With the improvement of smartphone cameras, a point-and-shoot camera is a hard sell as the image quality needs to be spectacular to be worthwhile. Yet as technology miniturises we shouldn't be surprised to see DSLR quality being offered in a compact body - which is exactly what the Canon PowerShot G1X Mark III ($1599) brings to the table.
Boasting an APS-C sensor - the same sized used in many cameras in the Canon EOS series - the G1X is much like a pocket-sized 80D. It sounds like an absolute dream come true, but there are some important differences to note.
While the G1X may be a powerful little guy, it's not exactly a 1:1 DSLR replacement. There's no microphone or headphone port, you can't change lenses, and you don't have an LCD on top giving you all your critical shooting information.
What the G1X does have over its DSLR sibling is image stablisation, a much higher max ISO, and an in-built ND filter. It's also packing newer image processing over the 80D, which should mean a better image straight off the camera.
But tech specs don't tell you everything you need to know - the real kicker is how does it feel to use? Is it a camera that will fulfill your needs?
The first thing I noticed when I got my hands on the G1X is that it really delivers on the 'compact' side of things. It feels feather light at 399g, and you can certainly fit it in a jacket pocket. Nothing protrudes too much - until you turn it on and the lens extends.
It's even smaller and 70g lighter than my go-to compact camera - the Fujifilm X100F. I carry my X100F everywhere because I crave better image quality than my phone can offer, and shaving 70g off my daily backpack is a very enticing offer.
Yet, instead of saving myself that 70g I found myself just carrying both cameras around, because when it comes to photos I still wanted my X100F. I love the character in that camera - everything from the shooting experience to the image feels tactile and nostalgic. In comparison, G1X photos feel clinical and the shooting experience less personal.
The G1X lacks the je ne sais quoi that my X100F has, that feels like a captured emotion. That's not to say the photos aren't good - they certainly are. And the ability to shoot RAW gives plenty of flexibility for post processing if you're so inclined.
Here are two straight-from-camera JPGs of a coffee that I took with the G1X and the X100F respectively. Both 2.8f, similar distance, letting the camera do most of the work.
The Canon colouring is a little more green, but probably gives a more accurate representation of what colour the cup was. The photo is crisp and clear, with less blurring of the background.
The Fuji image is a little darker and warmer, arguably no part of it comes sharply into focus, but I just like it better. It makes me feel like I'm sitting in a warm coffee shop on a dreary day, being comforted by my hot beverage. The Canon image is more like a great stock photo of a well-poured coffee.
I also enjoy the shooting experience with the X100F more. I feel as though it encourages you to slow down a bit and be mindful - dialing everything in and using the viewfinder to line up your shot. The G1X can be a more a spray-and-pray experience.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The G1X lets you shoot like this because it's so gosh darn easy to use. Almost anyone could pick up and get some great shots. It's a camera that you can set and forget, trusting the auto functions to do their thing.
You have a variety of shooting modes on offer, including 2 customisable modes. This gives you the flexibility to switch it up without needing to dig through numerous menus. However, you can just as easily leave it on aperture priority and enjoy the effortless banger shots that flood in.
If you want to get more involved with the manual settings there's a few dials within reach that let you adjust. It's not the easiest task one-handed, but certainly achievable - in big part thanks to the camera's light weight.
The touchscreen also comes in handy, letting you change things like ISO directly with the screen. Not only that, but that bad boy can flip out and rotate all sorts of ways - opening up a world of possibilities for shooting angles.
For example, I took the photo below by flipping the screen to face upwards and holding the camera low to the ground. It's definitely more pleasant than my usual "crawl on the ground" method, and was a handy way to quickly get a good shot.
And if you've ever photographed a dog, you'll know that you gotta work fast.
Ease of use, an articulating touchscreen, and the compact size makes it perfect for upscale happy snaps, or as a vlogger camera. Particularly as the video quality is quite impressive.
With a dedicated record button you don't need to mess around in menus to start filming - you can just press and go. I adored how easy it was to just record something, and if I was going to start a vlog this would be my go-to.
In fact, it's the video functionality that sells this for me. If I thought I was going to need video as well as photos this would beat my X100F in a heartbeat.
The G1X is also decked out with wireless connectivity, so you can get that #content onto your #socials lickity split.
Unfortunately, transferring images wirelessly is not a very viable option for more than a handful of photos - especially to a computer. I found it so heinously slow that it would have been faster for me to drive to the store and buy whatever adapters I needed to do it hardwired.
You also need to download Canon's software to do the transfers. This took quite a lot of fiddling around to get to work, only to find it was so slow as to not be worthwhile.
However, if you're just after one or two .jpg's to upload to insta you won't have too much grief, but anyone looking to walk away from cables entirely needs to know the technology isn't there yet.
Unfortunately, I also had difficulty transferring via a USB cord. Although I will admit I didn't try terribly hard because it was just easier to take the SD card out rather than subject myself to unnecessary stress.
On the extreme upside - you can charge this camera via micro USB. A fact I wish I'd realised before I forgot my charger on a trip and bought a new one, but all is forgiven because I don't even need to find my original charger anymore.
All up, the G1X is an extremely impressive camera. I think it hits a sweet spot in the market for people who want a serious upgrade over their phone camera, but don't want to deal with the bulk of a big camera or the investment of numerous lenses.
I don't think it'll be replacing any of the juggernauts on the market, but it's definitely one to consider for a compact camera that still delivers quality images and video.