Top positive review
258 people found this helpful
Very Good Camera with Flaws
on April 14, 2012
A few years ago Thom Hogan posted a "Compact Camera Challenge" ([...]) in his excellent blog, in which he lamented the lack of compact cameras with a large sensor. Despite the development of digital photography technology for the past two decades, stated Hogan, "the camera makers simply don't have any idea of what many of their customers really want." In Hogan's view, consumers will be well served if there was a compact camera with a larger sensor that met certain standards he deemed essential for a serious photographer.
I stumbled onto Hogan's challenge as I was looking for the same thing. And since that time I have been waiting and hoping for such a camera. I use a DSLR (Canon EOS 10D and EOS Xti) almost exclusively, but grow tired of lugging the camera and those heavy lenses on each trip as well as the lens changing for those casual outings. The end result is that I now don't bother to even bring a camera with me on some of my trips. I know there are those mirror-less cameras, but the prospect of buying a whole new set of lenses and change them during shooting had discouraged me from jumping into them.
The Canon Powershot G1X is exactly the camera I have been waiting for. It has in fact exceeded all the criteria laid out in Hogan's challenge. So I immediately bought it, even though the $800 price tag is on the high side.
After playing around with it in the past few days I have gained a better picture of what this camera is (and isn't). I'm still very pleased with it. In the mean time I also feel that depending on what you use your camera for and what your level of enthusiasm is, there might be better alternatives. I'll try to summarize what I have found below in more details.
1. Image Quality (Sensor). The greatest strength of this camera is its ability to take SUPERB quality images. The lens is very sharp. The quality of images taken under low light situation (which is pretty much the case if you take indoor pictures) is UNSURPASSED by any other compact camera. I have shot several images at ISO 3200, something I had never done even with my DSLR, and the images are completely usable. In fact, up to ISO 1600 the noise level is negligible. Numerous reviews have confirmed this experience. You can find various sample images online, including a large number of them on DPReview. You may also find some of images I have taken at
2. Lens Quality. So far I'm very pleased with it. It is a very sharp lens. The 28-115mm zoom is practical for most shooting situations. I find the lens to be very sharp overall. However, at the widest setting of 28mm the barrel distortion is quite evident --- in fact it is very pronounced. If you shoot in JPEG at 28mm the images looks far less distorted because it has been corrected in the camera firmware. Of course, this means you do see some softness away from the center of the frame. But when you shoot in raw and open it in Photoshop (after converting it to Adobe dng format), you see the pronounced distortion. This is something most of the "official" reviews have missed.
The lens, other than at its widest setting, is quite slow. I do understand that this is a limitation of the compactness of this camera.
3. Features. As an advanced compact camera, like other Powershot G-series cameras, the G1X comes with all kinds of user controls that are essential for enthusiasts. I will not go into details. DPReview ([...]) has just posted its full review of the camera, and many features are discussed there. There are also a number of features that people who don't care for user controls will find intriguing. For example, there is a "smile detection" setting that will take three pictures automatically if it detects a smile. I have tested this feature, and it seems to work fine. If you want a camera packed with features that suit both novices and professionals, the G1X will not disappoint you. I highly recommend one to go through the full manual (downloadable from Canon website) to get to know all the features.
4. Focus. The G1X has been criticized by just about every review for its slow autofocus. But I find this to be an overreaction. I certainly have not noticed that the focus is slow or inaccurate. If anything, I find it to be quite good. Sure it is no match for an SLR, but I have used many compact cameras, and the G1X stacks up pretty well. In lab testing the G1X is slower than the state of the art compact cameras by a fraction of a second on average, but to most people, even seasoned professionals, I don't believe this is an issue. The G1X also has a very useable manual focus, conveniently controlled with a dial and viewed on the LCD with a digital "magnifying glass."
A bigger problem is its inability to focus in close range, so one must often switch between normal focus and macro focus modes. Fortunately this is not so difficult for the G1X.
5. Macro. Like everyone else had said, this is not made for it.
6. Usability/Performance. The controls are a mixed bag. In some cases they are well designed. I like the exposure compensation dial, making exposure compensations a cinch. The various exposure modes are rather conventional. However, I find myself often inadvertently touching a button and mess up the setting I had. This is extremely annoying. Some of the features take a little practice to get used to. Overall, the usability is good although not exceptional.
If you plan to use this camera to do mainly landscape or scenes that are not moving, such as shooting friends who will pose for you with their contrived smiles, this camera will not disappoint you. I would highly recommend this camera. However, if you are into sports photography this camera is DEFINITELY NOT for you. In fact, even for photographing kids this camera is woefully inadequate, and I say you should forget it. The main problem is that it takes very long to go from one shot to the next. In my test with a moderately fast SD card, shooting in raw+JPEG it takes a whopping 6.5 seconds for the camera to be ready for the next shot (the figure is about 4 seconds in JPEG only, or with a very fast SD card). This is completely UNACCEPTABLE. I don't know why no major reviews had pointed it out. Note that even after 6.5 seconds you will still need to tack on another few seconds to compose your next shot and press the shutter. So overall, from one shot to the next can take 8 seconds easily, which for many photographers is an eternity.
6. Movie/HD Video. I don't use this feature much so I don't have anything extensive to say. On a cursory examination it is quite good.
7. Battery. The battery is small, and it gives you about 250 shots. Please be sure to buy one or two extra ones. You can find them on eBay for a fraction of the cost Amazon charges (I bought two for about 7 bucks).
My overall verdict on Powershot G1X is that it is a GREAT camera (with some minor flaws) if you are photographing mainly landscape or people who will pose for you. However, it is completely unsuited for sports, and it is poorly suited for photographing kids or spontaneous scenes because of its ridiculously long lag between shots.
I have just taken the Powershot G1X to Xian, China, to photograph the Terra Cotta Warriors and artifacts in the Shaanxi History Museum. The lighting condition was not ideal at all. In most cases it was very dark. Only in the Terra Cotta Pit 1 the lighting was not extremely dark. I took about 250 photos in those two places. In several places I had to push the ISO to 3200 and use a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second. In the end, almost all images came out tack sharp with little noise! The IS worked superbly. I must say the overall quality of my pictures has gone far beyond my expectation. In fact I went with a friend who carried the latest Sony full frame DSLR, and my G1X held up very well. As far as image quality goes, it does not disappoint.
However, the battery life was really not so great. While Canon claims 250 pictures per charge, I got about 170 (LCD on). So make sure you get at least two extra batteries (on ebay).