Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III Review

November 28, 2017 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is a new premium compact camera that replaces the three-year-old Mark II model. The weather sealed G1 X Mark III has a larger APS-C sensor offering 24 megapixels and a Dual Pixel CMOS AF system that can auto-focus in 0.09 seconds, an ISO range of 100 to 25,600, a 3x optical lens (24-72mm) with f/2.8-5.6 aperture, 4-stops of image stabilisation, Full HD 60p movies, a DIGIC 7 processor, a tilting LCD touchscreen, a built-in electronic viewfinder, a pop-up flash, and Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Dynamic NFC connectivity. The Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III is available in black priced at £1149 / €1399 / $1299.

Ease of Use

The G1 X Mark III is the smallest ever PowerShot G1-series camera, yet it features the largest ever sensor, namely an APS-C sensor that's more commonly found in Canon's EOS range of DSLRs. There are only a handful of compact cameras that have such a large sensor - the Ricoh GR springs to mind, which has a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor. Unlike the G1 X Mark III, though, which has a 3x zoom lens, the Ricoh GR utlilises a fixed 28mm lens (which some users might actually prefer).

Measuring 115 x 78 x 51mm and weighing 399g including the battery and memory card, the new Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is substantially smaller and lighter than the Mark II model that it replaces. It's very similar in size to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 camera, but that camera has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor. As mentioned, the APS-C sensor in the G1 X Mark III should deliver better image quality, especially in low-light, plus greater depth-of-field and enhanced dynamic range, all the things that most compact cameras struggle to deliver, and key reasons why people choose mirrorless or DSLR cameras instead.

Featuring a mixed metal and plastic construction, the G1 X Mark III feels very well made indeed, although perhaps not as bomb-proof as the previous model. The control layout feels similar to other G-series Canons, in particular the G5X, so if you've used any of those cameras before, you'll quickly be able to get up to speed with this latest version. The biggest change since the Mark II G1 X is the very welcome inclusion of a centrally-located electronic viewfinder. Whereas the previous model had no viewfinder at all out-of-the-box (there was just a pricey EVF-DC1 add-on viewfinder instead), forcing you to shoot with it at arm's length, the G1 X Mark III has a really good Organic LED EVF with 2.36million dots, which goes some way to explaining the significant increase in the asking price. There’s also an eye-sensor for automatically detecting when it has been lifted to your eye, making it a very fluid movement akin to using a DSLR.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Front of the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

Another significant change is the adoption of a 3x zoom lens, which offers an effective zoom range of 24-72mm, compared to the Mark II's 24-120mm lens, a natural consequence of using the larger APS-C sensor. With an aperture range of f/2.8-5.6, it's not the quickest lens, especially at the telephoto settings, where using f/5.6 in combination with an APS-C sensor might not quite deliver the completely defocused background look that you're after. The lens does have 9 rounded aperture blades, though, which should at least ensure that the bokeh looks nice.

Happily, the G1 X III once again has a dedicated exposure compensation dial on top of the camera body, something that was removed from the previous model, although setting the ISO speed still requires using the menu system (unless you assign it to the lens control dial instead of the zoom function). In conjunction with the new front control dial which is operated by your right forefinger, the rear control wheel, and the lens control ring, using the core photography features of the G1 X III is a largely enjoyable and intuitive experience, which given the overall size of the camera is no mean feat on the part of the Canon engineers.

From the front the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III's very much looks like a DSLR that's been shrunk in the wash, with the 3x zoom lens surrounded by the lens control ring, a new front control dial, a generously sized handgrip that can effectively be held with three fingers with a similarly textured small pad at the back for your right thumb to rest on, and a tiny port for the built-in self-timer/AF assist lamp. Above the lens is a small pop-up flash that can be manually raised, and behind that a dedicated flash hotshoe, the same found on the company's DSLR cameras. Completing the top-middle of the camera is the EVF that we've already discussed above, complete with a dioptre control dial for glasses wearers.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Front of the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

You can use a combination of the smooth, clickless lens control ring front dial and rear navigation wheel to change the aperture and shutter speed, each of which can be configured to suit your particular way of working, and impressively for each of the PASM shooting modes. The lens control ring also provides the additional ability to make fine adjustments when manually focusing and can be used to fine-tune the focus distance after AF is achieved. The third main configurable control is the navigation wheel on the rear, which given its tiny size is surprisingly easy to use.

From left to right the G1 X Mark III's top-plate houses the shooting mode dial, the pop-up flash and flash hotshoe, a springy raised nipple-style shutter release button surrounded by a rocker switch for operating the optically stabilised 3x zoom, the small recessed on/off button, and the exposure compensation dial (+-3EV). The fact that the lens is image stabilised provides a four-stop advantage when shooting handheld, which goes some way to making up for the slow F/5.6 maximum aperture when using the telephoto end of the zoom range.

The G1X III has the very latest DIGIC 7 processor, so it's quick to power up and ready itself for shooting in less than a second, the rear LCD blinking into life and the 3x optical zoom lens simultaneously extending from storage within the body to its maximum wide-angle setting. As a further aid to landscape fans, a 3-stop neutral density filter option is provided among the function menu options, to be turned on or off as required, and a horizontal Electronic Level and RGB histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Rear of the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

The shooting mode dial features settings for Auto capture, Hybrid Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual, along with two user customisable settings, a smattering of scene modes (15 in all), and a video mode. The Canon PowerShot can still only shoot 1080p HD, though, rather than the almost-standard 4K quality, although it is now at a maximum of 60fps, rather than 30fps. Canon have not included a microphone socket either, which means that the G1 X Mark III is therefore not the best camera for vlogging or serious video work, a real shame given the sensor size. The G1 X Mark III does offer stereo sound courtesy of tiny microphones positioned either side of the flash hotshoe and the 3x optical zoom can be used when filming.

The G1 X Mark III also has an improved continuous shooting mode, which in conjunction with Tracking AF makes it well-suited to both slow and fast moving subjects. The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III can capture up to 24 full-resolution JPEG shots at 9fps with the focus point locked at the first frame, or more usefully you can shoot continuously at 7fps with AF tracking for up to 29 full-resolution JPEGs.

We appreciated the flexibility presented by the tilting LCD screen in terms of trying out unusual framing angles. It can be titled forward through 180° for easier selfies and backwards through 45° in order to shoot over the heads of a crowd. The LCD is a 3 inch monitor with a resolution of 1040K dots, the same as the previous model, but it can now be rotated about its axis or folded screen-in to the body for added protection, as on the original G1 X.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Tilting LCD Screen

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III has a touch focus/shoot option which is on by default. To switch it off, change the Touch Shutter option in the main menu. This then becomes a touch focus screen which will lock onto the subject where-ever you touched, with a press of the Display button centering the AF point. In playback the touchscreen can be used to change the magnification of an image by spreading and pinching two fingers, and switch between images by swiping from side to side, just like on a smartphone. You can also adjust the LCD's touch sensitivity to your liking with Standard and High settings available.

Although you can use the AF point selection button to enter the AF selection options, the easiest way to set AF point is to use the touch screen, simply tapping where you want the AF point to be. You can use the touch screen to do this in conjunction with the viewfinder if you want, by selecting “Touch and drag AF settings” in the main menu. A great feature is that you can use the whole screen to do this, or you can apportion a section of the screen, for example the bottom right to allowing you to change the AF point - this is particularly handy if you find that your nose or face is accidentally moving the AF point when you don’t want it to.

On the right-hand flank of the camera is a new button for quickly connecting to a previously paired smartphone or tablet. The G1 X Mark III's wi-fi capabilities allow you to share images during playback via the Up button on the navigation pad. Simply enter a nickname for the camera and five more icons then appear, connecting the G1 X Mark III to another camera, a smartphone, a computer, a printer and the internet respectively. Setup is relatively straight-forward for each scenario, although you'll need a basic understanding of the protocols involved. Note that you need to install the dedicated and free Canon CameraWindow app to connect the G1 X Mark III to an iOS or Android device.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Top of the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

The G1 X Mark III's wi-fi functionality is also employed to tag your images with GPS data recorded by your smartphone ( latitude, longitude, altitude and shooting time) via the Canon CameraWindow app, which effectively replaces a more conventional built-in GPS system. We actually prefer having GPS built-in to the camera rather than having to sync it with an additional device, so in this regard the G1 X Mark III doesn't compare well with rivals that offer this feature, although it does side-step the issue of negatively affecting battery life. The G1 X Mk III also features NFC (Near Field Communication) technology (the same technology that's used for mobile payments), which allows you to connect it to a compatible internet enabled device or another NFC-enabled camera by simply tapping them together.

For the first time on a G-series camera there’s also bluetooth connectivity. You can use this as a low-power alternative to Wi-Fi to control the camera. It’s also easier and quicker to set up and use than connecting to the camera’s Wi-Fi network. Once you’re connected to the camera via Bluetooth, you can also use the Canon Camera Connect app (free download for iOS and Android) to activate Wi-Fi settings directly, which you’ll need to do to browse images and download images onto your phone.

Located to the top-right of the LCD screen is the one-touch movie record button, which as its name suggests instantly begins recording a movie at the current quality and creative settings. Underneath that is a new button for locking the exposure, alongside which is a button for setting the position and size of the AF point during shooting. The G1 X Mark III focuses very quickly indeed in either good light or bad and at both ends of the zoom range, with only a slight delay of around 0.1 second, which is commendably almost as fast as a DSLR or compact system camera.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III In-hand

Underneath this pair of controls is the four-way selection or control pad, with, at points north, east, south and west a means of selecting the continuous shooting options, choosing from the on-board flash settings, toggling between the various display settings, and activating normal or 10cm macro focus modes. At its centre is the Q/Set button that is again consistent with the Canon G-series. Press this button at its centre when in any of the capture modes and left and right toolbars that will be familiar to Canon users appear on the screen, offering a toolbar at the bottom of the screen with further options from the range when you come to rest on a particular setting.

At the bottom right hand corner of the backplate are a further pairing of buttons for image playback and accessing the main menu. A press of the Menu button brings up a trio of folders on screen, the first the Shooting menu where the likes of the AF assist beam and blink detection modes can be turned on or off, the second the Setup menu where sound options and LCD brightness can be tweaked, and the third being a 'My Menu' option for commonly used functions.

On the right hand flank of the camera - viewed from the back - we find covered ports for HDMI out, an optional remote shutter release cable plus combined USB/AV out connection. On the bottom is a familiar metal screw thread for a tripod and a sliding cover for the compartment that houses the lithium-ion battery needed for power and the SD, SDHC or SDXC cards needed for image storage. Battery life is a little worse than the previous model, at around only 200 shots from a full charge, so you'll need to budget for at least one spare battery or use the new ECO mode that extends battery life back up to the 240 shots that the G1 X II offered. A new feature is the ability to recharge the camera through the USB port’s smartphone charger or USB compatible battery packs, useful if you're travelling without convenient access to a powerpoint.