Hands-on review: Canon PowerShot G5 X

Hands-on review: Canon PowerShot G5 X

Features, build and handling

Inside the G5 X (and G9 X launched at the same time) is the same 20.2 million-pixel back-illuminated 1-inch type sensor as is 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 length range equivalent to 24-100mm. There’s also 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 should ensure that it’s possible to follow moving subjects accurately. According to Canon this EVF is similar but not identical to the optional EVF that’s available for the G3 X.

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 being available, as well as a collection of scene modes and automatic options. There’s also stabilisation built-in to help produce sharp images as light levels fall.

Build and handling

Canon has opted for retro styling for the G5 X. Some may find it a little old-school and angular, but I rather like it. It’s not a million miles away from the Sony A7R II in looks. It feels reasonably well constructed and there’s a nice secure grip on the front.

The electronic viewfinder sits in the middle of the top-plate and this gives the camera a mini-DSLR-like appearance. There’s also a retro control arrangement with a ring around the lens along with dials on the front and back of the camera that can be used to adjust a range of settings. In addition, it’s nice to have a dedicated mode dial to set the exposure mode quickly and a compensation dial for speedy exposure adjustment by up to +/-3EV.

Initially I found the shutter release a little awkward to reach as your index finger has to stretch over the exposure compensation dial. However, I adjusted my grip a little so that my index finger could be poised on the release while my middle finger rested on the front adjustment dial. This enabled me to make quick setting changes with the camera held to my eye. I want to explore this control arrangement further when we get the camera in for testing.

Meanwhile the lens ring is within easy reach of the fingers and thumb of your left hand as you support the camera for shooting.

Canon PowerShot G5 X

Canon PowerShot G5 X

Having a viewfinder is huge advantage in bright conditions and the G5 X’s EVF is very good. It’s more comfortable to use than the unit in the Sony RX100 III and Sony RX100 IV and it doesn’t have to be popped-up and extended like theirs do – it’s ready for use whenever you need it. There’s even a helpful sensor that detects when the camera is held to the eye to fire up the viewfinder and turn off the main screen.

Like the viewfinder, the G5 X’s screen provides a clear view. It also responds quickly to a touch and it’s easy to adjust settings and swipe through images.

Performance and early verdict

We haven’t been able to examine any images from the G5 X in detail yet – however, there’s a very strong probability that it will produce images just like those from the Canon G7 X. When I tested that camera I found it produces high quality images in many situations, usually without much intervention from the photographer. Noise is controlled well but ISO 12,800 images are best kept fairly small – 8×10 inches is fine.

I used a pre-production G5 X in low light and its autofocus system coped well – it will be interesting to test this further when we get a final sample in for testing.

When I tested the G7 X I found that images shot at the widest point of the lens showed a more noticeable drop in sharpness across the frame than those taken at the telephoto end and some coma distortion was visible. We’ll check the G5 X’s images for this as soon as we can.

Canon PowerShot G5 X

Early verdict

After a prolonged period when manufacturers omitted viewfinders from compact cameras, they are now making a welcome return. While I liked the Canon G7 X a lot when I tested it, it doesn’t have a viewfinder built-in and this made image composition trickier than I’d like in bright light. It’s also easier to follow a moving subject in a viewfinder rather than on the screen on the back of the camera. The G5 X corrects this omission by adding a good quality electronic viewfinder.

Although it has a much in common with the G7 X and there’s a similar lens ring along with a responsive touch screen, the new camera feels quite different, having a pronounced grip and a new control arrangement with an extra dial on the front. The shutter release seems oddly placed at first but it didn’t take me long to adjust to it. It will be interesting to see how convenient or comfortable it is during prolonged use. I’m looking forward to giving it a thorough test in the near future.


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