessories such as the MLA-DC1 Light Adapter. We doubt too many G1 X owners actually did so. Now, the Canon G1 X Mark II does away with the trim ring, and replaces it with not one, but two round-the-barrel, fly-by-wire controls. One has click detents, and is used to adjust camera settings. The other is stepless and smooth-turning, and allows you to control either manual focus, or still more camera settings.

And speaking of focus, this was another area in which we weren't entirely satisfied by the original camera, and another in which Canon says it has made improvements. The Canon G1 X Mk II is said to offer improved autofocus speed, and does so despite more than tripling the number of autofocus points from 9 to 31. The G1 X II also focuses closer, down to a minimum distance of 5cm (2") versus 20cm (7.9") on the G1 X.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Rear view with LCD tilted

The changes aren't all to our liking, however. Flip the Canon G1 X Mark II over, and you'll notice a change we think makes the new model rather less versatile. Gone is the vari-angle tilt / swivel LCD monitor, a feature we singled out for praise on the original camera. It's replaced instead by a tilt-only display which can fold upwards 180 degrees and downwards some 45 degrees. Sure, you can still shoot selfies with this design -- so long as you're not using the flash or hot shoe, anyway, or don't mind the LCD being partially obscured -- but it's of no help when shooting over the head or low to the ground in portrait orientation. Nor can it be closed facing inwards, to protect the screen.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Optional EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder

Nor is there an optical viewfinder any more. This is gone, replaced by an optional EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder accessory, which lists for US$300. And that could be a huge subtraction if you liked to save on battery life by shooting with the LCD monitor switched off, as we'll see in a minute.

But it's not all bad news. The LCD panel itself has been updated, and matches the new, default 3:2 aspect ratio of the camera body. (In the process, resolution has increased slightly, since the pixel array changed from 640 x 480 pixels in the old camera to 720 x 480 pixels in the new one. There are, of course, still three dots per color for a total dot count in the neighborhood of 1,040K-dots.)

The new screen also gains a capacitive touch overlay, allowing it to serve as an input device. And as noted, there's now a electronic viewfinder accessory on the way. The EVF-DC1 has a high-resolution 2.36 million dot LCD, a high eyepoint (unspecified), a dioptric adjustment range of -3.0 to +1.0, is able to tilt up to 90 degrees and displays shooting info overlaid on the image, something the optical viewfinder couldn't do.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- Front view with LCD up

Most exposure variables -- exposure modes, shutter speeds, ISO sensitivity, metering, flash, and so forth are unchanged from the previous model, which isn't an issue -- they seemed just fine as they were. There are a couple of new options on the Mode dial, though: Hybrid Auto and Creative Shot. We don't yet have a description of the former, but Creative Shot, we understand, provides a choice of Auto, Retro, Monochrome, Special, and Natural categories. And we should note that as well as the existing popup flash, there is still a hot shoe for external strobes -- at least, so long as you're not already using it for the viewfinder accessory.

And we're not done with the changes yet, either. The Canon G1 X II acknowledges where the market has gone thanks to smartphones in the last couple of years, and adds Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity. It also adds Near-Field Communications technology, for the first time in a Canon G-series camera. Wi-Fi is pretty self-explanatory, letting you pair the camera to your smartphone, tablet, or Wi-Fi enabled computer to transfer images. You can also remotely control the camera from certain Android and iOS devices, including shutter, zoom, and self-timer features.

NFC, though, may be unfamiliar if you're an Apple iOS device fan, though, because your iPhone or iPad doesn't support it. This tech allows quick and painless connection with Android smartphones and tablets, simply by holding the two devices close together. The connection is then established automatically, without any prompts or passwords.

As with its predecessor, the Canon G1 X Mark II can still shot Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel; 1080p) movies, but it now does so at a faster rate of up to 30 frames per second, where the earlier camera was limited to just 24 fps. (If you preferred the movie-like feel of 24p video, you're sadly out of luck -- that option is no longer available.)

The G1 X Mark II still stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards, but now adds UHS-I high-speed card support to the existing SDHC and SDXC high-capacity card support. Connectivity options still include USB data, plus high-def Micro HDMI and standard-def composite NTSC / PAL video outputs. (And of course, the hot shoe with its new support for the EVF accessory.)

Canon has switched to a new NB-12L lithium-ion battery pack in the G1 X II, but despite the change, battery life has actually decreased just slightly. (Or, if you consider what was possible with the original model's optical viewfinder, quite radically.) Previously, you could get 250 shots with the LCD monitor, or 700 with the optical viewfinder. Now, you'll manage just 240 with the LCD, or 200 with the optional EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder accessory. Canon also says 300 shots are possible in "ECO" mode, but doesn't clarify what this entails, nor whether it is specific to EVF or LCD.

Canon G1 X Mark II Review -- With accessory grip
The Canon G1 X Mark II European model shown with included grip attachment. In the US, Canon will sell the accessory grip (Custom Grip GR-DC1A) for an MSRP of $29.99.

Canon is also introducing an G1 X Mark II-exclusive accessory grip, the Custom Grip GR-DC1A (left), giving photographers a bit more substantial hold on the camera. The grip will come standard as part of the European version of the camera. In the US, however, the grip attachment will be an optional accessory sold exclusively through the Canon USA direct web store for US$29.99.

With that said, despite all these new features, the Canon G1 X Mark II is actually a little smaller than its predecessor. That change comes in no small part thanks to the removal of the optical viewfinder, and it only really affects the height, but given that the camera's bulk put it at something of a disadvantage compared to Sony's RX100 and RX100 Mark II, it's still a welcome change. Overall camera weight has actually increased a little, however.

Available from April 2014, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is priced at around US$800. That's the exact same price point at which its predecessor launched two years ago, and some US$150 more than the current list price of that model.

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