Canon PowerShot G1 X at a glance:

  • Near APS-C-sized, 14.3-million-pixel CMOS sensor
  • 28-112mm f/2.8-5.8 zoom lens
  • New Intelligent image stabilisation
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 3in, 920,000-dot LCD screen
  • ISO 100-12,800
  • Street price around £690

Canon PowerShot G1 X review – Introduction

While a compact system camera (CSC) strikes the perfect balance between quality and portability for many photographers, models such as Fujifilm’s FinePix X100 have shown there is another option. Why not forego the interchangeable optics and use a compact camera that has a large sensor and a fixed lens? This is exactly the attitude Canon has adopted with the launch of its new PowerShot G1 X.

The PowerShot G1 X is nearly identical in appearance to the existing PowerShot G12. The new camera also feels very familiar, although it is slightly chunkier than the G12. The reason for this increase in bulk is the G1 X’s defining feature – a large 14.3-million-pixel sensor.

This sensor is 6x larger than that used in the G12, making it much closer in size to a DSLR unit. With a sensor this big, it is clear that the G1 X is aimed squarely at those looking for a camera with the quality and size of a CSC, but without the perceived hassle and expensive of additional lenses.

The G1 X’s fixed lens is equivalent to a 28-112mm f/2.8-5.8 zoom, so it should satisfy the needs of most photographers, particularly when used for travel and street photography. All the features you would expect from a Canon PowerShot G-series camera are present, from raw shooting to a flash hotshoe and EV adjustment dial.

Based on its specification, the G1 X is an intriguing prospect, and a potential rival not only to the likes of the Fujifilm FinePix X100, but also to many CSCs, some of which have smaller sensors and lower resolutions.


While it is not surprising that Canon has created a larger sensor for the G1 X, many people will be surprised at just how large this sensor actually is. All the promotional material informs us that the sensor is 6x larger than the one in the PowerShot G12, but it is difficult to put this in context.

The G12’s 7.6×5.7mm sensor is, in fact, tiny in comparison to the 18.7x14mm (4:3 aspect ratio) CMOS sensor of the G1 X. Indeed, the larger sensor is even bigger than a four thirds unit, and is just 0.8mm smaller in height than Canon’s own APS-C models, which generally measure 22.2×14.8mm.

DxO Labs ( quotes the pixel pitch of the G1 X sensor as being 4.16μm, which is exactly the same as the pixel pitch of the 18-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor of the Canon EOS 7D. When compared to the 2.03μm pixel pitch of the G12, it is clear that the sensor of the G1 X has more in common with Canon’s EOS range of cameras than it does with its PowerShot predecessors.

With an ISO range of 100-12,800, the sensitivity of the G1 X matches that of the EOS 7D, while image data is handled by a Canon Digic 5 processor. The company claims that this processor is 6x faster and produces 75% less noise than the Digic 4 in the G12. However, it is on image quality that the G1 X will be judged, not its specification.

While the sensor may be the standout feature of the G1 X, its fixed zoom lens must be a close second. The G1 X has a 15.1-60.4mm f/2.8-f/5.8 4x zoom, equivalent to 28-112mm on a 35mm, full-frame camera. This focal range is slightly shorter than the 28-140mm equivalent zoom of the G12, but given the G1 X’s larger sensor, a larger focal range would no doubt have affected the size of the lens, and the camera itself. For more on the lens, see Features in use on page 55.

Optical image stabilisation is also present, reducing camera shake via an Intelligent IS system that automatically selects from seven different modes, depending on the shooting settings. Despite these improvements, Canon still states that the stabilisation makes a 4-stop difference, which is the same as that found on the G12.

As expected from an advanced compact camera, there is a full range of exposure modes, raw image capture and a hotshoe for mounting compatible flashguns. The G1 X also has a small pop-up flash, with three levels of manual-power adjustment plus auto settings.

In all, the G1 X feature list is comprehensive, which is no surprise given that most of its features are the same as those found in the G12. So, in these terms, the G1 X is really just a larger version of the G12.

Features in use: 28-112mm f/2.8-5.8 4x optical zoom lens

Although much of the specification of the PowerShot G1 X matches that of a compact system camera, there is one feature that doesn’t – the fixed lens. The 15.1-60mm f/2.8-5.8 4x zoom lens is the equivalent of a 28-112mm optic due to the sensor providing a 1.8x equivalent angle of view when compared to a 35mm frame. This focal-length range is ideal for travel, street and candid photography.

Fixing the lens to the camera rather than opting for a lens mount has a few advantages. First, the sensor and image processing can be tailored to the specific optical properties of the lens. Also, it is collapsible, making it far more compact than an equivalent lens would be on a CSC. The cost of the lens should also be considered when buying the camera. Although the G1 X’s RRP of almost £700 seems expensive, it is reasonable when compared to a CSC with an equivalent lens.

The maximum f/2.8 aperture will produce a shallow depth of field compared to compact cameras with small sensors, and the large aperture will help in low light. However, at longer focal lengths this will be reduced as the aperture becomes f/5.8.

More creative photographers can also make use of the Canon FA-DC58C filter adapter, which allows Canon’s range of 58mm filters to be used.

Build & Handling

Although the PowerShot G12 and G1 X may look alike when viewed in isolation, there is actually quite a difference in size. The new camera measures 116.7×80.5×64.7mm compared to the G12’s 112.1×76.2×48.3mm. These few millimetres add up, and those struggling to squeeze the G12 into a pocket will be stretching the fabric further still with the G1 X.

As compact cameras go, the G1 X is one of the largest, although when considered next to a compact system camera with kit zoom lens attached it is, if anything, smaller. This is due to the 28-112mm lens being retractable, which prevents it from protruding from the front of the camera much more than a pancake lens would on a CSC.

The G1 X may look as though it is built of plastic, but it is constructed from a magnesium alloy, making it as reassuringly strong as it is cold when picked up. Thankfully, the handgrip has a textured rubber finish, although long-fingered individuals may find that the handgrip could do with being slightly more pronounced to allow their fingers to curl around it a little easier.

The layout of the camera will be familiar to anyone who has used a PowerShot G-series model in the past few years. On the rear is a control dial, surrounded by a series of buttons that will allow the ISO, metering, AF and flash settings to be changed quickly. There is also a function button that can be assigned to a setting of the user’s choice.

On the top-plate sits the mode dial, making it easy to change from, say, aperture priority to fully manual or program mode. Below this is a secondary dial that applies exposure compensation. Having access to exposure compensation via a large, well-labelled dial is a real selling point for this camera, and makes it as easy and quick to apply brightness changes in the same way as when using a DSLR.

Around the camera’s shutter button is the zoom control toggle switch, which is neatly positioned. Just below this on the front is a control wheel that adjusts the aperture. Again, this is another nice touch that DSLR users will really appreciate. One thing that would make the handling even better would be a secondary control wheel on the rear that could be operated by the thumb.

Instead, this space is taken up with a direct video record button. While this makes it easy to record video, I feel that the target market for this camera would much prefer a secondary control wheel in this position.

Overall, the camera handles very well, with everything where we would want and expect it to be. The high-resolution display makes the on-screen menus and settings clearly visible, and the camera’s menu system is unchanged from that found in virtually all current Canon compacts. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Although it is quite large for a compact camera, I didn’t find the size of the G1 X a problem. Rather than worrying about a pocket in which to fit the camera, I would instead recommend the ever-ready-style Canon SC-DC75 case, and simply carry the camera around your neck.

White Balance & Colour

Canon compact cameras are widely respected for producing images with excellent colour definition, and the PowerShot G1 X is no exception. There is a full complement of default white-balance settings, as well as two custom modes.

AWB is the one setting most photographers will tend to leave the camera set to. I found it to be very reliable. Even when shooting in snowy conditions, the AWB setting left images with a good neutral white balance. The only images that show a slightly cold blue hue were those that I deliberately underexposed to preserve some highlight detail.

The usual range of Canon colour preset settings are on offer in the G1 X, but sadly a problem I have found with other PowerShot models remains. Although the black & white setting is generally good, there is no option for adjusting it to add more contrast or any colour filtered effects. There is a custom colour setting, but reducing the saturation does not turn the image to monochrome.

Rather, it just offers a slightly desaturated colour image. I realise this is a minor gripe, but it is one that I hope Canon will rectify, especially as the monochrome modes in its EOS cameras are excellent, with many different contrast options.


Metering on the G1 X is good, with the camera generally able to avoid blowing out too much highlight detail

When used in a number of different lighting conditions, including snow, bright sunshine and at night, the PowerShot G1 X’s evaluative metering system coped extremely well. Generally, the evaluative mode seems to be aware of highlights, but will be selective if circumstances demand.

In other words, it will ignore highlights if it believes doing so will benefit the overall exposure. This means that images generally look good straight from the camera, although those shooting raw images might try to recover more highlight detail.

Where the dynamic range is enough to cover the scene, exposures are spot on, and the exposure compensation dial on top of the camera makes it extremely quick to make an adjustment. I only needed to use the EV adjustment dial a handful of times, generally adjusting the exposure in the ±0.3EV range.

Centreweighted and spot options are also available for more precise metering.


This image was taken using the G1 X’s macro mode, which isn’t actually macro and has a minimum focus distance of 20cm. However, a lot of detail can be seen in the snow

There’s little new about the autofocus of the PowerShot G1 X. It incorporates the tried-and-tested contrast-detection AF method, rather than the newly developed on-sensor phase detection that some manufacturers are now using. As such, the focusing system of the G1 X performs exactly as expected.

I found the autofocus to be fast without being ‘snappy’. It performs like the AF in the G12, but should perhaps be faster given that the camera is aimed at a more advanced level of photographer. Those used to a DSLR may expect the G1 X to snap into focus, or at least to perform as fast as the latest generation of contrast-detection AFs in CSCs. However, for those who intend this to be an accompaniment to their DSLR instead of a replacement, this might not be too much of an issue.

That said, I found that for landscapes, portraits and street photography, the focusing of the G1 X is more than adequate. However, as I am used to the close-focusing capabilities of compact cameras, due to the lens construction of the larger sensor, in the G1 X’s macro mode the minimum focus distance is 20cm. This is quite far considering the minimum focus distance of the G12 is just 1cm.

Although this isn’t a huge concern, there were a few times when I went in very close to take a shot, only to find that the camera wouldn’t focus – even at 10cm or 15cm I was simply too close. The term ‘macro’ is quite misleading then, as it is really just a close-focusing mode.

Noise, Resolution & Sensitivity

In low light, the G1 X handles noise reasonably well. This image was taken handheld at just 1/6sec at ISO 1600

With a 14.3-million-pixel sensor that is closer in specification to Canon’s APS-C-sized sensors, it is no surprise that the PowerShot G1 X produces images that are full of detail and far beyond what one would expect from a regular compact camera.

The G1 X’s sensitivity range of ISO 100-12,800 is impressive, particularly as noise is well controlled throughout the range, even at the maximum sensitivities.

Those shooting JPEG images will see little in the way of chroma noise. There is a hint of speckled luminance noise at sensitivities higher than ISO 1600, but noise reduction does help to reduce this. The downside is that the blurring effect of noise reduction reduces detail resolution.

More detail can be recovered from the raw files produced by the camera. Chroma noise is easy to reduce, but the luminance noise is difficult to remove without losing too much detail. I edited the raw files using Canon DPP software, but when converting Canon raw files in the past, I have found that noise reduction and sharpening are better with third-party raw-conversion software. We will check this when such software becomes available.

Overall, the quality of the images will certainly meet the demanding standards of enthusiast and professional photographers.

These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the lens set around 50mm. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

Dynamic range

While JPEG images are good, even more detail can be revealed in raw images

DxO Labs ( rates the dynamic range of the PowerShot G1 X at 10.83EV at ISO 100, which is virtually the same as the 10.9EV range it quotes for the G12. However, the G1 X’s larger sensor manages to retain a large dynamic range as the ISO sensitivity increases. At ISO 400, the G1 X is rated at 10.68EV, whereas the smaller sensor of the G12 is only 8.84EV.

Further confirmation that the G1 X’s sensor is derived from the APS-C-sized sensors of Canon’s EOS series is its behaviour as the ISO sensitivity increases. At ISO 100, the EOS 600D has a dynamic range of 11.46EV, which drops to 11.16EV at ISO 400. This slight drop is almost exactly in line with the behaviour of the G1 X.

Compared to its competitors, the G1 X’s dynamic range performs very well. It is around 1EV greater than that of the smaller 12.3-million-pixel sensor in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3.

In use, the dynamic range of the G1 X is impressive for a compact camera. There is plenty of detail that can be recovered from shadow areas, and with careful metering it is possible to recover some highlight detail in raw files. Those shooting JPEG images should use the DR Correction function and exposure for highlight detail.


LCD, Viewfinder & Video

With a 3in PureColor II LCD screen, the display on the PowerShot G1 X is fractionally larger than the 2.8in screen of the G12. The screen on the new camera also has a far higher resolution, with 920,000 dots as opposed to the 461,000-dot display of the G12.

This makes it easy to see some of the finer details of images when using the G1 X, although the camera does appear to be reading a large preview file when reviewing images, rather than the actual image itself. I say this because the images look critically sharper when examined at 100% on a computer screen than they do when viewed on the camera.

The G1 X’s optical viewfinder (OVF) is paired with the zoom lens, but it is small and only offers around an 80% field of view. When this is combined with the fact that the viewfinder is offset, it can be difficult to frame images at the edges. Added to this is the fact that the zoom lens can be seen at the bottom of the viewfinder frame, even when at its widest focal length.

That said, the humble OVF does have advantages compared to using the rear screen. Holding the G1 X up to the eye offers more support, which is useful at longer focal lengths. Using an OVF is also easier than using the 3in screen in bright sunlight.

An area where Canon has excelled in recent years is incorporating HD video capture into its cameras. The G1 X continues this trend, with video capture at full HD (1920×1080-pixel resolution) at 24fps, using H.264 compression and with stereo sound.

Sadly, there is not too much in the way of exposure control when using the camera’s video mode, although it will automatically change exposure very gradually if the brightness of a scene changes. The gradual transition looks natural and smooth. Similarly, the focusing adjusts very smoothly when the subject changes, and there are no jerky movements.

In fact, fairly professional-looking results can be achieved, particularly as the image stabilisation works superbly in video mode. When slowly panning while shooting video, I noticed that the footage kept panning for a fraction of a second after I had stopped. This is the stabilisation reacting to the movements, making sure that the footage stops smoothly. It is a very nice touch.

Those wishing to shoot solely video would be better looking for another model elsewhere, but for excellent footage of a holiday or an event, the G1 X will satisfy the needs of most people. Added to this is the fact that all the picture styles work when recording video, along with a range of basic special image effects, such as a miniature effect.


Our Verdict

While it is still unknown whether Canon will enter the compact system camera market, for now the PowerShot G1 X fills this gap in the company’s range. The large sensor performs extremely well, and it is enough to rival many CSCs.

With a 28-112mm equivalent range, the 4x zoom lens should fulfil the demands of most DSLR photographers looking for the convenience of a smaller camera, but without the additional cost of purchasing a new system.

Despite initially being somewhat sceptical that the G1 X was anything more than just a larger G12, I now recognise that it is a very different beast and deserves to be thought of as much more a competitor to CSCs or compacts with APS-C-sized sensors, such as the Fujifilm FinePix X100. The image quality is almost on a par with Canon’s EOS 600D, which is an achievement.

There are a few things that could be improved, though. The autofocus could do with being a little faster, and I would like to see an actual control dial around the lens that could be used as an aperture ring. But these touches are more like putting the cherry on top of what is already a very nice cake.

Those looking for a serious compact camera alternative to a CSC shouldn’t look much further than the Canon PowerShot G1 X.

Canon PowerShot G1 X: Focal points


The external hotshoe allows you to mount  compatible Canon flashguns

Articulated screen

The rear screen can rotate through 170˚

Quick record

This button allows video recording to be quickly started and stopped

Optical viewfinder

This is coupled to the zoom lens and offers 80% coverage

ND filter

To help take long-exposure shots during the day, or when a shallower depth of field is required, the G1 X has a built-in 3-stop ND filter. This comes down in front of the path of the light when required, and is activated via the camera’s on-screen menu.

Pop-up flash

The small pop-up flash has three levels of manual power adjustment, with a range of 50cm to 7m at its widest focal length.

Burst mode

The G1 X can shoot at full resolution at a speed of 4.5fps for six frames using its high-speed burst HQ mode.  However, focus and exposure are locked at the first frame.

Multi-area white balance

In smart auto mode the camera can detect and alter the white balance in each scene locally. This helps to balance the white balance in an image where two different light sources are used, such as tungsten and daylight.

The Competition

While the Fujifilm FinePix X10 has a large 2/3in sensor, the Canon PowerShot G1 X’s sensor is far larger, helping it to produce better images, particularly as the ISO sensitivity increases. Fujifilm’s FinePix X100 is a closer match, but with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens it may not be to everyone’s taste.

Really, the G1 X occupies a unique place in the market and will probably find itself competing more with the scores of compact system cameras. I would expect it to be a good alternative to micro four thirds cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3, but it can’t really match the quality of the Sony NEX-7 and its 24-million-pixel resolution.