Canon PowerShot G3 X Digital Camera Review
Canon's latest point-and-shoot is long on zoom, but can it catch the competition?
By the Numbers
Looking solely at our lab performance, the story is quite good. The G3 X is a perfrectly solid camera with great color performance, decent sharpness, and good video quality. Really the only place there's a noticeable deficiency in quality is in noise performance—but part of that is simply because the camera can really push its ISO speeds really high. We did not penalize the camera for that.
Color and White Balance
As Canon cameras are wont to do, the G3 X has excellent color accuracy and white balance. With a ∆C 00 (saturation corrected) color error of 1.95 and an overall saturation level of 113.7%, the G3 X boasts a near-perfect color error (perceptually speaking, anyway).
Sticklers for perfect color will probably notice that somewhat elevated level of saturation, but no one color really gets boosted more than others. It's a very even saturation boost, which is uncommon—and worthy of praise.
White balance, too, is superb. With the notable exception of incandescent lighting (which will give your snaps a distinct orange tinge to the tune of 2000 kelvin), the automatic white balance will get shots taken in fluorescent lighting and daylight to within 150 kelvin of ideal—meaning only very slight coloration to your shots.
Sharpness is decent, but you're going to want to keep your zoom in check. Though the overall average sharpness across all focal lengths is about 1902 line widths per picture height, it's mostly due to the wide and middle focal lengths. Once you go past the midpoint, you'll notice a steep dropoff in sharpness—culminating in an MTF 50 measurement of around 1500 LW/PH at full zoom.
Additionally, the G3 X applies anywhere from 15-30% oversharpening in its JPEG processing to achieve these results. If you shoot in RAW, you'll probably wind up applying clarity boosts and the like to get more usable results.
If you go pixel-peeping, you'll probably notice some haloing in high-contrast edges. It's a normal thing for a camera to do with its default JPEG engine, so you're probably used to this already. No big deal.
Barrel distortion really isn't a problem, but you may or may not notice a bit of chromatic aberration in your shots. It's a common thing for sub-$1000 cameras (and lenses) to have.
Here's where things get messy. The Canon G3 X has a noise problem, and it's not something that's easily ignored. Long story short, you will be forced to make tradeoffs with the noise reduction settings, and they're a doozy.
So for starters, the default NR setting is "Standard," which is the best mix of detail retention and noise reduction you can get on this camera. If you set it to "Low," you'll notice appreciable grain in your shots from ISO 800 and up, and if you set it to "High," you'll notice fine details are removed with prejudice.
Using default settings, you can pretty much expect your shots to be usable all from base ISO all the way through ISO 3200. Beyond that, and you'll have a very visible 2+% chroma and luma noise.
Video is a strong suit for the Canon G3 X, with high (for 1080p) sharpness, low artifacting, and 60fps HD recording. If there's one thing this camera does extremely well, it's record things in bright light.
Though there's no 4K shooting, the 1080p modes perform well. In our labs, the G3 X recorded 600 line pairs per picture height in motion, while that number drops to 500 in low light (60 lux). While that's not going to blow the doors off the joint, keep in mind this isn't a system camera with a huge sensor, so expectations should be tempered accordingly.
If you're thinking about shooting in lots of low-light situations (birthday parties, etc), the G3 X is able to produce a 50 IRE image with only 6 lux of ambient light. That's pretty good considering the G3 X has a 1-inch sensor and not an APS-C or full-frame chip. Just don't expect any miracles and you'll be fine.
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