The latest in Canon’s line of large sensor premium compacts, the 12.8MP G1 X MkII is targeted at those looking for a fixed lens camera with advanced features. It has been designed to maintain the same impressive image quality as its predecessor, the G1 X, but tackles some of its main criticisms. It also boasts the new DIGIC 6 image processor found on some of the more recent PowerShot models.
So what’s changed? At first glance the most obvious difference is the MkII’s lack of viewfinder. The G1 X’s optical offering was criticised for its poor coverage, and Canon has decided to do away with a viewfinder altogether on its follow-up model. This puts the MkII in line with many other premium compacts, such as the Ricoh GR, though an optional EVF can be purchased separately for £250. The lack of built-in viewfinder also means the G1 X MkII is slightly smaller in size than its older sibling, although it’s still far from comfortably pocketable.
Canon claims that the new DIGIC 6 processor, along with improvements in optics, has given the G1 X MkII a focusing speed almost twice as fast as the G1 X. While it’s still not the fastest AF system on the market, it has come some way to correcting the painfully slow focusing speed that the G1 X was frequently criticised for. The camera’s autofocus points have been increased from 9 to 31, and those looking to shoot macro will also be happy as the minimum focusing distance for the G1 X MkII has now been reduced down to a very competitive 5cm.
The slow continuous shooting speed of the G1 X was one of its biggest drawbacks, as it could only manage 0.7 frames-per-second (fps) with autofocus enabled. The MkII dramatically improves on this benchmark, upping the ante to a more competitive 5fps until the buffer fills.
The G1 X MkII shoots full HD video (1080p) at 30fps for just under 30 minutes, but has removed the ability to record at the MkI’s best rate, and commonly selected speed, of 24fps. The camera’s zoom and touch focus can both be used in video mode, but all other setting changes are locked. There is an HDMI port but no headphone or external mic sockets, further limiting its suitability for video use.
Alongside the standard auto mode, the G1 X MkII includes seven scene selections including an innovative star time-lapse mode, ten built-in filter settings and a creative shot mode that takes six individual exposures at various sizes before applying a different filter effect to each.
With Near Field Communication (NFC) and Wi-Fi built-in, users can download the free Canon Camera Window app to shoot wirelessly, transfer photos and add GPS info to images.
The 3in tilting LCD touchscreen found on the MkII replaces the vari-angle flip-out screen of the G1 X. With an improved 1040k-dots the screen offers almost 100% coverage with good contrast and colour. The screen can be tilted upwards 180° to enable the taking of ‘selfies’ and downwards by 45°. The loss of a swivel movement does restrict the camera’s ability to be used comfortably at more testing shooting angles. The touchscreen is responsive and allows the selection of focus across all but the edges of the frame. There is also a night display mode that dims the screen and alters the menu colour for eyes adjusted to shooting in the dark.
The G1 X MkII is designed with two-handed use in mind, which is necessary given the camera’s substantial weight, and with a wide assortment of external controls, full manual shooting is possible. The scroll wheel of the G1 X has been replaced with two customisable control rings on the MkII’s new lens. The first ring is continuous while the second clicks through in steps, creating a tactile difference between the two.
The touchscreen LCD panel takes up most of the camera’s rear, while the majority of the camera’s buttons are located to the right of the screen for easy thumb control. A D-Pad with dedicated exposure comp, flash, ISO and macro controls is surrounded by a control wheel.
Further buttons for image sharing, video recording and file size selection are packed in around the MkII’s pronounced thumb rest. On the top of the camera a mode dial with two customisable options sits alongside the camera’s zoom rocker and power button, as does a small image review button that feels poorly positioned. Hidden on the camera’s left side is the switch for the MkII’s pop-up flash.
The camera’s menu system is easy to navigate, although some menus don’t close automatically when half-pressing the shutter button, which could prove frustrating for some users.
The G1 X MkII’s fixed lens is a 12.5-62.5mm 5x optical zoom with image stabilisation and a built-in lens barrier. The maximum aperture of f/2-f/3.9 is substantially brighter than the previous model’s f/2.8-f/5.8, which is brilliant news for those looking to shoot in low light conditions. The lens has a nine-blade diaphragm that has been designed for attractive circular bokeh at wide apertures.
In our tests the G1 X MkII’s lens performed well, reaching its peak sharpness around f/8 and producing images with very little pincushion and barrel distortion across its range. Some image softness is noticeable, however, at low apertures, particularly at longer focal lengths.
Vignetting is also present wide-open, but this disappears at all other aperture settings. With a fixed lens, Canon has been able to heavily tailor the processing of the G1 X MkII’s JPEG images. This processing may also have helped correct chromatic aberration, which is kept virtually non-existent in most of the camera’s images.
ISO performance test results
With its large CMOS sensor the G1 X MkII handles low light situations extremely well for a compact camera. Its extensive 100-12,800 ISO range is slightly larger than that found on some of the camera’s main competitors. The MkII shows very little sign of noise right up to ISO 1600 and images are still usable at ISO 3200. However, at ISO 6400 and 12,800 noise starts to increase dramatically. When shooting in a dark and dingy music venue we were impressed with the camera’s ability to take virtually noise-free images at high ISOs that were comparable to some basic DSLRs.
The G1 X MkII is a solid-feeling premium compact that offers an excellent standard of image quality. With improvements in many of the areas that the G1 X was criticised for, Canon has produced a camera that can now hold its own in most shooting situations. However, while the price will undoubtedly drop, the £749 G1 X MkII is an expensive niche option, facing stiff competition from other markets. At its current price, those that require the camera’s more advanced features will likely look towards the growing range of CSCs. Its relatively bulky size will only help to dissuade those looking for a true compact, while having to pay an additional £250 for an EVF will further alienate photographers for whom a viewfinder is essential. Its creative shooting modes are fun to use and the camera feels well built, but it seems targeted at an audience with too many other, arguably better, options.
- Price: £453 (As of June 2016)
- Focal length: 12.5-62.5mm
- Maximum aperture: f/2-f/3.9
- Effective resolution: 12.8MP
- Sensor type: 18.7x14mm CMOS
- AF: 31-point contrast detection
- ISO range: 100 -12,800
- LCD: 3in 1040k-dot touch and tilt
- Viewfinder: N/A, optional EVF available
- Shooting speed: 5fps
- Video: Full HD (1080p)
- Battery life: 240 shots
- Card type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 116x74x66mm
- Weight: 558g
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the June 2014 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.