On paper, experts say the Canon PowerShot G1 X looks fantastic. Its enormous image sensor promises to deliver that long-awaited holy grail of compact cameras: pro-quality photos in a carry-around package.
Unfortunately, the G1 X is pretty big and bulky. Even more unfortunately, it's slow. Beyond slow. "Dead-slow," "frustratingly slow," "astonishingly slow," various testers say. Reviews overwhelmingly recommend the speedy, pocket-sized Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 (*Est. $650) instead.
Big, but easy to handle -- except for the disappointing viewfinder. The Canon G1 X isn't small. At 19 ounces, it's as heavy as a small digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, and nearly as big. "The G1 X won't fit into a trouser or shirt pocket, being much more at home in a deep coat pocket or a small camera bag," says Mark Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com.
But bulk does carry some advantages. Unlike its pocket-sized rivals, the Canon G1 X leaves ample room for your hands. Textured rubber grips make it comfortable to hold. There's plenty of space for physical buttons, too (although no lens ring), so you can adjust settings on the fly without any menu-diving. There's even an optical viewfinder. It disappoints testers, though.
"If you can believe it, the lens barrel actually blocks your view," says David Pogue at The New York Times. "I'm not kidding. You hold this thing up to your eye, and maybe one-fifth of the scene is blocked by the lens itself. It's impossible to compose a shot accurately this way." Other experts notice the same flaw. Goldstein finds the viewfinder too small to be really useful for framing a shot, anyway. Testers and owners wind up ignoring the viewfinder and using the 3-inch, flip-out, swiveling LCD screen instead.
Pretty pictures, but "frustratingly slow." First, the good news: Images from the Canon G1 X look fabulous, reviews say. That's what you get when you place a nearly DSLR-sized, 14-megapixel sensor into a fixed-lens camera. Even dim light -- the downfall of most pocket cameras -- proves no problem for the G1 X.
Now, the bad news: Forget about photographing anything that moves. The G1 X is that slow, reviews say. It's slow between shots. "Sluggish," in Grunin's test: 2.4 seconds between JPEGs, "rising to a seriously sad 3.2 seconds for raw."
It's even a slow burst-shooter -- a "dead-slow" 1.9 frames per second (fps), DPReview.com says. You can boost that to 4.5 fps, but only for six shots in a row, and "you give up control over exposure, white balance and ISO, and the screen goes completely black while you're shooting!" says Pogue at The New York Times.
It's so slow that some owners say they simply miss moments. One at Amazon.com tried to shoot kids jumping on a trampoline: He kept pressing the button while the kids were in midair, but the G1 X wouldn't actually take the picture until they'd landed.
Others get blurry shots, including Pogue. "I was so baffled that I wrote to Canon about it," he writes. Canon replied that Full Auto mode on the G1 X "is designed for snapshots of stationary subjects." "Wait, what!?" Pogue writes. "$800 for a camera that's designed for still lifes?" Canon recommended he switch to a different mode to shoot things that move. "Strangest thing I've ever heard."
It's slow to autofocus, too -- "frustratingly slow, especially when you're zoomed in," Pogue says. In fact, stand too close to your subject, and it won't focus at all, thanks to "bizarre focusing-distance constraints," Grunin says. You can get within 1.3 feet, or 7.9 inches in macro mode.
Sluggishness infects the G1 X's 1080p HD video, too. "Zooming and refocusing are so slow, they ruin many a shot," Pogue says. "It takes six seconds to zoom 4X while filming, and about as long to refocus. Painful."
Battery life is 250 shots per charge with the LCD screen on -- "very low," Pogue says.
Strong metal body. The Canon G1 X feels very sturdy, reviews say. "Featuring a metal body with a solid feel, tank-like construction, the G1 X feels very well made indeed," says Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com. DPReview.com praises the G1 X's "solid build quality," too. Owners agree. "When you pick up the Canon G1X, your first thought will probably be 'Wow -- this thing is SOLID,'" writes one Amazon.com reviewer. Another says, "The body is metal and, as I've already managed to drop mine (long story), I can vouch for the fact that it is durable."
High-end features like a hot shoe -- but no in-camera panorama. Zoom is 4x, typical for this class. But the Canon G1 X comes loaded with goodies you'll usually only see on interchangeable-lens cameras. There's a hot shoe for an external flash (and a pop-up flash, too) plus the optical viewfinder and swiveling LCD screen (discussed in Ease of use).
Like the top-rated Sony, the Canon G1 X can also shoot both JPEG and RAW files, giving you maximum editing control. You'll get most of the usual extras, too. First, the G1 X can shoot several exposures and mesh them into one photo with greater depth and detail (High Dynamic Range). Handheld Night Scene does the same thing as High Dynamic Range to get steady, well-exposed night photos without a tripod. Finally, Picture Effects gives you 10 different effects so you can make your photo look like a poster, miniature, etc.
One glaring omission: There's no built-in panorama feature. Even cheap cameras these days can stitch together an in-camera panorama -- all you have to do is hold down the shutter button and sweep the camera across the scene. But the G1 X makes you stitch your photos together later using supplied computer software (from 1996, DPReview.com points out). When testers there try it, they get "a bent horizon, visible 'seams' and some stitching errors."
Like other cameras in its class, the G1 X has a USB port to hook up to a computer, and an HDMI port to attach to an HDTV.
Review Credibility: Excellent Packing "DSLR-like image quality" into a more compact body, the Canon PowerShot G1 X wins DPReview.com's Silver Award after a comprehensive test. However, the camera could use a speed boost, especially when it comes to continuous shooting and autofocus.
Review: Canon PowerShot G1 X Review, Lars Rehm, Richard Butler and Andy Westlake, March 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good The Canon PowerShot G1 X delivers "DSLR-like pictures" in this test, earning a spot on PhotographyBlog.com's list of the best digital cameras. Mark Goldstein likes the intuitive menu interface and excellent LCD display, but he's disappointed with the G1 X's macro shooting.
Review: Canon PowerShot G1 X Review, Mark Goldstein, Feb. 14, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good CNET gives the Canon PowerShot G1 X a "very good" rating with high scores for design, features and image quality. Like many reviewers, however, Lori Grunin is disappointed with the camera's sluggishness.
Review: Canon PowerShot G1 X Review, Lori Grunin, Feb. 17, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good PCMag.com gives the Canon PowerShot G1 X a lower rating than most reviewers -- a 3 out of 5, or "good" rating. It falters when it comes to macro shooting and quick autofocus. Jim Fisher names several cameras that perform better for the price.
Review: Canon PowerShot G1 X, Jim Fisher, Feb. 9, 2012
5. The New York Times
Review Credibility: Good The big sensor does deliver beautiful image quality, but "frustratingly slow" autofocus, a lens barrel that blocks the viewfinder and other flaws ruin the Canon G1 X for Times tech columnist David Pogue.
Review: The Canon G1 X: Big Sensor, Major Disappointments, David Pogue, May 24, 2012
Review Credibility: Fair Owners come to many of the same conclusions as experts: The Canon G1 X can shoot outstanding photos, but it's so slow that several owners say it simply can't capture anything that moves. It averages a mediocre 3.8 out of 5 stars in almost 70 reviews.
Review: Canon G1 X 14.3 MP CMOS Digital Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2013