The Canon PowerShot G3X is Canon’s first big zoom, big sensor compact. Traditional super-zoom cameras have a lot to offer but, their typically small sensor size prompts many buyers to migrate upwards to a DSLR or mirrorless. The G3X’s 1inch sensor isn’t as big as a DSLR or mirrorless, but with four times the surface area of a typical 1/2.3 inch super-zoom sensor delivers better quality images with less noise.
Where its competitors have stuck with a tried and tested DSLR-styled form factor, Canon has ploughed its own furrow and the G3X is closely styled on the EOS M3 mirrorless model. As well as looks, the most significant difference is that the G3X lacks an electronic viewfinder.
If it’s to succeed, the G3X will need to influence potential buyers considering Panasonic’s Lumix FZ1000 and the Sony RX10 I and II. All of these models boast exceptionally good electronic viewfinders. You can add Canon’s EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder to the G3X’s hotshoe but that adds to the price, pushing the G3X significantly higher than what you’d pay for the FZ1000 or RX10 Mk I. So if you’re sacrificing a viewfinder, the G3X must make up for it in other areas, right? Well, read the rest of my verdict below to see how the Canon G3X shapes up alongside its main competitors the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 and Sony RX10 I and II.
The G3X may lack a viewfinder, but the 3.2 inch touch screen goes some way to making up the deficit. Like the Sony RX10, the G3X’s screen flips up, where the Lumix FZ1000’s is side-hinged,but it’s neither the mounting nor the image that sets the G3X’s screen apart, but the fact that you can tap it to set the focus area both during stills and movie shooting. You can of course also use it for making quick menu choices, entering wifi passwords and the like.
With a fixed lens model like the Canon G3X, the zoom range is all important and Canon is the clear winner here with a 25x optical zoom with an equivalent range of 25-600mm. The Lumix FZ1000 has a 16x / 25-400mm range, while Sony’s RX10 (Mark I and II) has an 8.3x / 24-200mm range. So the Canon G3X outguns them both, reaching three times longer than the Sony and half as far again as the Lumix. There’s one caveat here though and that’s where video is concerned. The Lumix FZ1000’s 4K UHD video mode takes a crop from the sensor which reduces the field of view, effectively zooming you in a little further. Fully zoomed in in 4K mode the field of view on the FZ1000 almost matches that of the G3X at its 600mm maximum telephoto in 1080p video modes.
In terms of maximum apertures, it’s the Sony RX10 I and II that win out, with a constant f2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range, albeit a much shorter range than eithr the G3X or FZ1000. The FZ1000 and G3X both start at f2.8, but when zoomed in the FZ1000 maintains a relatively bright f4 compared with f5.6 on the GX3; so, when zoomed in there’s a one stop difference. Its also worth noting the the G3X stops down more quickly than the FZ1000, so when both are zoomed to 400mm equivalent, they’re at f5.6 and f4 respectively. That one stop difference means you’ll be able to shoot in lower light with the Lumix FZ1000 using the same exposure settings or, shoot in the same conditions with a lower ISO or faster shutter speed. But it doesn’t confer any real advantages in terms of shallow depth of field because you can zoom further and focus closer with the G3X. Just to note here that the G3X provides a built in 3-stop neutral density filter which will allow you to choose a wider aperture or slower shutter speeds in bright conditions.
The quality of the lens on the G3X is comparable to the Lumix FZ1000 and, given that they both employ what is most likely the same 20 Megapixel CMOS sensor, there’s little difference in overall image quality. That said, in my low light noise tests the Lumix FZ1000 performed a little better than the G3X at higher ISO settings when shooting JPEGs.
The lack of a viewfinder hampers the G3X when it comes to photographing sports and action subjects, but it also lags behind the FZ1000 and RX10 when it comes to continuous shooting with Autofocus. The G3X can shoot large best quality JPEGs at 3.2fps refocusing on the subject between shots and, to be fair, it does it very well. But the Lumix FZ1000 can shoot at 7fps, more than twice the speed of the GX3, with similar AF accuracy. The Sony RX10 Mark I isn’t noted for particularly fast continuous shooting with AF, though it can shoot a 25 frame burst at 10fps with the focus fixed on the first frame. The newer RX10 Mark II is much faster than any of them but also has a correspondingly higher price tag which arguably aims it at a different buyer. So of the first three, the Lumix FZ1000 is your best bet for capturing action sequences, but if you plan on doing a lot of sports and action photography a DSLR or mirrorless still remains the best option.
On the face of it the G3X’s video specifications look very respectable, it has a best quality 1080 50/60p mode, provides full manual control over exposure during recording and has built-in mic and headphones sockets. But crucially it lacks a 4K UHD video mode, something that is available both on the Lumix FZ1000 and the Sony RX10 II. As I’ve already mentioned, as well as the obvious quality benefits, on the FZ1000, 4K provides the opportunity to get closer to the action, pretty much negating the G3X’s zoom advantage. In its favour you can use the G3X’s touch screen to adjust focus during recording.
The G3X also provides a good range of video feature modes including short clips sped up or slowed down by a factor of 2 plus an action replay mode. There’s also Hybrid auto which shoots a short clip prior to each stills shot you take and assembles them into a movie, plus you can use a limited number of filter effects including Miniature mode for movies. By comparison, the Lumix FZ1000 can shoot 1080p at frame rates up to 120fps (100fps in PAL regions), allowing footage to be slowed down by four times. And though the Sony RX10 I has no slow-mo options, the newer RX10 II offers 720p at 120fps as well as an option for 10x, 20x or even 40x super slow motion capture at 240, 480 or 960fps.
Lastly, there’s price to consider. At the time of writing the G3X is typically more expensive than the Lumix FZ1000 depending on where you shop. It’s also slightly more expensive than the original RX10 Mark I, but substantially cheaper than the latest RX10 II. The G3X and RX10 II are recent releases, though, so you can expect reductions in the months to come.
Ultimately it’s all about getting the features you desire for the price you’re willing to pay. I’d say the Lumix FZ1000 is hard to beat right now with its decent zoom range, built-in viewfinder and 4k video for a good price; check out my Lumix FZ1000 review for more details. If you have more specific requirements though, you may prefer one of the others. Sony’s RX10 Mark I and II have their built-in viewfinders and constant f2.8 focal ratio, while the Mark II takes the high ground for video, especially 4k and slow motion; see my Sony RX10 review and Sony RX10 II review for more details.
Meanwhile, the unique selling points of Canon’s G3X are its touchscreen and longer zoom range, coincidentally, the same two features which differentiate the smaller G7X from Sony’s latest RX100 models. The absence of a built-in viewfinder is another differentiator between these Canon and Sony models, and on the G3X with its big zoom it’s a serious downside if you’re trying to follow fast-moving sports or wildlife. If you’re at peace with this though (or are willing to fit the EVF accessory), the G3X offers the compelling combination of a large 1in sensor with a longer optical zoom than its rivals. So if you want that quality and reach, then the G3X is the camera for you.