Canon G1X Mark III Field Test Part I

 
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Canon G1X III Field Test Part I

APS-C sensor brings pros and cons to this new compact PowerShot

by | Posted 03/14/2018

27mm (43mm eq.), f/8.0, 1s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The PowerShot G1X Mark III represents a pair of firsts for Canon's compact camera category. For one, the G1X III is Canon's first compact camera to use an APS-C sensor, and secondly, it's the first PowerShot to include Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus technology. These are significant changes to the G1X series design. How does the Mark III perform?

Key Features and Specs

  • Compact all-in-one camera
  • 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • 24-72mm-equivalent f/2.8-5.6 lens
  • Built-in image stabilization
  • 3.0-inch Vari-angle touchscreen LCD
  • 2.36-million dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Can shoot continuously at up to 9 frames per second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Full HD video at up to 60 frames per second
  • Time-lapse video mode
  • $1,299 price

Camera Body and Design

The G1X Mark III is not only quite different on the inside when compared to its predecessor, but it also looks considerably different, sharing some similarities to the PowerShot G5X. The G1X III has a built-in electronic viewfinder, for starters, which results in a new protrusion on the top of the camera. The G1X III is compact but offers a good amount of physical controls. There's a front command dial and a second rotating dial surrounding the directional pad on the rear of the camera, as well as a dedicated movie record button and an exposure compensation dial. Despite having a larger sensor and an EVF, the G1X III is lighter than its predecessor, weighing in at 14 ounces (399 grams) versus 1.2 pounds (553 grams).

While I like the addition of the mode dial on the camera body, it's a locking mode dial, that's always locked. You have to press and hold the center lock button in order to rotate the mode dial. This is good in that it prevents accidentally rotating the mode dial, but it makes it more difficult to change the shooting mode, I find.

On the plus side, the camera's build quality feels quite rugged. The grip on the front is great, and the camera feels strong and robust in my hands. It feels premium, which I suppose it should considering its $1,300 price tag. One unique quality is that the G1X III does have some degree of dust and water resistance, although it's unclear how much sealing there is.

Overall, the G1X III has a good design, with a rugged and premium feel. The controls are conveniently arranged, and the camera doesn't sacrifice usability for the sake of its compactness.

Image Sensor and Image Quality

In the image sensor department, there's a significant upgrade. The earlier G1X II used a 12.8-megapixel, 1.5-inch-type image sensor. The G1X III, on the other hand, features a larger APS-C sensor with 24.3 megapixels. This is a huge difference that has a big impact on image quality.

15mm (24mm eq.), f/4.5, 2.5s, ISO 100
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The G1X III captures images with good detail, which you should expect from a camera at this price point. In any case, the images look generally nice. However, if you zoom way in, the fine details can look a little bit soft. Part of this is due to the sensor having an anti-aliasing filter, and I believe part of it is due to the quality of the built-in lens. When compared to its predecessor, though, not only is the G1X III capable of producing much larger files, but the images certainly have more crispness and detail.

17mm (28mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/6s, ISO 200
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

17mm (28mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/6s, ISO 200
100% crop from the JPEG file of the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. The G1X III does a pretty good job of reproducing details although some fine details are soft.

An area where Canon cameras almost universally excel is color reproduction. This is particularly evident when using a Picture Style like Fine Detail or Neutral. Colors are accurate and pleasing to the eye without being oversaturated. I particularly like how the G1X III handles colors in nature as it does a great job replicating blues, greens and oranges.

As you increase the ISO, the G1X III does quite well. Thanks to its larger sensor, it's pretty good at higher ISOs such as 1600 and 3200. Even at ISO 6400, I think the images can be usable at smaller viewing sizes. Despite doubling the megapixel count, the increase in sensor size and advancements in image processing allow the G1X III to outperform the Mark II at higher ISOs.

21mm (34mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 1000
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

21mm (34mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 1000
100% crop of the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. The G1X III can capture pretty nice high ISO images. You can see that the camera has some fairly aggressive in-camera JPEG processing, however, which can create some artifacts, which are visible in the strands of fur.

When working with RAW files from the G1X III, you can recover quite a bit of detail from shadow and highlight areas. Of course, pulling additional information out of the shadow areas results in fairly substantial visual noise depending on the ISO of the original shot and how far you push shadow recovery. The point is, however, that the camera's larger sensor offers impressive flexibility for a compact all-in-one camera.

33mm (53mm eq.), f/7.1, 1s, ISO 100
Original JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

33mm (53mm eq.), f/7.1, 1s, ISO 100
100% crop from the original JPEG image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
 
33mm (53mm eq.), f/7.1, 1s, ISO 100
Modified RAW image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

33mm (53mm eq.), f/7.1, 1s, ISO 100
100% crop from the modified RAW image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Highlight recovery is a bit less impressive as the APS-C sensor in the G1X Mark III doesn't have the same kind of dynamic range you'd expect from an APS-C DSLR or mirrorless camera from Nikon or Sony, for example. With that said, you should expect considerable improvements in RAW file flexibility compared to the smaller-sensored G1X II.

15mm (24mm eq.), f/6.3, 1s, ISO 125
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Overall, the camera's image quality is quite impressive. While the fine details may not be perfect, color reproduction and high ISO image quality are both good. It's clear that the G1X III is a big improvement in terms of image quality when compared to its predecessor.

However, considering it has a built-in lens, that matters a lot for image quality too. Let's take a closer look at the lens.

Built-in lens

With it's larger APS-C sensor, the G1X III also comes with a redesigned built-in zoom lens. The G1X II had a 24-120mm-eq. f/2.0-3.9 lens, whereas its successor has a 24-72mm-eq. f/2.8-5.6 lens, which is not only slower with respect to its maximum aperture, but it's only a 3x zoom lens versus a 5x zoom.

There's a tradeoff here. The larger, higher-megapixel sensor leads to sharper, better images across a wider range of ISO settings, but it also means that the built-in lens must be different to maintain a compact form factor. Ultimately, the G1X III is something of a compromise. The sensor is great, yes, but the lens leaves something to be desired.

The lens is sharp in the center, but its performance struggles a bit in the corners, as you can see in the images below. Further, there is a lot of chromatic aberration and purple fringing.

15mm (24mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO 100
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

100% center crop. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

100% corner crop. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The G1X Mark III has a close focus distance range of 3.9 to 19.7 inches (10 to 50 centimeters), which is quite good and allows for decent macro photography opportunities. There is additional sharpness falloff in the corners at really close focus distances, however.

21mm (34mm eq.), f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 100
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image. When you get close to the subject, the G1X III can produce some decent background separation.

Ultimately, the G1X III's sensor and lens result in good image quality. However, it's not perfect. The need to keep the camera compact while increasing the sensor size to APS-C results in some issues with image quality and less versatility in the zoom department.

15mm (24mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Field Test Part I Summary

Big improvements with a cost

What I liked:

  • Good camera body design
  • Compact
  • Nice image quality

What I disliked:

  • Built-in lens struggles in the corners
  • Lens has less zoom and less light-gathering ability than predecessor
  • Images can appear a little soft

The Canon G1X III is impressive so far with respect to its design, construction and image quality. The larger sensor, which certainly does improve image quality, is not an upgrade in every area however, as it results in less zoom given that the camera must remain compact. Further, the built-in lens is generally underwhelming.

In the next Field Test, we will look at video quality, autofocus, performance and additional shooting modes for the Canon G1X Mark III.



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