The long-due compact from Canon: G1X Mark II in review

Roughly four years ago, a new category of cameras emerged: that of the premium compacts. With top specs but with a compact and minimalist design, these were aimed at those who wanted high-performance but pocketable cameras. However, their price most often exceeds that of an entry-level DSLR camera or of an advanced mirrorless, which means they must offer more than excellent performance in order to be desired by enthusiast users. Canon joined the game with the G1X series and now, two years from the first issue, they’re unveiling its successor.

The Canon G1X Mark II is the new top of the range in the Japanese producer’s line of compacts and comes with a 1.5-inch CMOS sensor generating 12.8 megapixels, with a 24 mm wide-angle lens, wireless functions and a tilting LCD screen that completely replaces the optical viewfinder. It’s a well crafted camera and comes at a high ticket price to match, which begs the question: is it worth acquiring the G1X mark II, when it costs as much as a DSLR?

Canon G1X Mark II

[caption id="attachment_182" align="aligncenter" width="522"]canon-g1x-mark-2-580x492 The new Canon G1X Mark II[/caption]

Check out the G1X Mark2 deals and bundles on Amazon

 

Technical specs at a glance:

  • 1.5 inch CMOS sensor (18.7 x 14 mm)
  • 12.8 megapixel resolution
  • DIGIC 6 image processor, which combined with the sensor, creates the touted Canon HS SYSTEM to help provide excellent low-light performance
  • ISO 100-12.800
  • JPEG, RAW formats
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Continuous shooting at up to 5 frames per second (with AF Lock) or max. 3 fps with active AF
  • Full HD video at 1080 30p MPEG 4, stereo sound, dedicated movie button
  • Wi-Fi, NFC
  • Integrated Flash
  • Hot shoe for external Flash
  • Tilting LCD screen, touch-sensitive
  • Shooting modes Auto/P/A/S/M and scene presets
  • 6 filters and special effects
  • Storage on SD/SDHC/SDXC card
  • Weight: 560g
  • Size: 116.3 x 74.0 x 66.2 mm

Build and handling

The new G1X Mark II comes with the typical menu found on the Canon Compacts. From this point of view, we cannot say that it excels in terms of functionality or customization options. Although the menu seems simple in comparison to similar models from other manufacturers, the Canon G1X Mark II has an upper hand: it is compatible with Canon’s flashes and allows to set and trigger them, by accessing the custom functions of each Canon flash directly from the camera.

For the fans of the brand, or for those who already own a Canon DSLR and flash, the G1X Mark II would make a logical choice, in order to retain compatibility with existing accessories. Another strong point is the access to settings that adjust the dynamic range of photographs. The Canon Mark II G1X excels in this respect, the sensor being able to offer spectacular results both in terms of image quality at high ISO values (low noise) but also in terms of extended dynamic range, and this menu setting will be a life saver if you don’t want to overly process the images on the computer (we’ll be talking more about this soon). Still, it’s hard not to notice the lack of features that are now standard on other cameras, such as the panoramic image mode, among others.

Here are a few screenshots from the menu screens

Image quality, ISO and the autofocus system

The Canon G1X MkII is a camera targeted primarily at enthusiast/advanced photographers who want a compact, easy to transport camera able to capture images at quality close to that of a DSLR camera. Canon G1-X II differs from other compact cameras on the market primarily by its large sensor (1.5 inch) but also through a feature less obvious at first glance: a resolution of ‘just’ 12.8 megapixels. Canon keeps the megapixels number rather conservative, not seeing the need to pump it unnecessarily, for the sake of high specs.

The photos in this test are unprocessed.

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In the area of image quality, the new Canon camera actually shines. It has one of the best sensors that we’ve met so far in a compact camera. This sensor offers images with low noise even at ISO 3200 and a wide dynamic range, which can be adjusted in the menu (available in JPEG mode only). In addition, the wide-angle lens with a focal length starting at 24 mm, represents another important advantage, even if distortion at 24 mm is obvious, albeit normal. The examples below, I believe, speak for themselves about the ability of the Canon G1X Mark II to capture high quality images.

Here are some samples with extended dynamic range:

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We must not overlook the other functions in the menu, such as activating the integrated ND filter, which allows to capture images at wide aperture during the day in bright light, to obtain a shallow depth of field. The G1X Mark II is doing an excellent job here, additionally offering a software feature that accentuates bokeh and subject separation from the background.

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But since no camera is “perfect”, ours isn’t an exception. We can count a couple cons at this point: the AF misses at times in low lighting, and the white balance has a tendency to result in too warm colors (at day) or too cold (at night), a problem that I encountered often in Canon’s compact range.

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Night-time shooting with the Canon G1X Mark II

The sensor built into the new G1X Mark II is actually the camera’s main advantage. The whole philosophy of Canon now relies on the quality of its new generation of sensors and the wide-angle, wide aperture lens. These qualities come out best at night or in low light conditions, where G1X Mark II excels. Below we’re showing a set of pictures taken from hand without a tripod, at ISO 1600 and 3200. The results are, from my point of view, a pleasant surprise. The photos are not processed!

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How about video recording?

The Canon G1X Mark II is able to record videos in Full HD format at 30p at a good quality (can’t compare with those taken with a Canon DSLR, though). The sound is stereo and the zoom is active during filming. We’ve got two cons here though: the autofocus sometimes has a tendency to “find” the correct focus distance more than it should (focus hunting), and the exposure metering system has a slight tendency to overexpose video. Unfortunately there is no possibility to adjust exposure manually for video shooting.

Here are some video clips recorded with the Canon G1X MkII:

 

Autonomy, file formats, storage and connectivity

  • Autonomy: the G1X2 is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery type NB-12L of 1230MhA which enables an autonomy of approximately 250 frames. This is not much, so you may want to purchase a second battery along with the camera.
  • File Format: photos are saved in JPEG format (with two levels of compression: Fine and Normal), RAW or RAW + JPEG simultaneously. Videos are recorded at a maximum resolution of 1980×1080 (30, 24 fps) with stereo sound, in MPEG-4 format with H.264 compression.
  • Connectivity: the Canon G1X Mark II has a USB 2.0 connector, a digital A/V output and one HDMI connector.
  • Wirelesss: G1X Mark II allows transferring photos via Wi-Fi to a smartphone or tablet with Android or iOS thanks to the Wi-Fi connector and integrated NFC.
  • Photo storage: memory cards of SD/SDHC/SDXC type, 64 GB max. I do recommend cards of Class 6 or better if you want to use the camera’s video mode, or the continuous shooting mode.

What’s in the box?

In the Canon G1X Mark II’s box we found: the user manual together with the warranty certificate, a CD with the Canon photo viewing software, shoulder strap, battery and charger (plus wire), an audio-video cable and a USB cable.

Price

The Canon G1X Mark II can be found in stores at a price around $799 (as of this writing). Click here to check the current price.


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It is a rather steep price for a compact camera, no doubt, but it fits into the market trend, if we think of the Fuji X100s which costs more and does not come with a lens with optical zoom (the fixed lens has 35 mm), or the Nikon Coolpix A which has a high-performance APS-C CMOS sensor, but also comes with a fixed lens.

Conclusions

Those who wish to own the “flagship” of the Canon compacts will surely find an ideal partner in the new Canon G1X Mark II. Especially for those who already own equipment (Canon flashes), the choice becomes obvious, if they want a compact camera with an excellent sensor. The Canon G1X Mark II has two important advantages: the very potent sensor, and the wide-angle lens which, despite the distortions present at 24 mm, is very versatile and enjoys high-quality optics, and that is apparent at all focal lengths. Surely, the G1X Mark II comes at a price tag far above what most people  would be willing to pay for a compact (it costs, after all, as much as a mid-level DSLR or an advanced mirrorless), but considering that it is more compact than these and can be successfully used in conditions where a bulky DSLR would be a hindrance, the G1X Mark II could be a practical choice.

Pros:

  • Very good quality of the images, including at high ISO
  • High quality CMOS sensor, which offers an extended dynamic range
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Fast focus
  • Full HD filming at 30 fps with stereo sound and active zoom during filming
  • Versatile “Auto” mode
  • Solid build (aluminum)
  • Vertically tilting screen, with self-portrait orientation (enjoy your selfies 😉 )
  • WiFi connectivity, quick and easy to set up
  • Hotshoe for external Flash or electronic viewfinder

Cons:

  • At 24 mm the distortions are visible
  • The lack of an optical or electronic viewfinder
  • Slow zoom on photos
  • Lack of manual settings in video mode
  • Focus hunting in low light
  • The lack of a built-in RAW converter (in the menus)
  • Reduced autonomy
  • The price is on the expensive side.

Max’s grade for the Canon G1X MkII: 8.5/10

 

Gallery of all the images used in this review

 

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