Canon G1 X Mark II Review
|Full model name:||Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II|
|Sensor size:||1.5-inch type|
|Dimensions:||4.6 x 2.9 x 2.6 in.
(116 x 74 x 66 mm)
|Weight:||19.9 oz (563 g)
|Full specs:||Canon G1 X Mark II specifications|
G1 X Mark II Summary
Boasting a wider, longer, brighter lens than its predecessor, and a faster DIGIC 6 image processor, Canon aimed to fix some of the trouble spots seen in the original G1 X. Autofocus performance has been improved as has macro shooting, but we found no real net improvement in image quality over the original model. And while omitting the optical viewfinder led to a sleeker design that's more compact, some users will surely miss it, especially since the Mark II is still not pocketable. Overall, though, the Canon G1 X Mark II is a very solid, high-quality, advanced compact camera that's sure to please Canon fans, though it's not a groundbreaking improvement over the first version and is not without its own foibles.Pros
Wider, longer, faster lens than predecessor, with good overall optical quality; Faster AF performance; Closer macro shooting; Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC with remote shooting; Decent JPEG burst performance; Excellent build quality.Cons
Localized flare issue when wide open; No real net improvement in image quality over predecessor; Slow burst mode when shooting RAW files; Poor battery life; Video quality is so-so (not like Canon DSLRs).Price and availability
Available from April 2014, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is priced at around US$800.Imaging Resource rating
4.0 out of 5.0
$599.00 (17% less)
12 MP (8% less)
4x zoom (20% less)
$612.99 (16% less)
12 MP (8% less)
4x zoom (20% less)
$899.49 (24% more)
3.13x zoom (37% less)
$547.72 (25% less)
12 MP (8% less)
4x zoom (20% less)
Canon G1 X Mark II Review
Overview by Mike Tomkins
Shooter's Report by Tim Barribeau
07/07/2014: Shooter's Report: Big and beautiful, but is it better?
07/21/2014: Conclusion posted and review finalized!
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.
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 is said to use the full width of the sensor, and the 4:3 aspect the full height, with both modes offering roughly the same diagonal angle of 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. (Note that the G1 X did have a special "High-Speed Burst HQ" scene mode that could manage 4.5 fps for 6 JPEG frames.) 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 and it turns out they only apply to JPEGs. See our Performance test results for all the details.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. In Hybrid Auto mode, the camera records a short 2-4 second movie clip right before taking each still photo, and then stitches them together automatically to create "digest movies." Creative Shot captures three shots and creates six images from one shutter press, with a choice of Auto (all effects), Retro, Monochrome, Special, and Natural effects applied, in addition to one with default processing. 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 Communication 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 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 a socket for Canon's RS-60E3 remote switch. (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 in which the LCD dims and turns off more quickly than usual.
Canon has also introduced a 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 comes standard as part of the European version of the camera. In the US, however, the grip attachment is 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. * Since the camera was first announced, Canon's introduced a exclusive G1 X Mark II kit that includes the add-on accessory grip for US$799.99 and is available only through Canon's Direct Store.
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Canon G1 X Mark II Shooter's Report
Big and beautiful, but is it better?
Cyclopean is a word that doesn't pop up in casual conversations anymore, but with the Canon G1 X Mark II in hand, it's the term that most readily springs to my mind. Not just for its huge, glaring lens, but also because of its implications of enormousness (though not enormity). It's a camera that seems defined by its largeness. Largeness of sensor, largeness of body, and largeness of price. But having spent a substantial amount of time using it, I'm left wondering who this big, relatively expensive camera is for, and if it packs enough performance to be worth the price and size.
Purely by chance, I happen to have a Sony A6000 on my desk for something else I'm working on, and the two cameras are disturbingly similar in size, shape, and cost, and I can't help but ask myself which I would grab to take out with me for a day of shooting.
The familiar. I'm not going to spend long writing about the interface and menu system of the G1X Mark II, apart from the new lens rings and touchscreen which I'll cover below. If you've picked up a Canon camera within the last decade or so, you've doubtless already encountered it, and Canon has got the menu system down to a science. The black backgrounded main menu with long lists of options, and the more frequently used function menu that overlays the live view to quickly adjust shooting settings both work well. At this point, Canon has this system so well refined that if you're a previous PowerShot user you should feel well at home, and a new user should be able to get around it very quickly. Adjusting such crucial features as white balance, image quality, continuous mode, metering and more, takes just a few seconds, and both the info overlaying live view and what appears in the function menu are customizable.
Click to read what our reviewer thought of the Canon G1 X Mark II!
Canon G1 X Mark II Image Quality Comparison
Can it compete with ILCs as well as enthusiast compacts?
See how the Canon G1 X Mark II compares against the Canon G1 X, Canon G16, Olympus E-M10, Sony A6000 and Sony RX100 II. All of these models sit at relatively similar price points and/or category in their respective product lineups. The main exception is the G16, which has a much smaller sensor than the other cameras in this comparison, but it sits right below the G1 X II in Canon's current PowerShot lineup and thus warrants comparison to the G1 X II.
These comparisons were somewhat tricky to write, as the cameras vary a great deal in resolution, so bear that in mind as you're reading and drawing your own conclusions. (We generally try to match cameras in these comparisons based on price, given that most of us work to a budget, rather than setting out to buy a given number of megapixels.)
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All interchangeable lens cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
See our Canon G1 X Mark II Image Quality Comparison!
Canon G1 X Mark II Print Quality
But how does it look on paper?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
The Canon G1 X Mark II displays rather impressive print quality performance. The ~13MP 1.5-inch type CMOS sensor and powerful DIGIC 6 image processor make for some nice prints at low ISOs and even at some very high ISOs that other smaller-sensored compact cameras would struggle with. At ISO 100 and 200, images are able to print as large as 24 x 36 inches with excellent colors and lots of fine detail at normal viewing distances. At mid-range ISOs of 800 and 1600, prints as large as 16 x 20 and 13 x 19, respectively, are acceptable with default noise reduction doing some intelligent processing to eliminate shadow noise while keeping fine detail intact. Even at very high ISOs of 6400 and 12,800, prints are still viable, though a 4 x 6 is the only size acceptable at ISO 12,800. At these levels, fine detail has taken a hit due to noise and NR processing, and colors begin to look a bit on the drab side. Overall, the Canon G1 X Mark II unsurprisingly manages to out-perform competing compact cameras with smaller sensors in the printing department.
Get the scoop on the Canon G1 X Mark II's Print Quality
Canon G1 X Mark II Conclusion
Do the upsides outweigh the downsides?
Canon turned a few heads, back when it released the original PowerShot G1 X: the industry's first compact, large-sensor camera to offer a zoom lens. The 1.5"-type sensor was leaps and bounds larger than what's inside the typical compact camera, and it was married with Canon's popular PowerShot G-series build, ergonomics and functionality. While Canon got a number of things "right" with that camera, namely great image quality, very good optics, and dual control dials that resemble Canon DSLR functionality, it had some rough edges with slower than average AF and burst speeds, poor macro performance, short battery life when using the LCD, and a 28-112mm equivalent f/2.8-5.8 lens that wasn't very bright at telephoto.
With the G1 X Mark II, Canon aimed to fix all that. First, they upgraded to their latest DIGIC 6 image processor for better performance, and revamped the sensor, making the default image aspect ratio 3:2 like most DSLRs while still offering a 4:3 mode with the same diagonal field of view. More importantly, Canon also updated the lens significantly to one that is not only brighter (f/2.0-3.9), but also wider and longer, ranging from 24mm to 120mm in 35mm equivalence.
While the lens is indeed more versatile with improved macro capabilities, there are some notable issues. At the wide end, there's stronger distortion correction applied to images that can make corners a little soft even stopped down. We also noticed a distinctive localized flare aberration on bright objects when shooting wide open. While the aberration is greatly reduced or eliminated entirely by stopping down, you end up negating the benefit of the G1 X Mark II's bright lens if you need to stop down.
Read our Canon G1 X Mark II Conclusion for our final verdict on this unique camera!
In the Box
The Canon G1 X Mark II retail kit (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera
- NS-DC11 neck strap
- NB-12L battery back
- CB-2LG battery charger
- (USB cable not included)
- EOS Digital Solution disk and software instructional manual CD
- Camera instruction manual
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. 16GB Class 6 should be a minimum.
- Extra battery pack NB-12L (~US$54)
- Canon custom grip GR-DC1A (~US$30)
- Canon LH-DC80 lens hood (~US$30)
- Canon EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder (~US$240)
- Small camera bag
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.