customer, weighing in at just over 19 ounces with the
thick, rechargeable battery installed.
It resembles the older top dog in Canon’s PowerShot
line—the 10-megapixel G12, which uses a comparatively tiny 1/1.7-inch size sensor—but pumped up on
hormones. (Incidentally, Canon says the G12 is staying
in its line—at least while supplies last—and is selling
for between $400 and $500.)
The G1 X’s grip is bigger and has a comfortable textured feel and, as previously mentioned, its built-in
zoom lens is physically larger even if its range is actually a bit shorter (4x vs. 5x). The G1 X fires up rather
quickly—taking just over two seconds—despite the
long lens, which extends about two inches in front
when powered on.
There’s a large, knurled ring around the lens that
provides a comfortable handgrip along with knurled
rings around the exposure compensation dial and
mode dials on top of the camera. In other words, you
could say the G1 X is rather knurly.
The overall effect is more severe than the slightly rounded G12 but also more professional looking.
While the G1 X is heavier, it feels nice and balanced in
your hand. Like the G12, there’s plenty of external control on this camera, which lets you change settings
without having to dive through menus—or hoops—
to do so.
IN A FLASH
One major difference in the layout of the G1 X is that
it adds a small pop-up flash on the left, whereas the
G12 has a flash set in the front plate of the camera.
The advantage to the pop-up is that it gets the flash
further away from the lens, preventing red-eye and
harsh brightness on the face.
We still got some instances of red-eye but less frequently than with the G12. Also, when we fired the
flash—which pops up about an inch—while photographing musicians at a concert, we got more flattering light. The effect wasn’t dramatic—personally
I would try not to use the flash or, instead, mount a
strobe on the hot shoe or, ideally, go off-camera—but
it was an improvement.
The trade-off to putting the pop-up flash on the
G1 X’s left shoulder is that you lose real estate for
external controls. Disappointingly, Canon decided to
eliminate the ISO dial from the camera while keeping the exposure compensation dial. (I would’ve done
the opposite.) You can still access ISO by pressing the
top of the rear control dial, which calls up the range
on the LCD screen, but it’s an extra step. This is a
small annoyance; especially since exploring the wide
ISO range— 100 to 12800—is what’s so great about
the G1 X.
On the other hand, I appreciated that Canon was
able to squeeze a bigger, 3-inch swiveling LCD screen
with ample (922,000 dot) resolution onto the G1 X.
If you haven’t used a flip-out screen recently (most
DSLRs still lack them), you forget how incredibly handy they are.
While photographing the musicians on stage in a
crowded club, I was able to hold the camera at arms
length above my head and compose nice wide-angle
images and HD videos of the concert. Later, while
shooting product photography in natural light on
the roof of a studio, the swiveling screen let me hold
the camera away from me so I didn’t block the light
source and have my shadow fall on the subject.
NICE QUALIT Y
Even though resolution is a bit higher on the G1 X compared to the G12, its bigger sensor has given it significantly bigger pixels for absorbing more light. In fact,
the G1 X’s individual pixels are more than twice as
large as those on the G12: 4. 16 microns compared to
This combined with the very good 4x optical
(28mm to 112mm equivalent), f/2.8 to f/5.8, IS zoom
lens and the G1 X’s noise-killing DIGIC 5 processor,
has created one of the best low-light compacts we’ve
With swirling red, blue, and green lights and a dark
background on the stage, the concert provided a challenging setting for photography. Unless we used the
flash, anything below ISO 3200 was out of the question because of image blur even at f/2.8 with the G1
X’s lens set at the wide angle. Turns out though, the
camera did surprisingly well at both ISO 3200 and
6400. Certainly not on par with a full-frame DSLR,
but the G1 X’s clean images at high ISOs were as good
or better than most entry-level, APS-C DSLRs we’ve
tested. The camera also trumped most competing
CSC models—aside from the Sony NEX- 7, which uses
an APS-C size sensor.
While ISO 6400 and 3200 were good, its ISO 1600
shots were outstanding: a portrait we shot of one of
the musicians in bad bar light was clean as a whistle,
with skin tones looking natural and pure.
The G1 X’s clean performance carried over to our
lower ISO ( 100 to 400) product shots in natural light,
which looked positively creamy. The large sensor also
gave us some pretty decent background blur (aka
bokeh), something that was darn near impossible with
the G12 and CSCs with smaller sensors, such as the
Nikon J1. If you want to get the most out of your photos, the G1 X offers 14-bit, RAW+JPEG shooting as well.
The G1 X was a very good HD video shooter with
the leap up to 1080p at 24p with stereo sound and
the availability of both optical zoom and continuous
autofocus a real boon to budding filmmakers. Overall,
image quality was even better than we’d hoped.
The one area we wished the G1 X performed better was
in its speed. The G1 X’s DIGIC 5 processor—a step up
from DIGIC 4 in the G12—did an OK job running the
larger sensor, bigger lens and 1080p HD video shooting, but it wasn’t exactly quick.
As mentioned, the G1 X’s start-up was about two
seconds, but start-up until you could actually shoot a
photo was more like four seconds. If you’re in a hurry to
capture a sudden candid moment, that can feel like a
lifetime. Shot-to-shot times weren’t impressive either,
clocking in at about two seconds between shots.
On the plus side, the G1 X adds a High-Speed
Burst HQ mode that lets you fire up to six shots
continuously at full resolution. While this is handy
when shooting fast moving subjects, I’d preferred it
if the G1 X was more fleet afoot when snapping pho-
tos on the fly.
THE BOT TOM LINE
Photographers had been hoping that Canon would
come out with a compact camera with a DSLR-size
sensor for the last few years and while the G1 X isn’t
exactly that camera—its CMOS chip is just a smidge
smaller than APS-C—it’s very close. Even better,
that bigger sensor delivers excellent results in both
regular light and in dim conditions at high ISOs up
to 6400. (At ISO 12800, things start to get dicey.) I
also liked the hefty but solid build of the G1 X, with
its comfortable handgrip, plethora of external controls and the very nice 3-inch, swiveling LCD screen.
Yes, it’s big enough that you really couldn’t call the
G1 X a pocket camera but when it’s powered down,
it comfortably slides into a coat or bag for travel. If
it’s slower overall than we’d hoped—especially when
powering on to first shot and the recovery time between shots—the G1 X does so many things so well
for a small camera, I can overlook that one stumble.
If you’re looking for a great portable camera, the G1 X
is worth the price.
Canon PowerShot G1 X
Pros: Excellent overall image quality;
surprisingly low noise results without
significant loss of detail up to ISO 6400; very
nice 3-inch, vari-angle LCD; superb 1080p HD
recording with stereo sound; chunky but still
portable camera build; better pop-up flash
Cons: Slow start-up to first shot speed; slow
shot-to-shot speed; ISO dial removed to make
room for pop-up flash; expensive
Nikon AF-S Nikkor
Nikon’s latest portrait lens offers great quality at a
more reasonable cost.
When it comes to portrait photography, 85 really is the
magic number. We reviewed a couple of swell 85mm
portrait lenses last year including the Sigma 85mm
f/1.4 EX DG HSM in February 2011 and the Nikon AF
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D last spring.
Many photographers find an 85mm lens provides
the ideal working distance for portraits because it allows you to be far enough from your subjects so you
don’t crowd them while producing a flattering compression effect on the face. The other key number, of
course, is the aperture and with those two lenses, you
get a dramatic, shallow depth of field from f/1.4 along