Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II and PowerShot SX700 HS Review and Comparison

The PowerShot G1 X Mark II and PowerShot SX700 HS are two of Canon’s newest compact digital cameras. Since I had them both on loan at the same time, I thought it would be interesting to compare them and the images I shot with them side by side.

Though both cameras are fixed lens, “pocketable” designs, in reality they are pretty different cameras. The G1 X Mark II has a sensor that is almost the same size as that found in Canon’s APS DSLRs. It’s a 12.8MP, 1.5" CMOS sensor, which means it measures about 18.7 × 14mm (4:3 aspect ratio). Canon’s APS-C sensors measure around 22.3 × 14.9mm (3:2 aspect ratio). On the other hand, the SX700 HS has a 16.1MP, 1/2.3" CMOS sensor that measures about 6.2 × 4.6mm. This means the SX700 HS pixels are much smaller than those of the G1 X Mark II, and that means they would be expected to produce noisier images at higher ISO settings.

The G1 X Mark II has a short zoom range, fast 24-120mm f/2.0-3.9 lens (35mm equivalent), whereas the SX700 HS has a relatively slow, wide zoom range, 25-750mm f/3.2-6.9 lens (35mm equivalent).

Other differences include an articulated LCD on the G1 X Mark II that tilts up and down, whereas the SX700 HS has a fixed LCD screen. The G1 X Mark II can store images as both JPEG and RAW files, while the SX700 HS only shoots JPEGs. Both cameras have built-in WiFi capability and can shoot HD movies, though the G1 X Mark II is limited to 30 fps in 1080 HD mode while the SX700 HS can shoot 1080 HD at 60 fps.

Compared to the original G1 X, the G1 X Mark II has a faster lens with a wider zoom range and closer focusing plus better AF performance. It also adds WiFi with NFC, dual control rings around the lens, and touch screen capability. The optical viewfinder of the original G1 X has been lost, but this makes the Mark II significantly smaller. The LCD of the Mark II now flips up and down, rather than swinging out to the side as it did on the original G1 X.

Specifications Comparison

  PowerShot G1 X Mark II PowerShot SX700 HS
Sensor Size 1.5" CMOS (18.7 × 14mm) 1/2.7" CMOS (6.2 × 4.6mm)
Pixels 13MP 16MP
Lens 24-120mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-3.9 25-750mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.2-6.9
Shutter Speed Range 1-1/4000 sec
15-1/4000 sec (in Tv Mode)
60-1/4000 sec (in M Mode)
1-1/3200 sec
15-1/3200 sec (in Tv and M Modes)
Continuous Shooting 5.2 shots/sec (in P mode) (AF fixed on first shot)
With AF: for each shot: 3.0 shots/sec (in P mode)
3.1 shots/sec (in P mode) (AF fixed on first shot)
Up to 4 shots at 8.5 shots/sec (in High-Speed Burst HQ)
ISO Range 100-12800 (1/3 stop steps) 100-3200 (1 stop steps)
Image Type JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW JPEG only
Optical Viewfinder Optional EVF that mounts in Hot Shoe (~$300) None
LCD Screen 3" tilt up and down, 1,040,000 dots, touch sensitive 3" fixed, 922,000 dots, not touch sensitive
Internal Flash Range (ISO 100) 1.6-22 ft (W), 4.6-11 ft (T)
50cm-6.8m (W), 1.4-3.5m (T)
1.6-11 ft (W), 3.3-6.6 ft (T)
50cm-3.5m (W), 1.0-2.0m (T)
External Flash Capability Hot Shoe for Canon Speedlite None
Best Video Resolution Full HD 1920 × 1080: 30 fps Full HD 1920 × 1080: 60 fps
Size 4.58 × 2.91 × 2.61 in / 116.3 × 74.0 × 66.2mm 4.44 × 2.59 × 1.37 in / 112.7 × 65.8 × 34.8mm
Weight (CIPA Standard with Battery) 19.5 oz / 553g 9.49 oz / 269g

You can think of the G1 X Mark II as almost the equivalent of an APS-C DSLR in a smaller package with 1/3 stop exposure steps and the ability to shoot in RAW mode. The SX700 HS falls into the consumer point and shoot category with 1 stop exposure steps and no RAW file capability. The SX700 HS will slip easily into your pocket while the G1 X Mark II won’t. You can get it in a jacket pocket, but it’s still a bit bulky. The G1 X Mark II would appeal to the serious photographer who wants the best possible image quality and low light performance in a camera that can be carried around all the time and won’t attract attention. On the other hand, the SX700 HS will appeal to those who want a versatile camera but who don’t demand the highest image quality and low light performance because they only want to make smaller prints.

PowerShot G1 X Mark II

The outstanding feature of the PowerShot G1 X Mark II is probably the lens. It’s a 12.5-62mm f/2-3.9 zoom, giving a field of view equivalent to a 24-120mm lens on a full frame camera. On an APS-C DSLR you’d need a 15-75/2.0-3.9 to get the same speed and range. Such a lens doesn’t exist, but if it did, it would probably cost as much as the G1 X Mark II. The Canon EF 17-55/2.8 sells for around $900, while the G1 X Mark II (including lens, of course) is retailing at $800. The Sigma 17-70/2.8-4.0 is maybe a closer match (though it’s still slower and has less zoom range) and sells for around $500. So if the price of the G1 X Mark II seems a little steep, you have to take into account the value of its lens.

The control layout of the PowerShot G1 X Mark II is fairly conventional for a compact digital camera, except for the two rings that surround the lens that can be seen in the image below.

These two rings (especially the inner ring) can be set to perform many camera functions. The outer ring can be set to control exposure compensation, aperture control (in Av or M modes), and shutter speed (in Av and M modes). It also controls manual focus in AF + MF mode. You can press the shutter release halfway down to get AF, then use the outer ring to manually correct focus (with image magnification and peaking).

The inner dial can be set to multiple functions, including ISO setting, DR setting, aspect ratio, shadow correction, aperture control, shutter speed control, exposure compensation, and step zoom. As many as three different functions can be assigned to the dial, and they can be toggled through using the “up” direction of the multi-way controller on the back of the camera (see image below). These functions can also be controlled by the rear dial on the camera.

The extensive customizability of the three dials could lead to some confusion on the part of novice users, but once you get the camera set up the way you want it, it doesn’t take too long to remember which button and dial does what.

The rear control layout is also conventional for a PowerShot compact digital camera (see image below).

The LCD screen can be tilted down by up to 45 degrees (see image below), or it can be tilted up by up to 180 degrees. At 180 degrees it faces forwards and you can see yourself on the LCD (perfect for when shooting a “selfie”). With 90 degrees of tilt, you can use the LCD as a waist-level viewfinder.

There’s the typical customizable rear control dial with multi-way controller (for exposure compensation, macro focus mode, ISO setting, and flash control) as well as buttons for AF point selection, video recording, manual focus mode, menu selection, and display mode. There’s a customizable shortcut button too, which can be set to a feature you want to access often.

The flash is manually activated by a switch on the left side of the camera and it pops up as shown below. It’s not very powerful but can be useful for fill at times. If you want to use flash creatively, you can attach any Canon Speedlite to the hot shoe on top of the camera.

Overall image quality is excellent. It’s just about as good as an APS-C DSLR for still images. The lens is also very good, so not many people will complain about the still image quality. The relatively fast lens and relatively large sensor mean that the G1 X Mark II may be the best compact digital camera for portrait work where you want to blur the background via shallow depth of field.

Video quality was just OK, with some artifacts on edges and moire visible. It is fine for casual use but not for serious videography.

If you’re used to the operating speed of a DSLR, the G1 X Mark II will feel a little sluggish at times. While AF and overall operation is quite good by compact camera standards, both are slower and can’t compare with a DSLR.

PowerShot SX700 HS

The lens of the PowerShot SX700 HS is impressive in its own way. Though certainly unremarkable in terms of speed (f/3.5 to f/6.9), the zoom range is amazing for a lens that can stow away inside the compact body of the camera. With a full frame equivalent field of view to a 25-750mm lens, it gives the SX700 HS incredible versatility for shooting everything from wide-angle landscapes to wildlife close-ups.

One problem with such a long zoom on a small camera is that it can be hard to find or track your subject when zoomed all the way out. To assist with subject location, the SX700 HS has a framing assist button. When the button is pressed, the lens zooms to a wider angle, allowing you to locate your subject. Releasing the button then returns the lens to its original focal length setting. Also an issue is holding the camera still with such a long effective focal length lens. The SX700 HS has an excellent IS system that I found could give me sharp images down to 1/30 sec when fully zoomed out to the 750mm position. That’s somewhere around 4-5 stops of stabilization.

The PowerShot SX700 HS has a simple top set of controls: the on/off button, the zoom ring, the shutter release, and a video record button. There is no hot shoe mount. The pop-up flash is located on the left (see below).

Since the camera is quite thin, there’s no room of the top surface for the main mode dial, so it’s moved to the back of the camera as can be seen in the image below.

There are the usual PASM modes, plus a selection of auto modes, including Smart Auto. Additionally, there is Hybrid Auto, which shoots a 4 second video clip before each shot. Live Mode is a color/brightness/tone customization mode that allows you to easily adjust those values and see the effects on the screen. Sports Mode enables continuous AF and biases towards faster shutter speeds. Creative Shot Mode takes multiple images, applies different effects to each, and even reframes the shots (via cropping) in several ways. There are also a selection of scene and creative filter modes, including fisheye effects, miniature effects, soft focus, and monochrome.

The 3-inch, 922,000-dot LCD screen is fixed in place and it isn’t touch sensitive, so you need to use the buttons and dials to set parameters.

The SX700 HS has all the usual focus modes, including face detection. In Face Detection Mode, the camera defaults to 9 zone AF if a face isn’t found.

The “HS” in this camera’s name stands for “High Speed.” In HS Mode, the camera will shoot 4 frames in about 0.5 second (actually, at a rate of 8.5 fps). However, you can only get 4 shots. If you want more than 4 shots, continuous shooting in Auto and P modes can be done at 3.1 fps.

In comparison with its peers, I’d rate the image quality of the SX700 HS as good. The lens is reasonably sharp throughout the zoom range, with the center being a touch sharper than the edges. For a small, compact superzoom, it can hold its own against similar cameras from other manufacturers. In terms of image noise, it starts to show the effects by ISO 400 in terms of noise and smearing of the image by the built-in noise reduction algorithms. However, again, it’s not really any worse than other cameras of similar sensor size and is better than many of those.

Image Comparisons

When comparing images, it’s important to remember that the G1 X Mark II has a much bigger sensor (with 9x the area and much larger pixels) than the SX700 HS, so it would be expected to yield higher quality images, and indeed it does. If the SX700 HS images appear to be unsharp in some 100% crops, it’s only in comparison to the G1 X Mark II images. If they were compared with images from other cameras with similar small sensors, there wouldn’t be such a dramatic difference. Judged with its peers, the SX700 HS image quality is very good. Bearing that in mind, I’ll now compare images from these two cameras.

When it comes to telephoto performance, the 750mm lens of the SX700 HS makes it the camera of choice over the 120mm lens of the G1 X Mark II as the image below clearly illustrates.


G1 X Mark II (left) and SX700 HS (right)

On the right is the SX700 HS image shot at 750mm, while on the left is the G1 X Mark II image shot at 120mm, which has been upsized 625% to match the image scale. Clearly there is no competition here for the best image!

When the light is low, as in these nighttime shots taken at a fairground, the superiority of the G1 X Mark II becomes clear. The images below are 100% crops.


SX700 HS (left) and G1 X Mark II (right)

The G1 X Mark II image on the right was shot at ISO 1250 (f /3.5), while the SX700 HS image on the left was shot at ISO 1600 (f /4). The high level of noise reduction required for the SX700 HS image has smeared out the detail in the image significantly. Even if you don’t look at 100% crops, the G1 X Mark II image is still clearly superior at lower magnification as shown below.


SX700 HS (left) and G1 X Mark II (right)

The SX700 HS image on the left is clearly not as sharp and detailed and the G1 X Mark II image on the right.

Here’s another example of 100% crops from an image. This time both shots are taken at ISO 640. On the left is the SX700 HS image and on the right is the G1 X Mark II image.


SX700 HS (left) and G1 X Mark II (right)

However, that doesn’t mean the SX700 HS can’t produce reasonably good small prints at high ISO settings. Below is an image (not cropped) shot at ISO 1600 with the SX700 HS.


SX700 HS

Conclusions

Each camera has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The canon_g1xm2 is quite clearly superior in low-light conditions due to its larger pixels and faster lens. However, the canon_sx700hs is the better choice in good light when the reach of a supertelephoto lens is needed for sports or wildlife photography where the 120mm limit of the G1 X Mark II just isn’t long enough. The SX700 HS is certainly a more convenient camera to carry as it’s smaller and lighter and will easily fit into a pocket. While the G1 X Mark II is still small compared to a DSLR, it’s not going to fit in a small pocket, though it will fit in a jacket pocket OK.

In the end it all comes down to having the right tool for the right job. The G1 X Mark II is the camera of choice for anyone wanting close to DSLR-quality images in a compact digital camera. It can shoot RAW files, giving the maximum post-exposure editing capability. It’s also the camera of choice for low light work because of the excellent high ISO performance combined with the relatively fast lens and the ability to attach any Canon Speedlite to the hot shoe. The major limitation of the G1 X Mark II is the 120mm maximum focal length. If you’re a street photographer, candid portrait shooter, or travel photographer and you don’t need telephoto capability for sports or wildlife work, then the 24-120mm lens won’t be a significant limitation, but if you’re a wildlife photographer, it will be.

The G1 X Mark II isn’t perfect (though it’s certainly an improvement over the original G1 X). While the AF is better than the G1 X’s, it can still fail in low light situations that a DSLR wouldn’t have trouble with. It can at times be unresponsive, for example if you try to make a change while it’s busy doing something else. While image quality is very good (and way better than any small sensor point and shoot), it’s perhaps not quite up to the standard of the better current APS-C or 4/3 cameras with similar sized sensors in terms of shadow noise. While the video quality is OK, it’s not as good as that from many current APS-C DSLRs. If you were a serious videographer, you might be disappointed.

For someone who is a more casual photographer, who isn’t going to be making large prints or shooting in low light, and who doesn’t need the capability to shoot in RAW mode, the SX700 HS is a less expensive and more convenient camera. It’s easily pocketable, and it has a 25-750mm (equivalent) lens that will cover almost any situation. Image quality is very good in bright light with low ISO settings, but drops off quite quickly as the ISO setting is raised. At ISO 800 there’s already an obvious loss of detail and image smearing, which isn’t particularly impressive performance these days. This combined with the relatively slow lens means it’s not an ideal camera for low light work. It does have a small built-in flash, but that’s quite limited in capability compared with an external Speedlite and the SX700 HS doesn’t have a hot shoe so you can’t mount an external flash.

Alternatives

If you’re a Canon shooter who wants a compact camera and you want to use your Speedlites, there really is no alternative to the G1 X Mark II. If you don’t care about the ability to use your Speedlites, then the sony_rx100m2 is probably a camera you should consider. The sensor is smaller (13.2 × 8.8mm) and the lens is slower and has less zoom range (28-100/1.8-4.9) than the G1 X Mark II, but it has excellent image quality, plus it’s smaller (4″ × 2.3″ × 1.5″) and lighter (10 oz). You can also find it for about $300 less.

You could also look at one of the many APS-C or micro 4/3 mirrorless cameras, but you’ll probably end up paying more for the package if you want a lens comparable to that on the G1 X Mark II (equivalent to a 24-120/2-3.9 on an FF camera). For example, the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO (equivalent to 14-80/2.8 on an FF camera) retails for $999, which is $200 more than the G1 X Mark II—and you still have to buy a body to use it on.

An alternative to the SX700 HS might be the sony_dsc-hx50v. It has a similar sized sensor (1/2.3") but with 20MP. The lens is a 24-720mm f/3.5-6.3, similar to that of the SX700 HS. Like the SX700 HS, it has a hot shoe for an external (Sony) flash and it has WiFi built-in. It also has GPS built-in, which the SX700 HS doesn’t have. Unfortunately, like the SX700 HS, it’s limited to shooting JPEGs with no RAW mode option. It’s also a little more expensive than the SX700 HS at around $450 retail.


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    • If you’re a Canon shooter who wants a compact camera and you want to use your Speedlites, there really is no alternative to the G1 X Mark II.

       

      The Canon EOS-M is also compact, has an APS sensor, and lets you use Canon Speedlites and also Canon EOS lenses, with adapter. But yes, if you want a fixed lens compact, the G1 (or the G16) are about it for Canon Speedlite use.

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    • Yes. I hope Canon continues to develop the EOS-M line. I found an EOS-M2 from eBay, and the focus responsiveness is now very responsive. With either the 22mm or 18-55 lens, the overall package size of the M/ M2 is smaller than the G1 X.

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    • How about shutter lag?  Or is this no longer an issues for point-and-shoots?  (Haven't used one for some years now).

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    • No offence intended Bob, but this seems rather a silly comparison. If you have to compare the G1X2 against something, how about the M2?

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    • Well, I compare what Canon send me! In this case I was shooting with both the G1 X MkII and the SX700 HS at the same time, so rather than write two reviews I thought it might be interesting to write one, comparing the two cameras - which obviously appeal to fairly different types of photographer but it's still interesting to see how differently they perform under different conditions.

      The EOS M(2)is certainly an alternative to the G1 X MkII, but it doesn't have a built in lens - and in fact you can't even get a lens for the EOS M(2) that's as fast as the G1 X MkII lens and has the same zoom range.

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