Michael Topham tests Canon’s pocket-friendly compact with a pop-up electronic viewfinder
Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II: Performance
Before the days of touchscreens we were required to press an AF selection button and use the four-way controller to move the AF point around the frame. This wasn’t a particularly fast or intuitive way of getting it where you needed it quickly. On the G5 X Mark II you get touch and drag AF, which as its name implies, allows you to reposition the AF point by tapping and dragging your finger across the screen, even when the EVF is raised to your eye. To improve control and prevent your thumb stretching uncomfortably into the corners, you’ll find it’s best to set the positioning method to absolute and change the active touch area to top right.
Focus acquisition is brisk when you’re shooting outdoor scenes and there’s plenty of natural light. Use the camera in dark or dim situations and you’ll notice a sluggish delay between it trying to acquire focus and the white AF point turning green, which confirms correct focus has been achieved. Without Dual Pixel AF, autofocus speed during video recording is also slow, however this can lead to rather nice smooth focusing transitions between near and far subjects. While the Live Tracking mode is effective at identify a face in a scene, locking onto it and tracking it, I didn’t find it to be as accurate or as responsive at locking onto faces or eyes as using Sony’s RX100 VI.
As for the touchscreen, it’s just as good as you get on Canon’s top models. It’s incredibly responsive, super precise and makes for a quick way of navigating the menu. To make the camera more familiar to existing DSLR and mirrorless users, Canon has also changed its compact camera user interface to a more EOS-like version that’s easy to comprehend and nicely colour coded.
A pocket compact isn’t the type of camera you’d typically associate with high speed shooting, but Canon had to do something if they’re to keep up with the way Sony’s RX100 series is progressing. With fixed focus, the G5 X Mark II managed to shoot 105 JPEGs at 20fps, which dropped to 49 frames when switched to record in Raw. These numbers are impressive, but they don’t exceed the Sony’s RX100 IV, which managed 150 Extra Fine JPEGs at 24fps and 72 raw files at 24fps when we reviewed it. Switching over to continuous autofocus saw the G5 X Mark II rattle out 214 JPEGs at 8fps and 60 raw files at 8fps before its buffer required a breather.
The new Raw burst mode is found below the drive mode settings in the menu. It can also be assigned to the movie-shooting button from the custom controls if you’d like instant access to it. Enabling this mode initiates 30fps burst shooting in the CR3 Raw format, but ISO is locked to Auto in Program, Shutter priority (Tv) and Aperture priority (Av) modes. There’s a vertical bar onscreen that fills up as the buffer gets full and you can’t view the burst in playback until this bar is empty. With a high-speed 64GB SDXC UHS-II card, I recorded 109 frames before I could take no more. The process of extracting images as a JPEG or Raw from the burst is very easy during playback. There’s also the option to enable Pre-shooting when you’d like the camera to start recording approximately 0.5secs before the shutter is fully pressed.
Staying on the subject of speed, it takes 1.7secs to get from one end of the zoom to the other and it has a quick start up time of just 1.3secs – great for spur of the moment opportunities you may encounter.
The camera’s metering system delivered well-exposed images on test. In tricky high-contrast scenes users may wish to use the Auto Lighting Optimizer, which offers four levels of control (disable, low, standard, high) and does a good job of automatically optimising highlight detail and boosting the brightness of shadow areas to produce a well-balanced exposure – see the example below. Canon’s Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) mode is available too, which can be used to preserve highlight detail that might otherwise be blown out due to overexposure.
Pocket compacts, with their small batteries, are notorious for having a short battery life. Canon rates the battery life at 230 shots using the LCD, or 180 shots using the EVF. There are several things you can do to preserve battery life such as change the display performance from smooth to power-saving, reduce the power saving times of the EVF and screen to their minimum and use Wi-fi sparingly. The good news is that the camera supports charging on the go via USB-C so you can charge it up in the car or via a power pack and cable. Ansmann, Hahnel and Duracell sell spare batteries for around £40 too, which cost less than buying a genuine Canon NB-13L (£65).