Back in February, Canon teased the development of a new premium superzoom camera aimed at enthusiasts. They have finally taken the lid off completely with the announcement of the Powershot G3X. It looks neat, but may lack some important features of its competitors.
The G3X, which will cost $1000 (£ £630 d/c)when it ships in July, is a cut above most superzooms in that it sports a one-inch sensor for superior image quality. It’s the same sensor that Canon used in the compact G7X which we really liked. It’s got a 3-inch touch-screen LCD that flips out and up for selfies because of course, and a nice beefy grip on the side. It’s much larger than the G7X as to accommodate the most important aspect of the camera: the lens.
It’s an equivalent 24-600mm f/2.8-5.6 zoom. A lot of zoom. Like really a ton of zoom.
Canon wants you to think hard about just how much zoom this camera has. Why? Because the G3X isn’t the only camera in town with a one-inch sensor and fixed long range lens. Sony has its formidable RX10, and recently announced RX10 Mark II, which has a 24-200mm f/2.8 lens. Panasonic has the FZ1000 which has a 25-400mm f/2.8-4 lens. It’s a zoom battle and the G3X comes out on top with the most reach.
But. But but but but. Here’s the thing. Zoom is only one of many attributes that people who take pictures care about. What about the lens brightness? The G3X’s f/2.8-5.6 aperture range is pretty sad compared to its competitors. It’s a trade-off for sure. More zoom, less flexibility in low light. My feeling is that having a large aperture is more important, and I think many would agree. There’s more.
The G3X lacks an electronic viewfinder, which both the Sony and Panasonic have built right in. For cameras that zoom a long way, being able to stabilize the thing by holding it up to your face is essential. It also gives enthusiasts the feeling of using a professional tool, which shouldn’t be underestimated by camera makers. Canon will say you can buy an external EVF if you want. But spending another £200 on an accessory is a huge bummer. For video shooters, the Sony RX10 Mark II and the Panasonic FZ1000 record ultra high-res 4K video. The Canon G3X is limited to 1080p.
Clearly there is some sort of research that tells Canon that people don’t care about EVFs, or that consumers aren’t ready for 4K. I’m not sure how to account for that, but it sure doesn’t seem like those things are true from the ground. At least, not for people who are ready to drop a grand on a camera.
Another thing that annoys me is that Canon is marketing the G3X as featuring “5-axis stabilization.” This might lead one to believe that it is stabilised similarly to the lauded systems of Olympus and Sony cameras. However, three out of the five axes in Canon’s system are digital, while two are optical. That’s a far cry from true sensor shift stabilization that many associate with the phrase “5-axis stabilisation.” It seems that Canon has simply adopted the naming convention. That’s kind of deceptive.
I’m sure the G3X takes great pictures. It’s got a great sensor with a nice looking magnesium alloy body, an ND filter built in, and reliably solid Canon style controls. But the things I mentioned earlier are major feature omissions that flat out can’t be answered by Canon, despite its boast of the longest zoom. Where the G3X may appeal to people is in its lower price.
It’s great to see Canon branching out, but in a field of strong competitors, they are going to have to deliver extra strong performance to lure in demanding customers.