Canon PowerShot G1X Review

60
DxOMark Sensor

Introduction

DxOMark measurements for the Canon PowerShot G1X

Let’s turn our attention now to the DxOMark lab results for the PowerShot G1X:

Canon PowerShot G1X

A DxOMark overall score of 60, (portrait) color depth at 21.7, dynamic range at 10.8, and low-light ISO at 644: clearly we are no longer in the typical world of compact cameras and their small sensors. The PowerShot G1X is achieving scores close to those for Canon’s entry-level reflex line (see the results of the Canon EOS 1100D, for example).

In concrete terms, what does all this mean?

  • You have a reflex-quality sensor in camera of the same volume as a G11.
  • You can use this camera even under relatively difficult conditions.
  • If you’re an amateur photographer, this camera can satisfy pretty much all of your needs (especially if you want to take great family photos, for example). If you’re a professional photographer, this can be a good backup camera.

The best compact camera ever made

As is our habit, let’s compare the G1X with its principal competitors, first within the same category (i.e., compact cameras):

Canon PowerShot G1X vs Nikon P7100 vs Panasonic LX5

Canon PowerShot G1X vs Nikon P7100 vs Panasonic LX5

Canon PowerShot G1X vs Olympus XZ1 vs Samsung EX1

Canon PowerShot G1X vs Olympus XZ1 vs Samsung EX1

When it comes to the G1X’s performance, there is no contest here:

  • A DxOMark score of nearly 20 points more than its closest competitor.
  • 2 more bit of color depth.
  • And most notably, nearly 2 stops better for low-light ISO.

These results aren’t really such a surprise: the PowerShot G1X’s much larger format allows the sensor to capture much more light, which means a proportionate diminishing of noise.

Given these results, we cannot help but congratulate the manufacturer for putting this kind of sensor into a compact camera. Up until now, the entire compact category relied on the same sensors as the lowest-level compact cameras, which meant that their usefulness was restricted.

The Canon compact: a superb success!

Let’s take a look at the evolution of the GX PowerShot line. No debate here – Canon changed the sensor and the results are spectacular!

Canon PowerShot G1X vs G12 vs G11

Canon PowerShot G1X vs G12 vs G11

Canon PowerShot G1X vs Fuji X100: two high end compact cameras, maybe not for the same photographer

Following excellent remarks on the DxOMark forum, we updated our Canon G1X review with this comparison.

The Fujifilm X100 was originally not included in our comparison of the Canon G1X with other compact cameras because of its prime lens and its lack of versatility. But, on second thought, they are indeed similar cameras:

  • Canon and Fujifilm designed these cameras for enthusiast photographers but without interchangeable lenses
  • Very similar sensor surface: 14.0 x 18.7 mm for the G1X and 15.8 x 23.6 mm for the X100
  • Small price difference: 800$ for the G1X and 1000$ for Fuji X100

What makes these 2 cameras really different:
 –    The very specific old fashioned design of the X100 seduces mainly savvy photographers
 –    The Canon Powershot G1X is really more versatile with its 4x zoom

On one side, the Fuji X100 was a real curiosity when it was launched last year. But it seduced a lot of savvy photographers – and the DxOMark team (see our X100 review). With its 1000 $ price tag and its fixed 23mm f/2.0 lens, the Fujifilm X100 was designed to please only the advanced photographers.

On the other side, the Canon Powershot G1X approaches the needs of enthusiast photographers with more versatility than the X100.

Despite the different approach, image quality is definitely a key success factor for both cameras. So, let’s have a look to the measurements:

Canon PowerShot G1X vs Fujifilm X100

No competition here, the fuji X100 is clearly ahead on every aspect. The G1X sensor has 2 limitations:

  • Its size: being smaller than the APS-C sensor of the X100, it gets slightly noisier
  • Canon’s sensor lack of dynamic, as pointed out in our conclusion

To conclude, the Fuji X100 is unbeatable in terms of pure image quality, but its fixed non-interchangeable lens confines it to a particular type of photography. The G1 X is not ridiculous though, and thanks to its zoom lens covering a useful focal range, it is still a highly versatile camera that can deliver excellent results in most situations.

Canon G1x bridge vs Panasonic and Olympus hybrid cameras

Here are the latest results for the Panasonic and Olympus cameras vs the PowerShot G1X:

Canon G1X vs Panasonic G1X vs Olympus PEN EP3

Canon G1X vs Panasonic G1X vs Olympus PEN EP3

The results for all three cameras are comparable across the board, which means that the competition is going to be fierce. The micro 4/3 camera sensors still hold their own despite their slightly smaller size. This means that choosing among these models will be difficult:

  • In terms of sensor quality, the images produced are very similar: if you shoot at low ISO, you will likely prefer the PowerShot G1X, even though the Panasonic has a slight lead in low-light scores.
  • In terms of compactness, the Panasonic and the G1X go head-to-head, given that the Canon has a very compact lens and that Panasonic offers very small interchangeable lenses (notably the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm).
  • In terms of flexibility, both the Olympus and the Panasonic come out ahead of the G1X: the ability to change lenses is, after all, a fairly big plus. The lenses for these two brands largely overcome many of the problems affecting their sensor scores.

Canon G1x vs Nikon 1 cameras

Our last, but certainly not least interesting comparison:

Canon G1X vs Nikon 1 J1 vs Nikon 1 V1

Canon G1X vs Panasonic G1X vs Olympus PEN EP3

It’s a close match, but the G1X comes out ahead:

  • At low ISO, the Nikon 1’s good results (comparable to the G1X’s) prevents a complete blowout.
  • By contrast, the G1X is clearly the winner by 1 full stop in low-light.

This is where the sensor format truly makes a difference – the Canon’s low-light score has a big impact on its overall DxOMark score.

Here, too, choosing between these two kinds of cameras is difficult:

  • On the one hand, the Canon sensor will let you shoot under low-light conditions, but its fixed lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8.
  • On the other hand, while the Nikon sensor is less sensitive, its cameras allow you to use such compact lenses as the Nikon 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 (with the possibility of even brighter lenses in the future).

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens

Note: Our protocol doesn’t make it possible to accurately measure the lens transmission on non-interchangeable lenses. So we won’t be publishing this measure for the Canon G1 X.

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens

With a DxOMark score of 15, the performance of the Canon PowerShot G1 X lens is comparable to that of kits lenses for APS-C and even for full-frame cameras.

The G1 X’s strong points:

– Good uniform sharpness across the field at 15mm
– Tolerable distortion between focal lengths from 31mm to 60mm
– Absence of vignetting across 2/3 of the field, regardless of focale length and aperture.
– Chromatic aberrations are absent or negligeable between focal lengths from 21mm to 44mm.

The weak points:

– Poor sharpness along the edges starting at the 21mm focal length.
– Chromatic aberrations are visible at the two focal length extremes (15mm and 60mm)

While testing, we found a significant difference in the degree of distortion between JPEG format and CR2 (RAW) format images, due to the former having undergone an automatic, internal correction while still in the camera. The RAW image is significantly impacted by this defect, which peaks at 15mm:

degree of distortion between JPEG format and CR2 (RAW) format images
Left: JPEG (corrected) image at 15mm f/4. Right: CR2 image at 15mm f/4.

When shooting, the preview screen displays only the corrected (JPEG) version. Keep this in mind when shooting in RAW: what you see is not what you’re going to get without processing.

Canon PowerShot G1 X vs Canon EOS 7D

This comparison is interesting because the two sensors have an identical pixel pitch of 4.16µm. In fact, thanks to its slightly larger sensor, the 7D performs better in low light. But the curves for SNR 18%, dynamic range, and color sensitivity in screen mode show that both sensors have pixels of equivalent quality.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s compare the G1 X lens with other lenses mounted on the Canon EOS 7D.

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens vs Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II vs Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM mounted on a Canon EOS 7D

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens vs Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II vs Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM mounted on a Canon EOS 7D

With a DxOMark score of 15 points, the G1 X is much better than many other kit lenses (such as the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II).

The advantages of the Canon PowerShot G1 X lens:

  • A larger maximum aperture.
  • Vignetting is absent on most of the field, with less dark edges.
  • Less affected by chromatic aberrations.
  • When retracted, the lens is ultra-compact.

The advantages of the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II:

  • Good sharpness.
  • Good distortion correction.

The advantages of the Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM:

  • Good sharpness.
  • Good distortion correction.
  • Wider focal range.

With the PowerShot G1 X, Canon proposes a quality alternative to such entry-level SLRs as the Canon EOS 1100D, for example.

Canon PowerShot G1 X vs Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus PEN EPL2

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens vs Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S. mounted on a Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ mounted on an Olympus PEN EPL2

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens vs Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S. mounted on a Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ mounted on an Olympus PEN EPL2

The advantages of the Canon PowerShot G1 X lens:

  • Brighter.
  • Well-controlled vignetting.
  • Very good handling of chromatic aberrations.
  • A compact lens.

The advantages of the Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S.:

The advantages of the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ:

  • Good correction of distortions.
  • Well-controlled vignetting.

The Canon G1 X lens performs better overall than these other micro 4/3 lenses. The G1 X’s only drawback is that its resolution is better only for its first two focal lengths and when under f/5.6.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Vs Nikon 1 V1

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens vs Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 mounted on a Nikon 1 V1

Canon PowerShot G1 X lens vs Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 mounted on a Nikon 1 V1

The advantages of the Canon PowerShot G1 X lens:

  • Clearly superior sharpness.
  • A brighter lens.
  • A more compact lens.

The advantages of the Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6:

  • Better-corrected distortion.
  • Less vignetting.

No surprise here: the Canon PowerShot G1 X is clearly ahead of the Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6, given that its sensor resolution is larger. (This said, there is really nothing wrong with the Nikon lens, particularly in terms of distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberrations.)

The Canon PowerShot G1 X is a powerful lens. This high-end compact can readily replace an APS-C camera and kit lens, and it has better overall optical quality than many hybrid camera kit lenses.

A great camera but no specific improvement of the Canon sensor

Overall the G1X is definitely an excellent point and shoot cameras. But, now for the bad news in this review: The G1X’s sensor itself shows no measurable improvement. As proof, we need to take a look at the results of the Canon EOS 7D vs Canon PowerShot G1X. Why this comparison?

  • The G1X and the 7D sensors make use of the same size pixel (4.2 µm).
  • The Canon EOS 7D is a bit dated, but the Canon APS-C cameras that came after it didn’t have any new sensor features (see the results for the Canon EOS 600D and 60D).

Normalized results (print mode):

  • As explained here, DxOMark scores are normalized for a 20 x 30 print at 300 dpi. The Canon EOS 7D’s sensor surface format is slightly superior and thus it logically ends up better placed in the low-light rankings.

Non-normalized results (screen mode):

  • Here we are interested only in pixel quality, so let’s take a look at the curves for SNR 18%, dynamic range, and color sensitivity when we toggle to screen mode. The results are surprising: The G1X pixel provides identical results for SNR 18% and color sensitivity as the Canon EOS 7D, and only very slightly inferior results for dynamic range.
SNR 18%
Dynamic Range

So while you will enjoy the same kinds of good qualities for the G1X as for Canon’s APS-C cameras, you will also experience the same problems (see our review of the Canon 500D vs D5000 cameras): The dynamic range is still limited by significant noise at low ISO.