Rush out in a hurry and you’re unlikely to take a large camera like a DSLR with you. So what do you do if a perfect photo moment presents itself? Most of us will no doubt reach into a pocket and pull out a smartphone. While this will get you by, phones often lack creative features like Manual modes, so it can prove difficult to capture the image you wanted.
Canon’s PowerShot G5 X is designed for occasions when you want to travel light, but keep all the features you need for creative shots. It boasts a pocketable build, a large 1in sensor, a 4.2x optical zoom, RAW shooting and creative exposure modes. And if you like the edit-and-upload immediacy of a smartphone, the G5 X can be paired over Wi-Fi using NFC, so it feels like an extension of your phone or tablet rather than a replacement. But is it the ultimate travel compact? Let’s find out.
Features & Build
There’s no better place to start with the G5 X than its large sensor. The 1in chip is around 4x bigger than those found in many smartphones, and its resolution of 20.2Mp produces JPEGs and 14-bit RAWs at a resolution of 5472x3648px.
The G5 X is quite large compared to many compacts, and has similar proportions to a small Compact System Camera, but unlike a CSC it has a fixed lens so other optics can’t be attached. Its lens is versatile though, with a 4.2x optical zoom. This gives a film-equivalent focal length of 24-108mm. The maximum aperture is remarkably bright too, opening to f/1.8 at the wide end and f/2.8 at 108mm. To enhance its low-light capabilities there’s an optical image stabiliser and a powerful Digic 6 processor, which paves the way for an ISO range of 125-12,800. There’s a shutter range of 30secs-1/2000sec, a Bulb mode and a continuous burst rate of 5.9 frames per second.
The Mode dial sits on the left of the top-plate, so setting a creative mode of M, Av, Tv or P is swift work. There’s a pop-up flash and a hotshoe in the middle, allowing triggers and flashguns to be attached if required. These sit on top of the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) housing. The EVF has a resolution of 2360k-dots and gives an alternative way of composing to the rear LCD screen. This is a welcome feature that makes the G5 X handle more like a DSLR.
To the right of the EVF housing is a power button, Exposure Compensation dial with +/- 3 stops of latitude and a shutter button with an integrated zoom lever.
In front of the shutter sits a Command dial used for adjusting exposure values. There’s also a Control ring which allows you to change exposure values quickly.
Turn to the back of the G5 X and you’ll find the 3in, 1040k-dot display. This can be flipped out and rotated to assist when framing up from awkward high or low angles.
Wi-Fi and NFC are integrated, so you can connect the G5 X to a smartphone or tablet to compose and shoot remotely or upload images to the web.
Performance & Handling
Sporting a large grip, the G5 X feels secure and comfortable in your right hand. The Control Ring around the lens also gives plenty of grip for your left hand and makes it easy to adjust exposure settings. The large Mode and Exposure Compensation dials offer DSLR-style functionality, and this is further enhanced by its OLED EVF. The viewfinder is incredibly clear with a resolution of 2360k-dots, and we found it to be impressively responsive with no signs of lag during the test.
The 1040k-dot display is also a joy to compose with. It’s a touchscreen unit so you can tap to set a focus point and swipe through images. It also offers the ability to be flipped out and rotated – extremely handy for shooting from awkward overhead or ground-level angles.
There are 31 AF points to choose from, and Canon claims an AF acquisition time of just 0.12sec. We found the G5 X took a little longer than this when focusing from near to far-distance and vice-versa, but the AF was by no means slow enough to interrupt the picture-taking flow.
The burst rate wasn’t quite as impressive, however. Although the G5 X delivers a top rate of 5.9fps, this is only for high-res JPEGs, and the speed drops dramatically to just 1fps when shooting 14-bit RAWs.
When it came to write times, the G5 X got off to a flying start with just 0.6sec for a Large JPEG. A continuous JPEG burst could be shot at 5.9fps but slowed after 10 frames, with 1sec taken to clear the buffer. RAW shooting was more run-of the-mill. With the burst rate down to 1fps, it slowed even more after just three frames and these took 1.2secs to clear the buffer. It took 1.7secs to clear a single, 14-bit RAW file.
Value for money
The G5 X costs £585 and will face stiff competition from other prestige compacts on the market. Ricoh’s GR II retails for £499, has a larger APS-C sensor for better image quality, but it lacks an optical zoom, EVF and rotatable screen so the G5 X wins here.
Sony’s RX100 III is a similar price at £569. The Sony model matches many of the G5 X’s features, including a 1in sensor, Wi-Fi, touchscreen and Electronic Viewfinder, though its zoom is more limited at just 2.9x. But overall, it’s definitely one to consider alongside the G5 X.
The G5 X comes fully-stocked with a large 1in sensor, an Electronic Viewfinder, tiltable touchscreen and a versatile lens with a wide aperture. It’s durable and well-built so it was impossible to give it anything less than 5 stars for features and build.
We found the autofocus to be nippy, the menu system easy to navigate and the EVF very responsive. The frame rate drops to just 1fps when shooting continuous RAWs, and shot just three images before slowing, so it’s four stars for performance. The Image Quality of the G5 X is very good, though there are other prestige compacts on the market at a similar price-point that boast a larger APS-C sensor for better Noise control.
£585 is however a reasonable price for the G5 X’s comprehensive feature set. If you’re looking for a great travel compact, and can cope with a slow RAW frame rate, you can’t go wrong!
- Price £579 (As of July 2016)
- Resolution 20.2Mp (5472x3648px)
- Format RAW & JPEG
- Sensor 1.0in CMOS
- ISO 125-12,800
- Shutter 30secs-1/2000sec + Bulb mode
- AF system Contrast detection
- Focusing modes Single AF, Continuous AF, Servo AF, Touch AF, Manual
- Metering Evaluative, Centre-weighted average and Spot
- Burst rate 5.9fps
- Monitor 3in, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD
- Viewfinder 2360k-dot EVF
- Pop-up flash Yes
- Hotshoe Yes
- Video Full HD 1920x1080
- Connectivity Wi-Fi and NFC
- Write speeds 1.7sec RAW, 0.6sec Fine JPEG
- Storage SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Weight 377g (with battery & card)
- Dimensions (WxHxD) 112.4x76.4x44.2mm
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the February 2016 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.