Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Review

April 29, 2014 | Mark Goldstein |


The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is a new premium compact camera with a large CMOS image sensor and a fast lens. The metal-bodied G1 X Mark II has a 1.5-type multi-aspect sensor, a 5x f/2.0-3.9 lens zoom lens, full manual controls, shooting mode dial, 3-inch tilting LCD touchscreen with 1,040K dots, built-in flash and a flash hot shoe, DIGIC 6 processor, wi-fi and NFC connectivity, ISO range of 100-12800, full HD movie recording, 14-bit RAW image capture, 31 AF points, focus peaking function, and dual lens control rings. The Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II is available in black priced at £799 / €949 / $799.99.

Ease of Use

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II tested in this review was kindly provided by CameraWorld, a real camera shop helping you to make the most of your hobby. Our expert team has many years experience within the photographic trade with knowledge gained over 40 years. Many are photographers themselves and enjoy passing their knowledge on. You'll also find our online service fast, efficient and courteous and you can always call us if you want to talk to a human being! We are dedicated to bringing you the very best in service, choice and price. We're very easy to find, our London store is just off Oxford Street between Oxford Circus station and Tottenham Court Road station. The Essex shop is located in High Chelmer Shopping Centre, just off the High Street in Chelmsford. Visit us and you'll always find a friendly welcome. Our policy is to serve our customers as we would like to be served ourselves, a simple ideal that we try hard to live up to.

Measuring 116.3 x 74.0 x 66.2 mm and weighing 558g including the battery and memory card, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is slightly smaller and lighter than the original G1 X model that it replaces. Featuring a stainless steel chassis and all aluminium metal exterior with a solid feel and tank-like construction, the G1 X Mark II feels very well made indeed. The control layout has been changed quite a lot since the previous model, with external controls that offer just the right amount of stiffness and resistance and are large enough to be easily and quickly accessed in the heat of the action. The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II won't easily fit into a trouser or shirt pocket, being much more at home in a deep coat pocket or a small camera bag.

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II features a large multi-aspect, 15 megapixel CMOS sensor that captures images either in the 3:2 aspect ratio at 12.8 megapixels or the 4:3 ratio at 13.1 megapixels whilst maintaining the same angle of view. Measuring 18.7mm x 14mm, it's almost the same height as the APS-C sensor used in many DSLR cameras. This should add up to better image quality especially in low-light, greater depth-of-field, and greater dynamic range, all the things that your typical compact cameras struggles to deliver.

Disappointingly the original G1 X's exposure compensation dial has been removed from this new model, replaced instead by a position on the rear control pad, as is the ISO speed, which makes choosing these key settings a slower 3-stage process. The G1 X's optical viewfinder has also bitten the dust too - instead you can choose to purchase the optional and rather pricey EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder, a snip at £250 / $300. Another grumble is that, annoyingly for such a creatively rich camera, the full user guide is still provided on CD only. In what comes across as a cursory gesture, only a very slim printed quick start guide is included in the box.

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II unassuming-looking front plate is dominated by the bulbous 5x zoom lens, with a bulb for the built-in self-timer/AF assist lamp flanking them on the left. Note that there's no thread included for fitting filters. The G1 X Mark II has also lost the original model's very useful front control dial, as featured on EOS DSLR cameras, which made changing the aperture and full Manual shooting mode very easy.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II


Instead you now use a combination of the new dual control rings and the 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 smooth, clickless front Continuous ring can only be assigned to AV, TV or Exposure Compensation, though, with the larger, clicking rear Step dial having more settings available. The Continuous 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 we found to be a bit too thin to use precisely.

The left-hand side of the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II when viewed lens on now has a much more pronounced hand-grip than the original model, a big improvement that makes it more easier to steady the camera, and there's a similarly textured small pad at the back for your right thumb to rest on. Curiously, there are actually two editions of the G1 X Mark II, one with the large grip that is only available in Europe, Middle East and Africa and which we have reviewed, and one with a smaller grip that is available in the rest of the world, where you can optionally purchase the larger GR-DC1A custom grip.

From left to right the G1 X Mark II's top-plate houses the new folding pop-up flash, with a switch on the side for manually releasing it, along with a hotshoe for an accessory flash (in addition to the built-in bulb), the playback button, a springy raised nipple-style shutter release button surrounded by a rocker switch for operating the optically stabilised 5x zoom (24-120mm equivalent on a 35mm camera), and behind this again the small, recessed on/off button. The fact that the lens is image stabilised, says Canon, provides a four-stop advantage when shooting handheld, while the Intelligent IS system analyses the focal length, focal distance and type of camera movement and applies the most appropriate mode from seven possible settings, and the Hybrid IS system makes shooting macros easier than before by counteracting both shift and angular movements.

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is quick to power up in a second or so, the rear LCD blinking into life with the 5x optical zoom lens simultaneously extending from storage within the body to its maximum wide-angle setting. It now starts at the equivalent of 24mm, making it very useful for those landscapes group portraits or getting the required shot in confined spaces. The G1 X Mark II also has much brighter apertures of f/2 at the wide-angle end of the zoom range and f/3.9 at full telephoto, a big improvement on its predecessor, plus a 9-blade aperture for better bokeh effects. 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 the horizontal Electronic Level and RGB histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II
Side Front

The G1 X Mark II also has a much 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 II can capture an unlimited number of full-resolution JPEG shots at 5.2fps with the focus point locked at the first frame, or you can shoot continuously at 3fps with AF tracking, again up to the full capacity of the memory card in JPEG format.

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), Creative Effects and Creative Shot modes, and finally a video mode. The Canon PowerShot can shoot 1080p HD video quality at 1920x1080 pixels at 30fps. The G1 X Mark II also boasts stereo sound courtesy of tiny microphones positioned either side of the Play button and you can use the creative filters during recording to spice up your footage, and the 5x optical zoom can be used when filming.

The Creative Filters shooting mode contains 10 different options to help spice up your images. The High Dynamic Range mode is probably the most useful, automatically taking three exposures of the same scene at different settings, then combining them in-camera to create a single image with greater dynamic range. Note that you need to mount the G1 X Mark II on a tripod or stable surface to avoid camera-shake.

We appreciated the flexibility presented by the tilting LCD screen in terms of trying out unusual and formerly awkward framing. 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 has also been upgraded to a 3 inch monitor with a higher resolution of 1040K dots, although sadly it can't also 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 II Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II
Top Flip-out LCD Screen

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II 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 whereever 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.

Top-right of the LCD is a new button for quickly connecting to a previously paired smartphone or tablet, rather strangely positioned adjoining the rear thumb-grip. The G1 X Mark II'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 II 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 II to an iOS or Android device.

The G1 X Mark II'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 coventional 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 II 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 II 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.

Underneath is the one-touch movie record button, which as its name suggests instantly begins recording a movie at the current quality and creative settings, and then the direct print button that more helpfully doubles up in shooting mode as a user assignable shortcut key to the likes of red-eye reduction or auto exposure lock. The MF button quickly toggles manual focusing on and off and doubles up as the Delete button, with a button alongside for setting the position and size of the AF point during shooting and for image search during playback. The G1 X Mark II focuses quickly enough for a compact camera in either good light or bad and at both ends of the zoom range , with a slight delay of around 0.25 second, but it's certainly not as fast as a DSLR or the best of the compact system cameras.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

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 exposure compensation (+/-2EV), choosing from the on-board flash settings, setting the ISO speed (the handy Auto ISO feature allows the maximum ISO speed to be set, therefore specifying what ISO range the G1 X Mark II will use if you leave it up to its own devices), and activating normal or 5cm macro focus modes. At its centre is the Function/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 an L-shaped toolbar that will be familiar to Canon users appears on the screen, offering pull out toolbars 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 the Display options 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 2.0/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 about the same as the previous model, at around 240 shots from a full charge, so you'll need to budget for at least one spare battery.