Canon G1 X Mark II Conclusion

Pro: Cons:
  • Wider, longer, faster lens than predecessor, with good overall optical performance (though see Cons)
  • Closer macro focusing than predecessor
  • Built-in ND filter (3-stop)
  • 3:2 and 4:3 modes offer roughly the same diagonal angle of view
  • Generally very good image quality
  • Improved AF performance
  • Decent JPEG burst mode speeds
  • Deep buffers with fast buffer clearing
  • Able to focus in very low light
  • Good auto white balance performance in incandescent lighting
  • Good range from built-in flash
  • i-Contrast helps in harsh lighting
  • Hi-res capacitive touchscreen is bright, easy to read and responsive to touch
  • More compact than predecessor thanks to removal of optical viewfinder
  • Optional EVF attaches to hotshoe, and is bright and easy to read
  • Optional replaceable grip make handling more comfortable and secure in the hand
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Very customizable
  • Supports optional wired remote switch
  • Smartphone app allows for remote shooting and control of zoom
  • Focus peaking available while manual focusing in stills mode and video mode
  • Localized flare issue wide open (diminishes as you stop down, but somewhat negates having a fast lens)
  • No real net improvement in image quality over predecessor
  • Below average dynamic range with noisy shadows
  • Strong distortion correction at wide angle makes corners soft with stretching artifacts
  • Slow burst mode when shooting RAW files
  • Poor battery life
  • Some will miss optical viewfinder (but supports new optional EVF)
  • Stepped lens ring sometimes takes too long to respond
  • Fully articulated Vari-Angle LCD changed to simple tilting style
  • Optional EVF is expensive (~US$240)
  • Wi-Fi app does not allow exposure adjustments; no tap-to-focus
  • Video quality is not up to Canon DSLR standards; compression artifacts can be visible
  • ISO locked to 'Auto' in Video Mode; With ND filter enabled, the camera simply bumps up ISO
  • Can't adjust focus manually during video recording
  • Audio recording level not adjustable
  • No external mic jack

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.

Performance-wise, the Canon G1 X Mark II shows a marked improvement in autofocus speed over the "Mark I", focusing about 3x faster at wide angle, and almost twice as fast at full telephoto. The DIGIC 6 processor also gives the Mark II's maximum JPEG burst speed a boost with deep buffers and fast clearing, however if you're a RAW shooter, burst performance hasn't improved much and is still disappointing. Battery life is also not improved over its predecessor, with only a 240 shots per charge CIPA rating (the original model was rated for 250). If you used the optical viewfinder with the original G1 X, you could manage about 700 shots/charge, but with the Mark II you no longer have that nice battery-sipping option. In fact, with the optional external EVF, battery life actually drops to around 200 shots/charge.

The redesigned Mark II is certainly a bit sleeker than the original model, with the lack of a protruding optical viewfinder. The hand grip is also sleeker and less pronounced, but isn't as effective. (Luckily, Canon offers an optional grip that works better.) While ergonomics are otherwise still generally excellent, fans of Canon's traditional dual control dial system may be a bit disappointed that they removed the front dial near the shutter button in favor of a dual control ring setup around the lens. The lens rings can be programmed for any number of settings adjustments, though one can sometimes become sluggish to respond.

The G1 X Mark II is a super-solid, well-built camera, as is typical of Canon's PowerShot G-series, and the magnesium-alloy body, while not weather-sealed, feels strong, tough and high-quality. However, the Canon G1 X Mark II is still quite a large and heavy "compact" camera thanks to its substantial lens, making it as big as some interchangeable lens cameras with lesser kit lenses. And, the Mark II's image quality -- though still much better than the average compact -- has not really improved from its predecessor, while rivals have in the meantime advanced, offering competitive image quality in a smaller, lighter package.

Overall, though, Canon still squeezes a lot of good stuff into the sleeker, more powerful G1 X Mark II. While it's not leaps and bounds better than its predecessor and is still relatively large and heavy, it shows improvements in some important areas, and the addition of Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity for sharing and remote control is a definite plus. At around US$800, it is a bit pricey though, especially when other options such as the Sony A6000 or compact Micro Four Thirds cameras are offered for around that price. However, to add on an equivalent lens to what you get with the G1 X Mark II, you will certainly increase the price and bulk of these interchangeable lens alternatives.

Although far from perfect, the Canon G1 X Mark II still gets the nod for a Dave's Pick for those willing to work around its quirks and limitations.

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