After all, between dual-lens smartphones and compact system cameras, we’re already spoiled for choice when it comes to small, powerful snappers.
But Canon’s G1X Mark III is that rare thing – a genuinely innovative (and yes, even exciting) compact.
Why? It basically stuffs Canon’s DSLR tech (including an APS-C sensor) into a pocketable form factor, then tops it with the cherry of 3x optical zoom.
That’s an unusual combination – premium compacts like the Fujifilm X100 and Sony’s full-frame RX1 tend to have fixed lenses, but this flagship Powershot promises to combine the flexibility of zoom with a DSLR-style sensor. And fit it all in your coat pocket.
Camera senses tingling, I took one around a haunted house (of course) in south London to see if it lives up to the spec sheet…
DESIGN: POCKET POWERHOUSE
Take one look at the G1X Mark III and it’s obvious who it’s aimed at.
Canon’s already made the polar opposite EOS M100 for those looking to take a photographic step up from their smartphone.
This black, serious-looking compact is courting those coming from the opposite direction – either existing DSLR wielders looking for a more discrete second camera, or maybe compact system camera converts who fancy trading in for something simpler and smaller.
Both will be happy to see the comfortable familiarity of the mode and compensation dials on the top, particularly if they’re coming from Canon DSLR.
And what’s that bump on the top? Yep, Canon has reintroduced the built-in electronic viewfinder that was missing on the Mark II. It’s a fancy, sharp OLED number too, perfect for those times you need to frame a shot on a blazing sunny day.
Does all of this add up to something that’s genuinely pocketable? The protruding viewfinder means it isn’t really compatible with tight jeans, but it’ll be fine for a coat pockets.
And that’s pretty impressive – packing 3x optical zoom, an OLED viewfinder and an APS-C sensor into a case that’s the same width as a Fujifilm X100F (and much lighter at 398g) is no mean feat.
The question is, does it pack the right lens and features for the kind of shooting you want to do?
Features: ultimate super-sub
So, more about that lens – it has an aperture range of f/2.8-f5.6 with a focal range of 24-72mm.
This puts it pretty much in the photography all-rounder category, with enough speed for street photography and some lovely background bokeh, but also wide enough for landscape shots.
It has three other features that make it particularly attractive as a backup travel cam. It’s the first Canon compact to pack a Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which makes the autofocus particularly speedy in Live View – and sure enough, in my brief time with the G1X Mark III, it was very quick to lock onto subjects.
There’s also five-axis image stabilisation, which means it’ll be more point-and-shoot than faff-with-tripod in busy shooting conditions.
Lastly, it’s only Canon’s second compact to pack weather protection to keep it safe from dust and moisture. It’s not fully waterproof, but should mean you don’t have to hurriedly pack it away if you get caught in a light rain shower.
Combine all of this with the one-two punch of a bright, sharp OLED viewfinder and a vari-angle touchscreen, and you have a compact camera that promises to be a lot of fun to shoot with…
Controls: one for DSLR downgraders
Still, photographers are a hard bunch to please and it’s possible that in making the G1X Mark III so small, Canon might have sacrificed a little in the way of handling.
It’s fine line to draw, and I think pocketable dimensions are far more important than a chunky hand grip. But it’s just something to bear in mind if you’re coming from a DSLR, particularly if you like your shutter buttons to have a satisfying clunk (I found the Mark III’s to be a little on the wishy-washy side).
Like most CSCs and DSLRs, all of the G1X Mark III’s buttons are customisable (including the lens ring on the front), and there’s the touchscreen for everything else.
Leica’s TL2 remains the pinnacle for a camera touchscreen interface, but this one is perfectly intuitive and responsive. There’s a handy ‘touch and drag’ AF feature for setting your autofocus point in stills or video, while a panorama mode seemed to work nicely in our brief hands-on session.
Talking of video, there’s no 4K capture here sadly, though you can record 1080p at 60fps – and that Dual Pixel CMOS AF should keep it nice and smooth.
Image quality: shot on beta sample
We can’t make any conclusions about photo quality until we’ve done a full review of the G1X Mark III, but the above cropped photos are from a beta sample that we were allowed to take around a haunted house.
Even in those murky conditions, the autofocus was certainly speedy and you should definitely see the benefit of that APS-C when blowing photos up to bigger sizes for printing.
Canon G1X Mark III early verdict
Recently, it’s felt a bit like Canon has been playing catch-up with the compact system camera gang, so it’s good to see it come out with something as unique and exciting as the G1X Mark III.
Cramming the same sensor tech as the Canon 80D (one of our favourite DSLRs) and 3x optical zoom into a camera this small is impressive, and I certainly had fun dashing around a haunted house and taking advantage of its speedy autofocus.
Still, it does feel a bit like the G1X Mark III is more of an all-rounder than a specialist indulgence, and is expensive at over £400 more than its predecessor.
For £100 more, you could get a street photography maestro like Fujifilm’s X100F, and that might yet prove more tempting to experienced snappers than a ‘mini me’ DSLR.
You can’t argue with the G1X Mark III’s appeal as a back-up travel camera though, so we’ll bring you a final verdict when we’ve taken it out on a few road trips.