Canon G3X Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

Sensor

Canon G3X Review -- Tech Info image

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 Review -- Tech Info image

Processor

Output from the Canon G3X's image sensor is handled by a DIGIC 6-branded image processor. That's the same generation as is used in many of Canon's interchangeable-lens and fixed-lens cameras since 2013, and most notably, the same type used in both the Canon G1X II and G7X.

Sensitivity

The Canon G3X's sensor and processor combine to yield a sensitivity range of ISO 125 to 12,800 equivalents. That's a similar range to that which its main rivals provide by default, although the Sony RX10 II allows users to extend sensitivity as low as ISO 64 equivalent, and the Panasonic FZ1000 can provide an extended range of ISO 80 to 25,600 equivalents.

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Performance

If there's an Achilles heel for the PowerShot G3X on paper, it's probably its performance. With focus locked, Canon rates its large-sensor super-zoom camera for a maximum of 5.9 frames per second at full resolution (in the lab, the G3X actually managed 7.3 fps when shooting JPEGs). While not unreasonable compared to consumer-grade DSLRs, that trails the 12 fps of the competing Panasonic FZ1000 and 14 fps of the Sony RX10 II long-zooms by a long, long way. In fact, the Panasonic FZ1000 is rated for a greater performance of seven frames per second even with autofocus enabled, a configuration that sees the G3X plunge to a modest 3.2 frames per second. And when shooting raw files, the G3X's burst speed is downright pathetic, not even managing one frame per second in our tests.

On the plus side, if you're shooting with a UHS-I Secure Digital card in the camera and don't need raw files, Canon says that the G3X should be able to provide an unlimited burst depth. (Or at least, the depth is limited only by available card space and battery life.) However in our test results, the camera only managed 9 JPEG frames before slowing down.  

See our Performance page for details.

Lens

But where the Canon G3X trails its strongest rivals in the performance department, it really brings its 'A' game when it comes to focal range. With a 24-600mm equivalent 25x optical zoom, it's simply unrivaled if you want a 1"-type sensor and the strongest zoom possible. Actual focal lengths are 8.8-220mm.

Canon G3X Review -- Product Image

These things are always a tradeoff, though -- everybody has to abide by the same laws of physics and optics, after all -- and so it is with the Canon G3X. Where Sony's shorter-lensed RX10-series cameras have a constant-aperture zoom, Canon takes the same route as the Panasonic FZ1000 with a variable-aperture of f/2.8 to f/5.6 across the zoom range. The G3X's maximum aperture falls more quickly, though, reaching f/5.6 already at around 170mm eq., while the FZ1000's lens is f/4.0 at 170mm eq., and remains at f/4.0 all the way to its maximum focal length of 400mm equivalent.

As in its rivals, the Canon G3X's lens is a power zoom, able to be controlled quickly with either a rocker control around the shutter button, or a fly-by-wire ring around the lens barrel.

Neutral-density filter

Like Sony's RX10-series cameras, the Canon G3X includes a built-in three-stop neutral density filter. That's a feature the Panasonic FZ1000 lacks, giving Canon a nice leg up against its most closely-featured rival.

Optional lens hood and filter adapter

To avoid flare issues, Canon has created a lens hood for the PowerShot G3X. However, unlike the Sony and Panasonic cameras, this isn't included in the product bundle. Instead, you'll need to purchase the LH-DC100 lens hood and FA-DC67B filter adapter kit separately, with a list price of US$50 for the pair.

The ability to accept 67mm threaded filters is a nice touch, but due to their larger size, filters will likely be a little pricier than the 62mm types used by both rivals. And again, those cameras don't need an adapter to accept filters. That's the price you pay for a much greater zoom range in such a compact lens, however.

Canon G3X Review -- Product Image

Stabilization

Dealing with blur from camera shake is a pretty big consideration if you're shooting with a lens providing everything out to a 600mm equivalent, so it's good news that the Canon G3X has a five-axis image stabilization system.

Note, though, that stabilization of roll is achieved electronically, not using mechanical stabilization, so if you plan on using all five axes you'll need to live with an unspecified sensor crop. Canon says its system has a 3.5-stop corrective range at the 350mm-equivalent position.

Autofocus

The Canon G3X uses a contrast-detection autofocus system with 31 AF points, which bests the 25 points offered by the Sony RX10-series, but trails the 49 points provided by the Panasonic FZ1000. Both touch autofocus and object / face detection and tracking are available, and you can also focus with a single-point or even manually. Two AF point sizes are provided, and you can bracket focus if you're concerned about nailing the precise point you're after. An AF assist illuminator is included in the design, and the G3X's lens will focus to as close as 5cm at wide-angle or 85cm at telephoto.

Tilting touch-screen monitor

We already hinted at this with the mention of touch autofocus, but the Canon G3X's tilting, 3.2-inch LCD monitor is also overlaid with a touch-screen. Specifically, it's a capacitive type like you'd find on a smartphone.

The display tilts upwards 180 degrees for selfie shooting, or downwards for shooting over your head, but there's no side-swivel and so you can't take advantage of unusual high or low-framing angles in portrait orientation as well as you would with a tilt/swivel screen.

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Resolution is a high 1.62 million dots. The pixel count isn't certain, though. Assuming three dots per color as in most LCD panels, that would be a 900 x 600 pixel array, but the same dot count could also be reached with a four dot-per-pixel 780 x 520 pixel array. (And Canon doesn't mention whether the display uses a three-dot or four-dot design. That probably implies the former, but we have no way to be sure until we look at the screen with a loupe.)

Electronic viewfinder

Unlike its main rivals, the Canon G3X has no built-in electronic viewfinder, something which seems to be quite a sticking point for some readers. And we can understand why: The optionally-available Canon EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder accessory is a pricey US$300 list. That erases the price advantage of the G3X against the Sony RX10 II (or actually, leaves Canon trailing just slightly if you need the also-optional lens hood / filter adapter kit). And compared to the original RX10 or Panasonic FZ1000, it leaves Canon at quite a price disadvantage.

External accessory finders also have a reputation for greater fragility compared to a built-in finder, not surprisingly. Doubly so because they project well outside the confines of the camera body, making them far more likely to get knocked and bumped. And they're far too easy to accidentally leave home when you need them most, something you can't do with a built-in finder.

Canon G3X Review -- Product Image

But there's no way around this: The lack of a built-in finder is a big contributor to the G3X's surprisingly trim proportions. And if you shoot at arm's length most of the time anyway, as the younger generation has been taught to do by their smartphones, why pay for a finder you're not even going to use? There's also one more feather in that high-res 2.36 million dot accessory finder's cap: The ability to tilt, something the built-in finders of its rivals can't do.

Exposure

The Canon PowerShot G3X offers all of the main exposure features you'd expect of an enthusiast-oriented camera, plus a selection of more consumer-friendly options.

Exposure modes on offer include Auto, Hybrid Auto, Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual, two Custom modes, Burst, Sports, Scene, Creative Shot, and Movie. There are a relatively restrained total of seven scene modes -- Sports, Portrait, Smart Shutter, Star, Handheld Night Scene, Snow, and Fireworks. (Smart Shutter and Star both provide a subset of modes that raise the total count a bit, though. Smart Shutter modes include Smile, Wink Self-Timer and Face Self-Timer, while Star modes include Star Nightscape, Star Trails, and Star Time-Lapse Movie.)

Exposures are determined using evaluative, center-weighted or spot metering, but Canon hasn't disclosed the number of areas into which its evaluative system breaks down the scene. Nor is metering system working range or the availability of exposure bracketing disclosed. We can confirm, however, that both autoexposure lock and exposure compensation are provided, with the latter having a working range of +/-3EV in 1/3 increments set using a dedicated dial on the top deck.

Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 30 seconds, plus a Bulb mode of unspecified duration.

A generous selection of white balance modes are provided. These include Auto (with available Face Detection white balance), Smart Auto, seven white balance presets and two custom positions.

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Flash

Flash sync is possible at up to the fastest shutter speed of 1/2,000 second, and as well as a built-in popup flash, EX-series Speedlites are also supported via a hot shoe. This includes compatibility with radio and optical remote flash via optional transmitter accessories.

The built-in flash can be angled with a finger for bounce flash, although with a range of 6.8 meters at wide angle or 3.1 meters at telephoto even when shooting directly, you'll need a low ceiling and a very nearby subject if you plan on using this trick.

First or second-curtain slow-synchro and red-eye reduction flash are possible, and you can also use flash exposure lock. Flash exposure compensation is provided within a +/-2EV range in 1/3 EV increments. If you prefer, the built-in flash can be set manually to one of three power levels, while external strobes allow up to 19 levels.

Movie

Movie capture is, in some respects, another potential weak spot for the Canon G3X. Although it does include both a microphone and headphone jack, something the FZ1000 lacks, the G3X is limited to a maximum of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) capture at 24, 30 or 60 frames per second in MP4 format. (720p30 and 480p30 capture is also possible.) By contrast, the nearest rivals for the Canon G3X both provide Ultra-High Def 4K video capture, and have high-speed capture options for slow-motion playback.

On the plus side, manual exposure, focus and audio levels adjustment are possible, including during capture. Note that there's a 29 minute, 59 second clip length limit, though. After this time limit is reached, you'll need to manually restart capture.

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Wireless connectivity

Ensuring that it stays relevant in the smartphone age, the Canon G3X includes built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking technology, as well as support for Near-Field Communications technology. (So, too, do both of its main rivals.)

NFC is something that came to Android quite a few years ago, and has since become widespread on Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Phone devices too. For years, we've been calling out the fact that Apple was resisting adopting the standard, and even though it now supports NFC in its latest phones, the hardware still isn't available to third-party use, so the status quo remains.

While that means iOS devices can't take advantage of the feature even now, on Android all you need do is simply bump the devices together briefly to be paired automatically. Once the devices see each other via NFC, they can then automatically negotiate a much faster, longer-range Wi-Fi connection, and the NFC tech can also be used to have the smartphone run the relevant app for you automatically, saving you launching it yourself.

Be sure to see our field test for features available for G3X shooters using the official Camera Connect app for Android or iOS. The Canon Connect Station CS100 photo/video hub device is also supported by the G3X.

Wi-Fi connections use IEEE 802.11 b/g/n connectivity on the 2.4GHz channel only, and the NFC radio has Dynamic NFC support.

Canon G3X Review -- Product Image

Wired connectivity

As well as the wireless connectivity, the Canon G3X also supports wired high-definition video output via an HDMI Micro connector, USB 2.0 High Speed and NTSC/AV composite video output via a combined digital connector, plus the aforementioned headphone, microphone and remote control connectivity.

The HDMI terminal supports clean output for external recording, and the remote terminal accepts the same RS-60E3 remote switch used by Canon's EOS Rebel DSLR cameras.

Storage

The Canon G3X stores images on Secure Digital cards, as do almost all higher-end cameras these days. Both the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types are supported, and so are the higher-speed UHS-I types. Still images can be stored in 14-bit raw or compressed JPEG formats, or both simultaneously. Interestingly, the G7X produces 12-bit raw files despite using the same sensor and processor.

Power

The G3X draws power from a proprietary NB-10L lithium-ion battery pack. With a rated 7.4 volts, 920 mAh, and 6.8 Wh capacity, the pack is said to be good for 300 shots ordinarily, or 415 shots in ECO mode. The latter reduces LCD backlight levels, and switches off the screen more aggressively when the camera is determined to be idle.

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By way of comparison, the Panasonic FZ1000 provides a CIPA-rated battery life of 360 shots out of the box using the LCD monitor, the Sony RX10 II for 400 frames, and the original Sony RX10 for an impressive 420 frames. That's perhaps not entirely fair to Canon, though, given that regularly racking through the entire zoom range -- something the G3X has in spades -- is part of the CIPA battery life test.

Charging

The good news is that while battery life is perhaps shorter, charging batteries is less troublesome. Unless you pay extra for an external charger, Sony's RX10-series cameras charge in-camera via USB, meaning you can't charge a second battery while you're out shooting. Like Panasonic, though, Canon gives you that option by simply including a standalone charger.

The downside is that you'll need to bring an extra piece of gear with you on trips, rather than simply sharing the same USB charger between devices.

 



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