Canon G5X on my hand

I have not reviewed any Canon product for many years. Last month, they reached out to me to resume my engagement, much to my delight. The first product I am reviewing is the Canon PowerShot G5X.

The Canon PowerShot branding started since 1996 and has survived till this day – 20 years! The Canon PowerShot G series started in 2000 with G1 all the way till G16 before rebooting as G1X. The G series is Canon’s flagship compact camera series with great handling while sacrificing bulk. The other premium range with a more balanced form factor was the PowerShot S series. I used to own the S30 in 2001 and then upgraded to S45 (the latest model currently is S120).

The Canon G5X was launched together with the G9X in Oct 2015. They both use similar sensor size but G9X has a smaller and lighter body, and the lens has shorter range with maximum f4.9 aperture at tele end. The G5X extends 24-100mm with f1.8-2.8 aperture, which is identical to the G7X. The G5X is also the first G-series with electronic viewfinder.

Canon G5X lens protruding flash popping up

From the exterior, the G5X looks like a mini SLR, which I thought looked cute. The hump on top houses the electronic viewfinder, the first on the G series, and the mini flash that is manually flipped when you want to use.

On the left you have the mode dial, and on the right, a similarly-sized exposure value compensation dial of up to 3 stops.

Canon G5X top view

Facing the front near the grip is a uniquely-positioned rotary dial that is ergonomically designed while at the same time looking great. The lens control ring can be turned to change settings during shoots. The large monitor screen which is touch-enabled can swivel and tilt for all your challenging angles, for selfies or video blogging (vlog). NFC chip is located below the camera for ease of pairing to your smartphone with NFC capability.

Canon G5X swivel screen

There are loads of customisation on the camera and the menu is presented in tabs. Each tab shows all the functions on screen without requiring you to scroll down, hence you can easily find the function you want to adjust just by looking. I won’t discuss all the features, but some noteworthy capabilities are:

– You can customise to show different information on the large display and the viewfinder (VF) individually.
– You can personalise the buttons (like movie, AF Lock) and all the rotating dials for PASM shooting modes.
– You can auto-correct images, like dynamic range, shadow details, ISO noise reduction.
– There are loads of power-saving options to improve battery life, like reducing refresh rate of the viewfinder, camera shuts off display after a few seconds.
Auto ND (neutral density) filter to let you shoot bright scenes at large apertures.
– Set “Night Display” and the text changes to darker colour, great for use at dim conditions.

Canon G5X rear controls

What I Like

Electronic Viewfinder. The G5X is the first G series Canon compact camera with EVF. The resolution quality is good and almost lag-free. I like it that during video recording, I can switch between the large display and EVF. And thanks to the dedicated EV knob, I can adjust exposure on the fly during video recording.

Hybrid Auto. Most cameras have the usual PASM plus SCENE modes. The G5X has this hybrid auto mode where the camera automatically compiles a chronological video montage of the photos taken using this mode. The video captures a few seconds before the shot is taken, and then the freeze-frame shot. It’s a brilliant way to capture daily snippets. The G5X compiles one video per day. The video is appended every time a photo is capture, so you can play it back as the day goes by. Note that this mode does not allow customising of image size and quality. Here’s a video I created using footages from the hybrid auto and other sources.

Creative Shot Mode. This mode with its dedicated selection on the mode dial is a fun feature that captures multiple images at one go with in-camera effects and cropping applied automatically.

Canon G5X Creative Shot Mode

SCN Mode. Most cameras’ SCENE modes are pretty much fixed settings, or requires you to enter settings to make adjustments. G5X lets you change the settings on the fly using lens control ring, where you can set the effects intensity level or options. Some effects like Miniature which records video offers speed settings which makes the video look really like miniature city on the move.

Delete RAW or JPEG. When you choose to capture photos in both RAW and JPEG formats, during deletion you can choose to delete either RAW, JPEG, or both.

Mobile Device Connection Button. This button is located inconspicuously near the battery cover, and you can press it any time, even when the power is off.

Canon G5X mobile device connection button

Once pressed, the camera will activate the WiFi to connect to your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Canon G5X connects to smartphone

Through the dedicated app on the devices, you can transfer photos wirelessly, do remote capture, backup to cloud storage.

Canon Camera Connect app screenshots

There are just a few things that makes the G5X a little less desirable. Minor issues that are easily overcome if you are keen to get the G5X.

Power Management. I know the G5X has some advanced features like wireless device connection and on-the-fly video montage collation. Hence I was disappointed with the overall power management. The poor battery life is not uncommon for compact cameras, but the G5X lacks user-friendly battery remaining indicator save for a battery icon with 3 bars. With that 3-bar indicator, you don’t know if the battery is full, or a few points shy of a third. Plus, once you reach the last bar, the indicator turns red and flashes, and the battery goes flat after about 30 minutes (maybe less). I depleted the battery on a birthday event before it reached the cake-cutting ceremony. Fortunately, I brought a backup camera. One could eliminate such embarrassing situation by purchasing extra batteries, so please do, in order to enjoy this pretty good compact camera without worries. Good thing the G5X can charge using normal USB cable, a first for G series camera, so I can charge the camera on-the-go with a powerbank.

Programmed for High Shutter High ISO. I noticed that the G5X is fond of selecting a high shutter value when shooting. I thought that was rather unnecessary since G5X has image stabilizer. As a result, images are captured with high ISO with loss of image quality when there is no need to. My workaround is to shoot with Shutter-priority “Tv” mode.

Canon G5X sample image at ISO 6400
1/640s f2.8 ISO 6400

The shutter speed tops at 1/2000s, which might be a handicap for action photography. Good thing Canon G5X comes with ND (neutral density) filter to prevent overexposure in extremely bright lighting conditions.

Image Quality

When shooting at low ISO, the images turn out with good dynamic range.

Canon G5X sample images of Merlion at Sentosa
Canon G5X sample image of Merlion at Sentosa
Canon G5X sample images at Suntec City Fountain
Canon G5X sample image at Suntec City Fountain
Canon G5X sample images at Sentosa
Canon G5X sample image at Sentosa

Low light scenes are captured sufficiently well for a compact camera with large 1-inch sensor and wide aperture of f1.8-2.8. When the images are snapped with the right amount of exposure, you can get quality outputs for post-processing.

Canon G5X sample images of Merlion at Sentosa

White balance is not always accurate, especially with warm lighting. The image below is taken using SCN mode “Defocus” effect.

Canon G5X Defocus effect with challenging white balance

The G5X can shoot up to ISO 12800. The noise level at high ISO is geared towards natural grain and minimal chroma noise. You can elect to set noise reduction to high, which increase grain removal. With either options, I find that the fine details are already lost in the grain, unlike other cameras with larger sensor where I might recommend a more conservative NR to preserve details. Therefore, it is very important to try to shoot at lower ISO. In the below test image, the camera auto-sets to 1/125s, ISO 3200 at 28mm equivalent, though it could have taken at a much lower shutter speed.

Canon G5X noise reduction levels

Video Quality

During a wedding banquet, I recorded the wedding couple march-in till the end of the speeches. The G5X handles exposure really well considering the challenging lighting condition. The built-in image stabilizer helps me in capturing steady footages. I used digital zoom liberally and turned out looking still fine for home use.


Whenever I show the G5X to people, their first reaction is one of delight. It has the look of professionalism and yet it handles with ease. The large touch-enabled display screen that tilts in all angles really helps in allowing the users to use the G5X in multiple situations. The EVF helps in getting the shot even in challenging lighting, and it offers lag-free response and professional handling for old-timers like myself who prefer to put the camera against our faces. I love the unique shooting modes that generate fun content automatically, which saves me hours on computer to create before sharing.

The Canon G5X sells in Singapore for S$999.


Dimensions: Approx. 112.4 x 76.4 x 44.2mm
Weight: Approx. 377g
Lens: 4.2x optical zoom IS
Focal length: 24-100mm (35mm equivalent)
Aperture: f/1.8-f/2.8 to f/11
Shutter: 30s to 1/2000s
Image sensor: 20.2 mega-pixel 1-inch type CMOS sensor
Imaging processor: DIGIC 6
Maximum video quality: Full HD 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p, 4x digital zoom
EVF: 0.39-inch approx. 2.36 million dots
LCD: 3” (approx. 1.04 million dots) vari-angle touch panel
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC
Battery type: NB-13L

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