Test Report: Canon G1 X Page 2

Canon G1 X Field Test Notes

Having run the line through #12, Canon’s G series cameras have received a new update in the latest manifestation, the G1 X ($799). While some items have remained from the previous models, including built-in zoom,numerous exposure modes and patterns, articulating screen, and a familiar look, the upgrade here is in video, resolution and sensor size, going from CCD toCMOS sensor, expansion of shutter speed range, viewing quality of the LCD, and perhaps as important as anything, an upgraded processor (DIGIC V). The camera is a bit heftier than past versions, about 1Ž2 inch thicker and 5.3 oz heavier, and while the G-series were never shirt pocket digicams, this version takes it out of the jacket pocket and puts it into winter coat, backpack or bag range. Bit of a brick, all in all, so those wanting a portable and slim iPhone-like camera will have to look elsewhere.

The images delivered were crisp and sharp. In this photo of the George M. Cohan statue in Times Square, and accompanying crop, the edge and contours are startling sharp for an integral lens camera.

But this is a camera, not a phone clone, and the sacrifice in weight comes with considerable advantages, although there are some compromises as well. First off is the near-APS-C size sensor, at 1.5”, which has advantages in low light. During tests I shot at 1600 and failed to findexcessive noise in deep shadows, a benefit of sensor size and advanced processor. There’s a true, albeit small, optical finder with a diopter dial for individual adjustment; the finder zooms along with the lens, although there is an unfortunate truncation at the edges (76% coverage.)

The LCD has 922,000 dots and is crisp and clear indoors and outdoors. When there is considerable glare you can also rotate the screen into many positions to help get a clearer view. However, the screen automatically brightens in low light, which may give you a false read on the otherwise accurate and responsive view. This could make you over-compensate when it isn’t required, so you have to keep that in mind when you shoot. I like a screen that lets me see the lighting mood I am trying to capture while I work or at least allows me to override the auto gain.

The high ISO results were very pleasing. This photo was made at ISO 1600 and I detected no noise or artifacts. Even when cropping in, where other cameras would show “hidden” noise, there was none I could detect.

The Canon zoom starts out at an equivalent of 28mm, a very good candid focal length, and zooms out to 112mm, a 4X range, shorter than the 5X in the G12. The lens is fairly fast at the 28mm position, f/2.8, but drops a bit more than two whole stops to f/5.8 at the tele position. There is also a digital zoom extension on the lens way out to 448mm (equivalent) and while many have scoffed at even the idea of using this feature I actually found that Icould get quite steady and sharp images when using it at full bore, given some hit and miss success. That was quite impressive, as are the numerous image stabilization modes and ability to use a 2-second “anti-shake” self-timer shutter release.

There are numerous features on this camera that will appeal to those who enjoy getting involved in making their images, including threemetering patterns, the usual metering modes plus manual, a top of camera exposure compensation dial, easy access on the body to the most used controls, a built-in 8X ND filter (3 stops) and focus and exposure lock capability, with the segregation of the two functions as the default setting on the camera. There is also a very good focus tracking mechanism that makes sense and is easy to activate, and once you select the target the finder rather uncannily tracks the subject as it moves through the frame.

Tricky light was no match for the camera’s exposure system, especially when wortking with tone compensation feature, as seen here in this shade and bright light scene, where the whites retain texture and the shadows are nice and open.

But the camera also falls to the temptation of what can only be called apps, and here they are, to me, high-tech appendages onto a very good photographic instrument. You might find them interesting and fun. (Sometimes I wish we could just add these apps like the way we do firmware upgrades so we could clear the decks or customize a camera the way we want it to work.) There’s nothing wrong with these features per se, but they seem superfluous in what is an otherwise excellent photographic instrument.

For example, there’s “wink self timer” that will click the shutter using a wink as a remote control (hey, maybe there’s something to that after all--a gestural remote.) “Face self timer” awaits the arrival of another face in the frame, solving the classic self-timer screw-up when you run to get in the frame kicking over the tripod en route. And of course there are numerous Scene modes including the typical Kids, Portrait, Sports and so forth. The built-in filters here include fisheye, “miniaturization”, toy camera etc. There are also a few arcane features, such as “multi-area white balance” that at first sounds intriguing but turns out to be dedicated to solving the problem of sodium vapor lamps causing a green shift in shadows (?)

But there are other features that are of definite benefit, including bracketing of exposure and focus point (the latter for close-ups and layering solutions or just to get different looks), an HDR three-shot (although this requires a tripod and a degree of faith), excellent movie quality at the high end and other video options as well, numerous image stabilization modes, including a “powered IS” for shooting video using the tele end of the lens, and available 4.5 frames-per-second in Canon’s HQ mode. You can also embed copyright data into the image file.

Digital zoom is usually a feaure I never use because of generally abysmal results, but the G1 X might change my mind. Admittedly this good result was edited from 2 or 3 blown shots, but using the feature at the full 448mm extension with the anti-shake on gave me very pleasing, and surprising, results. (Look in the lower right for the portion of the frame for the area I zoomed to.)

In the end what counts is picture quality, and for an integral lens camera the G1 X certainly delivers the goods. While the lens slows considerably in the 4X zoom (in light transmission not zoom speed), Ifound that the camera delivered snappy and colorful images from one end of the range to the other, and even produced a quite tolerable digital zoom results. The processing of images was fast and the field usage of the monitor was excellent. Getting to and around the menu via the Function and Menu controls was easy, with the FUNC button delivering the most used parameters and the Menu being how you customize and get into the more arcane and less-changed controls.

Video was very impressive, perhaps the best I’ve seen from an integral lens camera, and there’s even a Wind noise suppressor option. There are a number of display options for viewing and reviewing, but alas the “blinkies” are no longer an option. We’ll miss them, but the histogram is “live” as you work. I’d rather the LCD did not add gain in low light and wish there was a way to override that. But the clarity of the LCD image is excellent, the articulating screen is a great aid in making unique compositions, and the diopter in the optical finder is most welcome.

In all, the G1 X is a worthy, albeit somewhat bulkier, next gen representative of the classic Canon G line. There’s no radical departure in styling from the line, or even from the classic 35mm look. But it’s what inside that counts, and with this sensor and the Digic V processor the G1X puts out some highly impressive images.