Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II

There's a lot to like about the second large-sensor compact from Canon, thanks to its new look, NFC connectivity and bright lens.

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Hands-on impressions

Canon's first foray into the world of large-sensor advanced cameras was a step in the right direction, but there were a number of usability and performance quirks that made it a tough sell to all but the most devoted users.

The successor to the G1 X — now creatively dubbed the G1 X Mark II — is definitely a worthy upgrade on paper. Fortunately, the camera lives up to these lofty expectations in the real world. It looks completely different from its predecessor in almost every way, doing away with the clunky G-series styling in favour of a more traditional camera orientation. In the hand it's a hefty beast, with a sturdy construction that looks and feels like it can withstand some heavy-duty use thanks to the stainless steel chassis.

Around the front is a small textured grip that would benefit from a little more substance — it just seems a bit too petite compared to the bulky lens it's trying to balance. In Europe, a chunkier grip will ship with the camera, though other markets will have to fork out for one separately.

There are a couple of nice touches that set the Mark II apart from other high-end models. For example, the night display mode dims the LCD and adjusts the colour of the menu options so they put less strain on your the eyes in the dark. The pop-up flash can be tilted back for bounce effects on the ceiling or other surfaces rather than pointing straight ahead at the subject. Plus, the touch screen follows through in the tilting department by flipping around 180 degrees. I'm sure the target audience for this camera is definitely not the selfie generation, but in use the flip is actually really useful, particularly because the on-screen displays adjust themselves depending on the screen's orientation.

It might not seem like much on paper, but the integrated lens cover automatically retracts when you power the camera on, and closes down when you power it off again. There's no need for a traditional lens cap, and I'm all the more thankful for it.

So far I have only encountered one usability quirk: when you hold the camera with just the right hand, your thumb can slip from the grip and accidentally press the smartphone connect button at the top of the grip. It's not a huge deal, but something that can leave you staring at the screen quizzically until you work out what happened.

On the topic of connectivity, for Android users, the NFC implementation is seamless. Hold your handset against the NFC symbol on the side of the camera and the Play Store automatically opens if you don't already have the Canon Camera Window app installed. The app itself is still as Spartan as it ever was but it functions well, allowing you to transfer photos and videos, use the smartphone or tablet as a remote viewfinder, or geotag images taken on the camera if you have been running the location log. For iOS users, Wi-Fi connectivity is just as simple, but with another step to connect the devices rather than an instant NFC pair.

Shooting modes come in the standard program, aperture, shutter and manual exposure variants. There is also a full automatic mode, two custom slots, movie, scene, and a rather odd creative mode option on the dial. This last option takes several different photos of the same scene, altering the aspect ratio and filter. So for example, a standard photo of a tree is captured in six or seven different ways, one in black-and-white, another is cropped in to see the detail of the leaves... you get the idea. It's a nice idea, but serves no real practical use.

Image samples

Click each image for the full-resolution JPEG file.

In terms of internals, the physical size of the sensor remains unchanged from the original G1 X at 1.5-inch but the pixels are larger. In terms of a size comparison to other models, the sensor in the G1 X series is actually larger than a Four Thirds sensor, and just a touch smaller than APS-C. At 3:2 images are captured at 12.8 megapixels though it can also take 13.1-megapixel stills at a 4:3 aspect ratio crop. Other aspect ratios such as 16:9, 1:1 and 4:5 reduce the output resolution further.

More significant improvements come on the lens front: now, the 5x optical zoom unit opens wider to 24mm rather than 28mm. It might not sound like much in terms of numbers, but that's a significant advantage in real-world terms. Impressively, from my hands-on time with the camera, barrel distortion seems to be kept under control well at the wide end.

The brighter aperture range is also particularly useful, ranging from f2 to f3.9 at the telephoto end. Combined with the advantages of the large sensor, the shallow depth-of-field effects that the Mark II can achieve are impressive. The bokeh is smooth and more attractive than that from the original camera thanks to the new 9-blade aperture.

Around the lens are two rotating ring elements. The ring closest to the camera body is an aperture ring that clicks in 1/3 stops, allowing you to adjust the f-stop on the fly. It moves with satisfying, full clicks that gives instant haptic feedback. If you're in manual exposure mode, the exposure compensation button acts as a switch to flick the ring between adjusting aperture and shutter respectively.

The outer ring on the lens moves freely and provides full-time manual focus override. The screen automatically switches to expanded focus and you can adjust focus using either the ring or the rear panel control wheel (not the aperture ring). Focus peaking is available in three colours, though you need to turn it on from the main menu as it's not active by default.

Canon's decision to remove the optical viewfinder is understandable due to the shift in form factor, but the EVF (which I wasn't provided to test alongside the Mark II) is an expensive proposition for a camera that's already putting pressure on your back pocket compared to other large-sensor models on the market.

Performance-wise, the Mark II has vastly improved upon the glacier-like processing speeds of its predecessor, thanks in part to the new processor and a slightly lower resolution sensor. AF performance is also improved, particularly macro accuracy and focusing distance, which were next to unusable on the original G1 X. Full AF and performance metrics will be provided once we've fully tested it.

Video recording is the only real area where the Mark II falls down compared to many of its competitors. There is only one frame rate (30p), available at 1080, 720 or VGA resolution. There is also no external microphone input, which limits the quality of audio recording to what can be delivered by the internal microphone. In terms of configurable options you only get a wind filter. There are no manual audio levels or adjustments either, and no exposure control. You can, however, shoot videos with different effects such as colour filters. Fortunately, Canon has enabled the optical zoom while filming, but autofocus is fixed from the first frame rather than being continuous.

Here is a comparison of how it fits in amongst its competitors.

Canon G1 X Canon G1 X Mark II Fujifilm X20 Ricoh GR Sony RX100 II
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.3MP HS CMOS 12.8MP HS CMOS 12MP X-Trans CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 20.2MP Exmor R CMOS
(18.7 x 14mm)
(18.7 x 14mm)
(8.8 x 6.6mm)
23.7 x 15.7mm
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 160 - ISO 12800
28 - 112mm
24 - 120mm
28 - 112mm
28 - 100mm
Closest focus (inches) 7.9 2.0 3.9 3.9 1.9
Continuous shooting 4.5fps
(5.2fps with fixed focus)
11 JPEG/n/a raw
4 raw/ unlimited JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
13 raw/12 JPEG
Viewfinder Optical Optional
Tilting TFT
(EVF-DC1, est $299 USD)
Optical Optional
Reverse Galilean
Tilting OLED
0.5-inch/ 2,359,000 dots
100 percent coverage
Autofocus 9-area
contrast AF
contrast AF
Contrast AF
190-point hybrid AF 25-area contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256 zones n/a n/a
Shutter 60 - 1/4,000 sec 60 - 1/4,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec 300 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb; time 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch articulated 922,000 dots 3-inch tilting touch screen
1.04m dots
2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical None Optical
(best quality)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p Stereo
1080/30p/ 25p/24p
1080/60p/ 50p/25p/
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No Yes Yes
Optical zoom while recording Yes tk Yes n/a Yes
External mic support No No Yes No Yes
Wireless connectivity None Wi-Fi, NFC None None Wi-Fi, NFC
Battery life (CIPA rating) 250 shots 240 shots 270 shots 290 shots 350 shots


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