Canon G1 X Mark III vs Sony RX100 V
The year is 2017. Smartphones have rendered the $200 compact obsolete, and they’re creeping up on $500 interchangeable lens cameras. Things look bleak. But lo! Camera manufacturers have stumbled upon a niche market that can soften the blow they’ve been dealt by mobile devices: the ultra-pricey premium compact.
Sony is five generations deep in the category. Canon offers a variety of large sensor compacts, but none have looked quite as promising as the G1 X Mark III. If you’re set on investing in a seriously capable compact, no doubt these two cameras will be on your list. Here’s how they square up.
In the Canon G1 X III you get a very familiar 24MP APS-C sensor with Canon’s modern Dual Pixel design. The RX100 V offers a much smaller 1″ chip with 20MP and an evolved stacked CMOS design, with impressive tricks like slow motion video and 24 fps bursts.
They’re both very capable sensors, but there’s just no avoiding that the G1 X III’s chip is much bigger. This means it can tolerate more light, which will provide a little more flexibility in brighter light and high contrast scenes. But beware: even though larger sensors typically perform better in low light and blurry background applications, that won’t necessarily be the case in this comparison… because of the…
The G1 X III and RX100 V are both built around a useful 24-70mm equivalent zoom.
The Sony offers an F1.8-2.8 aperture to the Canon’s F2.8-5.6, and you might be tempted to think that the RX100 V offers more flexibility for separating subjects from backgrounds. Or collects more light in low light. Or you might be tempted to think that the Canon is better in both these departments because of its larger sensor. Resist the temptation. Repeat after me: equivalence is our friend.
Because of their size difference, the RX100 V’s lens is equivalent to a F4.9-7.6 on full-frame; the Canon is equivalent to F4.5-9. So it’s really likely to be a wash in both the subject isolation and low light departments: the Sony is a little better on the long end, and the Canon is a tiny fraction better on the wide end. Either way you’re getting a zoom range that’s handy for plenty of shooting situations, with a built-in ND filter to boot.
Canon’s 24MP chip offers depth-aware Dual Pixel phase detection autofocus, a feature we’ve come to know and appreciate in its DSLRs and EOS-M cameras. Sony in turn offers phase detection autofocus with a total of 315 points; both cameras essentially offer autofocus across most of the frame.
We’ve generally found the RX100 V to focus better and faster in continuous drive than most Dual Pixel cameras we’ve tested, impressively even at the RX100 V’s 24 fps top burst rate. They’re both quite capable in single shot mode – Sony’s Eye AF mode is handy, though the G1 X III offers a usability advantage in its touch screen. Each system has its pros and cons, but they’re both way ahead of the contrast-detection systems used by cheaper compacts and many smartphones.
Great news: either way you go, you’ll have a built-in electronic viewfinder at your disposal, and you should for such a handsome price. But there are significant differences in rear screen specs. Canon gives you a fully articulated 3″ 1.04M-dot touch screen. Sony offers a higher-res 3″ 1.23M-dot tilting-only non-touch screen. For Pete’s sake Sony, put a touch screen in this thousand-dollar compact!
If you’re, say, a vlogger, the Canon’s fully articulating touch screen is clearly going to work better for you. Not everyone needs or wants a touch screen, but it does help you get the most out of a super fast autofocus system.
In terms of sheer video capabilities, the RX100 V comes out way ahead with 4K/30p oversampled from 5K footage, 1080/60p, 1080/120p slow motion, SLog2 for wide dynamic range capture and helpful tools like zebra and focus peaking.
The G1 X III’s mere 1080/60p looks paltry in comparison, but don’t rule it out on that spec alone. Its Dual Pixel/touchscreen combination is incredibly useful for creating smooth shifts in focus or quickly choosing the subject you want the camera to track.
If you’re an advanced videographer and you need all of the bells and whistles, or a casual user that wants highly detailed video (and you’re OK with leaving focus in complete auto mode, where it performs really well) then the RX100 V is for you. But if you’re a novice looking to create good-looking video without much effort, then you should give the G1 X III a good look.
There’s no real good news here – battery life stinks on both of these cameras. The RX100 V is CIPA-rated to 220 shots per charge; the G1 X III is rated for 200 shots. Actual results are usually better than that, but if you intend to shoot lots of bursts, plan on getting a backup battery too. A fancy compact camera with a dead battery is just a very expensive paperweight.
Let’s give credit where credit is due: these cameras are incredible feats of engineering. They each pack cutting edge technology into a body that seems way too small for its spec list. But you can’t cheat the laws of physics: the G1 X III’s much bigger sensor makes for a bigger camera. The RX100 V has “just a 1-inch sensor,” but it’s also truly pocketable. With its chunkier grip, viewfinder and protruding dials, the G1 X III is more of a “honey I shrunk the DSLR” shape and size.
We can offer some guidance around the other points of comparison, but this one’s on you. If small cameras seem too fiddly, you probably won’t like the RX100 V. If you want to slip your camera into a coat pocket when you’re not using it, the G1 X III might be a bit too big.