Canon has got its sights set on the Sony RX100 series with its latest G5 X series PowerShot compact. The second-generation Canon model, which hits shops in August, features a longer zoom lens than its predecessor and a new pop-up viewfinder to help keep the overall scale down.
However, the G5 X II isn’t quite as dinky as a Sony RX100 VI, but can its other features and new design see this compact camera with large-scale 1-inch sensor succeed?
G5 X 2: What’s new?
- 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 lens (5x rather than 4.2x of predecessor)
- Smaller scale design than predecessor
- Tilt-angle, not vari-angle LCD
- Pop-up viewfinder introduced
- EOS-like menu system
To look at the G5 X Mark II is nothing like the original model. It’s a lot smaller, having lost the permanent viewfinder fixture. The camera still has a viewfinder, it’s just hidden away within the body – and pops-up on command when hitting a trigger to the side of the camera.
Hiding the finder has made the camera smaller, but so have other design decisions: the LCD screen, for example, is now a tilt-angle design, not on-a-hinge vari-angle like the previous model. Although this means the screen in the Mark II can’t be folded inwards for protection, the 180-degree upwards (and indeed forward for selfies) and 45-degrees downwards tilt will be plenty enough for most.
Canon has also updated the sensor in the Mark II model, using a stacked sensor design for cleaner signal and purportedly better image quality, while tweaking the lens from a 4.2x to a 5x optic – capable of extending from 24mm f/1.8 through to 120mm f/2.8 at its maximum zoom.
Overall, then, it’s a very different camera. It’s also a lot pricier than the original, at £850, but then the top-end Sony RX100 is over a grand. So Canon is being rather clever here with its selective price point.
G5X II: Design & Performance
- 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 lens with physical rotating control ring
- 0.39-inch 2.39m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (pops-up)
- 20fps burst shooting (30fps to 70 frames in CR3 format)
- 3.2-inch tilt-angle LCD touchscreen to rear
- USB-C charging option (charger included)
- Built-in neutral density filter (3 stops)
- Bluetooth & Wi-Fi
The move to make the G5 X a smaller model is savvy. After all, this kind of camera is likely to be a smaller, more portable compact camera for Canon’s EOS users. The company seems to know this too, with the G5 X II’s menu system now mimicking the company’s DSLR system setup, making navigation easy – if you’re already familiar, anyway.
Despite being a smaller camera overall – although not thinner, based on our observations – the Mark II introduces a slightly longer lens. This new 24-120mm optic can capture from f/1.8 at the wide-angle and this drops to a still impressive f/2.8 by the longest end of the zoom, ensuring lots of aperture control and plenty of light can enter the camera for best possible quality and depth of field control. There’s even a physical, clicky aperture ring around the lens – although it feels a bit plasticky, it’s rather satisfying and easy to use.
To the rear the LCD screen isn’t as versatile as the original camera’s was, as the mechanism doesn’t rotate as freely, but with 180-degree up and 45-degrees of movement down it’s got most bases covered. It’s designed to be really easily pulled away from the camera too, by slipping a thumb over the notch on the top of the screen’s surround. Ultimately, this screen ‘sacrifice’ is in order to maintain a smaller camera design, so it makes sense.
The viewfinder implementation is where this Canon goes gunning for Sony. The Mark II’s finder pops-up, but you’ll then have to pull the rear element into place manually, just as you do with Sony’s cameras. It doesn’t look the prettiest when it’s out, but this is besides the point: Canon has managed to squeeze the same finder smarts from the original model into this pop-up finder. All that exterior portion of before now lives on the inside of the camera. Impressive, eh? It’s an OLED panel with ample resolution and refresh and works rather well.
When it comes to autofocus, however, Canon has maintained this PowerShot’s rather simplistic overview: there’s a ‘spot’ point (well, it’s a small focus area, not spot) or larger autofocus area. It’s a bit over generalised and lacks the kind of depth and detail that its competitors offer with pinpoint modes, multitude of customisable point sizes, and even more complex tracking. This is Canon’s downfall, really: the autofocus might be fast, but it’s just not detailed enough for what advanced users are likely to want.
G5X Mark II: Image Quality
- New 20.1MP 1-inch CMOS sensor
- Stacked construction, not BSI
- ISO 125 to 12,800 standard
- Digic 8 processor
- 4K to 30fps
Under the hood the G5 X features an all new 1-inch CMOS sensor with a stacked design. This isn’t back-side illuminated (BSI), it’s a step up from that, if you will, with a new construction that keeps all the components out of the way of the photo diodes for an even cleaner signal. That, theoretically, means a cleaner final image with less image noise.
The Mark II model doesn’t up the resolution compared to its predecessor, see, it’s sat in that 20-megapixel sweetspot and isn’t playing the megapixel race – which we think can only be a good thing in a camera such as this.
Now, we’ve not played with this camera extensively so can’t give a full in and out of what the quality is like, but there are some obvious benefits. First, depth of field. With that f/1.8 aperture it’s possible to focus on some close-up subjects, or when fully zoomed in (admittedly then at f/2.8), to achieve that melty background look. We shot some paint-covered cloths to get a good example of this – although the autofocus changed its mind with where to focus each time, which, as we said above, is the one area where this Canon could be improved.
Quality, however, is decent. Even at ISO 800 the hair strands from the cloth are clearly visible and image noise isn’t a prevalent issue. Crank up the sensitivity to ISO 6400 – as we did with some paint tubes – and the quality still impresses, with full detail of words clearly spelled out and only some slight grain in shadow areas. From a 1-inch sensor this is impressive stuff.
Canon has also upped the video capture prowess, with 4K UHD capture available at up to 30fps. Or you can shoot Full HD (1080p) at up to 100/120fps for half-time slow-motion editing.
The Canon PowerShot G5 X II is no small reworking of the original model. Nope, this second-generation attempt has its sights clearly set on the Sony RX100 series, given its smaller scale and pop-up viewfinder design aspects. It’s not as small as the Sony, mind, but it is cheaper by a few hundred pounds.
Canon shows off its power in terms of image quality, burst shooting, 4K video and other such features, but the autofocus – while fast – lacks the complexity of its competitors. The Sony RX100 VI, for example, has a hyper-fast tracking autofocus system, whereas the Canon relies on the long-in-the-tooth PowerShot setup.
Overall, the Mark II G5 X has reinvented the series’ proposition, which is a strong move forward, but losing the vari-angle screen (for a tilt-angle one) and not really whipping the autofocus modes into the next-gen status are its drawbacks. That said, its £850 asking price is some £300 less than the Sony RX100 VI – so it’s really a choice of what matters to you most.