Published on February 12, 2014 1:04 PM

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II: Big Sensor, Built-In Zoom

All fresh, all new ... except for the sensor

We've been keen to see which manufacturer would come up with a camera capable of rivalling Sony's RX100 Mark II as top dog in the world of expert compacts with built-in zoom lenses and large-format sensors. But the Canon G1X Mark II isn't going to be that model. The G1X Mark II can't really be considered a direct rival for Sony's super-sleek, pocket-sized camera, as while Canon's expert compact has definitely been trimmed down, this fixed-lens hybrid snapper sports an APS-C sensor. It also has plenty of new tech onboard.

There's no denying that the G1X was a chunky, bulky camera. With the Mark II version, Canon has trimmed down the dimensions and chopped off the tiny little viewfinder, cutting around 10 mm off the new model's height. It has a cleaner, more minimalist look that's also more stylish, with a more discreet set of dials and a curvier grip handle that should fit snugly in hand. All in all, it's a sleeker-looking camera. In fact, the G1X Mk II is probably the most stylish of Canon's G-series expert compacts. Fans of sturdy looking cameras will be pleased, even if it weighs in at just over 500 grams (almost as much as a Leica M, which is mostly made from brass!).

New Design and Controls, Digic 6 Processor, New 24-120 mm Zoom Lens

PowerShot G1X MkII lensgif
The little sticker announces the arrival of Wi-Fi and NFC for transferring snaps and for remote control via a smartphone

Almost everything has been updated in the G1X Mark II. The only hangover from the previous model is the 14-Megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. This measures 18.7 x 14 mm—that's 125% bigger than the 1" sensor seen in the RX100 Mk II and only 20% smaller than a Canon APS-C sensor. But things aren't exactly the same in this model, as the crop factor hand changed (from 1.85x to 1.92x). Switching the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 3:2 previously cut off 1.5 million pixels, whereas now "only" 400,000 pixels are lost. However, 4:3 shots now only comprise 13.2 million pixels compared with 14.2 million in the past.

The G1X Mark II gets the Digic 6 imaging engine, a 31-point AF and a brand new lens that looks pretty promising. Zoom power has been upped from 4x to 5x, the wide-angle has increased from 28 mm to 24 mm, the telephoto setting has been upped from 112 mm to 120 mm, and the macro shooting distances have been trimmed to 5 cm at 20 mm and 20 cm at 120 mm. But the best news is no doubt the improved aperture, upgraded from f/2.8-5.8 to f/2-3.9! The lens also now has two settings rings. The one closest to the camera body is the largest of the two and is notched, whereas the one furthest away scrolls smoothly. Both spin all the way round too. These two rings plus the thumb-wheel make the G1X Mark II particularly easy to handle. They're fully customisable and can be set to control different functions in different modes. It's a shame that the front thumb wheel has gone (or rather "index finger" wheel), which would have made one-handed use easier. Still, given the camera's weight, it's best used with both hands anyway.

PowerShot G1X MkII tiltgif

Around the back there's a 3" multitouch display with 1,040,000 pixels, as seen in the EOS 70D. This is mounted on a twin hinge system (see above) and can tilt 45° downwards and 180° upwards, which is great for shooting selfies or for lining up shots from unusual angles. But while the idea is right, the mechanism is actually a bit tricky to use. Plus, the hinge linking the first part of the mechanism to the screen seems particularly fragile and should be handled with care! Note that Canon will also be selling an optional EVF accessory (2.36 million dots) for the G1X Mark II using the much-seen Epson screen.

The G1X Mark II is due out in April. It has been announced at €800/$800 for the body only. The UK price is still to be confirmed but is likely to be in the region of £800.

First Impressions

We've been lucky enough to go hands-on with the G1X Mark II and, on the whole, Canon has made good progress compared with the previous model. The Mark II version is easier to handle, more intuitive and considerably more responsive. The original G1X could be pretty sluggish, but the new version (although still technically a prototype) proved very pleasing to use. Although we can't give any precise test results, we generally found the Mark II model to be twice as speedy as the G1X. And it stands up well against competitors too. The autofocus is faster than the Fuji X100s, isn't far behind Sony's RX100 Mark II, and outperforms the Leica X Vario—the only other expert compact with APS-C sensor and zoom. The burst mode is announced at 5 fps in JPG mode, and Canon keeps its promise, shooting for an unlimited number of photos. We can't wait to see the final model is capable of!

We can't comment on picture quality as the G1X Mark II we handled was technically still a prototype. Still, quality certainly hasn't declined since the G1X. That said, we can't help thinking that the Digic 6 processor and the new 24-120 mm lens could have handled an even higher-res sensor. Otherwise, we had loads of fun with the "Creative Shot" function (first seen in the PowerShot N) with loads of digital filters to play around with.
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