Canon PowerShot G7X review - Verdict

Verdict

Canon’s PowerShot G7X is one of the best compacts for enthusiasts in a market that’s becoming increasingly well-catered for. Sure, it’s hugely inspired by Sony’s RX100 series, sharing the same 20 Megapixel 1in sensor and an almost identical body, but Canon’s sensibly opted for a number of alternative features that make it quite a different camera to shoot with. Indeed if you had your heart set on an RX100, you should now very carefully weigh up the pros and cons against the G7X.

The first key advantage of the G7X over the RX100 III is its lens range: both start at 24mm, but the Canon zooms almost 50% longer to 100mm while maintaining the same f2.8 aperture at the long end. At first you’d think this would involve optical compromises, but I’m pleased to report the G7X is only fractionally softer in the corners than the RX100 III at 24mm, and as you zoom-in, it actually slightly out-performs the Sony. As you’ll see in my results, both the G7X and RX100 III also deliver a step-up in crispness over the older RX100 II. With its longer focal length and bright aperture, the G7X is also the best equipped of these three for delivering portraits or macro shots with a shallow depth of field. So with the G7X you really can have your cake and eat it.

The next key benefit of the G7X over the RX100 II and III is a screen that’s touch-sensitive, making it a doddle to reposition the AF area for stills, or pull-focus for movies. While doing so you’ll also notice another area where the G7X beats the Sonys, and that’s autofocus speed. In my tests it proved quicker for stills and more confident – not to mention more controllable – for movies. An unexpected but very welcome benefit.

 

PowerShot G7 X front


As for the actual resolution and noise for stills and video, there’s no big surprises as expected – after all they share the same sensor. As such you can expect noticeably cleaner results than a typical compact with a 1/2.3in or 1/1.7in sensor, and you may even enjoy equally good results as a system camera equipped with a kit zoom, as the benefit of their larger sensors is often counteracted by a slower lens.

The image processors are of course different though, and you can see the first impact at high sensitivities on JPEGs. Using the in-camera defaults, I felt Canon’s noise-averse strategy resulted in some unnecessary smearing of fine detail above 800 ISO compared to the RX100 III, but once I get a chance to process RAW files using Adobe Camera RAW, I wouldn’t be surprised if both cameras are starting with the same amount of information. As for video, there were also differences in processing style, but again in terms of resolution and noise levels I’d rank them as roughly the same.

 

Canon G7X Sony

 

So with a longer lens, shallower depth of field effects, faster and more confident focus, touchscreen, bonus EV dial and roughly the same photo and video quality, you’d think the G7X outguns the RX100 III, and at a lower price too in some regions. But of course that’d be forgetting the areas where the Sony excels. I’ll start with the small stuff that you may not notice until testing both side by side.

Both the RX100 III and G7X offer built-in ND filters which help you not just deploy longer exposures, but also use your nice fast apertures in bright conditions. But Canon forces you to select it manually, whereas Sony offers a neat auto mode which kicks-in as the maximum shutter approaches. Both cameras have Wifi and NFC, but holding the G7X against a compatible phone will merely launch the Canon app and leave you to join the right network, whereas the RX100 III will start your phone’s Wifi, connect to it, transfer a photo, then disable the Wifi again. Both offer smartphone remote control, but the G7X’s is basic to say the least whereas the RX00 III offers full manual control. The RX100 III also supports downloadable apps, although to be fair, the G7X phone app can do GPS tagging which is not yet available on the Sony. Both do exposure bracketing, but it’s three frame on the Canon vs five on the Sony, and like all Canon cameras the G7X lacks a panorama mode that works so well on the Sonys.

For movies some may cite the 50Mbit XAVC S option of the RX100 III as a benefit over the G7X, but the Canon already films at around 35Mbit/s, which is enough for most. Where the Sony has a genuine advantage though is for slow motion with its 720p at 120fps option, plus the chance to record long footage using multiple files. Oh and in terms of continuous shooting speed, the Sony shoots about twice as fast. Plus the screen on the RX100 III also tilts down as well as up, there’s optional zebra patterns, and the camera can be charged over USB which to me is more convenient, especially for a compact.

Then there’s the big feature you all know about: the built-in electronic viewfinder on the RX100 III that literally seems to popout of nowhere from a body that’s about the same size as the G7X. Amazingly the EVF on the RX100 III is also really good, delivering a surprisingly detailed and large image considering the size of the unit. Remember without a hotshoe or accessory shoe on the G7X, there’s no way to mount an optional viewfinder on the Canon, so if this is important to you, then the Sony is the way forward. But the EVF does add to the cost of the RX100 III.

Just before my final verdict on the G7X, I’ll make a few more comparisons, again starting with the RX100 III.

Sony RX100 III vs Canon G7X

Sony’s RX100 III is the most obvious rival to the Canon G7X as both share essentially the same body size and sensor within. There’s little to choose between them in photo and video quality, although pixel-peepers will notice the Sony is a bit sharper in the corners at 24mm and the Canon is a little crisper at longer focal lengths. The Sony is also less aggressive with its noise reduction, resulting in finer detail on in-camera JPEGs at high ISOs, but once I get to test RAW files I’m expecting the original data to be similar.

The first big difference is lens range: 24-70mm on the RX100 III vs 24-100mm on the G7X, obviously giving the Canon longer reach. The focal ratios are the same at the wide and longest ends, which means the Canon can deliver shallower depth of field effects at 100mm f2.8 compared to the Sony at 70mm f2.8. The Sony can focus a bit closer at the long end, but any benefit is counteracted by the longer focal length of the Canon – both are good for macro at both ends of the scale.

Next comes composition. Both have 3in tilting screens which can face the subject for selfies, but the RX100 III’s tilts down as well as up. Countering this is a 3:2 panel which fits the shape of native images on the G7X, displaying them larger than the Sony. The G7X’s screen is also touch-sensitive, allowing you to tap to reposition the AF area or touch to pull-focus during movies – a huge benefit in my opinion. But the Sony RX100 III features a built-in electronic viewfinder that’s actually quite respectable, and remember you can’t fit one as an accessory to the G7X, so if a viewfinder is important to you, the decision will already be made.

Indeed much of the decision between the G7X and RX100 III boils down to these three main features: longer zoom (with shallower DOF at telephoto) and touchscreen on the Canon vs built-in EVF on the Sony. But there’s loads of little things to weigh up too. In its favour the RX100 III has more powerful smartphone remote control, downloadable apps, much better NFC negotiation, deeper bracketing, an auto ND filter, zebra patterns, USB charging, slow motion 720p movies at 120fps, higher bit-rates for 1080p, faster continuous shooting, and a panorama mode. Meanwhile its favour, the G7X has faster and more confident focusing, a dedicated exposure compensation dial, presets designed for easy astrophotography, GPS tagging via the smartphone app, better control over AF during movies and slightly more effective stabilisation. You may also have a preference between the clickable lens ring on the G7X versus the smooth one on the RX100 III. And finally, the G7X is cheaper than the RX100 III.

Ultimately I can’t say one of these cameras is better than the other as it depends on your preferences on the features above, but having used both models extensively, I would be very happy with either.

See my Sony RX100 III review for more details.

Lumix LX100 vs Canon G7X

Panasonic’s Lumix LX100 is another high-end fixed-lens compact aimed at enthusiasts, so is another key rival to the Canon G7X, but they’re quite different prospects. Most obviously the LX100 is a comfortably larger camera than the G7X, preventing it from squeezing into most pockets unless they’re in coats or cargo pants. It’s also adorned with many more physical controls, a built-in EVF and a larger sensor within, even if some of it isn’t used. I’ll drill-down into more detail.

In its favour, the LX100 has a larger Four Thirds sensor vs the 1in sensor of the G7X. It is important to compare the actual dimensions in practice though: a Four Thirds sensor measures 17.3x13mm, but the LX100’s lens doesn’t use all of it: when shooting, say, 3:2, the active image area is approximately 16.1×10.8mm, compared to 13.2×8.8mm for the 1in sensor in the G7X. This is still comfortably bigger though, which should give it an advantage at high ISOs and also for potential shallow depth of field – I say ‘should’ as I haven’t tested the LX100 yet, but I will of course update this when I have. Plus with spare sensor real-estate, the LX100 can offer multiple aspect ratios without cropping the diagonal field of view.

Moving on, the LX100 boasts a built-in electronic viewfinder, the same as the Lumix GX7 no less. Remember there’s no hotshoe or accessory shoe on the Canon G7X, so no chance to mount an optional viewfinder either. Speaking of hotshoes, the LX100 has one of those too, letting you mount external flashguns, although sadly there’s no way to connect an external microphone. If you like physical controls, you’ll love the LX100, as it’s adorned with dedicated exposure compensation and shutter speed dials, along with an aperture ring on the lens. As a larger body, there’s also more to hold onto. The other major benefit of the LX100 is the ability to record video in 4k, making it the smallest and lightest camera to date to offer the facility. On top of this the LX100 also offers continuous shooting at 11fps, a top shutter speed of 1/16000 (effectively the same in exposure as 1/2000 with a 3-stop ND filter, but of course better at freezing action), and a far more capable Wifi implementation with better smartphone remote control.

In its favour, the Canon G7X is more pocketable. Its screen is articulated vertically and touch-sensitive too, something I’m still surprised Panasonic didn’t equip the LX100 with. Those are the headline differences, and as I test the LX100 I’ll add more to this comparison to help you make the choice. In the meantime, I’ve written a preview and analysis on the new Lumix you may find useful.

See my Panasonic Lumix LX100 preview for more details.

Canon PowerShot G7X final verdict

In the wake of Sony’s massively successful RX100 series, the Canon G7X can’t help but come across as a follower, a ‘me-too’ product which jumps on the bandwagon of a winning form factor and sensor. So like the Sony, it gives you a step-up in image quality and depth of field control over a typical point-and-shoot, while still crucially remaining pocketable. So far so similar, but by deploying a number of different features, Canon has delivered a camera that’s a lot more compelling than you may first think.

The extended lens range is the trump card of the G7X. In the RX100 world you have to choose between 70mm at f2.8 on the Mark III or 100mm at f4.9 on the Mark II, but Canon gives you the best of both Worlds on the G7X with 100mm at f2.8. In my tests this really does allow the G7X to deliver a shallower depth of field at the telephoto end, and beyond a little softness in the corners at 24mm, there doesn’t seem to be much optical compromise as a result. Indeed the image quality is very good on the G7X – although I’m waiting on Adobe before conducting RAW comparisons.

Then there’s the touch-screen, a feature I wish all cameras had. It’s just so easy to tap to reposition the AF area, and the G7X also lets you touch to pull-focus during movies. I was also pleased to find the G7X’s AF was both faster for stills and more confident for movies than the RX100 III.

If these benefits are appealing to you, then the G7X could end up being your compact of choice, although you do of course have to weigh them up against the built-in viewfinder of the RX100 III, not to mention a host of other pros and cons I’ve detailed earlier on this page. For some the lack of a built-in EVF and inability to mount one will be the Achilles’ Heel of the G7X and a reason to vote Sony. But for those for whom it’s a non-issue, the G7X becomes a highly compelling alternative to Sony’s domination in this sector.

So while the G7X may not be as original as the S120 and G1 X Mark II on either side of it, for me it’s actually the most compelling high-end compact from Canon to date, and a worthy rival to Sony’s RX100 series. Don’t ask me to say if it’s better or worse than the RX100 III as that depends on what features are your priorities, and again I’d urge you to read my detailed comparisons above. But I can say the G7X is a camera I very much enjoyed using and one I can Highly Recommend to anyone who wants a powerful pocket compact with great image quality. It’s a welcome new player in the 1in market and I look forward to see how it impacts the prices of rivals; already it’s comfortably cheaper than the RX100 III, so you have to ask yourself how much you want or need Sony’s built-in EVF.

Good points
Great image quality from 1in sensor.
Flexible 24-100mm zoom range with bright aperture.
Fast and confident AF system.
Tilting screen with touch capabilities.
Built-in Wifi with NFC and smartphone control.

Bad points
No built-in viewfinder, nor any means to connect one.
Screen only angles up, not down.
Sticky-feeling control ring.
Basic smartphone remote control.

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