Canon PowerShot G3X User Review
So near yet so far, a tricked missed
The other week I spent a few days in the picturesque Belgium of Bruges and was fortunate (on the whole) to have the loan of the new Canon PowerShot G3 X compact super zoom thanks to the guys at Digital Depot (Stevenage)
The G3X is a high end / enthusiast orientated compact super zoom packing the same 20mp 1” back-lit CMOS sensor of Canon’s high compact the G7X and what initially appears to be an impressive 24-600mm (equivalent) F2.8 – 5.6 zoom lens. I say “initially” for as I soon discovered in the real world although the focal length proved useful in reality is that the lens isn’t really “fast” throughout the focal range and the Sony RX10 II trounces the Canon with a constant f2.8 zoom lens.
The new G3 X is no doubt intended to do battle with the likes of the Panasonic FZ1000 and new Sony RX10 II (also both equipped with 1-inch sensors), by offering the same high image quality but in a robust body that is physically smaller.
So its win, win for the G3 X? Well not exactly as real world shooting soon proved, for while it has plenty of scene modes, Wi-Fi, a high res tilting touch screen, it does lack what turned out to be fundamental feature, namely a built in viewfinder and as I soon discovered this lack of viewfinder really limits the usability of that monster zoom.
Right cutting to the chase unsurprisingly the Canon G3X produces excellent images which are unsurprisingly near identical to those produced by smaller G7X.
In fact JPEGS from the G3 X are pretty much the same as those from the Sony RX10 not to mention the Panasonic FZ1000, in other words very good and not far off from what can achieve with a Four Third sensor equipped camera or even older APS-S DSLR;s. But there is a caveat, this image quality is best with in the ISI100-800 range and isn’t maintained beyond IS O800. JPEGS are detailed and noise free up to ISO 800 with 1600 ISO and (with some processing) ISO 3200 being useable (just).
The G3 X records RAW and employs Canon’s latest Digic 6 processor, this results in top notch image quality from a camera which despite its relatively small form has an incredibly useful zoom. On the zoom, the 24-600mm F2.8 – 5.6 image stabilised lens actually delivered a very credible optical performance, it’s a good lens that’s for but it’s not a “fast” one, very quickly as you zoom you lose F2.8 and this then means you have to up the ISO. The bottom line is I reckon the zooms in the RX10 (Mk I & II) and Panasonic FZ1000 are superior in real world shooting.
Elsewhere the G3 X has a nicely resolute tilting rear touch screen, a small built in flash (that can be manually tilted to give a “bounce” effect) plus a hot shoe for Canon Speedlite flash guns.
Physically the G3 X is robust and solid (its weather sealed) and the placement of direct buttons are workman like delivering reasonable handling while the menu system will be immediately recognisable to any canon user as will the various scene and effect modes.
So far it’s all good but are there any moans? Well there are and one in particular has a huge bearing on the G3 X aspirations to be a proper enthusiast camera, namely the absence of a built in EVF.
Now I could live with no direct ISO button (or the fact you can’t set limits in auto ISO), the fact that the rear screen is only tiltable and not fully articulated, I can accept (just) the absence of a full printed instruction manual or even a CD to down load Canon’s RAW converter or the fact that battery life is pretty poor, or that the lens isn’t “fast” throughout its focal range, but no EVF, utter madness.
With such a long zoom it proved a real challenge to maintain a steady composition resulting in more then my fair share of blurred images, time and time again I kept bringing the G3 X up to my eye, the G3 X is screaming out for a built -in EVF.
The fact that Canon requires you to part with close to £200 for an external clip on EVF ( EVF- DC1) that slides onto the hot shoe is to be frank an absolute liberty, especially on a camera already costing over £700 in the first place. If you end up buying an external EVF the combo creeps very close to the £100 mark, ridiculous, the G3 X is no £1000 camera.
For an enthusiast to part with £900 plus for a bridge camera they are going to expect (and deserve) a built in EVF and I suspect 4K video. At the end of the day it’s that simple inexplicable omission that means the likes of Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 II leave the G3 X trailing in their wake (and the fact they shoot 4K and have fully articulated rear screens only reinforces their dominance)
So there you have it, the new Canon G3 X could be (no its should be) a potential class leader, the concept behind it I applaud and the camera can deliver very good image quality but like Canon’s forage into the mirror-less market it ends up almost like a half hearted effort which ends up over priced, under featured (for the target market) and frustratingly all for no obvious logical or conceivable reason.
Canon PowerShot G3 X:
The Canon PowerShot G3 X is a pretty good camera but ends up being so hamstrung by lack of a built-in EVF that all the good features it possesses (zoom range, great lens, top notch image quality) count for nothing. It’s over priced and at the same time its direct competitors offer far better alternatives.
Canon’s concept of a relatively compact weather sealed, long zoom camera with a large (ish) 1-inch sensor to act as an all in one solution for the enthusiast looked great on paper, but by leaving out a built in EVF it ends up as both a frustrating and mystifying near miss.