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Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II Gordon Laing, February 2014

Canon G1X Mark II preview

The Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II is a high-end compact camera aimed at those who desire DSLR quality in a smaller, fixed lens body. Announced in February 2014, the G1X Mark II is the successor to the original G1X, launched two years earlier, but despite the Mark II name, it's a considerably different camera; I don't think anyone would complain if it were called the G2X instead.

For the G1X Mark II, Canon has sensibly kept what was good about the original camera - the image quality - and changed pretty much everything else, in theory addressing most of the complaints. Inside there's what appears to be the same 1.5in sensor, roughly the same size as a Micro Four Thirds sensor and comfortably larger than the 1in type found in Sony's RX100 II. Interestingly the resolution has fallen slightly from 14.3 Megapixels in order to deliver the same field of view whether shooting in 3:2 or 4:3; note the resolution for each aspect ratio is 12.8 and 13.1 Megapixels respectively. It may also have helped implement the longer zoom range up from 4x / 28-112mm to a much more useful 5x / 24-120mm, with a far brighter focal ratio too, f2-3.9 versus f2.8-5.8 on the older model. Canon has also implemented a 9-blade aperture for circular out-of-focus rendering, and the closest focusing distance is also much improved, down from 20cm to 5cm.

The hopeless optical rangefinder on the G1X has been removed on the Mark II, allowing a smaller body, but viewfinder fans can mount an optional electronic viewfinder on the hotshoe if desired. There's a 3in screen which may no longer be side-hinged, but can still tilt vertically and twist round to face the subject, and now enjoys touch-sensitivity too. The lens barrel features two control dials, one smooth, one stepped, there's focus peaking to aid manual focusing, and there's built-in Wifi with NFC for wireless control and sharing. The G1X Mark II is expected in May for 799 USD / 749 GBP / 949 EUR. My initial thoughts follow!

Canon G1X Mark II review

Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II initial thoughts

Canon's original PowerShot G1X was one of the most frustratingly disappointing cameras I've tested in recent times. The image quality was outstanding, but the camera let down by a slow lens, terrible macro, pointless optical viewfinder, hopeless continuous shooting, basic movie facilities and a body which really ought to be much smaller. Meanwhile Sony seemed to nail the concept of a big sensor compact with the Cyber-shot RX100 and subsequently improve on it with the RX100 II.


Canon, like all camera companies, must have looked enviously at Sony's sales figures as the RX100 and RX100 II flew off the shelves in a market where demand for compacts was in serious decline. Sensibly it went back to the drawing board for the G1X Mark II, addressing many issues with the original model and taking a fair amount of inspiration from the RX100 II. So it's out with the useless optical viewfinder in favour of a smaller body which can accommodate an optional electronic viewfinder. It’s goodbye to a side-hinged screen but hello to one that vertically tilts and can twist to face the subject, and in an extra fingers-up to Sony is now also touch sensitive. Personally speaking I do miss the side-hinged articulation when shooting in the portrait aspect, but being able to tap to focus is a big benefit over the original G1X and RX100 II and at least you can still face the screen to the subject for crafty self-portraits or filming pieces to camera.

The real trump card over the RX100 II though is the new lens, delivering a broader more useful range with a much brighter focal ratio at the long end. Canon's also fitted it with not one but two control rings and greatly improved the terrible macro mode of its predecessor. Having a brighter lens at the long end and the ability to focus more closely should let the Mark II finally achieve those shallow depth of field effects that painfully eluded its predecessor.

Couple all of this with a bigger sensor than the Sony and Canon could well have one of the most desirable big sensor compacts around, although I'm still reserving judgment on handling, burst speed, manual movie capabilities (neither ominously mentioned in any press information) and AF performance until I get to try a final production sample in person.

One thing is for certain though, the price, around 30-50% more than either the RX100 II, or indeed Panasonic's Lumix GM1 kit. Canon had better have got it right this time against two such compelling rivals. I can't wait to compare them all.

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