Australian Review: Canon Powershot G5X - A DSLR in a point-and-shoot suit

Canon Powershot G5X
Australian Review: Canon Powershot G5X - A DSLR in a point-and-shoot suit

I do most of my photography on a smartphone or DSLR; for a quick snap, it’s usually the smartphone for easy sharing capabilities. If I want a better quality photo, I bust out the DSLR. But in the words of Old El Paso, “por que no los dos?”. Canon’s new Powershot G5X is a compelling middle ground between these two options, offering up a small, convenient form-factor without sacrificing image quality.

The G5X feels like a solidly built little tank of a camera. It’s reassuringly weighty (that’s not to say it’s too heavy), feels great in the hand, and is reasonably attractive. It’s also very compact; far smaller than even an entry-level DSLR. If you’ve got baggy pants, it might even be pocketable.

On top of a well-made body, the G5X features clicky, notchy controls. Canon has gotten the feel perfect; using the dials is an odd kind of pleasure, like popping bubble wrap. I’ve picked the camera up just to idly turn the dials on more than a few occasions. Along with a mode dial and exposure dial, there’s two assignable controls on the front face of the camera.

Despite automatically changing depending on what mode you’re in, they feel familiar and intuitive. For example, while in aperture priority mode, the dial nearest to the shutter adjusts aperture, but in full manual, it adjusts shutter speed. Importantly, they also allow for enough controls to use the camera in manual mode without the need to hunt through menus for options.

If, for some reason, you don’t want to use the marvelous controls, the G5X also features a flipping, rotating touchscreen where you can access all the camera’s manual options. While the most obvious use for flipping the screen is to protect it during transport, the screen can flip to face the subject (great for selfies) and rotate for shooting at odd angles.

Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity gives you a quick option for sharing photos from the G5X without the need to plug it (or its microSD card) into a computer. The camera can be paired with iOS or Android devices via Canon’s Camera Connect app, which then gives you remote control, and the ability to beam photos over to your handset. In my experience, the app provided a smooth experience; pairing was painless, transfers were easy, and remotely shooting didn’t add unnecessary lag.

Whether shooting from the hip with the rear touchscreen or aiming precisely through the electronic viewfinder, using the G5X is a joy. A quick startup time means you won’t miss the opportune moment, and while the 24-100mm lens isn’t interchangeable, it gives you plenty of options for framing up shots, whether you’re wanting to shoot wide landscapes or close ups of flowers or food. The lens also has inbuilt stabilisation, which means you should be getting clear images even when you’re completely zoomed in (and depending on the situation, when you crop the shot).

The battery will comfortably get you 200 shots per charge, and will recharge over USB. For comparison, a DSLR like Canon’s EOS 750D can comfortably double this.

While smartphone cameras can struggle with low light performance, the G5X stands up to the challenge well. The maximum ISO of 12,800 results in extremely grainy shots, the next setting (6,400) is more than useable. When shooting with automatic settings, the camera has a tendency to lengthen the shutter time when taking extremely low light shots instead of increasing the ISO, which could result in a blurry image, but a typical night shot wasn’t problematic.

Overall, the G5X produces great images with plenty of detail; colour accuracy and exposure were spot on with every image. Autofocus also works well; with the exception of very close subjects, the camera focuses quickly, and fast moving subjects were tracked properly. With a wide aperture of f/1.8, the G5X can also produce stylised (DSLR-like) shots with a thin depth of field and smooth bokeh.

100% crop

100% crop

100% crop

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When compared to a DSLR, image quality is about on par with an entry level package such as the Canon EOS 750D. The 750D has an edge at wider apertures thanks to better depth of field, but otherwise sharpness, clarity and colour accuracy are all comparable. You won’t be able to upgrade the lens later on, but the smaller body makes the G5X more practical to carry around and use. Unless you’re looking to jump into DSLR photography, the manual controls offered on the G5X offer the same amount of control over your shots in a much more compact package.

Canon has produced several great point-and-shoot cameras in the past, and the Powershot G5X is no exception. If you’re looking to step up your image quality from a smartphone, or if you’re after something significantly smaller than a DSLR without sacrificing image quality, the G5X has you covered.

With a retail price of AUD$989, the G5X isn’t quite at the entry level, but it offers enough over its cheaper counterparts to warrant the price. The fully featured manual mode isn’t for absolute beginners, but great for those willing to learn, and with dials that feel this good, you won’t be left wanting.

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 4.5

Excellent buildBattery life shorter than a DSLR
Manual controls feel greatLCD and viewfinder could be higher resolution
Fantastic photo quality

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