The PowerShot G1 X Mark III packs a serious amount of photography features into a truly compact camera body. In fact, it's a unique proposition in the digital compact camera market, being the first Canon model to fuse a large APS-C imaging sensor with a zoom lens.
The 24.2MP CMOS sensor at the heart of the new G-series flagship shares very similar technology to the sensor in the EOS 80D, giving an indication of the exceptional image quality that this diminutive camera is capable of producing.
And it really is impressively small. Thanks to a 16% size reduction from its predecessor, and the fact that it weighs just 399g, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III is an easy camera to find space for in a camera bag or coat pocket.
Images are crisply focused on the large sensor by the 24-72mm 35mm equivalent f/2.8-5.6 lens. Being able to focus down to 30cm at the long end of the lens adds versatility when shooting portraits, while the nine-bladed aperture produces beautifully rendered out-of-focus areas.
"Combining high optical performance and miniaturisation is the key challenge to overcome when setting out to design small lenses for large sensors," admits Canon's Head of Optics Mr Ito. "It's not just a matter of shortening the total lens length. In order to reduce its thickness when the lens is retracted, a number of lens elements need to be made thinner. We used a total of nine lenses in the camera, three of these being double-sided aspherical lenses and one a single-sided aspherical lens in order to maintain a high optical performance."
Canon's Mr Iida, leader of the PowerShot G1 X Mark III development team, says that the lens was one of the chief challenges the designers had to overcome: "A big goal was to equip the camera with a lens that has a barrel diameter equivalent to that of models with conventional 1.0-inch-type sensors, while still managing to incorporate a lens with a large maximum aperture and a larger sensor. We were able to achieve our targets by optimising the structure and miniaturising the components."
"We reviewed the layout and fastening method of each actuator in the lens unit to ensure that we we were making the most of the space available in the small barrel," adds Canon's Mr Uehara, who was in charge of the PowerShot G1 X Mark III's barrel design. "And in order to maintain the accuracy of the optical system, despite the miniaturisation, we improved the assembly precision."
Ensuring optimal sharpness and distortion suppression was another goal for the team, as Canon's Mr Ito explains: "We optimised sharpness by adjusting the angle of the sensor to match any tilt in the imaging plane that can sometimes occur during the assembly of an integral lens."
Ergonomics haven't been compromised for the sake of a smaller form factor. With its generous grip and built-in, centrally-placed 2,360k dot OLED EVF, plus a spread of customisable external controls, this is a compact camera that users of EOS DSLRs or mirrorless cameras will find intuitive to use.
As Canon's Head of Design Mr Takatani explains: "Even though this is a compact and lightweight body, we aimed to make the camera as comfortable to use as a camera in the EOS series. For example, the inclined surface of the top of the camera means that the position of the exposure compensation, mode dials and the shutter release button fall naturally under the fingers. Furthermore, adopting the incline as part of the design of the front grip ensures excellent handling. We made different mock-ups using a 3D printer to help determine the design that most successfully combined portability and operability."
The most technically difficult function to implement was the shutter release mechanism. "It is the first time this mechanism, adopted from the EOS 6D Mark II, has been used in the PowerShot series," reveals Canon's Mr Hazama, who was in charge of the PowerShot G1 X Mark III mechanical features. "Since the body size is quite small, we had to develop a new ultra-compact leaf release mechanism for this model and we made fine adjustments to the load and stroke to make sure the shutter button was optimised."
As with the PowerShot G1 X Mark II, remote control comes via Wi-Fi and NFC, with the new camera introducing 'always-on' low-powered Bluetooth® connectivity. This allows a compatible smartphone to wake the camera from standby mode through a Wi-Fi connection, without the user having to touch the camera. Bluetooth® also allows the smartphone to act as a low power remote release.
Build quality is comparable with an EOS camera, too. "There is typically a trade-off between size, weight and strength. So we reviewed the material of the camera housing and adopted new materials in the moulding process," explains Canon's Mr Hazama. "There were many difficulties in using new materials, but by overcoming these one by one we were able to achieve compactness and reduce weight.
"In order to accommodate the parts within the limited space, we moved their position in increments of 0.1mm until we arrived at a layout that would allow for an easier assembly. Close communication and co-operation with the factory were essential."
The camera benefits from a sophisticated 3.0-inch Vari-Angle touchscreen display. Not only does this make it easier to shoot from awkward angles, but it includes Touch and Drag AF operation. Originally introduced in the EOS M5, this feature turns the rear display into a large AF area trackpad, with the focus area able to be moved around the display with a thumb while your eye is pressed to the EVF.
Autofocus is another standout feature of the PowerShot G1 X Mark III. It's the first compact camera to come armed with Dual Pixel CMOS AF, a system that is highly regarded for its accuracy and speed, with the PowerShot G1 X Mark III clocking a rapid focus acquisition of 0.09 seconds. "Although we cannot directly compare its performance to that of an interchangeable lens camera, we can say that, under CIPA conditions, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III has the fastest AF speed of our range of compact digital cameras," says Canon's Mr Iida.
Dual Pixel CMOS AF also shines when it comes to shooting movies. The PowerShot G1 X Mark III records Full HD 60p movies in MP4, with Dual Pixel CMOS AF enabling smooth subject tracking and cinematic ‘focus pulls' from one point in the frame to another. To produce judder-free footage when recording video, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III employs 5-axis Advanced Dynamic IS. Adaptive Intelligent IS is used when shooting stills, offering up to four stops of correction for camera shake.
When it comes to performance, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III delivers a rapid burst rate of seven frames per second with autofocus. If you only need the focus locked on the first frame then the shooting speed increases to around 9fps for 19 RAW files or 24 JPEGs.
The PowerShot G1 X Mark III is able to handle the large amount of data generated by the APS-C sensor at these frame rates thanks to the DIGIC 7 processor at the heart of the camera. DIGIC 7 also enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600, as well as having Diffraction Correction and an Auto Lighting Optimizer for premium image quality straight from the camera.
Canon's Mr Terayama, the man responsible for the PowerShot G1 X Mark III image quality, explains that DIGIC 7 can handle information about 14 times faster than DIGIC 6. "It can also apply noise reduction more accurately. This means that noise generated around edges in an image is reduced, so even when shooting at high sensitivity it is possible to achieve a high resolution. Moreover, taking advantage of the high-speed processing performance of DIGIC 7 enables diffraction blur correction to be applied when small apertures are selected."
"The PowerShot G series has long been trusted by photographers seeking a premium quality compact," says Canon's Product Marketing Manager John Maurice, "and the small size and stand-out image quality make the range ideal for use on the move, or when shooting with larger cameras could draw unwanted attention and affect the situation being captured. The PowerShot G1 X Mark III is the new flagship in the range and is designed so that users can control the camera instinctively, making it an ideal addition to a professional photographer's toolkit."
Canon's Mr Iida and his team of PowerShot G1 X Mark III designers and engineers have redefined what can be expected from a compact camera, with a model that blends the convenience of a versatile zoom with the image size, detail and low-light performance that comes from a DSLR-level sensor. Its small size, intuitive handling and no-compromise image quality means that photographers will find it easy to partner the PowerShot G1 X Mark III with their existing EOS system.
PowerShot G1 X Mark III technical specifications
*1 Always-on connection between smart device and camera via Bluetooth® requires initial set up with Canon Camera Connect app. Stability of the Bluetooth® connection depends on model of smart device and other environmental factors. The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by the Bluetooth® SIG, Inc. And any use of such marks by Canon Inc. is under license. Other trademarks and trade names are those of their respective owners. Compatible smart devices require Bluetooth® version 4 (or later) and iOS 8.4 (or later) or Android 5.0 (or later), with the latest version of the Canon Camera Connect app installed (available from Apple App Store or Google Play store).
*2 To maximise the camera's dust and drip resistance, keep the terminal cover, memory card/battery cover and all other covers firmly closed. This camera is designed to be dust and drip resistant, in order to help prevent sand, dust, dirt, or water that falls on it from unexpectedly getting inside, but it is impossible to prevent dirt, dust, water, or salt from getting inside at all.
To find out more about the PowerShot G1 X Mark III, check out the product page.