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Canon’s PowerShot G3 X thinks it’s a DSLR, and it’s not far off

Four months after giving us a sneak-peek, Canon officially took the wraps off its new advanced, premium point-and-shoot, the PowerShot G3 X. The bridge camera will become the flagship in Canon’s PowerShot G-series, and will list for $1,000 when it goes on sale in July.

While the G3 X isn’t a complete surprise – we already know what it looks like, and that it uses a 1-inch sensor and a compact 25x optical zoom lens – but we can now reveal more details about how powerful it will actually be. The sensor is smaller than the 1.5-inch High-Sensitivity CMOS in the PowerShot G1 X Mark II (a DT-recommended camera), but it has a higher resolution, at 20.2 megapixels – the same sensor as the one in the PowerShot G7 X (a DT Editors’ Choice camera). While we can’t yet vouch for performance, we found the G7 X to deliver quality stills and movies, so we expect the G3 X’s image quality to be just as great. Still, a 1-inch sensor is larger than what’s in most bridge cameras.

As a camera, there’s “nothing else quite like it in the marketplace right now,” says Chuck Westfall, Canon U.S.A.’s Technical Advisor, during a briefing. “We think it’s going to appeal to a lot of advanced amateur photographers and as a backup for professionals.”

What makes the G3 X unique in its class is the fixed, optical zoom lens. It has a long focal range (24-600mm), yet it’s relatively compact (for a megazoom), thanks to variable aperture lens design of f/2.8-5.6. But the camera also has a 5-axis image stabilization system that’s supported by electronic image stabilization (two optical, three electronic), helping to provide rock-steady images as much as possible. The G3 X uses Canon’s latest imaging processor, the Digic 6 – same as the G7 X. The new camera can shoot in uncompressed RAW and JPEG/RAW formats, has an ISO range of 125-12,800, and continuous shooting for 5.9 frames per second, with no buffer lag or frame limit in some cases, Canon says. The 31-point autofocus system is spread out to cover more of the frame.

The G3 X is larger than other G-series cameras – closer to the EOS SL1 DSLR in look and feel, but shorter. It has DSLR-like attributes – in fact, the G3 X mimics Canon EOS DSLR operation, a first for the G-series – such as the large grip, dials, buttons, and weather-resistant (dust and water) magnesium alloy body (similar in strength to the EOS 70D DSLR). On the back is a 3.2-inch, tilt-adjustable touchscreen (rated 1.62-million-dot resolution). The ring around the lens can be used for focusing or changing settings. A hot-shoe supports the full range of Canon Speedlite flashes (we wished the G7 X had a hot shoe, so this is a nice touch for enthusiast photographers); there’s a built-in flash, too. Unfortunately there’s no viewfinder, and considering who Canon is trying to target with this camera, we think this is a miss. However, the G3 X supports the optional EVF-DC1 electronic viewfinder ($300).

The camera is also designed with video in mind. It can capture up to Full HD 1080 video at 60p/30p/24p (MP4), but there other moviemaking features as well, such as headphone and microphone jacks, the ability to output a live, clean HDMI signal to an external display or recorder while filming, and a three-stop neutral density filter. While filming, you can adjust exposure and focus manually. The G3 X supports UHS-1 SDXC and SDHC cards, but there’s a 30-minute limit on video recording; you’ll need to restart the recording each time.

As with all new Canon PowerShot cameras, the G3 X has both Wi-Fi and NFC. The latter is used for quick pairing with select Android devices, as well as Canon’s upcoming Connect Station CS100. Canon’s Wi-Fi implementation has improved. It’s not as robust as Sony or Samsung’s, but it works well, as we learned during our G7 X review. Astro photography seems to be a popular new feature lately, and the G3 X has a Star Mode for shooting star trails and star time-lapse movies.

Canon says the G3 X is made for those looking for a DSLR-like camera in a point-and-shoot, which is what the G-series is designed to be. However, although Canon won’t say it, the G3 X is a response to Sony’s Cyber-shot RX10, just as the G7 X is a response to the RX100. Both are high-end, weather-resistant bridge cameras with a DSLR-like feel (more so with the RX10, we feel). Both use a 1-inch sensor, and Sony also touts the RX10’s video-making capabilities.

But Canon says the G3 X’s strong point is the zoom lens (25x versus the RX10’s 8.3x), Although the RX10 has a constant f/2.8 aperture (and a much larger-sized lens), Canon suggests users would rather have a longer zoom with variable aperture (that tradeoff really depends on the type of user; if you want a brighter and faster lens, the RX10 is stronger). While the G3 X is using a capable 1-inch sensor, the new RX10 II is using a brand-new “stacked” sensor technology that promises to deliver even better image quality and faster performance, although that remains to be seen. The G3 X, however, costs less.

Still, at $1,000, the G3 X is an expensive point-and-shoot, even though it’s far more powerful than the pocket PowerShot cameras or smartphones. As we said about Sony’s new RX10 II and RX100 IV, you can get an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera for less money.

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