Canon G3X Image Quality Comparison

Below are 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.

For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Canon G3X, Sony RX10 II, Panasonic FZ1000, Panasonic FZ300, Olympus Stylus 1 and Nikon J5 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Canon G3X to any camera we've ever tested.

Canon G3X vs Sony RX10 II at Base ISO

Canon G3X at ISO 125
Sony RX10 II at ISO 100

The Sony RX10 II uses a similar 20-megapixel 1"-type sensor but produces a crisper image with lower noise and higher contrast at base ISO, and it does quite a bit better in the pink fabric while offering a smoother, more contrasty rendering of our difficult red-leaf fabric. Do note that the Sony's base ISO is a bit lower than the Canon's, theoretically giving it a very slight advantage in terms of noise, all else being equal.

Canon G3X vs Panasonic FZ1000 at Base ISO

Canon G3X at ISO 125
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 125

The Canon G3X's image quality is comparable to the Panasonic FZ1000's which uses a similar if not identical sensor, though the Panasonic's image is again slightly more crisp and contrasty overall, however sharpening haloes are a little more obvious. The FZ1000 does particularly well in both the red-leaf and pink fabrics, managing to resolve some of the thread pattern, but as is usually the case, the Canon does better with color.

Canon G3X vs Panasonic FZ300 at Base ISO

Canon G3X at ISO 125
Panasonic FZ300 at ISO 100

Here we've decided to compare the G3X to a long-zoom model with a much smaller (by a factor of about 4 in terms of area) but more typical 1/2.3"-type sensor. It's also a 12-megapixel sensor versus the G3X's 20 megapixels, so keep that in mind. As you can see, the G3X is able to resolve more detail in most areas, but the FZ300 holds its own and does well at base ISO. You can tell the FZ300 is working hard to smooth away noise, however it does a pretty good job of not destroying too much detail or generating too many noise reduction artifacts in the process. We'll see how this changes at higher sensitivities below.

Canon G3X vs Olympus Stylus 1 at Base ISO

Canon G3X at ISO 125
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 100

Here's another comparison to a long-zoom camera with a smaller 12-megapixel sensor, but this time it's a little larger than most superzooms at 1/1.7" (the G3X's sensor is about 2.7x larger in area). Again, the G3X easily out-resolves the smaller, lower resolution sensor, and the Stylus 1's noise reduction processing generates some artifacts even at base ISO. The Stylus 1 also struggles with our tricky red-leaf fabric already at base ISO, though it produces crisper detail in the pink fabric.

Canon G3X vs Nikon J5 at Base ISO

Canon G3X at ISO 125
Nikon J5 at ISO 160

And finally we come to the Nikon J5 which uses the same sized sensor as the G3X, but allows for interchangeable lenses which likely gives it a slight advantage here in terms of lens performance (we shot the J5 with a sharp prime). The Nikon J5 seems to capture just a hair less detail than the G3X in the mosaic label, though the image is cleaner and punchier looking overall. Interestingly, the J5 does much better with the pink fabric while the G3X produces a bit more fine detail in the red-leaf swatch.

Canon G3X vs Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600

Canon G3X at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 II at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the Canon G3X holds onto a little more detail in the mosaic crop and arguably produces a more natural looking image than the RX10 II's, however it's also a little noisier, but noise is more fine-grained and consistent. Sony's noise reduction is a little stronger but also generates more artifacts, especially in flatter areas. The Sony does however do a little better in the fabric crops.

Canon G3X vs Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600

Canon G3X at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600

Here, we see the Canon do a bit better in some areas, while the Panasonic does better in others. The FZ1000 manages to produce lower noise levels while holding on to slightly better detail in the mosaic crop, but the Canon does marginally better in the red-leaf fabric, though both still struggle with it. Also notice how the FZ1000's image is a bit darker, even though shutter speed was adjusted appropriately as ISO was increased.

Canon G3X vs Panasonic FZ300 at ISO 1600

Canon G3X at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ300 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, we really start to see the advantage of the G3X's much larger sensor, which allows the Canon to resolve more detail as well as produce lower noise with fewer noise reduction artifacts.

Canon G3X vs Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600

Canon G3X at ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600

Once again, the G3X's larger 1"-type sensor easily outperforms the Stylus 1's 1/1.7"-type sensor in both detail and noise. The Olympus really works hard to minimize noise, but that takes a toll on fine detail despite leaving behind more noise.

Canon G3X vs Nikon J5 at ISO 1600

Canon G3X at ISO 1600
Nikon J5 at ISO 1600

This comparison is more closely matched, and mainly highlights differences in approaches to processing and noise reduction. The Canon leaves behind more noise producing a grainier image, while the Nikon produces a smoother image yet with somewhat better detail retention overall.

Canon G3X vs Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200

Canon G3X at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 II at ISO 3200

Both cameras struggle at ISO 3200, particularly in the red-leaf fabric where there is almost no detail left. The Canon leaves behind a finer, more consistent noise "grain" which looks more natural and film-like than the Sony's rendering, but overall the image is quite soft and muddled. The Sony's image is clearer and more contrasty, but the noise "grain" is courser and there are more noise reduction artifacts.

Canon G3X vs Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200

Canon G3X at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200

Here again the Canon's noise "grain" is more evident, making most areas of the image quite soft and stippled compared to the Panasonic, but the FZ1000 works hard to remove noise, generating quite a few artifacts as a result. The Panasonic also generates some odd discoloration in the monk's rob which we don't see from the Canon. Overall, though, we'd still give the edge to the Panasonic here.

Canon G3X vs Panasonic FZ300 at ISO 3200

Canon G3X at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ300 at ISO 3200

There's no contest here at ISO 3200, with the Canon's larger sensor producing a much more usable image.

Canon G3X vs Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200

Canon G3X at ISO 3200
Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200

Again, the advantages of the much larger 1"-type sensor in the G3X are quite obvious here.

Canon G3X vs Nikon J5 at ISO 3200

Canon G3X at ISO 3200
Nikon J5 at ISO 3200

Once again, we see different approaches to processing and noise reduction, with the Canon leaving a lot of fine, film-like "grain", while the Nikon produces a smoother, cleaner-looking image but with more noise reduction artifacts. Both struggle to reproduce fine detail at ISO 3200, though the Nikon does a little better in the red-leaf swatch, and much better in the pink fabric.

Canon G3X vs. Sony RX10 II, Panasonic FZ1000, Panasonic FZ300, Olympus Stylus 1, Nikon J5

ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Stylus 1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. All of the 1"-type sensored cameras do very well with fine, high-contrast detail at base ISO, but the Panasonic FZ1000 and Nikon J5 offer slightly higher contrast than the Canon G3X. The 1/1.7" Stylus 1 does reasonably well at base ISO, with the 1/2.3" FZ300 trailing in this group, more or less as expected. The G3X's image quality does however drop off more quickly than the other 1" models at higher ISOs, in both contrast and detail, though it continues to do better than the smaller sensored Stylus 1 and FZ300. Some odd discoloration can also be seen from the G3X at ISO 3200 and 6400, likely a combination of color moiré and chromatic aberration, though the Sony, Panasonics and Olympus models also show some odd discoloration.


Canon G3X Print Quality

Good prints up to 20 x 30 inches at ISO 125 and 200; Nice 11 x 14 inch prints at ISO 1600; and 4 x 6 inch prints just pass the mark at ISO 6400.

ISO 125/200 images display a lot of fine detail and pleasing colors to 20 x 30 inches. Bumping up to 24 x 36 is really hitting the limits of the camera's sensor, but those sizes could be used for wall display.

ISO 400 prints show a slight drop in crisp, fine detail compared to lower ISOs, making a 16 x 20 inch print the largest size we're comfortable calling at this sensitivity. Detail and colors are still nice overall and noise is well controlled.

ISO 800 images top out at 13 x 19 inch prints, as noise-related softening is becoming apparent. Noise reduction processing, on the other hand, does well to keep visible noise and grain at bay.

ISO 1600 prints, as expected, are a bit softer than the previous ISO level and look nice up to 11 x 14 inches. Noise itself is still fairly well controlled, though some particular areas -- like our often-tricky red-leaf fabric -- are quite soft and lacking fine detail. Higher contrast detail, however, still looks nice.

ISO 3200 images definitely display noise-related softening throughout. NR processing is handling grain quite well, but an overall increase in softness makes printing larger than an 8 x 10 tricky.

ISO 6400 prints show acceptable detail up to 4 x 6 inches. Any larger and the softness simply does not look that pleasing at this sensitivity. That being said, a 5 x 7 inch print could be used for less critical applications.

ISO 12,800 images are simply too soft and display visible false colorations to make an acceptable print at any size.

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.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)


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