How the Canon G1 X Mark III came to be: the secret story

Here’s what Canon doesn’t want you to know about their latest compact camera.

October 16, 2017

You’ve probably already heard but, earlier today, Canon announced their new PowerShot G1 X Mark III, their first compact camera with an APS-C sensor.

What you may not have heard, however, is how this unlikely camera came to be. It’s a very interesting story, and there are some important lessons to be learned here. That’s why I’ve decided to come forward and publish this article, even at the risk of burning a very well-placed source inside Canon USA. I’m sorry but I can’t stay silent; people need to know about this.

According to my source, exactly six months ago there was a very important executive meeting at One Canon Park, the company’s operational headquarters in Melville, NY. All the top brass from both Canon USA and Canon Japan were there, and the urgency of the meeting had been expressed in no uncertain terms. What follows is a word-for-word transcript of that meeting as recorded by my source, who personally attended it. I’ve merely redacted the real names of the people involved in order to preserve their privacy.

EXECUTIVE 1: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very serious situation. It’s recently come to our attention that a majority of customers don’t perceive Canon as an innovative company anymore. Now, according to our internal figures, C-Sat is still pretty good across the board for high-end products like the 5D Mark IV, but we can’t ignore the fact that those numbers are somewhat skewed by our long-term customers, whose loyalty remains strong. And let’s be honest, we can’t depend on those customers forever. Furthermore, we’re taking a huge beating in the mirrorless segment, where our latest products have gotten generally lukewarm reviews, to put it mildly. Obviously, we can’t have that. We need to rectify this ASAP, which is why we’re all here today. Any ideas?”

SENIOR PRODUCT ENGINEER: [raises hand nervously] “I, uhm, I have one.”

E1: “Really? You again, Bob? Is this going to be like that time you suggested we put IBIS in the 5D? Because I ain’t got time for that shit.”

BOB: “No, sir. This is different, I promise.”

E1: “OK. Let’s hear it.”

BOB: “Well, who’s more innovative than us?”

E1: “Everyone. Haven’t you been paying attention? That’s why we’re in this goddamned meeting.”

BOB: “Yes, but who’s being successful with a product we can easily copy?”

E1: [sighs in frustration] “I don’t know, Bob. Why don’t you tell us?”

BOB: “Fuji.”

E1: “Seriously? Fuji? Those fuckers can’t even spell “mirror”, and you’re telling me we should copy them?”

BOB: ”Be that as it may, they’re having a lot of success with the X100F. It’s crazy popular, basically backordered everywhere. More importantly, people are loving it. We should do one just like it.”

E1: “Keep going…”

BOB: “Well, it’s a simple concept, really. It’s like a compact camera but it has a big sensor inside.”

E1: “How big?”


E1: “APS-C, huh? Couldn’t we just slap on one of the sensors we’re already using? Like the one on the 80D?”

BOB: “Pretty much.”

E1: “Interesting… I like it. Alright, it’s settled, then! We’re doing one of those.”

BOB: “There’s just one problem.”

E1: [sighs again] “Of course there is. What is it, now?”

BOB: “The X100F is a hipster camera.”

E1: “What the hell is a hipster camera?”

BOB: “Well, it’s a rangefinder and it has a fixed lens.”

E1: “What do you mean, a fixed lens?”

BOB: “You can’t zoom with it.”

E1: “WHAT?? You can’t zoom? And people are still buying it? Why in god’s name would anyone buy something like that?”

BOB: “Beats the hell out of me.”

E1: “Never mind. I know what we’re going to do. We’ll make a camera just like that, but none of that rangefinder crap. We’ll put a good ol’ fashioned viewfinder inside, and we’ll put a goddamned zoom in, too. It’ll be great. People will go nuts.”

BOB: “Yes, sir. Do you want the viewfinder to be optical or electronic?”

E1: “What does the Fuji have?”

BOB: “Both.”

E1: “Alright. Let’s do both, then.”

BOB: “We can’t.”

E1: “Why not?”

BOB: “Because it would have to be a rangefinder.”

E1: “Son of a bitch.”

BOB: “We can do a tilting screen, though!”

E1: “Does the Fuji have that?”

BOB: “No, it doesn’t.”

E1: “Then you bet your ass we’re doing a tilting screen.”

BOB: “Should we make it a touchscreen, too?”

E1: [sighs again, nervously tapping on desk] “Bob, we’ve been over this. Touchscreens are for amateurs. Is Canon an amateur brand?”

BOB: “Uhm…”


BOB: “No, but…”

E1: “But what??”

BOB: “The Fuji doesn’t have a touchscreen.”

E1: “Oh, crap. That changes things. OK, you can have your fucking touchscreen. What else is there?”

BOB: “Price.”

E1: “What does the Fuji cost?”

BOB: “$1,299”

E1: “WHAT?? Thirteen grand for a motherfucking fixed lens camera? God, how many suckers are out there??”

BOB: “A lot, apparently.”

E1: “Well, let’s price-match those bastards. We’re a lot bigger than Fuji, with our scale we should be able to afford it, right?”

BOB: “Yes, we can probably hit $1,299, all things considered.”

E1: “Excellent. Now we’re talking. See, people? This is why we earn the big bucks. Alright, how about we put in the new sensor we’ve been testing? You know, the one with the much better dynamic range? Does the budget allow for that?”

BOB: “I think so, but it’ll be close.”

E1: “Never mind, there’s lots of great stuff in there already. We’ll leave that for the next version. Great job, everyone! Meeting adjourned!” [high fives all around]