Canon's pricey PowerShot G3 X compact is all about the zoom

By recent standards, Canon's new PowerShot G3 X is a nicely-equipped compact camera. But, arriving days after Sony's RX10 II, it's hard for it to avoid tough comparisons. Both cameras have 1-inch, 20.2-megapixel sensors with 25,600 max ISO. The G3 X's main weapon is the 25X optical zoom with a 24-600mm (35mm equivalent) field of view, handily trumping most models in terms of focal length, including Sony's. It also has five axis image stabilization, surprising for a compact camera and yet handy with such a big lens. Other features include a 2.36-megapixel EVR, 3.2-inch multi-angle LCD screen, dust and water resistance, WiFi/NFC wireless capability and 1080p/60fps video with clean HDMI output.

That's all well and good. But! Canon's big lens has a not-so-desirable f/2.8-5.6 variable aperture, and many photographers will no doubt prefer the RX10 II's 24-200mm constant f/2.8 iris instead. The 60fps, Full HD video is also fine, but Sony has moved that bar a lot. The RX10 II now shoots 4K video using its improved XAVC S codec without any line-skipping or pixel-binning. It can also shoot slow-motion video at up to 960fps, and Full HD video at 240fps, or four times the frame rate of the Canon. You might question how useful those features are, but if you want 'em, Sony's got 'em.

The RX10 II can also shoot at 1/32,000 of a second and 14fps, handily besting the G3 X's 1/2,000th of a second shutter and 5.9fps shooting speed. All of that speed is due in large part to Sony's more advanced "stacked" 1-inch CMOS sensor, which can read out extremely quickly thanks to a built-in DRAM chip. Meanwhile, Canon decided to ditch the 1.5-inch sensor used in the lower-end G1 X Mark II, opting for a 1-inch version instead. We think that the bigger sensor -- which lies between micro four-thirds and APS-C sizes -- would've appealed to lots of compact shooters and helped offset Sony's technological advantage.

That takes us to the price. The Canon PowerShot G3 X runs $1,000, significantly cheaper than the $1,300 RX10 II. But if you're already dropping a grand on a compact camera, what's another $300 for a lot more features? That said, the crazy long zoom is one of the biggest you'll find on a 1-inch chip camera, so it may find fans looking to shoot distant vistas. If that includes you, it arrives next month.