The Canon G1X Mark III is the first PowerShot to get an APS-C sensor with a 24MP APS-C sized sensor, Dual Pixel autofocus, and a 24-72mm equivalent F2.8-5.6 zoom lens. If you’re looking for a Canon G1X Mark III review, See our Canon G1X III review for all the details!
What is the Canon G1X Mark III?
The Canon PowerShot G1X Mark III is a premium compact camera aimed at people who want DSLR quality during a smaller, fixed lens body. Announced in October 2017, it comes three and a half years when its forerunner, the G1X Mark II, and currently represents the flagship within the PowerShot G Range. It does, however, cost over $1000.
The previous G1X Mark II stood out in the series thanks to its larger 1.5in type sensor, which the Mark III now trumps with an even larger APSC sensor. This is basically the same sensor used within the Canon Eos 80D and Canon’s twenty four Megapixel mirrorless cameras, featuring Dual Pixel CMOS AF for smooth and confident focusing instills and movies.
The PowerShot G1X Mark III couples the 24 Megapixel APSC sensor with a 3x / 15-45mm zoom lens equivalent to 24-72mm, with an f2.8-5.6 focal ratio, closest focusing distance of 10cm at wide-angle, four-stop optical stabilizer, and a built-in 3-stop ND filter. These are squeezed into a drip and dustproof body with a built-in 2.36 Million dot OLED electronic viewfinder and a fully-articulated 3in touchscreen. There’s no 4k video nor a microphone input, but the Mark III’s 1080p video (up to 60p) benefits from the confident focusing of Dual Pixel CMOS AF and the ability to tap the screen to pull-focus; the AF system also supports burst shooting at 7fps or with fixed focus at 9fps. There’s also built-in Wifi accompanied by NFC and Bluetooth to ease connectivity, while the latter allows seamless GPS location tagging. The Mark III even becomes Canon’s initial model to finally stitch panoramas in-camera.
Impressively Canon’s managed to pack all of this into a body that’s well smaller and lighter than the previous G1X Mark II – so it’s just about the same size –and design – because of the PowerShot G5X, however with a much larger device boasting nearly 3 times the entire expanse, not to mention one with the phase-detect optical device. Of course by employing a larger sensor, the G1X Mark III’s lens range can’t help but be shorter and optically dimmer than other models, but the fact you’re essentially carrying EOS 80D quality and focusing in a body that weighs just under 400g including a lens makes it a highly compelling prospect, whether used as a standalone camera or a companion to a larger body.
Canon G1X Mark III – Features
The G1X Mark III’s headline feature is, without doubt, its detector. Canon says that the 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS is comparable to it employed in its standard Canon Eos 80D DSLR, providing a sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600.
The firm’s dual pixel CMOS AF technology is aboard for on-chip section detection, which means autofocus is impressively quick. The sensor is coupled with Canon’s latest Digic 7 processor, which enables EOS-like image processing features such as Auto Lighting Optimizer for balancing difficult illumination conditions, and Diffraction Compensation for sharper-looking images when shooting at small apertures.
Continuous shooting specs are decent, at 7fps with autofocus between frames, or 9fps with the focus fixed at the start of a burst. Buffering is additionally quite respectable, with 24 JPEG or 19 Raw frames recordable before the camera slows down. While this is no match for the ultra-quick Sony RX100 V’s 24fps, given the relatively short lens, I don’t think many potential buyers will be concerned.
Canon says that the inherent 15-45mm f/2.8-5.6 lens has been specifically matched to the sensor for optimal image quality. It has an impressively close minimum focus distance of 10cm at wide-angle, dropping to a still-respectable 30cm at the long end.
The lens includes optical image stabilization promising 4 stops benefit, a switchable 3-stop neutral-density filter, and a 9-bladed aperture diaphragm for attractive background blur. It even has a 37mm filter thread, into which you can screw the optional $49.99 LH-DC110 lens hood, or – more sensibly – a generic wide-angle hood for a fraction of the price.
Canon supplies a surprisingly thick clip-on lens cap. It feels rather at odds with the camera’s slim frame but has the advantage of being easy to attach and detach when you’re wearing gloves. Despite the big sensor, the f/5.6 maximum aperture means that the G1X Mark III’s lens won’t give any greater background blur than those on 1in sensor cameras such as the Sony RX100 VI or Panasonic Lumix LX15, which have f/2.8 apertures at their 70mm equivalent settings. Indeed, if you specifically want a shallow depth of field at telephoto for portraits, Canon’s G7X Mark III and G5X still have the advantage with their 100mm-equivalent f/2.8 zooms.
Alongside the standard PASM modes for enthusiast photographers, there’s the familiar set of automated Scene modes aimed at beginners. Most notably, Canon has finally added an auto-stitching sweep-panorama mode. You can select the direction you would like to maneuver the camera, and generate files up to 26064 x 2400 or 16000 x 4200 pixels, depending on which way round you hold the camera. The display is masked to show the ‘safe’ area that should be included in the final image.
Results are spectacular, being highly detailed with no hint of stitching errors. However, the one thing the camera can’t do is adjust for changes in brightness as you sweep around the scene. This means that if you point it towards the sun at any point, that section will get overexposed. In this particular respect, most modern smartphones do much better.
When it involves video, Canon has again disappointed any fans hoping that it might finally include 4K recording in an affordable camera. Instead, you only get Full HD at 60fps – and, unlike the G7X Mark III, there isn’t even a microphone socket for recording better-quality sound.
One consolation is that in-camera time-lapse movie creation is available. Unfortunately, it offers little user control; the camera just takes one shot every 3 seconds for 15 minutes and then compiles it into a movie. There’s no conventional intervalometer, either.
Canon has enclosed comprehensive property options, with aboard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Dynamic NFC. This makes it easy to connect the camera wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet, printer or smart TV for copying, printing or viewing your shots. Connections are set up using a small button at the base of the handgrip, which also provides a simple way to push images across to your phone when browsing through them in playback.
But it’s the addition of Bluetooth, and more to the point how Canon uses it, that stands out. The camera forms an always-on connection to your phone, allowing you to use your phone as a basic wireless remote control at any time via the Canon Camera Remote app.
The Bluetooth connection can also be used to fire up the camera’s Wi-Fi for more advanced remote shooting, with a Live View display and full control over exposure parameters from your phone. Alternatively, you can use the Bluetooth to start up the camera’s Wi-Fi, browse through your pictures, and copy your favorites across for sharing – even if the camera is switched off and in your bag.
Canon G1X Mark III – Build and handling
In terms of design, the Mark III represents a complete about-turn for the G1 X series, and I think it’s very much for the better. The SLR-styled body layout is lifted from the 1in-sensor G5 X, which is no bad thing as that camera is very pleasant to shoot with. It feels tough and well-made, with Canon’s claims of dust and drip-proofing adding confidence that it should survive outdoor use in less-than-perfect weather.
Indeed, I used it in snow showers with no ill-effects. The central EVF affords a very natural balance while giving a decent amount of space on the body for buttons and dials. The result is an almost SLR-like handling experience that’s way better than Sony’s cramped RX100-series cameras.
Don’t let those SLR-like appearance fool you, though, as the G1X Mark III is still very small. At 115.0 x 77.9 x 51.4mm and 399g in weight, it’s noticeably more compact than even the smallest SLR-style mirrorless models such as the Fujifilm X-T20 or Canon’s EOS M5.
Yet despite its petite size, the camera feels unexpectedly secure in your hand, thanks to its good-sized rubberized finger grip and pronounced thumb hook. The most important shooting controls are reasonably large and well placed too, which isn’t always the case on cameras of this size.
Canon has enclosed AN EOS-like electronic dial for ever-changing exposure settings. It sits vertically on the front-plate for operation by your forefinger, along with an exposure compensation dial that falls beneath your thumb.
There’s another vertical dial on the back, which is used to change the aperture in manual-exposure mode, and which can be configured to change ISO in the other exposure modes if you wish. It’s rather small and fiddly, however.
The exposure mode dial is another awkward one, as you have to hold down a button in its center to be able to turn it, which turns out to be a lot less easy compared to the larger dials on EOS DSLRs. A toggle-type lock would have worked better here.
A rocker around the shutter button controls the zoom, but you can use the dial around the lens, too, which I found offers much finer control over composition. This dial rotates swimmingly with no clicks and may be used for manual focus likewise.
It’s really shaming that Canon hasn’t used the clicked/clickless mechanism from the G7X Mark II, though. Doing so would have provided the option of using the lens dial as a large and tactile control for changing exposure settings.
A cluster of buttons on the camera’s back is used for video recording, exposure lock, and focus area selection, while the directional buttons on the D-pad access drive, focus and flash modes. These are all rather small and crowded together, however, and some users might find it too easy to press the wrong one by accident.
Pretty much everything else that matters is available from Canon’s well-laid-out on-screen Q Menu, which can be accessed from either the center button of the D-pad or the touchscreen and is also user-configurable.
You get a decent degree of control customization, too. For example, the AE-L button can be used for back-button focus, the video and AF-area selection buttons can be reassigned to other functions, and the three electronic dials can be configured separately for each exposure mode. Overall, the physical control layout works rather well, and I even found it quite usable shooting in the cold with my thin, but snug MacWet gloves.
Like alternative recent Canon models, the G1X Mark III also has a full touch interface, which is arguably the best in the business. It allows you to change practically any setting or browse through your images in playback using the touchscreen.
It also includes the ability to use the touchscreen to move the focus point with the camera held to your eye, which is quicker and more precise than Canon’s standard method of pressing a button then moving the AF space exploitation the D-pad or front dial. You can select which part of the screen you want to use, and on the G1X Mark III, I found it easiest to use the left side with my left thumb.
This works well until unless you’re wearing gloves since most won’t activate touchscreens. I’d still much prefer a dedicated physical AF-point selector, but it seems I’m fighting a losing battle on this one.
Canon G1X Mark III – Viewfinder and screen
The EVF is another excellent feature of the G1X Mark III, not so much for its specification as its central location above the lens. While this means the camera is bulkier than rivals with built-in electronic viewfinders, such as the Panasonic TZ100 or Sony RX100 V, the advantage is that the view is larger and clearer. It just feels ‘right’ to have a viewfinder in this position, especially if you’re used to DSLRs, and I found myself using it for the majority of my shots.
The EVF itself is a 2.36-dot OLED unit with a decent magnification of approximately 0.62x. The display is bright, color-accurate, and not overly-contrasty. You can also prefer to overlay handy aids like a dual-axis electronic level and RGB live bar chart. The chunky rubber eyecup does a great job of excluding peripheral light, which is a real advantage compared to the Sony RX100 V’s pop-up EVF.
Immediately below the EVF is the 1.04m-dot fully articulated touchscreen, which can be set to point in virtually any direction: up, down, or forwards for selfies. This is great for shooting from awkward angles, such as low down or high overhead.
Unlike tilt-only screens, it continues to work perfectly well when you turn the camera round to shoot in portrait format, and overall I found it a perfect complement to the EVF. Unlike on the EOS M5, the color calibration closely matches the viewfinder, so you’re not left wondering which might be correct.
Canon G1X Mark III – Autofocus
Previous generations of G1X haven’t specifically been famous for a snappy optical device, however, the Mark III becomes the primary to feature Canon’s signature twin element CMOS AF – and therefore the impact is transformative.
Its focusing is quick, decisive and accurate, no matter where in the scene the subject may be. Indeed, the focus point can be positioned almost anywhere within the frame (but not at the very edges), and you have a choice of two sizes of AF frame, with the smaller option being better suited to detailed subjects.
For photographing people, face detection is also available, or you can specify a subject by touch for the camera to attempt to track. Canon has also included zone AF, which uses a group of nine focus points across one-third of the frame vertically and horizontally (for instance, one-ninth of its area) that can be freely repositioned using the touchscreen. As usual, you’ll switch between one-shot and continuous focusing modes, which Canon calls ‘servo’.
These options may not be as comprehensive as those found in top-end compacts from the likes of Sony and Panasonic, but in practice, they work pretty well. This is very true providing that with its short zoom, the G1X Mark III isn’t exactly going to be your first choice for action photography. Even so, the on-chip phase detection autofocus does a decent job of keeping subjects sharp when they’re moving towards or away from the camera, particularly when used with zone AF mode.
It’s lucky that autofocus works so well because manual focusing is implemented poorly. By default, you have to press the left key of the D-pad to enter focus adjustment, then use the up and down keys for focusing. This is slow and clunky. You can overcome this by assigning the lens ring to manual focus, but then the camera jumps into MF mode whenever you so much as touch the ring, forcing you to press the left key to exit. Really don’t perceive why Canon couldn’t build the lens ring management manual focus only if the camera is specifically switched to MF mode (after all, Olympus got this right on its Stylus XZ-2 five years ago).
Canon G1X Mark III – Performance
Canon’s premium compacts haven’t always been the quickest on the block, but there’s very little to complain about with the G1X Mark III. It takes a second or so to extend its lens and start-up after you press the power button, but once it’s ready, it’s a very capable performer. I never felt like it was holding me up while I was shooting.
As we’ve seen before on Canon compacts, the evaluative metering is reliable and generally does a good job of choosing a sensible exposure without blowing out highlight detail irretrievably. Canon’s auto white balance also does an excellent job, and as a result, the G1X Mark III churns out attractive-looking JPEGs shot after shot. On those rare occasions, it gets things wrong, the easy-to-use in-camera Raw converter is available to help out.
As usual, though, you’ll get the most out of your image files by shooting in Raw and post-processing – and this is where the APS-C sensor comes into its own. There’s simply that bit a lot of resolution, along with lower noise and higher dynamic range, compared to the current round of 1-inch sensor compacts. As a result, you can get more from your image files, with greater scope for extracting additional detail from shadow areas.
None of this would matter, of course, if the lens weren’t up to scratch. Thankfully, I’ve found it delivers good results. There’s some softness in the extreme corners at wide-angle, but nothing too troubling.
Like on any other modern zoom compact, the software is corrected in software rather than optically, with the underlying pattern shifting from barrel distortion at wide-angle, through neutral at around the 30mm-equivalent mark, to pincushion across the rest of the range. However, correction of pincushion distortion requires stretching the center of the image, which can result in a slight softness when examining your images at the pixel level on-screen.
Canon’s JPEG processing doesn’t necessarily do the lens any favors, either, with a tendency to prioritize noise reduction over detail retention. I’d recommend using the Fine Detail picture style, especially if you plan on making large prints direct from the camera.
Opening Raw files in Adobe Camera Raw reveals that they contain embedded correction information for distortion, that is applied mechanically. However, you’ll want to click ‘Correct Chromatic Aberration’ since there’s strong green/magenta fringing towards the edges of the frame, especially at wide-angle – which is probably the root cause of the JPEG corner softness. Even then you’ll see some residual fringing that Canon suppresses more effectively in its own processing.
Battery life is obviously a concern, and I’d certainly recommend turning on the power-saving Eco mode in the menu. This takes a fairly aggressive approach, shutting down the Live View feed after 10 seconds of inactivity. However, a quick tap of the shutter button will awaken the camera from its slumber.
Since running the sensor, processor and screen in Live View are what consumes most of the battery in normal use, this turns out to be an effective strategy for increasing stamina. However, as is the case with most cameras, the Eco mode doesn’t work if the viewfinder proximity sensor is activated. This means it’s easily defeated if you use a neck strap and drop the camera down to your chest after taking a picture.
Real credit must be given to Canon’s optical image stabilization, which I’ve found to be remarkably effective. I was able to achieve sharp results at shutter speeds as low as 1/2sec, which adds another powerful string to your bow when shooting in low light.
Canon G1X Mark III – Image quality
With its 24-megapixel CMOS sensor, the G1 X Mark III basically offers similar image quality to Canon’s current range of APS-C DSLRs. This means that it’s slightly higher resolution and perceptibly lower high-ISO noise than its 1-inch sensor competitors.
However, this high-ISO advantage is almost precisely offset by its smaller-aperture lens, which means that its practical low-light image quality is unlikely to be much different from the Sony RX100 V or Panasonic Lumix LX15. Raw files provide lots of latitude for recovering shadow detail once exposing to preserve highlights, especially at ISO100.
Canon G1X Mark III – Resolution
With a maximum measured resolution of around 3600 l/ph in our chart tests, the G1X Mark III is no slouch. However, it does give slightly lower results than we’ve become used to seeing from other cameras with 24MP APS-C sensors, most of which no longer use optical low-pass filters.
Boosting the sensitivity setting leads to a gradual loss of resolution because of the consequences of noise, but even at ISO 6400, it’s still capable of resolving 2800 l/ph. However, at the highest setting of ISO twenty-five,600, high levels of noise reduce the resolution to around 2400 l/ph.
Canon G1X Mark III – Detail and noise
Just as we’d expect, the G1X Mark III offers excellent image quality at its lowest ISO 100 setting, with plenty of fine detail, no visible noise, and strong, attractive color.
Compared to its 1-inch sensor peers, though, it maintains this quality better as the ISO sensitivity is raised, and at ISO 800 only the finest low-contrast detail is being lost to noise. At ISO 3200 luminance noise becomes visible in Raw files, which is suppressed at the expense of fine detail in the JPEGs. Color saturation suffers at ISO 6400, and I wouldn’t venture much beyond this setting. ISO 12800 is probably okay if necessary, but ISO 25,600 gives very poor results.
Why buy the Canon G1X Mark III?
With the PowerShot G1X Mark III, Canon has managed a really impressive technological feat – it’s barely believable that such a small body can accommodate an APS-C sensor and a zoom lens. What’s more, it’s a very likable camera indeed, with great handling and rapid autofocus. In terms of image quality, it’s the best zoom compact money can buy right now.
What really sets the G1X Mark III apart is how Canon has been prepared to compromise on size to make a camera that’s much more rewarding to use than its competitors, while delivering better image quality too.
The central EVF and absolutely articulated screen create composing your pictures a pleasure, while the extensive external controls will please enthusiast photographers, and the decent-sized handgrip provides a secure hold. While it’s unlikely to slip into a shirt pocket, it isn’t exactly bulky either. I spent most of my time carrying it in a coat pocket, using a wriststrap for security.
If there’s one catch, it’s the relatively limited lens range. I’m not sure how many photographers will be attracted to a 3x zoom with a relatively modest maximum aperture, especially given the $1000 price tag. I often found myself frustrated by the shortness of the zoom, and would rather have a larger camera with a 100mm equivalent lens (at least).
Some might also be concerned with the short battery life. Using the Eco mode alleviates this to a degree, and it’s easy enough to carry a spare. However, anyone seriously interested in the video should probably buy a 4K-capable Sony or Panasonic instead – without so much as a microphone input, the G1X Mark III is very much aimed at stills photographers.
Until now, Sony’s RX100 series has led the field for small, high-performance cameras. However, Canon has hit a home run with the G1X Mark III, and I’d highly recommend it to most enthusiast photographers over the RX100 V – at least if money is no object. It’s nicer to use and gives better results.
But it’s also well worth looking at the Panasonic Lumix LX100, which is just as engaging to use as the G1 X III but costs under $500 if you can live with its 12.8-megapixel resolution.
Want a little camera with a brief camera lens, electronic viewfinder, and therefore the highest potential image quality? Then the G1X Mark III is without doubt one of the very best on the market right now.