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Compact Camera Comparison - Sony RX100 II vs. Canon G1X vs. Fujifilm X20

Updated on July 1, 2014

Which is the best premium compact?

Hi folks, what I have done here, is to put together a comparison table that shows the features of the three cameras side by side. That way, the strengths of each camera can be readily apparent. What can be noticed right away is that the G1X is an older camera than its contenders and is getting slightly surpassed on features.

Despite this, Canon has not produced a successor yet, as it appears the company still believes the camera is holding out pretty well in front of the competition. The cause of the confidence is most surely the large 1.5" sensor and the Digic-5 image processor which was taken from Canon's DSLR line.

After all, why change a good thing? This seems to be Canon's policy here and they may have a valid point. Read on to our detailed review to see how the camera fares.

The Cameras Side by Side - Get a sense of their size

Sony RX100 II vs. Canon G1X vs. Fujifilm X20 Feature Comparison Table

Cameras Body

These cameras are well built and feel sturdy in hand

The Sony RX100 II is the smallest of the three. In fact it's that small that you'd need a wrist strap in order to be comfortable using it without fear of dropping it. But small as it may be, it feels sturdy and surely packs a lot of power.

The Fujifilm X20 is slightly larger, and will easily fit in a pocket. Its stylish retro look appeals to many.

The Canon G1X follows the design of the G line of compacts, but is an overhaul from the line with its large sensor. It is the bulkiest in Canon's G line and also in our comparison. It is definitely not as pocketable as the RX100 II and the X20, but, carried around the neck, can make a great tourist camera.

They are all robust builds with bodies made of metal alloys. If you carry them in your pocket however, you'll have to use a case or at least some LCD protection to prevent scratches from keys and coins.

Lenses

Bright and fast lenses, finely manufactured

Generally speaking about compact cameras, keep in mind that these are made to perform well in a variety of common situations, and not under extreme conditions. For instance, even though they push pretty high ISO numbers, they don't generally perform that well for ISOs larger than 800. Zoom and aperture size are also being kept within conservative limits.

What we can draw from the comparison table above real quick, is that the Sony and the Fujifilm seem to handle low light situations better than the Canon. The aperture ranges are an indicator as to what these lenses can do. The small F numbers like F1.8, F2 and F2.8 indicate how large of an aperture the lens has. The smaller the F number, the larger the aperture is. A large aperture of F1.8 or F2 indicates a fast lens that performs well in low light conditions. The F2.8 aperture on the Canon G1X will need larger exposure times under the same conditions.

We see that the Sony RX100 II and the Canon G1X have relatively short aperture ranges, but the Fujifilm X20 sports the widest range, from F2 to F11. The F11 number means the aperture can be quite small, which is useful for taking photos that show greater depth of field. This however may be more useful in nature and open spaces shooting than on the street or indoors.

It also has to be kept in mind that aperture size drops with a larger zoom. So shooting at the largest aperture values is available only at the cameras' max zoom out position (widest angle). This is valid for all three cameras.

All three cameras have built-in optical, coupled with electronic, image stabilization.

Some Sensor Talk

A bit of geeky speak - well, not quite. This is actually useful

The sensor of the Canon G1X is the largest in size of the three, with 14 megapixels on a 1.5 inch sensor. Sony RX100 II and Fuji X20 on the other hand, pack 20MP on a 1 inch sensor, and 12MP on a 2/3 inch sensor, respectively. That means that Sony and Fuji are packing a closely similar number of megapixels per square milimeter, having smaller photodiodes, while Canon's sensor uses larger photodiodes, which theoretically should do a better job to capture light. But let's not forget that Canon's sensor, while being an offshoot from the sensors used in Canon's DSLRs, is already an older generation than the other two, and that the industry trend is to continously miniaturize sensors.

It deserves pointing out that Sony boasts a new proprietary backlit sensor that it claims to improve light capturing by as much as 40% from other sensors. This, coupled with the fast lens, should offer the RX100 II significantly improved performance in low light photography, but again, we need to check if practice matches marketing speak.

So in the end the question is: will the newer smaller sensors in the RX100 II and X20 outperform the good old (and large) Canon sensor?

LCD and viewfinder

With its 1.2 million pixels, the RX100 II's LCD is the sharpest of the three, showing the most detail. It's a beautiful looking screen, similar to a retina display. The Canon comes second, with the Fuji showing a more spartan resolution.
The Canon has the only variable angle screen, meaning it can be directed to virtually any angle, while Sony and Fuji can be tilted up and down, for taking shots from above and below the line of sight.

All three screens are bright enough to be usable on a sunny day.

The Canon G1X and the Fuji X20 have optical tunnel viewfinders in addition to LCD previewing. While the X20's viewfinder covers only 85% of the view, it also displays useful information like the focus grid, focus area and focus stop, aperture, shutter spped and ISO, and others. The G1X's viewfinder covers the whole view, but does not display any information. The Sony RX does not have a built-in viewfinder, instead offers the option to use a hot-shoe-mountable electronic viewfinder that is to be purchased separately but is a bit pricey at $450. If you can afford it though, it gives the most power in image composition, as it accurately displays the sensor view.

Automatic Focus

Fast, latest generation focus

All three cameras perform well here, with the Fuji X20 having an upper hand. It couples contrast detection with phase detection into a hybrid viewfinder system, which is a DSLR feature that we're just starting to see on compacts. It's neat though, and makes focusing almost instantaneous, especially on still images.

The camera may do some focus 'hunting' when tracking remote moving subjects, but that's an issue to be expected in all compact class cameras.

Focus area selection - as shown in the comparative table, the Fuji X20 offers a choice of 49 focus points, the RX100 II has 25, and the G1X sports 9 points. While sometimes (not that often though) it may be useful to have a nitty-gritty choice of focus areas, make sure you don't forget where you've set the focus.

Image quality

Snappy vibrant pictures doesn't get any easier

One thing to be pointed out is that, if you've only used lower end cameras so far, you can rightfully expect a lot better image quality from any of these three cameras. They are specifically built to fill up the transition space between consumer compacts and point-and-shoots on the low end, and DSLRs on the higher end.

They pack features and image quality that is just shy of DSLR level. As time goes by and technology marches on, they will continue to exhibit more and more amazing performance. Professional photographers turn to these premium compacts to replace their bulkier DSLRs for everyday shooting.

Below are some image samples to allow you to form your opinion.

Quick poll - what do you think of these cameras?

Which camera do you consider to be the best?

See results

Fine Picture Comparison

This is for the pixel-peeper in you :)

© 2013 CameraGeek

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      Dynastar 3 years ago

      Surprising .... is that the Canon seems to have better detail than the RX100. Look at the lettering on the side of the spools. In all but the 100iso...is it discernible on the RX100.

      It goes to show you...as is true with so many things in life...the paper statistics often belie actual performance.