Canon G3X Review
|Full model name:||Canon PowerShot G3 X|
|Sensor size:||1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / LCD|
|Native ISO:||125 - 12,800|
|Extended ISO:||125 - 12,800|
|Shutter:||1/2000 - 30 seconds|
4.9 x 3.0 x 4.1 in.
(123 x 77 x 105 mm)
|Full specs:||Canon G3X specifications|
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The competition in the high-powered, enthusiast-grade zoom camera category continues to heat up! The Canon G3X bests its popular Sony and Panasonic rivals with a class-leading 600mm-eq. optical zoom lens. Offering numerous controls, dials and a deep handgrip, the G3X is clearly catered to advanced users. However, while image quality is good and its zoom is plentiful, there are a number of drawbacks, performance issues and ergonomic quirks we encountered along the way. Are these issues deal-breakers or just minor quibbles?Pros
Good overall optical performance from the 24-600mm eq. lens; Very good image quality and high ISO performance for this class, especially with RAW; Lots of external controls; Comfortable grip; Shoots 1080/60p video; Includes both mic and headphone jack, Focus peaking for video; Clean HDMI.Cons
No built-in EVF; Mediocre AF speeds; Sluggish burst rate with RAW/RAW+JPG and with servo AF; Below average battery life; No 4K video unlike competitors.Price and availability
Available since July 2015, the Canon G3X has a list price of around US$1,000 in the US market. The Canon EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder accessory is already available, and has a list price of US$300.Imaging Resource rating
3.5 out of 5.0
Canon G3X Review
by Mike Tomkins, Jeremy Gray, Zig Weidelich, and William Brawley
Preview posted 06/18/2015
06/22/2015: Walkaround, Technical Info and updates to our preview based on final press materials
07/22/2015: First Shots posted
08/26/2015: Field Test & Gallery posted
08/28/2015: Performance results posted
10/20/2015: Image Quality Comparison & Print Quality Analysis posted
10/21/2015: Review Conclusion posted
...and then there were three! With the launch of the Canon G3X, a camera whose development was first revealed in February 2015, the Japanese camera giant finally has a camera that competes head-to-head with the Panasonic FZ1000 and the cameras which created the category in the first place, the Sony RX10-series. That's huge news for Canon fans who've been hoping for a far-reaching superzoom camera with an enthusiast-grade image sensor and support for Canon's ecosystem of accessories!
Sitting alongside the G1X II at the top of the company's enthusiast-oriented PowerShot G-series lineup, the Canon G3X provides a lot more zoom reach than that camera, at the understandable expense of some sensor size. Its 1"-type, 20.2-megapixel image sensor is actually shared with the PowerShot G7X (and now the G5X and G9X as well), a pocket-friendly compact that is both a whole lot smaller and more affordable, but which, again, lacks anything even remotely resembling the impressive telephoto reach of the G3X.
But it's against the Sony RX10-series and Panasonic FZ1000 -- both of which have a similar form-factor with the same sensor size and resolution -- that the most direct comparisons can be drawn, and we'll be doing just that throughout this review. In some respects, Canon bests its rivals right out of the gate, and in others it trails them by some distance. Which camera is right for you is going to depend very much on your specific needs.
One glance at the Canon G3X tells you that it's simply in a different ballpark than its rivals when it comes to telephoto reach. All three cameras start from roughly the same wide angle: 24mm-equivalent for Canon and Sony, and 25mm-equivalent for Panasonic. But the Sony RX10 and RX10 II hit their stops at a 200mm-equivalent telephoto, and the FZ1000 at 400mm equivalent, where the Canon G3X will take you all the way out to a 600mm-equivalent telephoto. If you want a large, enthusiast-grade image sensor and the maximum possible zoom range, you're likely reaching for your wallet already!
But there is plenty more to the lens story. Sony's cameras have a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture across the whole zoom range, and the Panasonic FZ1000 only falls from f/2.8 at wide-angle to f/4.0 at telephoto. The Canon G3X, by contrast, starts at f/2.8 at wide angle, but arrives at f/5.6 by the telephoto position. Of course, that's understandable given its much greater telephoto reach.
While all three cameras include image stabilization, only Canon and Panasonic claim five-axis stabilization. (For the G3X, stabilization of roll is achieved electronically. Offhand, we're not certain if that's the case for Panasonic as well.) The Canon G3X and Sony RX10-series lenses do best the FZ1000 by including built-in three-stop neutral density filters, however.
Despite its powerful lens, the Canon G3X is actually more compact than all three of its rivals. Compared to the FZ1000, that difference is stark: It's a full half-inch less wide, 0.9 inches less tall, and one inch less deep. Even compared to the Sony RX10 and RX10 II, the difference is significant enough to be noticeable: Sony's cameras are 0.2 inches wider, a half-inch taller, and just 0.1 inches less deep.
All of this is doubly impressive when you consider that not only is the Canon G3X's lens much longer, but its magnesium-alloy body is said to include rubber seals that provide the same level of dust and moisture-resistance as the EOS 70D DSLR. By contrast, spec sheets for the mag-alloy bodied RX10-series cameras only vaguely hint at dust and moisture-resistance, without mentioning any physical sealing, and the plastic-bodied FZ1000 lacks sealing altogether.
Despite its trim proportions, the Canon G3X comes positively packed with external controls that help keep you out of the menu system. (And photographers who are used to Canon's EOS-series will be pleased to find a user interface more reminiscent of their DSLR than the typical PowerShot-series camera.) But the G3X's relatively compact size is achieved in part thanks to a feature omission relative to its rivals. Where the Sony RX10-series cameras and the Panasonic FZ1000 all include built-in electronic viewfinders, the Canon G3X instead opts for a separately-purchased electronic viewfinder accessory.
It's the same EVF-DC1 unit used with the G1X II, and while it has the advantage of only being there if you actually want it, and being adjustable for tilt as well, it has a couple of drawbacks. First, its hot-shoe mounted design precludes use with external strobes. (It looks like the internal flash should just clear the EVF accessory though, thankfully.) It's also too easy to get complacent and leave your viewfinder at home with a removable design, leaving you trying to shade the LCD when an unexpected photo opportunity appears under harsh light. Perhaps most significantly, though, it's rather pricey. If you plan on buying the viewfinder, Canon's price advantage against the Sony RX10 II is erased, and it's actually quite a bit more expensive than either the original RX10 or Panasonic FZ1000.
Canon does best Sony's cameras with a 3.2-inch high-resolution 1.62M-dot tilting LCD monitor, and for extra bonus points it's a touch-screen type. Neither the RX10-series or FZ1000 screens have touch-sensitivity, making them rather less versatile. Nor can the Sony cameras' screens face forward for selfie shooting, something the Canon G3X's screen can do. However, while it trails a bit in resolution and size, Panasonic FZ1000 provides the most versatility here with a side-mounted tilt/swivel screen that can be seen from most any angle, or even folded inwards to protect it from minor bumps, scrapes and smudges.
One area where the Canon G3X does look set to trail its rivals by some distance is in the performance department. While its sensitivity range of ISO 125 to 12,800 equivalents fairly closely matches the standard, non-expanded ranges of the other cameras, it won't keep up with them in terms of burst-shooting speed.
Canon specs its DIGIC 6-equipped camera for a rate of 5.9 frames per second with focus locked from the first frame, which is barely half the 10 frames per second of the Sony RX10. And the other two cameras are even faster -- 12 fps for the FZ1000, and 14 fps for the RX10 II. In fact, Panasonic's spec even with autofocus enabled between frames is a swift 7 fps, suggesting that Canon still has its work cut out in this area. (Of course, we need to note that these are all manufacturer specs. See our Performance test results for how the G3X actually performed in the lab.)
And it's a similar story in the video department. Canon does offer up both a headphone jack for levels monitoring, and clean HDMI output for use with external recorders, features Panasonic lacks. However, both the Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 II offer some future-proofing with 4K video, as well as support for high frame-rate video that can be adjusted to provide slow-motion playback. The Canon G3X feels a little dated in this respect, providing at best 60 frames-per-second Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) video.
Speaking of connectivity, smartphone users -- and who isn't, these days? -- will be pleased to know that like both of its rivals, the Canon G3X serves up both Wi-Fi wireless networking, and an NFC radio for quick-and-easy pairing with Android devices.
Available since July 2015, the Canon G3X has a list price of around US$1,000 in the US market. The Canon EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder accessory is already available, and has a list price of US$300.
Canon G3X Field Test
A Proven Sensor with a Powerful Lens
Bigger zoom ups the ante against RX10 & FZ1000. The Canon PowerShot G3 X uses a 20.2-megapixel 1-inch-type CMOS sensor and competes directly against the popular Sony RX10 series and the Panasonic FZ1000, which both use a similar (or potentially the same) sensor, albeit with different processing engines. Where the Sony RX10 series and the Panasonic FZ1000 come up short against the G3X is in telephoto capabilities as the Canon G3X's most noteworthy feature is its 24-600mm-equivalent lens. With an impressive zoom range and a well-regarded sensor, the G3 X packs a lot of performance into a small package. However, there are some negative aspects to the G3X, such as the absence of a built-in viewfinder and lackluster high-speed shooting capabilities.
Canon G3X Technical Insights
What lies inside this big-lensed beauty?
Sensor. The Canon G3X is based around a 1"-type, backside-illuminated 20.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor, the exact same chip used in the PowerShot G7X. Total resolution is 20.9 megapixels. It's a fair bit smaller than the sensor used in the PowerShot G1X II, but the scale of that difference is offset somewhat by the fact that the larger-sensored camera doesn't actually use its full sensor resolution in any given aspect ratio.
Compared to its main long-zoom rivals, the Canon G3X's image sensor has the same basic specification, in terms of both sensor size and resolution. (Panasonic hasn't stated whether or not its FZ1000 uses a backside-illuminated sensor design, however.) We don't know the manufacturer of the chip in the Canon G3X and G7X, but it bears a striking similarity to the Sony BSI sensor which has appeared in several cameras since it debuted in the RX100 II. (And it's worth noting that we know for a fact that a variant of that chip is available to third parties at this point in time.)
Canon G3X Walkaround
A closer look around the Canon PowerShot G3X's brand-new body
Seen from the front, the magnesium alloy-bodied, weather-resistant Canon G3X shares a similarly-angular design aesthetic with the larger-sensored Canon G1X II and, to a lesser extent, the pocket-friendly Canon G7X. It's pretty clear that all three are from the same stable, even if their overall layout varies quite a bit.
Looking at the G3X's front deck, there are no controls on this surface, although you can easily see some of those adorning its top side, and especially those at the summit of its generously-chunky handgrip. There's an autofocus assist lamp above and just right of the lens (as seen from the rear), but otherwise the front of the camera is clean and featureless. All, that is, save for the powerful 25x optical zoom lens, the aforementioned grip, and a matching leatherette trim piece which wraps around from the left side of the body.
Canon G3X Image Quality Comparison
See how the G3X's image quality stacks up against the competition
Here we present crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Canon G3X to its closest rivals, the Sony RX10 II and the Panasonic FZ1000, as well as to the Panasonic FZ300, Olympus Stylus 1 and Nikon J5. These last three models represent a small sensored (1/2.3"-type) long-zoom with a constant aperture lens, an enthusiast-grade (1/1.7"-type sensor) long-zoom camera also with a constant-aperture lens, and a very compact mirrorless camera with the same sensor size. (We decided to include 1/2.3" and 1/1.7" models to show the advantages of going to a larger sensor.)
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 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.
Canon G3X 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?"
Sharing the same 20-megapixel 1-inch-type sensor as the pocketable G7X, it's no surprise that its big-lensed brother does just as well in the print department. The Canon G3X does a good job at lower ISOs and pushes the sensor resolution to the max with nice 20 x 30 inch prints around base ISO. Toward the mid-range ISOs, images begin to soften, but in-camera NR does well to hold off unsightly noise and coarse grain. At ISO 1600, for example, prints still look pleasing up to 11 x 14 inches. At the very high end of the ISO scale, the G3X still manages an acceptable 4 x 6 at ISO 6400. However, printing at its maximum ISO 12,800 should be avoided.
Canon G3X Conclusion
With a bigger zoom lens, can the G3X take on the RX10 and FZ1000?
Canon adds yet another entry to the enthusiast long-zoom camp
Here's Canon's answer to not only the Sony RX10-series but also the Panasonic FZ1000. The category for high-powered, enthusiast-grade zoom cameras with 1-inch-type sensors is heating up. Admittedly, this is a rather niche category -- big zoom, big sensor and lots of manual controls -- but for a while the Sony RX10 was the only game in town. Now three companies populate the growing niche.
Longer zoom, but at the expense of a dimmer aperture range
While the Canon G3X and its competitors share similar 20.2-megapixel 1-inch-type CMOS sensors, the Canon here bests the Sony and Panasonic rivals with sheer optical zoom performance thanks to a lens with an impressive 600mm-equivalent reach. The compromise, though, is that the Canon G3X's lens has a dimmer variable aperture, which stops down to f/5.6 at full telephoto.
In the Box
The Canon PowerShot G3 X retail box includes (may vary by region):
- Canon PowerShot G3 X digital camera
- NB-10L Lithium-ion battery pack
- CB-2LC battery charger
- NS-DC11 wrist strap
- Lens cap with strap
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. We recommend 16GB as a minimum capacity. Speed Class 10 or higher is required for recording Full HD movies, and UHS-I type cards are supported.
- Extra NB-10L battery pack (~US$40)
- EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder (~US$300)
- PSC-6200 soft camera case (~US$70)
Want to compare the Canon G3X against the competition and its enthusiast-compact siblings? Find side-by-side comparisons at the links below:
Canon G3X vs. Panasonic FZ1000 • Canon G3X vs. Sony RX10 II
Canon G3X vs. Sony RX10 • Canon G3X vs. Canon G1X II
Canon G3X vs. Canon G1X • Canon G3X vs. Canon G7X
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