Canon G1x Mark II Press Release

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: I don't even mention the Advanced Star Mode.

The Long Version: In the same way that movie trailers are an art all to themselves – and are often better than the movies that they foreshadow – I have a fondness for camera press releases. I wanted to share my thoughts on the newly-announced G1X Mark II announcement, but fair warning: this may turn into one of those "I read it so that you don't have to" series.

Being Canadian I'll be quoting the release as it appears on canon.ca; it's also published on the American site and on DPreview. All of the product images are from the Canon press kit as I haven't yet had a chance to photograph the camera myself, although I am genuinely looking forward to the opportunity.

We begin: Building upon the success of the PowerShot G1 X digital camera…

This press release comes out swinging right from the opening sentence. The original G1X was a dud, an uncommonly lousy camera, slow and with none of the G-series charm. It never lived up to its expectations, either photographically or in market appeal. I suppose it's possible to build on the success of a failure, but it's setting the bar fairly low. Still, full points to Canon for their shameless revisionist hype.

Boasting a sensor that is 4.5x larger than a 1/1.7” sensor found in professional level point-and-shoot cameras…

I'm not sure what's more alarming: that Canon still thinks that a 1/1.7” sensor is the benchmark for an advanced compact, which suggests that they've never heard of Sony or Fujifilm, or that they think that there's such a thing as a "professional level point-and-shoot camera". But now we know that the new G1X model is 4.5x better than a pro point-and-shoot, which simply boggles the imagination with all of the possibilities that must entail.

Incidentally, having a paid and accredited Canon Professional Services membership isn't grounds for getting a discount when buying the EOS 5D Mark III, so I can only conclude that Canon doesn't consider anything below the 1D-series to be a professional camera when it's their own money on the line.

This sensor, combined with the DIGIC 6 Image Processor, comprises the Canon HS SYSTEM resulting in faster autofocusing speeds over the PowerShot G1 X camera…

We're still in the second paragraph and we've already reached the inevitable "It doesn't suck as much as the _________" part of the press release; in this case the G1X2 is triumphing over the camera that was called a 'success' just one paragraph ago. For what it's worth, the HS SYSTEM that's presented as the saviour of the G1X2 is a Meaningless Marketing TERM™ that was also included with the now-admittedly-inferior original G1X.

Featuring a newly-developed f/2.0 – f/3.9, 5x optical zoom lens (equivalent 24-120mm zoom range)…

Typically for a compact camera announcement from Canon, at no point in the press release do they say what the actual focal length of the lens is. Thankfully it's printed right on the front of the camera: 12.5-62.5mm. Carefully parsing the numbers shows that the G1XII actually has a slightly smaller effective sensor area than the G1XI, although it turns out that there's a really good reason for this.

For those keeping score, 62.5/3.9 = 16.025 and 62.5/4 = 15.625. I applaud the tireless and diligent efforts of the engineers who fought to attain that extra 0.4mm difference between f/3.9 and f/4 at 62.5mm. Sure, the practical gain is probably less than the light that's lost to the extra glass needed for the in-lens IS system, but it keeps the G1XII from admitting to a sales-killing f/4.0 aperture at the long end.

… advanced wireless capabilities such as NFC and enhanced low-light shooting and autofocusing…

There's that autofocus improvement being touted again. On the other hand, better autofocus and low-light shooting are two of the many improvements that have been claimed for nearly every digital camera released in the past decade. Similarly, wifi is the new mandatory standard feature, so a passing reference here doesn't hurt.

I do have to admire the restraint that stopped the G1X2 press release from claiming that it has the World's Fastest Autofocus, a title that has recently been self-awarded to the Olympus E-M10, Sony A6000, and the Fujifilms XQ1, XE2, X100s, and F1000EXR. Sure, The World's Whateverest™ is a moving target with ample sub-categories, but come on now. Even the people at derpreview are starting to notice.

… the G1 X Mark II is a well-rounded professional-level camera that allows photographers to get creative.

This is my favourite part of every new camera press release: buy it because it contains creativity!

To be fair this press release is considerably more modest than the Built-In Art claims of many point-and-shoots, but remember that this is a professional camera – the press release says so six times – so it needs to have a certain gravitas.

… equipped with a new type of Canon-made, 1.5-inch CMOS sensor to help achieve optimal performance from low to high ISO speeds.

Canon mentions that they made the sensor in the G1XII in two different paragraphs, just in case someone reviewing the press release skips it the first time. A bespoke sensor shows off their impressive manufacturing prowess but says nothing about its quality. The good news is that this new sensor is optimized for the entire amplification range without any weakness anywhere.

It has a default aspect ratio of 3:2 which is the same ratio the advanced user has come to expect…

This would be a dig at Micro Four Thirds, which started the whole 'mirrorless' thing that the original G1X was begrudgingly and belatedly intended to compete against. Canon hates all mirrorless interchangeable-lens format cameras, and does everything it can to avoid making them. The original G1X, incidentally, has a 4:3 aspect ratio.

If the photographer wants to switch to a 4:3 ratio, it can be done without impacting the field of view.

And this is called "burying the lede". Having a multi-aspect sensor is a first for Canon, and might be the most remarkable thing about the camera, but it's hidden in the fifth paragraph in the press release. Nobody voluntarily reads that far in; it's the press kit equivalent of releasing a Parliamentary Committee report at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. But this multi-aspect feature is the reason why the G1X2's effective sensor size is a bit smaller than the G1X1, and personally I approve. It's too bad that they didn't do the full Panasonic and include a native 16:9 ratio as well, but clearly we can't have everything.

The new PowerShot G1 X Mark II camera uses 31 Auto Focus (AF) points, compared to the PowerShot G1 X camera that uses nine AF points, resulting in improved autofocus capabilities…

Not to sound like a broken record on this one – funny how that expression outlasted skipping CDs – but is anyone getting the impression that autofocus wasn't a strength for the G1X?

It's worth noting that the G1X2's press release makes absolutely no mention of the new camera's close-focusing performance, which was another significant non-strength of the G1X1. The early word is that this has improved significantly, and while it could hardly get any worse than the original, if it really is as good as those reports say then it deserves to be mentioned. Perhaps the memory of the G1X "macro mode" is still too painful for Canon to bear?

Utilizing the bright, capacitive touch, three-inch tilt LCD on the PowerShot G1 X Mark II camera helps provide flexibility in shooting by tilting 180 degrees up and 45 degrees down.

A well-written release will only talk about what has been added, leaving us to decipher what was taken away. The tilting screen is a downgrade from the flip-out screen that the G1X and other G-series cameras have used in the past, although this new style matches the Sony RX100M2 and many others. Not that Canon considers them to be 'competition', of course, but it proves what the market is willing to accept.

The PowerShot G1 X Mark II camera is also compatible with Canon’s new optional electronic viewfinder that mounts to the hot shoe.

The optical viewfinder has always been a staple of the G-series, making the G1XII the first one in over a decade to omit it. That said their OVFs are pretty bad, and always have been – more of an aiming device than a compositional tool. Removing it lets the camera be smaller, and removing most of the top-deck dials and physical controls in favour of the Dual Control Rings pushes it even farther from the G-Family. I'm actually waiting for people to realize that the G1X2 is really a big-sensor S-series rather than a Super-G.

I do like the way the phrasing here makes it sound as if the EVF will work across multiple cameras, rather than being a $300 dedicated accessory; perhaps other cameras will use it in the future, but other brands have shown that these expensive devices can have remarkably short life cycles.

… the camera’s Background Defocus mode softens the background behind a subject to help users create professional-looking portraits.

Yet elsewhere the press release says "With this wide of an aperture, photographers have the ability to isolate their subjects by separating them from a background that is blurred.… The new lens also features a nine-blade aperture to provide beautiful, blurred backgrounds even at full-zoom range." Safety through redundancy, in the belt-and-suspenders style? Regardless, it's nice to know that there's a Professional-Looking Portraits mode built in, which is vitally important in a professional-level point-and-shoot.

And yes, the release mentions other whizbang modes and scene innovations, but even I eventually exceed my tolerance threshold and need to skip to the end.

The PowerShot G1 X Mark II digital camera will be available starting in April for a retail price of $849.99.

That $850 MSRP (dealers may sell for less) happens to be the street price of a Rebel T5i with an 18-135 STM lens. There's a massive premium for petite cameras these days – a 'petimium'? – and the market is far from proven. We're six weeks away from the G1X2's arrival, so there's still time for the camera market to completely change, but as it stands the X2 won't help Canon's reputation for pricing their cameras above their (frequently more capable) competition.

last updated 18 feb 2014


  1. The tilting screen is a downgrade...

    Actually, its been all over the place. The G1X had a fully articulating screen. The G15 and G16, the prior cameras before that, had a fixed LCD. You had to go back to the G14 before you found a G-series with the fully articulating screen. I don't know how far back in the G-series you can go and still have a fully articulating screen, but it was such a stable feature that when it was removed on the G15 that the forum trolls raised quite a stink over its absence.

    That $850 MSRP ... happens to be the street price of a Rebel T5i with an 18-135 STM lens,

    Along with the 70D (both contemporary DSLRs) you also get that fully articulating LCD.

    And your point about the cost of the new Mark II is also a sore point when considering any of the smaller mirrorless cameras; they're more expensive than equivalent DSLR models.

    The only camera I consider worth the asking price in the mirrorless range is probably the Panasonic GH4, and that's because it's a 4K video camera as well as a stills camera. Perhaps I'm being naive when I say this, but if Nikon were to add 4K to the D7100 they'd have quite the DSLR. Of course, the D7100 doesn't have that fully articulating LCD that the GH4 has, but hey, that's what Zacuto is for.

  2. The flip-out LCD is something that the comes and goes with the G-series; by my count the models are 8-5 in favour of having the flippy monitor. Losing the articulated screen with the G15 made sense as they tried to slim it down and differentiate it from the bigger G1X, but the G's 7, 9, and 10 also lacked them.

    The tilt-only screen is better than nothing, which is a sad goal for a camera to have these days.

    The press release does mention that the G1X2 records 1080P video, but doesn't mention any frame rates or other specifications aside from having a simple dedicated button to push. Given that they took the effort to include a clickless control ring for setting manual focus, I'm hoping that they decided to do HD correctly instead of pushing for 4K too soon. Time will tell.


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