Canon G5X Conclusion

31mm equivalent (11.6mm), f/5.6, 4s, ISO 125, neutral density filter on
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

The Canon PowerShot G5X combines the backside-illuminated 20.2-megapixel 1"-type sensor and 24-100mm equivalent lens from the G7X with a newly-designed camera body to create an impressive compact camera that should satisfy more experienced photographers.

A camera body that aims to satisfy experienced photographers

When Canon released the PowerShot G7X in October of 2014, many people lamented the lack of a viewfinder. With the release of the PowerShot G5X this past November, this omission has been addressed with the addition of a 2.36-million-dot OLED EVF. The viewfinder generally performs well, although it was sluggish at times and struggled to keep up with fast action. When using the electronic viewfinder rather than the fully articulating touchscreen display, battery life improves slightly from 210 to 215 shots according to CIPA numbers, but that's still pretty poor. The camera does however provide an 'Eco mode,' which significantly improves battery life to approximately 320 shots when using the LCD.

While the internals of the two PowerShot cameras are essentially identical, the Canon G5X is a larger camera overall with many more external controls. The addition of a front grip, viewfinder, hot shoe and many more buttons and dials has resulted in the G5X being 0.37 inches wider, 0.63 inches taller, and 0.15 inches deeper than the G7X, along with adding 2.65 ounces (75g) of weight.

1-inch sensor gets the job done

The Canon G5X's back-side illuminated 20.2-megapixel 1"-type sensor produces good quality images with lots of detail. At default settings, the G5X captures fairly sharp JPEG images. The default sharpening isn't excessive, but it can still cause some visible edge enhancement artifacts around fine, high-contrast details. RAW images are a bit soft before processing, but with a good RAW converter, they can produce sharp images with less artifacts than their in-camera JPEG counterparts. We found that at lower ISOs, such as base ISO and ISO 200, the Canon G5X offers nice print quality, with good detail even up to 24" x 36" prints.

24mm equivalent (8.8mm), f/3.2, 1/30s, ISO 125, -1.33 exposure compensation
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

Dynamic range performance from the G5X is pretty good. DxOMark has not yet published their analysis of the Canon G5X, however, given that the G5X shares the same sensor as the G7X, we expect similar numbers from their testing. The G5X should therefore have a landscape dynamic range around 12.7 EV, which puts it 0.1 EV above the Sony RX100 IV (virtually identical) and 0.4 EV above the RX100 III. The Canon G5X also includes an Intelligent Contrast (i-Contrast) feature that offers "dynamic range correction" to tame highlights and "shadow correct" to enhance shadow detail in JPEGs. While both options make a difference, the "shadow correct" setting provided a much more noticeable impact on images by boosting midtones and shadows.

Aggressive noise reduction, but otherwise good high ISO shots

For its size, the Canon G5X provides good high ISO performance, although it does come up short compared to some of its competitors. Default JPEG processing and noise reduction leads to fine detail loss even as low as ISO 400. Past ISO 1600, there is a rapid degradation in image quality, with ISO 3200 and 6400 images providing good prints only up to 8" x 10" and 4" x 6" sizes, respectively. Beyond ISO 6400, we found that prints are just not recommended. The G5X did fare better against its competition when comparing RAW performance, so you're better off to use RAW image quality when shooting at higher ISOs.

Dependable autofocus performance with consistent results

Utilizing 31 autofocus points, we found that the Canon G5X was a dependable camera in terms of autofocus for the most part, but not fast or adept at handling difficult subjects. When photographing small or moving subjects, autofocus at times struggled with speed and accuracy. While not very fast or sophisticated, the G5X's autofocus did prove to be consistent. Users also have the ability to tap on the LCD to select the focus point, which works well when photographing stationary subjects.

24-100mm lens is sharp in the center, but soft in the corners

The Canon G5X's 4.2x 24-100mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens offers more zoom range than its current direct competitors, but remains an area of weakness for this otherwise fairly solid camera. We found that the lens was soft in the corners when shooting wide open at both wide angle and telephoto, although it was sharp in the center across the focal length range. Corner performance at telephoto improved dramatically when the lens was stopped down, but the strong barrel distortion correction required at the shortest focal lengths kept corners soft at wide angle even when stopped down. Aberrations are mostly well-controlled, although there is some purple fringing around high-contrast subjects. The lens is however compact for its zoom range and brightness, has a useful control ring around its barrel, and has a built-in 3-stop neutral density filter.

Slow continuous shooting speeds in most scenarios

Despite being powered by a newer DIGIC 6 image processor, the Canon G5X is a rather slow-performing camera. Continuous high speed shooting is underwhelming. It topped out at 7.6 frames per second when shooting Large/Super Fine JPEGs in our tests (with focus and exposure locked at the first frame), which is actually faster than Canon's listed specification of 5.9 fps, but this is still below average performance for this class of camera. During our testing, the buffer filled after only 8 frames when shooting continuous best quality JPEG files. Continuous burst shooting with RAW files was very slow at only 0.75 fps, however the buffer performance was much better at over 20 frames and it cleared in just 2 seconds. According to Canon, with continuous autofocus, the G5X can capture JPEG images at 4.4 fps.

Not feature-packed but solid 1080p video performance

Video features are somewhat lacking on the Canon G5X. It can record 1080p video at up to 60 fps, which is nice, but there are no 4K or slow motion video features available. The camera also does not have microphone or headphone jacks, which limits its attractiveness to more serious videographers. We did find that its video performance was pretty good, though, with nice image quality, decent autofocus capabilities, and impressive metering. The PowerShot G5X's touchscreen is also put to good use when recording video, allowing for focus and exposure locking via touch.

24mm equivalent (8.8mm), f/6.3, 13s, ISO 125, neutral density filter on
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

Improved ergonomics over the G7X, but issues remain

The Canon PowerShot G7X was a solid camera, featuring a good image sensor and autofocus performance. The G5X continues this by utilizing many of the same internals as the G7X. What the Canon G5X brings to the table is an improved and well-designed camera body, fully articulating touchscreen, electronic viewfinder, flash hot shoe and enthusiast-oriented controls. The Canon PowerShot G5X, while not truly the successor to the G7X, appears to be the better option for the more advanced photographer due to the changes in external design and its enhanced features.

The Canon G5X still isn't a class-leading camera, though, as we found many of the same drawbacks we found with the G7X. Less than stellar optical quality, slower than average continuous shooting (especially with RAW files), and lackluster battery life remain. In the end, similar to the G7X, the Canon G5X also doesn't make the grade for a Dave's Pick. While we liked the beefed-up exterior, built-in EVF and added controls, the performance issues and optics continue to hold the camera back. On the other hand, the Canon G5X is still capable of capturing good quality photos, and therefore it could be a good choice for those willing to work around its quirks and deficiencies.


Pros & Cons

  • Versatile wide-angle 4.2x zoom
  • Fast maximum aperture (f/1.8-2.8)
  • Very good image quality for its size, particularly when shooting RAW
  • Good dynamic range in RAW files
  • RAW files slightly soft out-of-camera, but sharpen nicely in post
  • JPEG sharpening not too overdone, but can leave edge artifacts on high-contrast subjects
  • Good color and hue accuracy
  • Decent AF speed, but oddly slower than G7X
  • Very fast prefocused shutter lag
  • Able to autofocus in very low light
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Built-in flash
  • Flash hot shoe
  • Built-in high-res OLED EVF
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Wi-Fi app allows focus and zoom adjustments, but no exposure changes
  • Wired remote jack
  • Front grip and plentiful controls help the G5X handle very well
  • Vari-angle touchscreen display is useful and responsive
  • Soft corners at wide angle at any aperture, due to strong distortion correction needed
  • Soft corners at telephoto when not stopped down
  • Localized flare issue at wide apertures and close distances (same as G7X)
  • Purple or red fringing when wide open around heavily backlit objects
  • Dreadful Auto White Balance performance in tungsten lighting
  • Larger than average minimum macro area
  • Mediocre burst performance when shooting JPEGs
  • Very slow (<0.8 fps) continuous mode speeds when shooting RAW files
  • Poor battery life
  • AF can struggle with difficult scenes and fast-moving subjects
  • EVF lag can be frustration for fast action
  • No 4K or slow-motion video features
  • No headphone or microphone jacks

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