Tech Review: Can a Compact Camera Handle Like a D-SLR? We Test Canon’s Powershot G1 X Mark III

Boasting “DSLR Performance in a compact body”, Canon’s Powershot G1X Mark III claims to be a “compact without compromise” – and it does a pretty good job of living up to those claims.

The G1X Mark III, released in November 2017, falls into the high end compact slice of the camera market. It’s fitted with a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor – the largest Canon have ever featured in a compact camera – and offers full HD video up to 60p and Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast and accurate autofocus in both still and video shooting. Also unusual for a sensor this size in a compact camera, its 15-45mm zoom lens (24-70mm equivalent at 35mm) offers a versatile range adequate for most types of shooting. Most larger-sensored compacts allow only a fixed focal length and force the viewer to zoom in with their feet. The bright f2.8 aperture at the wider end of that zoom range allows for some shallow depth of field – always impressive in a compact camera.
Shot on the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III 15mm, 1/60 sec, f2.8, ISO 400. Click to see full size version on Flickr.
The ISO range of 100-25600 baffled me a little. With a higher ISO comes a more light-sensitive sensor, but also the side effect of added noise. Of course we aren’t intended to shoot at the top end of the possible ISO range on any camera, but I thought it would be fun to take a photo at ISO 25600 and see what it looked like. laugh at the noise, but then I did it, and it actually looked OK on the back of the camera? Turns out the G1 X mark 2 has some pretty good built in high ISO noise reduction, but don’t worry – I was shooting in RAW & jpeg so I can show you the un-noise-reductioned version too.
ISO 25600 with in-camera noise reduction turned on.
ISO 25600 with no noise reduction. Click to see full size version on Flickr.

Canon’s sales page for the G1X Mark III says that it “features enable a familiar DSLR level of instinctiveness and control”. That’s not wrong, especially with the touch screen making life easier for everyone – it still blows my mind a little that all you have to do to select something in this day and age is poke it with your finger. The only thing I really don’t like about the design of this camera, and sadly it’s a pretty important thing, is the top mode dial. Everything else is fantastic – the front dial for changing exposure settings, the exposure compensation wheel, the record and shutter buttons are in a great place, the on/off button is easy to get to but not so easy you can press it by accident. But the mode dial is a two-finger operation – you have to depress the central button while you turn the wheel to access the various shooting modes, and even with my relatively small hands I found it difficult, awkward and uncomfortable to move. See the video at the top of this post if you want to see me struggling with it.

Shot on the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III 15mm, 1/20 sec, f2.8, ISO 800. Click to see full size version on Flickr.

On the flip side, one thing I really love about the design of the G1X Mark III is that rather than having the sort of built-in lens cover that opens when you switch the camera on and the lens extends, it has a dedicated, standalone, adorable fun-sized lens cap. It’s tiny, so I can see it being easy to lose, but I still prefer it to the built-in version. I’ve had situations in the past where I’ve thrown my compact camera in my bag without a case (which is a terrible thing to do, please don’t do that to your cameras) and the other items in my bag have coaxed the shutters open and gotten a bit too intimate with the lens. It was horrifying. A real lens cap like this is going to do a much better job at protecting the glass when you’re on the go, as long as you’re willing to keep track of it and replace it after every use.

Shot on the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III 21.4mm, 1/640 sec, f4, ISO 100. Click to see full size version on Flickr.
The camera industry is in an in-between stage at the moment with half the cameras on offer boasting 4K video and half still maxing out at full HD. The G1X Mark III’s full HD video behaves beautifully, especially when combined with the 60 frames-per-second frame rate for smooth footage, but those who are serious about video might find they want to look elsewhere.

Vloggers will find the flip-out touch screen more than satisfactory, and it also makes navigating manual settings effortless – there are several ways to adjust each aspect of the exposure, but if you haven’t worked them out yet you need only touch the setting you need and adjust it with the on-screen arrows or front wheel. It’s understandable that no microphone input was included on this camera, but it’s good to be aware of for the audiophiles.

Shot on the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III 15mm, 1/200 sec, f5.6, ISO 100. Click to see full size version on Flickr.
As always, the Canon Camera Connect App makes life easier for everyone by being easy to use and free from the bugs that usually plague image transfer apps, making transferring photos to your phone or remotely operating the camera from your phone a breeze.

The G1X Mark III has a few features I didn’t test out – a built-in panorama mode and a hotshoe amongst them. I’m still a little baffled by the hotshoe – I can’t imagine using a flash with a compact camera, but maybe there’s another use for it that I haven’t thought of – attaching a shotgun mic came to mind but since there’s also no mic input on the camera, it doesn’t seem practical either.

Shot on the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III 26.3mm, 1/40 sec, f4.5, ISO 800. Click to see full size version on Flickr.

Pro shooters and enthusiasts alike will love the flexibility, quality and reliability of this all-in-one compact triumph for their travels and day to day incidental shooting.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Great image quality, flip-out touch screen, versatile
Lowlights: No 4K video
Manufacturer: Canon
Price: RRP $1599 AUD
Available: Now