Introduction and features
The G5 X was launched at the same time as two other new cameras – the G9 X and the mirrorless EOS M10. The G5 X is potentially the most interesting, though, because it offers enthusiast oriented controls in a pocket-size camera with an electronic viewfinder.
For anyone familiar with Canon’s high-end PowerShot range, the G5 X can perhaps be considered a true successor to the G16 model, as the other G range models don’t quite match the G16’s size, shape and intended audience. It sits in the middle of the new G range of cameras, above the G9 X and G7 X, but below the G1 X Mark II (bigger sensor) and the G3 X (longer zoom).
Inside the G5 X (and the G9 X, launched at the same time), is the same 20.2 million-pixel back-illuminated 1-inch type sensor found in the Canon G7 X, which impressed us when we tested it in 2014. As in the G7 X, this sensor is coupled with a Digic 6 processor and sensitivity may be set in the range ISO 125-12,800.
The G5 X also has the same lens as the G7 X, a 4x zoom with a focal range equivalent to 24-100mm and a maximum aperture range of f/1.8-2.8, which ensures reasonable control over depth of field.
In a significant difference from the G7 X, however, the G5 X has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) built-in. This is a 0.39-inch type OLED device with 2.36 million dots and it shows 100% of the scene that will be captured. The EVF also has a refresh rate of 120fps, which means there’s little lag, making it easier to follow moving subjects.
Canon has also given the PowerShot G5 X a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot touch sensitive screen that’s mounted on a vari-angle hinge to make it easier to compose images in either upright or landscape format at high or low angles.
Further good news is that like other G-series cameras, the G5 X offers advanced exposure control with aperture priority, shutter priority and manual mode, as well as a collection of scene modes and automatic options. Raw format shooting is also available and there’s stabilisation built-in to help produce sharp images as light levels fall.
For beginners, and those who want to dip their toes into video shooting, there’s Hybrid Auto mode, which shoots two seconds of video before each shot is taken, compiling them together at the end of the day as a ‘digest’ movie. There’s also a Creative Shot mode which shoots an image and then applies five different crops, digital filters, or a combination thereof.
Inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC technology enables you to control the camera from a smartphone or tablet, or send your images across for quick sharing to social networks. There’s a free Canon CameraConnect app which is available for iOS and Android.
The supplied rechargeable Li-ion battery is quoted at a reasonably meagre 210 shots, or 320 shots if you switch to using Eco mode. During my testing, I found that the G5X lasted well throughout the day. I shot 178 images during the course of a day, making heavy use of the screen and Wi-Fi system and when I got home there was still a bar left on the battery life indicator. Of course, every day is likely to be different. This isn’t a particularly high battery life and if you’re likely to be spending some time away from a charging point, it may be worth investing in an extra battery.
Build and Handling
Unlike the G9 X, or even the G7 X, the G5 X is just a little too big to slip neatly into a jeans pocket. However, it will probably fit in the average jacket pocket which still makes it a good option for your everyday camera, or travel compact.
The styling is pretty old school and retro, with an angular design that probably won’t be to everybody’s taste. On the whole I like it though, mainly because all of the dials and buttons feel sensibly arranged and within easy reach of my fingertips.
Sitting in the middle of the top plate is the G5X’s electronic viewfinder. This placement gives it an almost miniature DSLR look about it, or perhaps closer to the Sony’s A7-series compact system cameras.
Pushing the retro theme even further is the control dial around the lens. This can adjust a number of different settings which you can customise from within the main menu. Some may like to use it to control aperture, for instance.
There’s also a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera, which is easy to reach with your thumb and is quicker to use than fiddling with a combination of buttons and dials on the back of the camera – as is often the case with compact cameras.
Just below the shutter release, within reach of your forefinger (or middle finger if you want to keep your forefinger on the shutter release) is another smaller dial. This again can be customised for different settings, such as aperture, ISO (sensitivity) or white balance. I used it for aperture adjustment as I would with a Canon DSLR.
Once you have the controls set up how you like them they allow quick and fluid settings changes. Your forefinger rests on the shutter release, while you can use your thumb to alter exposure compensation, your middle finger to set aperture (or shutter speed), and your other hand to set ISO (sensitivity). That’s just an example – you can change two of those dials around to a different way of working if you prefer.
The back of the camera has a good combination of buttons and dials that you can use in conjunction with the articulating, touch-sensitive screen – but if you don’t like using touchscreens, the good news is you don’t have to because you can make changes with the physical controls too.
There’s both a physical and an on-screen Q button which brings up a range of options which you’re likely to want to change often, such as white balance, sensitivity, image quality, metering and so on. You can move around this menu using the directional keys on the back of the camera, or you can simply tap the option you want to use on-screen. The screen itself is very responsive and moving your way through menus like this feels very natural, especially if you’re used to using a smartphone.
That’s not to say that there aren’t times when the physical buttons aren’t appreciated. When you’re using the viewfinder, you can’t set the AF point using the screen as you can with Panasonic (and some Olympus) cameras. Instead, there’s an AF point set button on the back of the camera, which you use in conjunction with the directional keys to move to the point you need.
One slight whinge here is that the video record button, being on the thumb rest, is prone to the occasional unwanted press if you’re not careful. It’s not something I found happening every time I picked up the camera, but enough to warrant a mention here.
Having a fully articulating screen is great and much more useful than just a tilting screen as you can move into vertical (portrait format) positions as well as horizontal (landscape) positions. You can also move it to face the front if selfies are your thing.
A viewfinder is also very useful when there’s bright sunlight or if you just happen to prefer composing your images in a traditional manner. The sensor which automatically switches the screen off and the viewfinder on makes for a seamless transition, and the viewfinder itself is large enough to merit being used frequently. One of the G5 X’s rivals, the Sony RX100 III/IV’s, has a pop-up viewfinder which can be pushed back into the camera when it’s not in use to make the camera more pocketable. The G5 X viewfinder is fixed in place, though this does at least mean it’s always ready for use.
Hopes for the G5X were pretty high considering that we’ve seen the sensor in action before in the excellent G7X. It also features the same lens and processor combination, so it was pretty much assumed that image quality would be good.
Thankfully, those expectations have been met as the G5X proves itself to be another very capable compact camera from Canon. The one-inch sensor is larger than can be found in most compact cameras (aside from Sony’s RX100 series and models like the Fuji X100T with its APS-C sized sensor), and it has a fast f/1.8-2.8 lens which is great for creating shallow depth of field effects with wide apertures, and for low light shooting.
Directly from the camera, JPEG images display a lovely amount of saturation and warmth, which is again something we’ve pretty much come to expect from Canon. Our labs data shows that the G5X is a great performer in general, coming very close to the Sony RX100 IV and comfortably beating other cameras with smaller sensors (such as the Fuji X30 and the Panasonic TZ70).
If you zoom in at 100% it’s possible to see a loss of detail in some finer subjects, even from relatively low ISO speeds, such as ISO 400, but it’s certainly no worse than we’d expect from a sensor of this size and type.
This shot shows the lens’s widest angle of view (24mm equivalent). Click here for a full size version.
And this photo was taken at the maximum zoom setting (100mm equivalent). Click here for a full size version.
At the time of writing it’s not possible to open the G5X’s raw files using Adobe Camera Raw, but you can download Canon’s free Digital Photo Professional software to open and edit raw files. The JPEG images have very little chroma noise, while you can clearly see such noise in a corresponding raw format image when all noise reduction settings have been turned off. It’s no more than we’d expect to see from other cameras of this type at high ISOs though, and you should find it gives you good scope for post processing, tweaking noise reduction settings as you prefer to bring back some lost detail if you need to.
The G5 X produces rich, saturated images. Click here for a full size version.
The blue of the sky is particularly strong here, though that’s more a result of the camera’s exposure than the color rendition. It places a strong emphasis on the active focus point, which fell here on the bright white surface of this statue. Click here for a full size version.
As we’ve found with other Canon cameras, the G5X’s evaluative metering system does a pretty good job of helping to achieve good exposures, but it can be a little skewed if the active AF point is over something particularly dark or bright. This can usually be overcome either by dialling in some positive or negative exposure compensation, or switching to spot metering.
The G5 X has a macro mode for close-ups and in-built image stabilization helps keep details sharp. Click here for a full size version.
Coma distortion appeared in some G7X images, but this doesn’t seem to be present in the Canon G5X images. Images taken at both the widest focal length of the lens and the telephoto end display a good amount of detail.
Focusing speeds are generally fast and accurate. When shooting in lower light conditions, the lens may hunt around a little longer than when shooting in bright light, but it’s pretty rare for the camera to say it’s focused when it hasn’t. The automatic white balance system copes well with a range of different lighting conditions to produce accurate colours, including artificial lighting.
Lab tests: resolution
We tested the Canon G5 X against three key rivals to give an indication of where stands in the compact camera rankings:
Sony RX100 IV: the latest version of Sony’s terrific high-end compact camera which, like the G5 X, has a 1-inch sensor, manual controls and an electronic viewfinder.
Fuji X30: this Fuji compact has a terrific retro design and is now great value for money, but the sensor is smaller than the Canon’s.
Panasonic TZ70: Panasonic’s high-spec travel camera offers a manual controls, raw files, an electronic viewfinder and a huge zoom range – but this is only possible because it has a small 1/2.3-inch sensor.
We measure resolution using an industry-standard test chart and check the resolution at each ISO setting for both JPEG and raw files, and you’ll find the results below:
(Please note: our charts start at ISO 100 but the base ISO of the G5 X is actually ISO 125.)
JPEG resolution analysis: It’s a pretty close-run thing, but the Sony RX100 IV’s resolution is just a little higher than the Canon’s across the ISO range. The Fuji X30 and Panasonic TZ70 lag some way behind, due to their smaller sensors and lower megapixel counts.
Raw (converted to TIFF) resolution analysis: The raw data shows a very similar pattern, with the G5 X and RX100 IV well ahead of the X30 and TZ70. This time, though, there’s nothing to choose between the Canon and the Sony for outright resolution. Both come pretty close to resolving power of a good DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Lab tests: dynamic range
Dynamic range is a measure of the camera’s ability to capture a wide range of brightness levels without burned-out highlights or solid black shadows. We measure dynamic range in EV values, or ‘stops’, using DxO Analyzer test equipment in standardized laboratory conditions.
JPEG dynamic range analysis: The results are much closer this time, but the G5 X does have a clear if small advantage over the rest. The Sony, Fuji and Panasonic aren’t so far apart, and the smaller sensor cameras are probably able to keep up because they have fewer megapixels.
Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range analysis: Again, the G5 X leads the pack and this time it’s the Panasonic TZ70 in second place, which is unexpected.
Lab tests: signal to noise ratio
The signal to noise ratio is a scientific measurement of the amount of digital noise in the image. The higher the number, the greater the difference between real image data and background noise – higher numbers are best. This is measured using DxO Analyzer in laboratory conditions.
JPEG signal to noise ratio analysis: This time the Sony RX100 IV has a slight advantage over the G5 X, but all four cameras are so close together that the differences may not be apparent in real world photographs. Noise levels in JPEG images will depend heavily on the degree of noise reduction applied by the camera.
Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio analysis: Here, the differences are greater. The G5 X and RX100 IV are much closer together and the Panasonic TZ70 repeats its unexpectedly good performance from the dynamic range tests.
Canon has a good history with premium compact cameras, and the G5 X feels like the true successor to the great G series cameras of old. It has a fantastic sensor and, unlike the slim G7 X and even slimmer G9 X, it’s well equipped with a range of dials and buttons that put key settings changes literally at your fingertips.
It has a good specification that most advanced photographers should appreciate when they’re looking for a backup camera, or something to accompany their DSLR/CSC. Not only is the one-inch sensor great, but there’s a reasonably versatile lens with a wide maximum aperture throughout its range, raw format shooting and manual control.
It’s been a long old while since Canon blessed its premium compact cameras with a viewfinder, but with the G5 X, such a feature makes a welcome return, and happily it’s good to use too. The screen, being fully articulating and touch sensitive is great for shooting from awkward angles, too.
Not everyone is a fan of using touchscreens to alter settings, but here you can use buttons for pretty much everything, and just use the touch settings to complement button usage – or not at all if you prefer. I’ve found that I prefer to use buttons and dials for certain settings, while things like setting the AF point are so much quicker using the screen.
The image quality is excellent, but that comes as no surprise as we’ve already seen this sensor, lens and processor combination in action before in the G7 X. Inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC is very useful for remote controlling the camera and sending your images for quick sharing on social media. The free Canon Camera Window app is great to use too, giving you plenty of control over settings and being very straightforward to use.
Our labs data shows that the G5X competes extremely closely with the Sony RX100 IV – so closely that it’s unlikely you’d be able to tell a difference in most real-world shots. Although neither camera can be described as “cheap”, the G5X, for the moment at least, is cheaper.
The G5X is an excellent and versatile camera that should appeal to anybody looking for something more convenient than a DSLR or CSC that doesn’t skimp on high image quality. It’s got almost everything you could need, including raw shooting, manual control, a wide aperture lens and a large sensor. The thing we perhaps like best though is the design, which is great for both traditionalists and those who like to embrace newer technologies. There are enough dials and buttons to satisfy the enthusiast, while the touch sensitive screen proves useful too.
There’s not a whole lot to criticise about the G5 X, but if we have to hone in on something it would be the lack of control over Creative Shot effects. These apply random filters and crops to an image and can be very effective, but it would be so much better if you could choose a particular filter that you like rather than leaving it up to the camera to choose one at random. Another creative option, the ability to change “MyColors” can only be shot in JPEG mode, which is also a shame.
Canon has produced a very tempting package in the G5 X. It’s great to see a range of different G series cameras currently in the company’s line-up, each of which appeal to a slightly different target user.
The G5X sits in the middle of the range, and it will appeal to those who are already DSLR or CSC owners – it’s equally appealing for somebody looking for a first-time ‘serious’ camera.
With a viewfinder and lots of dials and buttons, the G5 X acknowledges traditionalists, while the inbuilt Wi-Fi and touch sensitive screen bring the best of modern features for a great overall proposition.
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