By CHONG JINN XIUNGbytz@thestar.com.my
Canon's latest prosumer compact proves that it still has what it takes to compete with the best MILCs.
THE rise of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILCs) has eroded the appeal of prosumer compact cameras but that has not stopped Canon from releasing its latest G-series model, the PowerShot G1X.
As the company's flagship prosumer camera, Canon has a lot riding on the G1X as the future of its serious compact category. Let's find out if the G1X has what it takes to woo its target audience from the temptations of MILCs.
In terms of design and size, the G1X is bigger and chunkier than previous models mainly due to an enormous handgrip and extensive external controls. On the bright side, the build quality is solid as one would expect of a G-series camera.
It uses a built-in lens that offers a 28-112mm focal range that is flexible for a variety of situations.
The back has a full array of buttons and dials that give you direct access to a wide variety of functions giving photographers more control. There is also a nice flip-out 3in screen that lets you take pictures from more unconventional angles as well as self-portraits.
For sunny situations that make the LCD difficult to view, the G1X's optical viewfinder should come in handy.
However, it's not as useful as a DSLR's viewfinder because it is tiny, offering just 77% frame coverage.
The pop-up flash is good enough as a basic fill flash to light up a dark spots but has a limited range.
Fortunately, the hotshoe opens up more possibilities like flashguns and even a Speedlight ST-E2 transmitter unit for off-camera flash control.
The 14-megapixel sensor sees one of the biggest improvements - it is approximately six times bigger than the old 10-megapixel sensor used in the G12 and just slightly smaller than the APS-C sensors found on DSLRs.
The G1X has a fairly responsive start up time. It powers up within 1.5 seconds and is ready to shoot within two to three seconds. It can also shoot in RAW which is great for post-processing. The contrast detect autofocus system speed is quicker than a typical compact camera although still isn't as fast as a MILC - there is a slight delay between half pressing the shutter and focus lock on.
Also, the camera tends to focus hunt a lot in low light conditions and the continuous shooting mode is only capable of 1.6fps (frames per second) making the G1X pretty sluggish for fast moving candid shots.
Another drawback is that live view is not available in continuous shooting mode.
There is however an option to shoot at 4.5fps with a special high burst speed scene mode but you'll have to relinquish all controls to the camera.
On the bright side, the automatic face detection mode works superbly and can even detect more than one face in a frame.
One aspect of the camera that really bothered us was the minimum focusing distance of 35cm even at the widest focal length. So, we had to constantly switch between normal focusing and macro as we were shooting. This does, however, make the G1X a great camera for macro photography.
The overall image quality is quite impressive for a compact camera as it captures very sharp details and produced nice shallow depth of field shots thanks to the large sensor.
The auto white balance was also surprisingly accurate and even with artificial lighting, it managed to capture images with natural looking colours. G1X's noise performance is a significant improvement over its predecessor - keeping noise at acceptable levels even at ISO 800 to 3,200 where most cameras typically turn pictures into grainy mosaics.
It is only at ISO 6,400 where things start to go downhill but it is still really impressive just how well the G1X excels in low light conditions.
The camera has its share of scene modes - most are pretty standard but we liked the automatic HDR which blends three images for enhanced dynamic range.
However, unlike the auto HDR modes offered by most MILCs, the G1X have to be mounted on a tripod to keep it perfectly still otherwise the images will be out of line.
It has a panorama mode too but photos have to be stitched together on a computer with the bundled software.
The resulting panorama isn't great and you'll probably get better results with Photoshop.
Moving on with the times, the G1X can also record 1080p HD videos at 24fps.
The video mode offers a more "point-and-shoot" experience as it offers almost no manual control over aperture or shutter speed.
Sound is recorded in stereo but there is unfortunately no port for accepting an external microphone for directional audio recording.
In terms of battery life, the camera lasted about 250 shots which is good enough for casual shooting.
The Canon G1X is a solid camera that is packed to the brim with features at the cost of portability.
It is a serious looking compact that doesn't look out of place next to a DSLR and its wide array of external controls will appeal to experienced photographers.
The inclusion of RAW photo shooting is useful for pros who want maximum control over the images while the in-built neutral density filter is a nice bonus to achieve motion blur effects with slow shutter speeds.
The G1X is also performs great in low light conditions thanks to its f/2.8 wide aperture when
shooting wide and good ISO performance.
However, the RM2,299 price tag is pretty steep as it also has its shares of shortcomings.
For instance, the autofocus is not fast enough and the minimum close-focus distance is not as short as that of a regular compact camera.
The G1X is a unique compact that embodies the great qualities of advanced cameras but it has room for improvements.
Photographers willing to pay the price for the G1X will find it a decent shooter that is a good compliment to their regular DSLR.
Pros: Solid build quality; versatile lens; good ISO performance; accessory hot shoe.
Cons: Bulky exterior; sluggish autofocus; limited focus range; no manual control in video mode.
Prosumer compact camera
SENSOR: 14.3-megapixels (4,352 x 2,448-pixels)
VIEWFINDER: 3.0in LCD (922,000-dots), optical viewfinder
LENS: 28-112mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 (wide) - f/5.6 (telephoto)
SHUTTER SPEED: 60 sec -1/4,000sec
ISO RANGE: 100 to 12,800
SHOOTING MODES: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Two Custom modes, Smart Auto
VIDEO MODE FORMAT: H.264 video recording up to 1080p at 24fps
BATTERY: NB-10L lithium-ion
STORAGE: SD/ SDHC/SDXC
INTERFACE: USB 2.0 port, HDMI mini out, AV out
OTHER FEATURES: Built-in ND filter, face detection
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D): 116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7mm
Review unit courtesy of Canon Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd, (03) 7844-6000