Saturday, December 5, 2015

Canon PowerShot G5 X Review

One of the expectations of consumer electronics is that over time, you will get more power for less price. That is certainly true for computers, but there isn't a "Moore's Law" for cameras. If you want a better sensor, then you have to pay more money.

The problem is that people don't necessarily want a better sensor camera, but if they want a camera, it has to be better than their cell phones, which have also been getting better nonetheless. And so, the 1/1" sensor format, which was once considered "large" and premium, is now pretty much the mainstream standard for compact cameras. The 1/1.7" format, which was once the largest format for premium compacts, is now defunct, and so is the premium positioning for cameras built around this format. To that end, the venerable Canon S120 and G16 are now gone, replaced by the G9X and G5X respectively. Of the two, the G5X is the more appealing to enthusiasts. Whereas the G7X is obviously derivative of the Sony RX100 cameras, the G5X is a more unique design... at least for Canon. The overall design could easily have come from Nikon's V3 team, and the pronounced flash/hotshoe/EVF hump is reminiscent of Fujifilm bridge cameras of years past.

Holding comfort is much better than the G7X. The problem with that camera is that while emulating the functionality of the Sony RX100s it also copied the shortcomings as well... suboptimal holding comfort because of the flat grip-less front. The G5X has a properly rubber grip, and easy access to the Nikon-esque vertical front command dial (like the V3 or Df). Reach to the shutter button and front command dial are comfortable and don't require much of a stretch.The click-action of the front command dial is thankfully muted from the G7 X, which was excessively jarring when rotated.

Battery life is middling at a max CIPA rating of 215 shots per charge using the EVF, slightly lower if using the LCD.  Part of the culprit is the smallish NB-13L battery (shared with the G7 X). In comparison, the G16, which this camera is ostensibly an upgrade from, was rated at 360 shots per charge with the rear LCD screen, and almost double if you relied on the optical viewfinder.

The EVF housing is impressive-looking, but it hides a dinky-looking built in flash. This is a missed opportunity; the G5X ostensibly has a flash shoe because serious G-series cameras have always had hotshoes... but this is a feature that hardly anybody uses... even less so as people shed size and weight for smaller gear in the current camera market. Though some would have missed the hotshoe, deleting it and making use of the large EVF hump for a bigger/taller pop up flash would have made for a more practical choice. However it does have one good use for video, as will be discussed further down.

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That's pretty much it, really. As far as image quality goes, the G5X is basically a re-packed version of the G7X... sensor and lens in a better featured, and arguably more comfortable use to use body. Fundamentally this is a good idea, especially when you consider what camera it resembles....

Take a 1/1" sensor and place it it in a full featured small enthusiast-oriented compact body. The Nikon V3 did it before... in fact, it over did it. The build quality and design aesthetic of the V3 was phenomenal for a small camera, but so was the price. For visual representations of what the G5 X is capable of:

  • For an example of what the noise characteristics are like, refer to the G7 X review here.
  • For a visual example of what kind of bokeh you can expect against a APS-C mirrorless or DSLR camera with kit lens, look at the RX100M3 vs A6000 comparison; the G5 X will be fairly similar to the RX100M3. Link is here.

One final word about the sensor. A 1/1" sensor would be right at home in the enthusiast prosumer camcorder category. All of the 1/1" sensor cameras make great video-taking machines, but the added bonus is that G5 X uses a standard microphone port. This means that the flash hotshot, which you will likely not use for a flash, is perfect for mounting a shotgun mic. Unfortunately, there is no headphone jack, so monitoring recording levels is out of the question. The limiting factor here is the short battery life, but for quick high quality clips, there is no reason why the G5 X wouldn't be a great for event videography or vlog's.

In summary, The G5 X compared to the media-darling RX100M4 is a little less expensive, a little less premium, but it pairs its sensor with a better lens than the V3 Kit lens. That's a great proposition, even if the Canon compacts are slightly behind the nearest competitors in autofocus speed and consistency.


  • Good holding and operational comfort
  • Premium-feel to the build quality
  • Feature-packed 
  • Jack-pocketable
  • Good platform for videography


  • Expensive without instant rebates/discounts
  • Slow autofocus 
  • Weak flash
  • Video is ok but not as good as the Sony RX100M3 and RX100M4.

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