The high-end compact camera market has gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years, and Canon is back with a bang in 2014 with the PowerShot G1 X Mark II.
The update to the 2012 original model rights many of the shortcomings that we had with it and sets it down a path similar to the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark II. Why? Because Canon has lopped off the optical viewfinder that the original model featured to instead focus on a hotshoe-based optional accessory instead.
The core of the camera is built around a 13.1-megapixel (12.8MP in 3:2 ratio) sensor, alongside an updated Digic 6 processor that, Canon claims, will push image quality yet further than before. Nonetheless the original G1 X produced outstanding image quality, and so we have zero concerns in this department.
What the G1 X Mark II really elevates is performance. With the original we found the close-up focus abilities irksome as it wasn't possible to focus closer than 30cm from the lens. The Mark II model features a brand new 24-120mm f/2.0-3.9 lens that can focus far closer - as near as 5cms from the lens at its wide-angle setting.
The lens also includes two control rings around the barrel, one nearest to the body which clicks when rotated, the other rotates smoothly. We opted for aperture and shutter speed controls but it's possible to customise their functions as you choose. It gives it a mini DSLR kind of feel in use.
On the rear is a 1-million dot 3-inch LCD screen mounted on a tilt-angle bracket. But there's a couple of twists: the G1 X MkII's screen can flip all the way up to face forward for selfies and its touch-sensitive panel adds yet another additional feature compared to the original. We're not entirely convinced it needs the touchscreen element, but it's as though Canon has thrown everything it's got at this model - bar for a viewfinder that is.
The exclusion of a viewfinder will leave some perplexed, but there is still the option via a new hotshoe and 1.44m-dot EVF-DC1 accessory. That does, however, add an extra £200 to the already heavy £799 price tag - placing the model right up there among mid-level DSLR cameras. It'll suit some, but it's not one for all.
But from using the camera we can't help but be impressed, it gives a strong sensation of where that money has gone. The build is solid, the size is chunky - perhaps a bit too chunky - and it just works effortlessly.
The autofocus system also sees a significant boost compared to the original. In the Mark II it's a lot, lot faster than before and seemed consistently accurate in the time we spent with the camera. For manual focus using the front control ring feels silky smooth and the addition of focus peaking assists in getting those sharp shots. In short it clears up every single moan we could throw at the original.
It might be pricey, but if you're after a DSLR alternative then the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is a serious piece of kit that aligns Canon with some of the competition that's out there. We'd like it to be a bit smaller in scale, but with a sensor of that size and lens with such an aperture range that was never going to be a possibility. As it stands we very much like what we see, assuming you've got the bank roll to support its purchase. And if you haven't then there's a bit of time to save up prior to its launch this May.