Edit: Attention new visitors from DP Review. Let it go. It's not God's gift to the camera world.
Not every camera has a compelling value proposition. I am still searching for the irrefutable, single driving reason why someone would want or need the new Canon G1X. The only thing I can think of is something mentioned by my photographer friend, Paul. He mentioned that it's a good camera for someone who doesn't want to get sucked into the endless lens buying, and then body buying, that seems to plague the owners of system cameras... So, not buying more gear is the compelling reason to buy this camera? Does that make sense?
I'm not going to talk about image quality in this non-review. Coming to grips with new cameras and their relationship with existing raw converters and the eccentricities of their menus takes time and practice and I'm not willing to expend the time and practice on every new camera that comes down the pike. If you came here expecting an exhaustive and breathless review that dissects every menu item on this camera, and its performance under mindless duress, then you have come to the wrong place and you should cut your loses and run away. I am going to talk about wacky design choices and convoluted implementations by camera companies....
The G1X has a bigger chip than the earlier G series cameras. And Canon reworked their basic G series body by giving it steroids and making it larger. I am okay with that because it's very comfortable to hold and the buttons and dials are big enough to please just about anyone. But the camera just doesn't work for me. I am not a "hater" of the G series and have owned the G2, the G9, G10 and G11. The things I could tolerate on sub $500 cameras (G12 is currently around $400 on Amazon) seem like a crazy oversight on a camera that costs nearly twice as much.
First off, while the chip may be noise free to a zillion ISO the camera is crippled with a lens that runs out of f-stop as it gets longer. I may be spoiled by wonderful fast lenses like the 45mm 1.8 on a Panasonic or an Olympus Pen camera but giving me f5.6 on the long end is a non-starter. I don't care about getting more photons into the system nearly as much as I care about taking advantage of the 6x increase in chip size over the G12 in order to render more stuff in the background out of focus. Wouldn't it be nice if the lens was a 35mm to 70mm (full frame equivalence) f2.8 all the way through? Wouldn't it be nice to sell the lens based on insanely good image quality rather than making it a slow jack-of-all-focal-length-trades?
Another facet of their Oxymoronic design is the inclusion of one of the worst optical finders ever created (and I'm thinking all the way back to cameras from the 1950's...) on a camera in 2012. How much more would it have cost them to ditch the tunnel vision, K-mart special finder assembly and add a decent EVF? I hate to bring the Panasonic G3 up again after this week's furor but in the G3 we have a camera with a nice EVF, a sensor with more resolution that's almost as big (geometrically) as the sensor in the GX1 and can be had with a decent lens for around $600. $200 less than the G1X. Much more usable finder. Amazingly better.
And while we're on the subject of that miserable OVF let's talk about the visual discomfort you'll live with because of the two function lights just to the right of the eyepiece. Actually, on the eyepiece. As you compose you'll be blasted with focus confirmation LED's millimeters from your eye. Tragic design. Why couldn't those lights be included inside the finder? Because it's the same finder they've pressed into service since the G2 of 2001.... Cost savings at its most gruesome.
The pop-up flash is there for all the people who think differently from me. And they must be legion. But it also seems Oxymoronic sitting there next to a fully functional hot shoe....
note the two lights next to the eye hole.
Two nice things about the camera are the distribution of controls and the ample space for fingers and thumbs. As my friend and I sat down and played with the camera I took a few shots of him. I will not include them because they were not good. The camera had a tendency to overexpose. Yes, I could dial in minus 1.3 stops of exposure compensation but when I picked up my camera and shot it in aperture preferred auto the exposure, without compensation, was right on the money.
If you've read this far I'll remind you again that I haven't played with any of the raw files. The images may be insanely good. The camera, in spite of egregiously obvious cost cutting, may be destined to become a cult camera as the G cameras have always been. But I'll take a pass on this one.
Let me do that con/pro thing I see everywhere on the web.
*Aperture small exactly at the focal length where I want large.
*OVF is an unmitigated disaster.
*Vestigial pop-up flash.
*Initial questions about exposure accuracy.
*Husky, heavy construction (except around viewfinder).
*Big, comfortable and logical external controls.
*Big sensor. (just slightly bigger than m4:3rds. Nowhere as big as a standard APS-C).
Note to pocket photographers: This camera will make an unsightly bulge in your Casual Dockers(tm).
My recommendation? I don't have one. But if you only want to own one camera at least you won't be tempted to buy more lenses for this one......
Finally, I'd feel guilty putting a link to Amazon for this one. Sadly, ethics are sabotaging my plan for extreme wealth building....
Added: 3/16/2012: Think I'm being to negative about this camera? See what Michael Reichman has to say on his website: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/canon_g1x_field_report.shtml