Compared to What?
Rated 4 out of 5
There is a lot of hate for this camera and I don't understand it. Canon took down all reviews for this camera, and when I tried to write a review on their site, it wouldn't let me, which is too bad, because I like this camera. So before I get into details here, I want to first say that I have typically hated Canon my entire professional career. I was always a Nikon shooter before moving up to medium format and pro video rigs. I have never liked nor owned a Canon before this. With that said, I bought a Sony point and shoot years ago and loved having it as a B (C) camera for a lot of reasons. Not that it was used often for professional work, but it was always small enough to keep in my pocket. I once even shot a segment for NBC on it to reach a deadline when the studio camera flatlined. In the last couple of years, my old Sony has become strictly a family camera as it is well over a decade old and 10MP just won't cut it if I did need it and I missed my go anywhere backup. Sure, I have my big backups, but I really wanted something that could fit in my pocket and still get results that I could advertise with or not be embarrassed to pull out at a shoot and hand results to a client if needed. Sometimes you just find yourself in a weird place and need a camera.
Since I've definitely evolved over the last decade, I wanted a baseline of specifications. I needed external audio, 4K, RAW, and a reasonably fast lens and autofocus. I don't feel like these are too much to ask for, but really, it came down to this or the RX100VII. Nobody else made a camera with those specifications and even the Sony RX doesn't have a fast lens. After the V, Sony traded in their fast short zoom for a slow long one. Sure, there was the RX10 line, but those won't fit into my pocket and are much more in the mold of a superzoom, not to mention price. I wish that this came with an EVF or had a hotshoe to attach one, but the G5 Xii doesn't have an audio jack so I can live with this.
For all of the complaints that there seem to be out there, I first want to address that I received the camera with original firmware, so while I heard it was improved with new firmware, I was expecting the camera to be awful upon turning it on and it just wasn't. This isn't the fastest camera or the fastest mirrorless camera I've ever picked up, but it is much faster than plenty of the professional cameras that I use. I will admit that I am not the most knowledgable of the modern point and shoot market, and maybe Sony really is that much faster, but I don't see anyone missing shots because of this. I've also heard complaints that it isn't as good as Canon Duel Pixel, and maybe there is a level of better that it could be, but I also feel that this camera is $500 less than the closest competition and has a much faster lens. It is getting great support from Canon and the new AF works even better after the update.
As this is my first Canon, there are the normal gripes that come with a new system. Why does Canon call this function this when everyone else does it another way. Why doesn't it have this feature etc. I'm sure that Canon faithful will not appreciate these and they are mostly ambivalent once you get to know how the camera operates. I'm pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of manual controls, functions, and image quality. The lens is sharp. The files are small but have a good range. One thing that I've always heard about Canon is that they get pretty high results in less time and I can see that pro logic in this camera. I can honestly say that you could get away with using this camera for at least half the jobs that come across my desk in a pinch and yet I can take it anywhere and everywhere in a pocket.
Now for the reasons it isn't 5 stars. The first is the grip. I love how small it is and I love that it has a fast and sharp lens, but I hate the fact that the ring control extends so close to the grip that it eats into your fingers and doesn't give much real estate to actually grip the thing with. You can say that is what you get with such a small body, but I call shenanigans as there is plenty of room to the other side of the lens. Canon opted for a more symmetrical look to please aesthetics over me not getting treads in my fingers. I'll only slightly mention the plastic and non-weather-sealed feel slightly as the camera is priced that way and there isn't a competitor that offers it. The battery is awful and could have been improved. I realize that there is only so much you can do but this battery has been there go-to for smaller cameras for a while and it is well behind the competition so you need to factor in another $50 into the price to get a second. There are also overheating issues that prevent this from being a primary camera for some people that want to shoot 4K or slow-motion extensively. It doesn't hurt me for being an in emergency break glass alternative and a great travel camera, but I understand those people's frustrations. The biggest issue that I have is the lack of hotshoe requires a special plate to hold the mic and camera which does go against the idea of the camera being small to begin with. The inclusion of a hotshoe really does fix a lot of issues with this camera, but it is what it is, and to be fair, would get in the way of the flip-up screen. The last thing I will say, is the IS leaves a lot to be desired and the 10-year-old Sony was better at this. Not a deal-breaker, but considering you need to avoid increasing ISO, slower shutter speeds would be a nice option, especially when lacking any sort of viewfinder.
I think that part of the problem that I am seeing from people is the marketing that this is the perfect vlogging camera. In a lot of ways, I think that it is, but the first thing that people need to understand about cameras is inverse properties. If you want a tiny camera that acts like an Arri, that camera doesn't exist. A lot of people love the GH5 or Blackmagic Pocket Cinema line because they are pretty darn close, but much more expensive than this and don't include a lens and neither are going to fit in your pocket and require more gear to tag along. If you need to shoot in 4K all day, this is not the camera for you. If you shoot short videos and want them in 4K, this very well may be the camera for you. If you don't mind shooting 1080, this camera is great. The real issue is keeping spare batteries and that for $750 you are getting close in price to some pretty great, albeit larger cameras. The size is invaluable to me, but if you are more performance-centered, there are better cameras for the money, though probably not with this quality of lens.
While the bokeh is nice where present, the real reason to get such a fast lens is to not have to rely on ISO in lower light, as the pixel density on a small sensor is going to create a lot of noise. I was surprised by how well images came out at base ISO. I wouldn't recommend cropping too much and the widest angle does have some distortion on the edges, but it isn't bad. Zoom in a bit and stay close to your subject and you get amazing results in good light. I would also mention that beyond the newer RX100 lens being really bad, this is way better than the older equivalent RX100V lens and probably the best lens of its type on the market.
While I won't be switching to Canon Cameras any time soon, sharp glass, lots of features (ND Filter, Focus Stacking, Manual Controls) and pleasing colors in this small and light of a body that can really go anywhere so you have it with you everywhere came as advertised. It does most of what I would want a camera to do, and my only real complaints are the grip and lack of hotshoe, with a little overheating in 4K thrown in. I would generally recommend this camera for a high quality walk around, back up, or light use, but would avoid for extensive professional work, as real professional cameras are going to be a lot bigger/heavier/expensive, but don't pretend there is a magical unicorn out there that does both as well as this.
Autofocus issues can't be overlooked
Rated 1 out of 5
Visiting the store, I fell in love with this camera as soon as I picked it up. It has a great feel, weight, and all the features you'd want from a solid point-and-shoot camera. Sadly, after consulting with Canon directly and an associate at B&H, the autofocus issues couldn't be reasonably resolved and today it was returned.
If you're considering this product and relying on it for video, I would highly recommend looking at other devices. At the time of this review, the firmware version was 1.2.0. Look into available firmware updates before investing in this product to ensure the autofocus problem has been resolved.