Canon G1 X or DSLR?

January 15, 2012

Canon PowerShot G1 X certainly looks like a very interesting camera on paper. Canon has decided to release a compact camera with a large 1.5-inch sensor, a bit larger than Micro Four Thirds, but smaller than the standard ASP-C size sensor. I personally don’t know if that means that Canon won’t be releasing any MILC camera in the future, but that’s what we have right now, so let’s get a closer look at this new camera.

Canon PowerShot G1 X camera

Canon PowerShot G1 X camera

It’s All About the Sensor

The Canon G1 X is probably a camera that many advanced photographers have been waiting for. One of the most noticeable hardware component implementation is the brand new 1.5″ 14.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. Although this sensor is approx. 20% smaller than other Canon APS-C sensor, is much larger than what you get with a conventional point-and-shoot camera, like the PowerShot G12 for example. In fact, the size of the sensor is the most important component for improving image quality. The larger the sensor,  the better the light recipient capability. That will result in a sharper, higher DR (dynamic range), lower noise and much better IQ overall.

For many people, this is a great alternative for a DSLR or Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. It’s not that having an option to change lenses is not a good thing, but many people just don’t want to carry several lenses, and want  a compact and portable camera. For that reason, the Canon G1X comes with a fixed 28-112mm F2.8-5.8 IS lens. A fixed lens means that you want be able to change lenses and use special lenses (ie. wide-angle, 1:1 macro, super telephoto, etc.). For some photographer that might limit the creative freedom that they have with the camera. For example, you might want to capture a 1:1 macro image some day. With interchangeable lens cameras you will be able to do that. Just get a 1:1 macro lens and shoot. With cameras like the G1 X it’s not possible. Some of you won’t need specialized lenses anyway, but some of you might will.

So the lens and sensor size are the two most important parts of the camera, which you should understand its implications. If 28-112mm is all the zoom range that you need, then the G1 X really worth a closer look.


Can I Blur the Background with this Camera?

A camera with a large sensor offers many advantages over small sensor cameras. One of those advantages is having better control over depth-of-field. I’m pretty sure that you’ve seen some beautiful images (ie. portrait) where the background is blurred and the subjects just pop out from the image, and looks sharp and distinct from the background. This is done by using a small aperture f-number. There are three things that affects DOF: Distance from subject, aperture opening and focal length. To get the very shallow depth-of-field (more blurred background), you will need to use a larger focal length, larger aperture opening (smaller f-number) and get closer to your subject.

With small-sensor cameras (and even with fast lenses) it’s close to impossible to get that beautiful blurred background. With a large sensor (like the one in the G1X), you can achieve  this (at some degree) and capture some beautiful portrait images of your kids. This background-blur effects certainly helps getting some unique and stunning images. It’s widely used by professionals and in Cinematic films. In fact, this is one important reason why enthusiast photographers adopted a DSLR camera in the first place. With a Full Frame camera this effect is more pronounced, but it will certainly work really well with the G1 X.

The G1 X also utilizes a fast lens, so it will just add to this effect. There is also a relatively new trend of fast-lens compact camerars (ie. Olympus XZ-1 and Canon S100). Although they use a small sensor, the f/1.8 bright lens certainly helps to get a more shallow depth-of-field (but just in a relatively small degree).


Design & Construction

The G1 X certainly looks quite similar to the Canon PowerShot G12, Canon’s high-end compact camera. The G12 packs a wide range of advanced controls, high quality optics and got many positive reviews all over the web. On you can get to see how large is the G1 X compared to the G12. The G1 X is 4.3 mm higher and 4.6 mm wider than the G12.. Considering the sensor size differences, you might ask yourself: “Why Canon didn’t do it in the first place?”. Of course there are many reasons for that, and in fact, the the G1 X is approx. two times more expensive than the G12.

Canon G1 X rear

Canon G1 X Articulating LCD

The G1 X is based on a meta chassis, compared to plastic of the G12. It certainly built to last longer and it will feel more ‘professional’ when holding it.  It’s worth mentioning that there are there are some APS-C cameras that are much smaller than the G1 X, like the Sony NEX-C3, which is 60 mm in height and 109.6 mm in length (See comparison here). So the G1 X isn’t an evolutionary camera with its compactness.

It’s important to note that some photographers might prefer a larger camera, which provides a better ergonomics; especially for people with large hands. The G1 X’ grip was also improved and it’s larger and has more depth compared to the G12.

The G1X offers a lot of manual controls and functions that are spread nocely at the camera’s top and back. Due to the size of the camera, it certainly not too tight and certainly helps controlling the camera faster and easier for advanced photographers.

At the rear Canon implemented a full articulating 3-inch 920K-dots LCD display. Certainly a very popular and wanted option among advanced photographers.  Although you can compose a shot using the electronic viewfinder, the LCD is an alternative option for composing shots, and certainly a preferred method when shooting videos. That leads us to the G1X’ 1080p Full HD movie capability.

Full HD Movie Recording

As I wrote in previous articles, we’ll see this option in any camera in the future.  Full HD (1080p/progressive) is a better option than 720p/HD. It offers a higher resolution video output, that matches many of today’s high-resolution HDTV displays at home.  YouTube and many other Tube-like websites offer the option to view videos in Full HD. Although it’s not a really bandwidth friendly option, many of you might prefer shooting in this resolution.

Due to the fact that media storage is very cheap nowadays, it’s no longer an issue capturing a large size video and storing hundreds of them on your hard drive (internal or external drives).

With the G1 X you can capture both Full HD (1080p/24) and HD (720p/30) videos.  This means that you can shoot 1080p in 24 frames-per-second and 720p in 30 frames-per-second. 24 fps is also known as “cinematic frame rate”, due to the fact that is widely used in Hollywood films and such. It’s not as smooth as 30 fps, but is more bandwidth friendly and a preferred method among enthusiast and professional videographers.

The use of Canon’s latest DIGIC 5 image processor, promise a clear and beautiful rendering video output.

DSLR or G1 X

Many forums discussions are talking about how the G1 X is compared to Canon’s EOS DSLR cameras. The sensor’s pixel size of the PowerShot G1 X is equivalent to that on the 600D. So you might ask yourself why pick up the 600D when you can get a smaller and less bulky camera?

As I mentioned earlier, the most obvious reason whiy photographers pick up a DSLR is interchangeable lenses, functions and accessories. The fact that you can use a wide range of Canon EF and EF-S lenses, that alone worth the ride. For example, enthusiast and pros might need to use a fast 70-200mm f/2.8 lens or a ultra wide-angle lens. This option is not available with the PowerShot G1 X fixed lens. Again, you are quite limited from what you can achieve with the G1X and it’s all depends on your needs as a photographer.

Some people might prefer the larger size of a DSLR camera in terms of ergonomics. It’s just feels more comfortable for some photographers. Even when choosing between one dslr camera and another, some will prefer the larger and more bulkier one.

Some DSLR camera are weather resistant, and can be used in harsh weather conditions, the G1 X is not weather sealed. Another reason is that some photographers already have a few Canon lenses, and getting a DSLR is good option to take use of those lenses.

Other reason is upgrade path. With a DSLR you can grow up and upgrade to a more professional full frame DSLR (if this is not the one that you’ve purchase in the first place). So advanced photographer might start with an entry-level DSLR and grow up and buying a more advanced camera, which offers more controls and better functionality (ie. easier access to popular functions, faster burst, better battery life, etc.).

Should You Buy It?

The Canon G1 X is certainly and interesting camera that will find its way to many advanced photographers.  It’s suitable for both novice photographers, which can start using the automatic mode, but can change to manual controls as they level up there skills. The G1 X promises very high-quality images, especially when shooting in low-light. A larger sensor means lower noise in higher ISO sensitivities, and with a fast (f/2.8 maximum aperture) lens, you aren’t limited for daylight. You can shoot sharp and beautiful photos in dim lights too.

It seems that the Canon PowerShot G1 X has an amazing balance of size and functionality.  It is equipped with Canon’s highly regarded optics, which will further contribute to the sharp and highly detailed image output One thing left and it’s the price. It’s twice the price of the G12, and you can certianly grab a DSLR+lens at that same price. It will be favorite among those who search an advanced camera with manual controls and large sensor, but without the bulkiness of a DSLR camera and massing around with interchangeable lenses.

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