Canon Powershot G1X Review

Canon Powershot G1X Review

My first glimpse of this unit was just prior to Christmas. Obviously Canon was mighty proud of it and, despite the Yuletide pressures, was keen to show it off, guarded by a raft of non-disclosure tie-ups.

For some years now the G series has been the company’s compact camera tour de force, beginning with the G1 in the year 2000 and running all the way to the G12 in 2010.

Canon Powershot G1X-1.jpg

Canon Powershot G1X-2.jpg

However, in recent years it has faced a barrage of criticism from users mainly regarding its noise performance. Canon answered this criticism by reducing the sensor resolution whilst increasing the pixel pitch. More howls of protest, mainly from people who believe more pixels equals more picture (quality)!

Canon Powershot G1X-3.jpg

This time the company figures it must have got it right (at last) in the G1X by by using a 38mm sensor (15mm in the G12) and an effective pixel population of 14.3 megapixels, tucked away in a compact body that is easily pocketed.

Table 2.jpg

Canon Powershot G1X Features

My first impression of the working face of the camera is that of a serious workhorse: the camera feels solid, while the few controls are black with text IDs in white. Top deck has the power button, mode dial and, concentric with it, the exposure correction (+/- two f stops) dial plus the shutter button, surrounded by the zoom lever … and the DR (Dynamic Range) correction wheel; to the left is the flash pop up trigger. Round the back we see the swinging vari-angle LCD screen plus the usual buttons for menu access, the function button, movie record, image replay, jog wheel, metering and AF options plus an assignable S (for shortcut) button, found way over to the left of the camera, next to the optical finder.

This array of external controls is a very powerful feature of the G1X and a collection you would be very wise to fully acquaint yourself with … the alternative would be a lot of pecking and picking in the menu.


For me, there was only one foible with the system: I continually found myself rolling the exposure correction wheel while turning the mode dial. Practise boy! Practise!

As an alternative to the LCD screen the optical finder is a serious let-down, pokey and dim, with a big slice of the bottom quarter of the frame obscured by the lens barrel when set to full wide.

The maximum image size is 4352×3264 pixels, which would lead to a final print size of 37x28cm. Movies can be shot at 1920×1080 pixel resolution and 24fps.


For a still camera that also shoots Full HD movies the G1X is the ‘full bottle’ … in an odd way, the limited zoom range helps capture shake free movies very easily. Focus and exposure work smoothly, while the stabiliser handles average bumps very well.


It was only when I came to shooting the ISO tests that I found a serious shortcoming in the G1X: macro!

To fill the frame with the test orange, twine reel, can and bottle I was obliged to zoom fully wide, select macro and push into a spot just 12cm from the subject. With full tele on the zoom and macro I could approach only 75cm from the subject. Area: 26x19cm.

If you’re into shooting big, screen-filling shots of coins, stamps and the like … forget it!

Not a good look as they say.

Canon Powershot G1X ISO Performance

Canon G1X ISO 100.JPG

Canon G1X ISO 400.JPG

Canon G1X ISO 800.JPG

Canon G1X ISO 1600.JPG

Canon G1X ISO 3200.JPG

Canon G1X ISO 6400.JPG

Canon G1X ISO 12800.JPG

Quite a startling performance: all the way from ISO 100 to 6400 the image quality, in terms of noise, was flawless. Only when ISO 12800 was reached did noise become evident, but the colour was still accurate while definition still more than acceptable. One of those few cameras where the high ISO performance means you could (IMHO) use any setting for nearly every subject. Breathtaking!

Backlit walkers 7.jpg

Backlit walkers 9.jpg

Canon Powershot G1X Verdict

Quality: very, very good. The auto exposure system works well in dealing with wide ranges of brightness, as can be seen in the above beachside shots. Note: there is detail even in the foreground figures, while still delivering information in the surf background.

Why you would buy it: big sensor for a compact digicam; great ISO performance.

Why you wouldn’t: a little too complex for your personal skill set; limited macro performance.

There are plenty of people out there who would relish the burst speed of 4.5 fps — at full resolution. But, on the other hand, there will be those who hanker for a longer zoom range.

Canon Powershot G1X Specifications

Image Sensor: 14.3 million effective pixels.
Sensor Size: 38mm (18.7×14.0mm) CMOS.
Lens: f2.8-5.6/15-60.4mm (28-112mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted averaging, spot.
Exposure Modes: Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 1 to 1/4000 second.
Continuous Shooting: up to 4.5 fps
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4352×3264 to 640×480.
Movies: 1920×1080 at 24fps, 1280×720 and 640×480 at 30fps.
Viewfinder: Optical plus 7.6cm LCD screen (922,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW (14-bit), JPEG+RAW, MPEG4.
Colour Space: sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 12800.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, Motion JPEG, AV, ext micxxxx.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 116.7×80.5×64.7 WHDmm.
Weight: 534 g (card and battery).
Price: get a price on the Canon Powershot G1X at Amazon .

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Canon Powershot G1X
Author Rating

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Barby ALmy April 28, 2013 10:36 am

    I like the sound of the G1 X except for the macro part. I do a lot of macro photography. I use a Canon 5D Mark ll for serious photo work but like to have a backup for grab and go. Currently I have a G11 and am interested in an upgrade. It sounds like the G1 X is better than the G15 except for macro. I shoot in RAW mostly. What do you think?

  • Stratman February 6, 2013 02:53 am

    Nicely written, concise review of the PowerShot G1X.

    I've dabbled with dSLRs for nearly three years and P&S compacts more than twice as long. When the G1X was announced, I wasn't really sure whether I'd be interested in getting one - since it will sit between my PowerShot G12 and EOS 450D in terms of performance, size, weight and image quality. My largest camera is the EOS 60D while my tiniest is a PowerShot S95 with other Canon cameras in between.

    I have tested the G1X at a few camera retailers and each time I brushed it off, because I thought it was either an oversized and overweight version of the G12 or a less flexible version of a similarly priced, entry level EOS dSLR. I felt that it I wanted to travel super-light, I would bring my G12 as my primary camera and nothing bigger/heavier than that. While the G12 is an excellent P&S for general photography, its small 1/1.7" sensor limits its use to anything but very high ISO levels.

    It was only very recently that I decided to give the PowerShot G1X a go and finally bought one. Its price had already gone down since last year and is on par with that of an EOS 600D/Rebel T4i (body only). After using my new G1X for a fortnight, I quickly discovered its strengths and its weaknesses and would like to share my personal viewpoints:

    :What the PowerShot G1X is:
    A mid-sized P&S that yields image quality very close to that of an 18MP, APS-C format Canon dSLR. The G1X's sensor has the same 4.3 micron pixel pitch as the EOS 7D but with a 4:3 aspect ratio instead of the 7D's 3:2 aspect ratio. The G1X's noise at ISO 1600 is also very low, rivaling my old EOS 450D at the same ISO sensitivity.

    :What the PowerShot G1X is NOT:
    A digital camera that has dSLR-like low shutter lag, AF speed or buffer depth. Neither will the G1X focus as close as small sensor compacts like the G12 nor does it have the snappy auto-focusing response of the new PowerShot G15.

    The background blurring properties of the PowerShot G1X is a lot better than a G12 @ 28mm, f/2.8 due to its larger sensor, but not by much as I had hoped for at telephoto focal lengths.

    The reason is because the G1X' maximum aperture drops too quickly as you zoom in and by mid focal ranges this camera tends to stay between f/4.5-5.0. At these slow apertures the G1X' depth-of-field gets deeper, thus negating the shallow focus properties of its big 1.5" CMOS sensor.

    In falling light and dim conditions, watch out for dipping shutter speeds at slower aperture values; particularly if you tend to zoom in often rather than shooting at its widest focal length @ f/2.8. If you leave the camera at Auto ISO (with a range from 100 to 1600), the G1X will try to choose the highest ISO as possible to keep its shutter speeds high.

    Like the G12, the G1X also allows you to restrict its upper Auto ISO limit. Since the G1X has much lower noise levels, you'll find that letting the G1X shoot at ISO 1600 not much of a concern. I do wish that Canon had allowed the Auto ISO to go one stop higher to 3200 though, but I think the manufacturer decided the G1X to stay on the conservative side of its sensor gain. Anything over ISO 1600 has to be selected manually.

    :Lens quality:
    As with most consumer grade dSLR zooms, the G1X exhibits soft looking corners and mid-frames wide open @ f/2.8. Fortunately its lens sharpens up nicely when set to f/4.5 and remains fairly sharp until about f/8. Although the G1X can be stopped down all the way to f/16, I would not advocate using such small apertures due to lens diffraction unless you don't mind soft looking details.

    Also new to the G1X is its ability to optically zoom while in video mode. The G12 and its older cousins only allow digital zooming, not optical. Although the G1X lacks the fast and ultra-quiet USM zoom motor found in Canon's super-zoom cameras like the S5 IS, SX30 IS, SX50HS etc, at least its zoom isn't as noisy as those found in earlier PowerShot cameras. In a quiet environment, the G1X' stereo microphones do pick up its zoom noise in operation but is fairly inaudible in the noisy outdoors.

    The need for a lens cap might be bothersome and is a throwback to the long discontinued PowerShot G6, which had a fairly large f/2.0 zoom lens. The G1X' optics are so large that it wasn't possible for Canon to design a retractable lens shutter mechanism into it. It's a matter of getting used to.

    Final thoughts:
    The G1X was confusing at first as I have been used to small sensor, PowerShot compacts and EOS dSLRs and their idiosyncrasies. It will give you dSLR quality pictures in a small form factor but under that high quality, metal and polycarbonate shell, the G1X behaves more like a point-and-shoot camera, minus the 2cm macro distance I've been accustomed to with compacts.

    I'd like to think the G1X as a supercharged G12 rather than a lightweight dSLR or mirror-less system camera. I think most people who buy the G1X are dSLR users looking for a small backup P&S camera with a superb image quality without having to invest in, e.g., a Micro 4/3rds interchangeable lens shooter.

    If you're used to P&S cameras with reasonably quick AF response and a close focusing macro mode, the G1X is probably not for you. However if you're looking for fixed lens advanced compact with the picture quality that of a dSLR but without the dSLR's bulk/weight and the hassle of changing lenses, check out the PowerShot G1X. :-)

  • C van Dijk April 20, 2012 03:46 pm

    The G1X is what the G10 should have been. Just bought mine at the duty free on the way to Bali and gave the G10 to the wife as she was looking at some little cute camera. I also carried my EOS 500D with my 70mm-200mm, 10mm-20mm lens and a Macro 90mm lens. 90% of my photos were taken with the G1X. Also I was invited at a Balinese B/day party and the reach of the popup flash while the ISO sat at 1600 had a professional result. Ofcourse an SLR is required for some specialist work. I was thinking of buying a replacement lens for my Kit lens. But the G1X was the cheaper option and I can shoot HD video as well.

  • Pete in SD March 23, 2012 12:41 pm

    I had the G10. Sold it to get a S95. Now I really miss it. S95 It's great but the control the G series offers can't be beat. Many of my shots just are not up to snuff with those I took with the G10. Could be pilot error but I have some of my best shots thanks to that camera. G1x seems to be the same but better still!

  • Barrie Smith March 20, 2012 07:53 am

    To Jeff

    no there is no post processing of the ISO test pics apart from downsizing the image for use on the DPS site.

    I will be in touch with you.

  • Mike M March 20, 2012 07:51 am

    I'm encouraged by your review. I have a G10 that I have enjoyed very much, particularly on trips. The only place I felt it was a bit challenged was in action shots in lower light conditions. I see from your sample photos that should not be a serious problem on the G1X. Also, I have no great need for taking shots of insects, so the macro limits are not a big issue for me. I also have given up years ago my former practice of hauling around a big SLR, so I have a keen interest in a compact camera that now delivers IQ that approaches (I realize it should never match) that of the larger DSLRs.

  • Jeff March 20, 2012 12:39 am

    I used to teach photography for many years before making a slight career change. And I used to shoot with a Pentax 6x7, the big daddy of film SLRs. Sigh, it got to be a figurative and real pain to carry it around. And I started to not enjoy taking photos.

    I got the Canon G11 because it gave me RAW, decent photos and a built in 5x zoom in a relatively small form factor. I was tired of carrying around a lot of equipment and it wasn't doing my back any good either. Given the adage: "the best camera is the one you have with you," I wanted start enjoying taking photos again.

    I just got the G 1X. I've taken a few test shots with it. I read numerous reviews and followed forums before buying. There are pluses and minuses to this camera (but will there ever be a "perfect" camera?). The pluses as you suggested are great photos with that large sensor. And the ISO performance (I looked closely at the shot you took at ISO 12800 and it's amazing. I don't see any noise! (I've seen other sample pics at that ISO and it does have a relatively good amount of noise, so I'm a bit surprised at the wonderful quality of your image. Did you do any post-production?)

    I don't do sports photography so the slower than it should AF isn't that much of a problem. I do think the flash is a bit cheap feeling. And I do wish the lens cap was built in. But I can live with these "minuses."

    Thanks for the review.

  • Dave Tong March 19, 2012 03:31 pm

    I'd have to agree with traciatim, I've played with the G1X and as a replacement for the G series, it's a huge improvement, at at that price-point, i don't see any logic getting this over the EPL and EPM series, as well as a the Panasonic M4/3....

    If it had an f/1.8-4 lens that starts at 24mm, however, at the same price point, it'll be a great release.

  • Simon March 19, 2012 12:20 pm

    I've seen similar macro issues with other Canons, including my SX10. To get good shots of things like and insects, macro is almost useless - even if the subject doesn't object, you have to get so close that the camera's shadow becomes a problem. Better to step back a metre or so, and use the zoom...

  • Traciatim March 19, 2012 12:32 am

    So essentially it's a less versatile more expensive m4/3 camera, but Canon is too proud to just join m4/3 and call it the standard of consumer interchangeable lens cameras. It would be so nice if Camera companies could just get along.

  • Lee Franchi March 18, 2012 11:11 pm

    I used a G7 until I dropped it ( a second time ) then I replaced it with the G9. I'm quite happy with the G9 and all of it's features. I've gotten some great shots with it and I don't feel the need to upgrade. With a couple of exceptions the hand full of fine art pics on my webpage were shot with the G9 hand held while driving.

  • Eyal Gurevitch March 18, 2012 08:38 pm

    Seems to me that the High ISO test was performed in good lighting.
    As such, it's no surprise that results are so good and with such little noise.

    I think the test should be performed in low light, to truly reveal the real life
    behaviour of the sensor with high sensitivities.


  • Derek Lyons March 18, 2012 12:49 pm

    @Alex, though I love my T2i... my old G10 is still fun to shoot with and still has a place in my backpack.

  • Zaman Khan March 18, 2012 07:56 am

    I think i would buy a compact if it was the same size as something like this, BUT instead of a variable zoom it had a standard 1.8 prime or slightly wide 1.8 prime. Raw support and atleast 1.2 raw frames per second. Sigma had something similar to what i wanted but the cost and size were not right. This canon is also priced a little high, $800 can buy you a decent used SLR or micro 4/3 package.
    I guess i would buy a small compact like this, IF it had decent sensor, viewfinder, standard fast prime, Raw support with decent frames per sec. All the rest of the fluff can be taken off if it adds to cost.

  • John Bokma March 18, 2012 05:32 am

    reivew typo, also in the URL.

  • Alexx March 18, 2012 05:32 am

    I use to have a G12 before I decided to upgrade to a DSLR 2 years ago.