When Canon released the Powershot G5X Mk II last year, it came with little fanfare from both the media and the public; it seemed like Canon is still trying to participate in the ever-shrinking market of compact cameras that people are less inclined to buy as phone cameras get progressively better on the generation.

On one hand, marketing to travellers and the casual public would mean fierce competition between pricing against GoPros or phones in the market. On the other, shifting it to the hobbyist or enthusiast market would mean justifying a less robust purchase than what they currently would have.

When Canon offered to loan the Powershot for review, I said “Sure why not” thinking that there surely must be something worth checking out if Canon is still paddling on a sinking ship right?

Was it a futile exercise in paddling or does Canon have some surprises in it for us? Let’s find out.

What is the Powershot G5X Mk II?

The Canon Powershot G5X Mk II, as its name suggests, is the second iteration of their G series “compact cameras” that is small in size, but packs most of the features a DSLR or a mirrorless would have.

It packs a versatile 24-120mm lens with a wide aperture of f1.8 -2.2 with a typical 1-inch sensor that also offers in-body stabilization. It is also able to record in 1080p60 and 4k30 videos uncropped which is impressive.

Pricing and Specifications

Currently, the G5X Mk II retails for a MSRP of $1,200 SGD. At this price, I personally feel like it is getting awfully close to the more versatile (albeit a bit more expensive), dedicated MILC cameras such as Sony’s a6400; but let’s not count them out yet and see what Canon has to offer at this range:

CameraCanon G5X MK IISony a6400Sony Rx100 VII
Sensor Size1 inchAPSC1 inch
Sensor Size (MP)20MP24.2MP20.1MP
ISO125 – 12800100 – 32000100 – 12800
Lens24-120/ f1.8 – 2.2N/A24 – 200/ f2.8 – 4.5
In-body StabilizationYesNoYes
Recording mediumSDXQDSD
Video Recording Modes1080p120/4k 301080p60/ 4k301080p120/4k30
Weight340g675g275g
Price$1,200 SGD$ 1,299 SGD (Body Only)$1,649 SGD

Design, Build Quality & Ergonomics

Design and Build Quality

Canon definitely did not cheap out on the body at this price range. The build is solid but still compact though some compromises still have to be made. Both the viewfinder and flash can only be opened mechanically and due to its size, there are fewer dedicated buttons for adjustment.

Contrary to Sony’s more boxy design, Canon has still insisted to put small groves to rest your thumb and fingers on (more on that later), making its silhouette similar to its bigger cousins. All of the essential buttons are still here however, with the only major change being the “zoom” button. It now sits as a ring around the shutter button which could take some getting used to if you’re used to using the manual zoom ring on your left hand like I do.

Overall, the camera is sturdy and nice to hold, though not without its drawbacks. Still, I’d argue that this camera still retains Canon’s signature build and feel despite being a very compact camera.

Ergonomics

As mentioned in the previously, the G5X retains the same ergonomics of its bigger cousins although it’s not without weaknesses. Resting your hands in the “default” position (shown above) can cause a bit of cramp on your thumb if you are adjusting the camera though the face buttons.

All the buttons feel tactile to the touch and the main buttons that you’ll press often such as the shutter and exposure compensation button/ring feels sufficiently chunky. Though to this point, it takes a little more effort to move the mode and exposure compensation dial than I’d like.

The only complaint I can garner is the missed opportunity to include more function buttons on the left side of the camera in lieu of having only one function ring to play around with on the lens. More buttons for better manual control would certainly be appreciated.

Pop-up viewfinder (EVF)

Like the viewfinder we reviewed in the Canon EOS R, camera also comes with an electronic view finder – meaning that you’re just essentially looking at a small screen and not through a piece of glass to the outside world.

The EVF also seems to behave similarly to the one on the EOS R we’ve reviewed last year, deactivating the main touch screen when you try to look into the EVF. Here, my albeit small complaints stay the same; I could definitely feel the slight delay in the video output compared to an optical viewfinder which would hopefully be improved upon in later generations.

Pop-up flash

The flash is surprisingly powerful despite its diminutive size. It lights up close up subjects fairly well though, as expected, don’t expect great lighting from just a single point flash but it gets its job done.

Overall, the flash is pretty good I’d say!

Articulating screen

This model comes with an articulating screen that Sony and Nikon camera users would be familiar with: the screen tilts vertically upwards, up to 180 degrees which you can use vlogging-style if you prefer.

 The hinge that the screen is sitting on is pretty sturdy and will come in handy when you need expand the body a little to get a better look at the screen. After some initial testing, I found the hinge to be pretty rigid in terms of staying in place even if you are aggressively shaking the screen; no complaints here.

Software

Software wise, if you’ve used a Canon camera before, you’d know what to expect. Simple control on the menus, yet with some depth that allows for customization to suit your preferences. The screen, like all of Canon’s recent offerings, is touch-enabled so if you fancy, touch-to-focus is a choice here.

The unfortunate part is that Canon seems to have cut down on the auto-focusing system that you would get on a more dedicated camera; featuring only single-point AF options along with your ole face-tracking AF. Still, tracking with servo-AF turned on is snappy and doesn’t take more than a second to land a good target on the subject.

Some software-based drive mode is also surprisingly missing here, lacking the ability to toggle to aperture or shuttle priority mode from the software menu itself. Instead, accessing these modes have to be done traditionally via the mode dial to either TV or AV mode.

Lens

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, the lens on the G5X Mk II seems pretty decent judging from its high aperture of 1.8 – 2.2 depending on the zoom range and an all-in-one focal range of 24 to 120mm.

Unfortunately, due to size limitations, there is only one custom function ring on the lens that you can play around with. Most of the other key functions such as zooming for focusing has been moved to either the face buttons on the camera.

The lens comes in pretty compact due its internal retracting mechanism, of which the lens only extends forward when the camera is turned on. It also comes with a cool retractable shutter at the front to prevent the lens from getting damaged while the camera is turned off.

Focusing

A footnote to the focusing system above, manual focusing is available but doesn’t work very well via the standard controls. By default, manual focus distancing is controlled by tapping on the + – buttons on the screen when enabled; this is, as you can guess, really awkward to control. While I’m sure you can change the controls to the custom function ring on the lens, the stepping on the ring isn’t the “smooth” type for precise control so I’d really recommend potential buyers to just stick with auto focusing; it’s good enough anyway.

I also measured the minimum focal distance to be at around 15cm from the subject, practical enough for some macro shots and close ups when needed.

Image Quality

Sharpness

Time for the important stuff: How is the performance? Well, let’s get testing then.

The good news here is, sharpness remains practically the same throughout the zoom range so zooming in and out of the range will have very little impact on the image quality.

During practical testing, I often found myself dropping to f2.8 if I needed more sharpness to get better detail on the subject as both contrast and sharpness can get low using the maximum aperture of f1.8. I find f2.8 to be acceptable for text but f5.6 would be ideal as the lens get another small boost in sharpness at that aperture.

Even at f3.2, edge sharpness is still below average

Overall, there isn’t a ‘wow’ factor about it’s performance sharpness wise. Under optimal lighting conditions, f2.8 is definitely the way to go as contrast and detail clarity is good in the centre of the image. On the other hand, fringe detail sharpness, such as objects around the edge of the frame, remains average to poor even if the lens is stopped down to f2.8 or above.

Low ISO performance

For low ISO, if you are in a situation to be able to use it, is squeaky clean at the minimum ISO of 125. While not by any means the lowest ISO or cleanest picture in comparison, the noise is almost non-existent at this stage, I would be hard pressed to criticize the performance here.

High ISO performance

High ISO performance seems pretty satisfactory to me. Testing at the maximum ISO of 12800 under low light situations, images don’t come out with too much noise to be considered unusable for the circumstance. For bright colors such as the plain white wall behind, light colored bottle and the bottle of mayo, I don’t see any noticeable banding or distortion coming from the high ISO so taking brightly colored objects at night won’t be much of a problem. For darker colors such as the books, the problem is definitely more pronounced at anything higher than 100% zoom but still within acceptable bounds, at least to me.

Based on the test image, some of the finer details such as the textures on the books have been lost and smaller text such as the “Vitamin C” label on the bottle can get difficult to see from the noise so take that in mind when taking small subjects in low-light situations.

Low exposure recovery

From our low exposure recovery test where we recover photos from an average of 3 stops of underexposure, almost all detail is handily recovered from the majority of underexposed areas without trouble, although the shaded areas did take a hit in terms of noise and clarity; a better exposed photo at native ISO would’ve rendered a cleaner picture for those shaded areas.

Still, this is a good performance from the sensor and covers almost all of your typical scenarios where low light is concerned.

High exposure recovery

From our high exposure recovery test where we recover photos from an average of 3 stops of overexposure, once again, we see good performance in recovering much of the information on the highlights without much trouble.

In my opinion, high exposure recovery recovered a tad more information in the highlights than vice versa against the under exposed photo; both in terms of color detail and noise. Users keen on picking up this camera up should be looking to overexpose in a highly dynamic photo to preserve as much detail in the photo as possible after correcting the image.

Optical flaring

In our optical flaring test where I point towards a bright light and wave the camera around like maniac, the lens on the G5X holds up surprisingly well. Contrast around the area is well controlled and don’t suffer from too much bleeding to be a problem.

 Flaring is also not very prominent despite pointing the camera directly at a bright light source; I don’t think anyone would complain about a performance such as this.

Even outdoors, Chromatic aberration is hard to spot on the edges

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration, just like optical flaring, performed much better than I initially expected it to be. On my pictures, I am hard pressed to even find signs of chromatic aberrations, much less significant ones on the fringes of objects. Still, for the eagle-eyed, you could see some very slight fringing of both the purple and green hues when zooming in on photos above 100% on the edges of corners.

 So, while it’s not flawless, it’s still very good in my eyes.

Bokeh

The Bokeh, while there, is nothing mind blowing in terms of both the blur and how smooth it is. At the maximum of f1.8, subjects at about an arm’s length away do get decently blury with the amount of blur that is similar to what you would get with a full frame camera at f4. It’s not meltingly creamy and yet I wouldn’t say that it’s bad looking either.

There is a decent amount of subject separation at low f-stop and I find that slightly increasing the aperture to the zoomed maximum of f2.2 gets me a better and, in my opinion, more eye pleasing shot.

Video Quality

Rolling Shutter & Stability Test

In our rolling shutter and stability test, I see no signs of image ghosting from panning the camera left and right, indicating that using the video for fast moving subjects shouldn’t be a problem. Even while aggressively shaking the camera in all directions, the stabilization mechanism keeps the subject in the video still without much degradation in quality.

1080p recording (60 fps)

The G5X MK II also offers a variety of standard video modes and the ability to shoot 1080p videos at 60fps and even high framerate slow-mo (120fps). While there is a max recording time of 30 minutes in this mode, I’ve found it to be more than enough per recording.

In the above recording test, I also wanted to test for the stability of the camera without specifically holding it in a stable manner; walking haphazardly and holding the camera in one hand. I was certainly impressed that the footage was still usable and the stabilization held up in a typical real-world scenario.

4k recording

4k uncropped recording may have gotten the attention of reviewers out of the box but unfortunately, it comes with certain asterisks that makes it less than ideal as you’d hope. Recording time is limited to only 10 minutes per recording and you’re still stuck with default Canon color profiles; no fancy log profiles here.

The option to use the 4k is also, for some reason, only buried within the Video mode dial without any option to select it outside of this mode.

I took a sample video walking around a local mall and you can see the results above. To my dismay, I noted some auto focusing issue when doing general landscape videos in my test. In places with multiple bright lights, the camera seems to be too sensitive to the change in brightness when bright objects are in view.

This causes constant focus breathing as the camera tries to micro-adjust the focus when tested with the default firmware of the camera.

Canon has since addressed this with a firmware update (v 1.1.0) which I highly recommend you to download from their website.

The video quality does come out well though (AF issue aside), if only marred by a somewhat slow auto focus timing when focusing on words and close up subjects. I also found it to have a touch more latency when looking at the screen while recording; making it more difficult to pull off slow panning shots that require slow and precise movements.

Practical Testing

Foray into RWS

As per all my reviews, I prefer testing for practicality instead of controlled tests and for the G5X Mk II, it’s no different… except for that little worldwide situation right now.

At the time of review, the worldwide situation is getting worse and Singapore shows no sign of decreasing in cases. Fortunately, I had an errand to run at RWS last weekend so it was a good opportunity to get in some shots with the G5X Mk II which you can see on the gallery above.

I tested it in a variety of situations and it seems to hold out well for the most part.

Food

For those who are curious, this camera does especially well for food photography owing to playing to its strong suites; “Good enough” bokeh and sharpness up close, along with a short minimum focus distance. For the avid food blogger, consider this a strong contender for shooting your photos!

Battery Life

Battery life out of the box is not too impressive. The Canon NB-13L, though specified to last up to 210 shots, didn’t last too long when I took it out to the test. From my brief excursion to RWS, I managed to get it to below 50% with moderate usage; taking 43 shots without flash, along with recording around 7 minutes of footage at default LCD brightness and settings (I’ll be generous and toss in around 20 minutes of fiddling with the camera settings through the LCD here).

Users considering this camera should consider picking a USB C power bank for better longevity and long-term usage.

The good news is charging seems to be quick though, as it only takes about 50 minutes to fully charge the battery with the charger that came with it.

Conclusion

At the retail price of $1,200 SGD/$900 USD, it certainly isn’t going to be an easy recommendation just from the price alone. At this price range, it would only be a slight top-up to reach into MILC cameras such as the a6400 which would be more worthwhile in the long run.

That said, I think Canon has its priority straight on who they are trying to market these kinds of cameras to: It’s for the hobbyist photographer that always want a camera on-hand or in the bag, the times where even carrying a bigger mirrorless or DSLR is considered impractical; here, the image quality and sharpness handily beats what you can get on a phone. It’s for the travel enthusiast that, once again, needs a camera with practical analogue zoom; be it at 24mm for stunning vistas and vlogs or 120mm for close up objects.

If you are one of those people, I can definitely recommend this camera for its “good enough” video and photo capabilities and the all-in-one package. For others, I’d give it a pass and save up for a MILC camera instead if you’re already willing to spend around this price range for a camera.

The GoodThe bad
-Excellent stabilization and decent video quality-No software drive mode which can be a pain (have to set to
TV or TV mode dials respectively)
-Shoots 4k uncropped– Lens sharpness(at lower fstop)
-Wide aperture lens for low-light situations– Price
-Good ISO performance– Lack of multi-point AF and tracking
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Chia is the horse-author from the far flung year of 2153. While not grazing on grass pastures or reviewing old time-y games and technology from the early 21st century pretending to not know what comes next (as to not disturb the space-time continuum), he can be seen exchanging vast quantities of Earth currency for parts needed to fix his damaged space ship.

Chia is the horse-author from the far flung year of 2153. While not grazing on grass pastures or reviewing old time-y games and technology from the early 21st century pretending to not know what comes next (as to not disturb the space-time continuum), he can be seen exchanging vast quantities of Earth currency for parts needed to fix his damaged space ship.