Taking the battle to Sony’s brilliant RX100 series, the Canon Powershot G7 X aims to conquer the premium compact market. Canon paved the way with the G1 X MkII, though its rather substantial body wasn’t particularly pocketable, prompting many to question why one wouldn’t just buy a compact System Camera instead. Now Canon continues its market offensive with the GX 7, a considerably more compact offering that this time does fit comfortably into your pocket. It comes with a higher image resolution of 20.2MP and an impressive 1in-type back-illuminated CMOS sensor, both of which match that of the Sony RX100 MkIII.
The G7 X’s 8.8-36.8mm zoom lens (equivalent to 24-100mm) is perfect for most types of photography, including landscapes, portraits and some sports and wildlife, and the minimum focusing distance of 5cm is ideal for macro. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the lens is its very wide maximum aperture of f/1.8-2.8, which, along with its 3-stop lens-shift image stabilisation, makes the G7 X ideal for shooting in low light without a tripod. Sony’s RX100 MkIII, which is the G7 X’s main competitor, has the same aperture range but a smaller zoom range, so in the lens department the Canon has a slight edge. In terms of image quality, the lens performs reasonably well, though images are a little soft at f/1.8 and display mild blooming. There’s also severe chromatic aberration and some corner softness, especially at wider apertures.
On the rear of the G7 X is a 3in 1040k-dot LCD that is touch sensitive for fingertip shooting and focusing. It also tilts up, which is great for street photography and selfies. While the Sony RX100 MkIII doesn’t have touch control on its screen, it does boast a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), which the Canon hasn’t got. Many will see the lack of an EVF as the thorn in the side of this camera, and ultimately, it will be a deal-breaker for some. An ISO range of 125-12,800, coupled with Canon’s powerful DIGIC 6 processor renders the G7 X very capable in low light. In testing we found images are virtually noise-free right up to ISO 800, and useable up to ISO 3200. There’s also a very impressive maximum shutter speed of 250sec, far greater than the 30sec you get on a DSLR. Many photographers will combine this with the built-in neutral density filter for blurring moving subjects such as waterfalls, clouds or stars. There’s even a dedicated Star Mode for beginners in astrophotography.
The G7 X has Wi-Fi built in, allowing wireless smartphone and tablet control, and NFC for quick and easy connection. For fast-action photography the camera can keep up with many DSLRs, offering a 6.5fps burst rate for JPEGs without continuous AF, or 4.4fps with. RAW shooting is very slow at around 0.6fps. The G7 X’s contrast detect AF system has 31 points, and focusing is accurate and fast even in tricky conditions such as direct sun or low light. It occasionally has problems locking onto low contrast subjects, though this tends to be common to all contrast detect cameras.
The G7 X might be pocket-sized, with a body very similar to the Canon S120, but its handling isn’t hugely inferior to a DSLR. A mode dial on the top-plate offers manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes, and there are three control dials on the camera for changing settings quickly and easily. These include a customisable lens Control Ring and a dedicated exposure compensation dial. The camera is easy to use, with plenty of direct access controls and a small rubberised thumb grip on the back. The menu system is intuitively designed, and there’s a quick menu for easy access to the most important settings. However, it’s irritating that you can’t exit the quick menu with a half-press on the shutter button, as you can on most other cameras. We’d also have liked to see a dedicated ISO button on the camera, which would be far more useful than the lens’ Control Ring function button, which should sit in the menu. That said, there is a function button that can be customised to ISO.
The PowerShot G7 X is a superb little camera aimed at serious photographers. With a large 1in sensor, a fast all-purpose zoom lens, a touch & tilt 3in LCD, and Wi-Fi and NFC built in, it’s a powerful bit of kit considering its small size. Advanced features such as the customisable lens Control Ring and the 250sec maximum shutter speed will appeal to pros who want to use the G7 X as an ultra-compact second camera. At £579, the price is a touch high considering this would buy you a Canon 700D kit or Nikon D5300 kit, but then it’s over £120 cheaper than both the Sony RX100 MkIII and the Panasonic LX100, which also looks set to turn some heads. Overall, a much more attractive option than Canon’s G1 X MkII, and arguably it’s currently the best camera in its class. Recommended.
- Street price: £430 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
- Kit lens: 8.8-36.8mm f/1.8-2.8
- (24-100mm equivalent)
- Street Price: £460 (Secondhand price as of June 2016)
- Effective resolution: 20.2MP
- Sensor: 12.8x9.6mm back-illuminated CMOS
- Processor: DIGIC 6
- LCD: 3in 1040k-dot touch & tilt
- Autofocus: 31-point AF with face detection
- ISO: 125-12,800
- Shooting speed: 6.5 JPEGs/sec without AF, 4.4 with AF
- Minimum focus distance: 5cm
- Video: Full HD (1080p) at 50fps
- Other features: Wi-Fi, NFC, lens control ring, focus peaking, 250sec shutter speed, 3-stop image stabilisation, neutral density filter, HDR mode
- Battery life: 310 shots
- Card type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 103x60x40mm
- Weight: 304g
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the December 2014 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.