updated 01:30 pm EST, Fri January 13, 2012
We try the Canon G1 X and more at CES
Canon used the dovetailing of the PMA expo with CES to give us a chance to test the PowerShot G1 X as well as its pocket siblings, the Elph 520 HS and 110 HS. All three promise quality boosts as well as some fresher designs, but how well do they fare? Our early look is after the break.
The G1 X is Canon's at least partial answer to mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, and it shows in the design. Externally, it's not very far off at all from the G12, including the front and back thumb dials, the swivel screen, and the top exposure compensation dial. As such, it's fairly comfortable to hold, if bigger than most any other compact camera and even some interchangeable lens cameras, depending on what glass you use with those. It's easy to change ISO or other common settings through the dials.
Most of the differences, then, are in the lens and sensor. The G1 X has a massive 1.5-inch sensor that dictates a larger lens, which Canon also outfitted with a barrel control. While we couldn't get our resulting shots off of the camera, the 4X lens had very good performance in the mixed lighting of a trade event: the larger sensor takes more light in and has a better time focusing as well as producing a truly soft background (bokeh) on shots where the aperture is mostly open.
Our concerns are chiefly around the zoom and the price. At $799 for a camera with a non-removable 4X lens, you're paying a lot for a camera that will fall short in long-range shooting. It could be worthwhile if you regularly want a second camera for close-up shots or never tend to shoot at long distances, but it's priced at the same level as Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony cameras that for an overall size increase have that added flexibility.
The Elph 520 HS is an unusual strategy for Canon: rather than try to make its higher-end compact ergonomic, it's deliberately gone to a boxy profile. That's not as uncomfortable as you'd think and has solid control, although we suspect it won't fare as well in a tight pocket. Its finish is also very unusual: the effect comes across almost as though the camera were translucent.
Like the G1 X, we couldn't get permanent test shots. At 12X zoom, it's very long-ranged, though, and we could go well past what we thought we could for distance, although long zoom doesn't produce great images in low light, even with the enhanced image stabilization. It was unsurprisingly much better up close through its 10-megapixel CMOS sensor.
The Elph 110 HS we were disappointed with, although less for its technical features and more for its conservatism. It's much like compact cameras we saw from Canon in 2010, down to the very simple controls and tiny size. As such, most of the reasons to get the camera are the potentially better stabilization and the 5X zoom, which is above average for the category. At 16 megapixels, it does carry the risk of overly noisy shots, which was partly borne out in our tests.
The G1 X and 110 HS should be available by next month, while the 520 HS is due in March.