Canon introduce a large sensor compact fixed lens camera – the Powershot G1X – but is this what upgraders really want?

Written by Gary on January 10th, 2012

Canon have just announced the Powershot G1X “compact” camera with a 14mp 18.7mm x 14mm sensor about the same size as Micro Four Thirds (its active region may actually be smaller than that on a Panasonic GH1 or GH2)  and in 4/3 aspect ratio but with a fixed 28-112mm equivalent f/2.8-5.8 image stabilised zoom lens.

It has some nice features including:

  • the large sensor and 14bit RAW capture for high image quality
  • metal construction
  • compact lens about the same size as the Panasonic Lumix X 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS powerzoom but with more telephoto reach.
  • 4 stop image stabiliser
  • flip out, swivel, hi-resolution (920,o00 dots) LCD screen
  • built-in flash with sync speed up to 1/2000th sec – nice but this flash is very limited with its low power output.
  • hotshoe compatible with all Canon EOS speedlights with sync speed 1/250th sec – now that is nice
  • face detection flash exposure compensation
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card support
  • optical viewfinder but not through the lens viewing, but at least there is no black out during burst shots as with EVF.
  • built-in 3 stop ND filter so you can “use wider apertures” but it doesn’t have wider apertures at the portrait end!
  • HDR mode

Canon seem to have totally misunderstood the market with this camera.

It is relatively tall (117mm x 81mm x 65mm) for a compact, and heavy for a compact (534g) and ugly!

Those upgrading from a point and shoot not only want higher image quality but they want much better ability to blur the background than this camera can ever offer, and at $799, most people would be far better off buying a similarly priced and sized, but much more versatile Micro Four Thirds camera with which they can buy nice wide aperture lenses to blur the background with.

So here are a few deficiencies compared with a Micro Four Thirds camera:

  • you can’t change lenses so you will never be able to blur the background nicely as you can’t put a nice 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens  or  use  lovely legacy lenses such as the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4
  • you can’t use a wide angle or long telephoto lens
  • you can’t use a dedicated macro lens – although it has macro mode, it is only down to 20cm
  • it does not have an EVF so you cannot see through the lens with the camera at eye level which means you don’t get to see the effects of ND gradient filters, polariser filters or composing to a different image aspect ratio, or the many other nice features of EVF’s such as magnified manual focus, etc.
  • the LCD screen is not a touch screen
  • burst mode at 4.5fps is limited to 6 shots, to get more you have to reduce burst rate to a miserly 1.9fps
  • exposure compensation is only +/- 3EV not 5EV
  • HD video is limited to 24fps when using 1080i while 720p is only 30fps instead of 60fps and thus slow motion video is not possible
  • it appears there is no manual exposure movie mode?
  • it will be interesting to see how fast the AF is, will it be as fast as the latest Micro Four Thirds cameras which have the fastest AF for static subjects you can get?
  • no zoom ring on the lens, you only have the power zoom lever near the shutter button
  • you need to buy a lens adapter (FA-DC58C  with 58mm thread) to allow use of a polarising filter- what were they thinking?

Well, it is has a much larger sensor (6.3x larger) than its predecessors, the Powershot G12 and earlier, but in this new marketplace of mirrorless interchangeable lens compact cameras at similar price point and size it is most likely aimed at those with a Canon dSLR who want a compatible compact. Even those will be waiting for Canon to come out with their mirrorless system which will presumably have this same sensor.

If this camera had a wider aperture lens, then the high ISO capabilities, built-in ND filter, nice fast flash sync would make this a great camera but to me, the lens lets this camera down.

The first thing I do when I buy a camera is replace the kit lens with a wide aperture lens – you can’t do this with this camera.

Still it may suit some people and I am sure it will take great photos just as a Micro Four Thirds camera will do with its kit lens.

This presumably suggests Canon’s new mirrorless range will be based around this sensor, and if this is so, wouldn’t it be fantastic for everyone if they actually did something sensible and use the Micro Four Thirds lens mount technology so that they have a ready market for their lenses and cameras. Heck they could even negotiate with Olympus and Panasonic to create a unified hotshoe given they are almost pin compatible at present.

Micro Four Thirds users would then have the option of Canon sensor, TTL flash and lens technologies while Canon users would gain access to the lovely collection of micro Four Thirds lenses already available.

Guess I am just dreaming again.


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