Canon PowerShot G7X review

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Back in the spring of 2012, Canon launched a camera which got us incredibly excited. The industry’s first large-sensor, fixed-lens zoom digital camera, the Canon G1X was something we’d been requesting for years, and while it was larger than we’d hoped, we were thrilled. Until, that is, the Sony RX100 stole Canon’s thunder. That camera compromised on sensor size, but it still provided a significant advantage over existing camera phones and compacts — even enthusiast models — and yet was small enough to fit in a pants pocket.

PowerShot G7 X Beauty 14

We weren’t alone. Despite a relatively high pricetag for a compact camera, the RX100 and its subsequent siblings have sold in droves, and until now, Sony has had the market pretty much to itself.

And yet suddenly, with the Canon G7X and the near-simultaneously launched Panasonic LX100, Sony has a battle on its hands. These two cameras each have some fairly important differences from the RX100-series cameras, but they also share much of what made Sony’s cameras so popular: the advantages of a fairly large sensor, a fairly compact body and an optical zoom lens that helps get the framing you’re after.

Of the two new models, it is Canon’s which is closest to the Sony formula in size. In fact, the Canon G7X is nearly indistinguishable from the Sony RX100 III in terms of its dimensions, and only slightly heavier. It looks to have a very similar 20.2-megapixel image sensor, if not perhaps even the same one, and yields the same maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800.

Canon G7 X Review -- 3/4 right view with flash up

Yet despite having near-identical dimensions, Canon packs in almost 50% more zoom reach than in the RX100 III while retaining the same maximum aperture range. Essentially, the Canon G7X pairs the wide-angle possibilities of the RX100 III with the telephoto possibilities of the RX100 and RX100 II, and somehow manages to cram in the brighter aperture of the former. We’re not sure how they’ve managed it, but in one fell swoop Canon has brought forth a convincing rival for all three cameras in a single model, at least on paper.

And the Canon G7X shoots significantly faster than Sony’s rivals with autofocus enabled, too, even if it still trails them in performance with focus locked. Better still, it has a touch screen that makes it easier and quicker to focus precisely where you want, so you can really take advantage of that greater AF speed.

Let’s take a closer look at Canon’s first large-sensor enthusiast compact camera that can actually slip inside a pants pocket!

Canon G7X Walkaround

The Canon G7 X and Sony RX100-series are very close in size, specs and features

With dimensions of 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.6 inches (103 x 60.4 x 40.4mm) the Canon G7X is near-indistinguishable in size from its nearest competitor, the Sony RX100 III. It’s just fractionally taller and wider, but despite its longer-reaching lens, just microscopically slimmer than the Sony.

At a weight of 10.7 ounces (302g) loaded and ready to shoot, it’s a little heavier, though. By way of comparison, the Sony RX100 III weighs about a half-ounce (15g) less, with battery and flash card loaded.

Its lightest and smallest competitor in the class is the original Sony RX100. Although that model has a shorter, less-bright lens and lacks quite a few of the G7X’s features — most notably, its tilting screen and Wi-Fi connectivity — it’s about 0.2 inches slimmer and weighs 2.2 ounces (62g) less while retaining the same 1″-type sensor size.

Canon G7 X review -- Front view

Seen from the front, the Canon G7 X cuts a clean, unassuming profile. With the exception of a ring surrounding the 4.2x optical zoom lens, there are no controls on the front deck.

Nestled above and to the right of the lens (as seen from the rear) is a small LED that serves double-duty as an autofocus illuminator and self-timer lamp. And as you can see, the lens itself includes a built-in, sliding lens barrier that negates the need for an easily-lost lens cap.

Canon G7 X review -- Top view

From above, the G7X shows its colors as an enthusiast camera with a dedicated Exposure Compensation dial, stacked wedding cake-style beneath the Mode dial at the right end of the camera body. Both dials are diamond-knurled around the outside, just as is the dial that surrounds the lens ring, providing plenty of grip.

Just a little to the left of the Exposure Compensation and Mode dials sits the Shutter button, surrounded by a Zoom rocker that functions both in Record and Playback modes. Left of and behind this is the Power button, while a popup flash strobe can be seen at the far left end of the top deck. In between are two ports for the stereo microphone, and a single three-hole port for the speaker.

Canon G7 X review -- Rear view

The rear of the PowerShot G7X is also quite clean and straightforward, although the controls are clustered very near to the edge of the camera. With no protruding front grip, a two-handed hold is required to reach and use most of these controls with your thumb. A modest thumb grip at the top right corner helps secure your purchase when shooting stills single-handed, though.

Left of the control cluster is the 3.0-inch LCD monitor, surrounded by a fairly large bezel. The monitor is mounted on a hinge that allows it to swing upwards 180 degrees for shooting selfies or from the hip, but since it’s a fixed hinge, no downward tilt is possible. That means it won’t help out when shooting over your head, and nor can the screen be turned to face inwards for protection, unlike side-mounted tilt/swivel types.

Canon G7 X review -- 3/4 rear view with LCD up

With that said, none of the G7 X’s nearest competitors have a tilt/swivel screen either, although Sony’s RX100 II, III and IV all provide for overhead or waist-level shooting, and the latter two are also selfie-friendly. At least there’s nothing obscuring the bottom of the G7X’s LCD when in selfie mode, unless you raise the flash.

As for the controls, there are four buttons surrounding the four-way controller, which sits at the center of the rear dial and has a central Function / Set button. Above the Four-way controller are a Ring Func. button that switches which variable will be controlled by the lens ring, as well as a Video Record button. The latter is close enough to the edge of the camera that you’ll want to shoot videos two-handed to avoid shake.

Beneath the Four-way controller are Playback and Menu buttons, as well as a small card access lamp that sits just above and left of the Playback button. The four-way controller itself also offers controls for Drive mode / Wi-Fi, Focus mode, Flash and Display on its cardinal directions.

Canon G7 X review -- Right view

Switching to the right-hand side of the Canon PowerShot G7X, you can see that the lens telescopes out an inch or more from the front of the barrel when in use.

There is but one control on this side: The Mobile Device Connect Button, for quick connection to smartphones or tablets. It sits beneath a small flap that covers the connectivity compartment. Beneath are the G7X’s combined standard-definition A/V output and digital USB data port, and a Micro HDMI port for connection to high-definition displays.

Canon G7 X review -- Left view

Switching to the left-hand side, there’s only one control: a mechanical release for the built-in, popup flash strobe that sits above on the top deck.

Canon G7 X review -- Bottom view

And finally, we come to the base of the camera. There’s not a lot to see here, but it’s worth noting that the release on the card / battery compartment door and the base of the tilting LCD monitor both share the same diamond-knurling as the various control dials and lens ring.

The metal tripod mount sits off the central axis of the lens, which isn’t ideal for tripod-mounted panorama shooting, but it’d be easy enough to correct for with a short bracket if you plan to shoot a lot of panos. And finally, a small logo imprinted into the bottom of the camera indicates the location of its NFC antenna. (Sadly, this remains Android-only, as Apple doesn’t allow third-parties to access the NFC radios built into its latest devices.)

Canon G7X Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Canon G7X with the Canon G1X II, Canon S120, Fuji X30, Panasonic LX100, and Sony RX100 III. The Canon G1X II and S120 are both siblings with larger and smaller sensors respectively, and the others are a few competitors to the G7X.

Canon G7X vs Canon G1X II at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 100
Canon G7X at ISO 125
Canon G1X II at ISO 100

Here, we compare the G7X to its larger sibling, the Canon G1X II. The 20-megapixel G7X offers significantly more resolution than the 13-megapixel G1X II and thus is able to resolve fine detail better here at base ISO, however it is also a little noisier when viewed at 100% like this. Default noise reduction also blurs the red-leaf fabric more than the G1X II. (Note that although the exposures look different, middle gray levels are closely matched between the two, so the apparent exposure difference is due to slightly different tone curves and color mapping.)

Canon G7X vs Canon S120 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 80
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 80
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 80
Canon G7X at ISO 125
Canon S120 at ISO 80

Above, we decided to compare the G7X to its little brother, the Canon PowerShot S120 which features a much smaller 12-megapixel 1/1.7″-type sensor, to see if the G7X is worth the $200-300 premium. Again, the resolution advantage the G7X has is obvious, but the S120 otherwise holds its own at base ISO, and even does a little better in the red-leaf fabric. We’ll see how this changes at higher ISOs below.

Canon G7X vs Fuji X30 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 100
Canon G7X at ISO 125
Fuji X30 at ISO 100

As expected, we see the 20-megapixel G7X easily out-resolve the 12-megapixel Fuji X30 with its 2/3″ X-Trans CMOS II sensor, though the X30 otherwise does quite well for its class with clean, refined-looking images at base ISO, though sharpening is a bit high.

Canon G7X vs Panasonic LX100 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200
Canon G7X at ISO 125
Panasonic LX100 at ISO 200

Above, we compare the 20-megapixel 1″-type sensored Canon G7X to the 12.7-megapixel “4/3” sensored Panasonic LX100. The resolution difference is apparent here in both the relative element sizes and the higher detail from the G7X in all three crops at base ISO. But while the Canon’s resolution is higher, noise is also a little higher, as you can see in the background of the bottle shoulder crop. The G7X applies slighter stronger sharpening, though, which tends to exacerbate noise. Still, the Panasonic’s larger pixels pay off in terms of slightly lower noise already at base ISO when compared at 100% like this, but the G7X still wins with better detail.

Canon G7X vs Sony RX100 III at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 125
Canon G7X at ISO 125
Sony RX100 III at ISO 125

Here’s a comparison to another 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor, this time from the company that started the category. Here we see both cameras do very well at base ISO, but while the Sony RX100 III’s image looks a little cleaner and more vibrant, it also looks somewhat more “processed”, with some minor artifacts visible from its area-specific noise reduction.

Canon G7X vs Canon G1X II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon G7X at ISO 1600
Canon G1X II at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, we see the G1X II start to pull ahead of the G7X with better detail all around despite the lower resolution, as well as lower noise.

Canon G7X vs Canon S120 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon G7X at ISO 1600
Canon S120 at ISO 1600

Here at ISO 1600, we see the G7X easily best the S120, with much better detail and somewhat lower noise, however both struggle with the red-leaf fabric.

Canon G7X vs Fuji X30 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon G7X at ISO 1600
Fuji X30 at ISO 1600

Again, the Canon G7X comes out ahead in this battle, with better detail and lower noise, but colors are a little better from the Fuji. At this ISO, the X30 renders almost no detail in the red-leaf fabric, though the G7X’s rendering is only a rough facsimile at this sensitivity.

Canon G7X vs Panasonic LX100 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon G7X at ISO 1600
Panasonic LX100 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, we see the LX100 start to pull ahead of the G7X with better detail despite the lower resolution, as well as lower luma noise. The Canon does a little better with controlling chroma noise, though. Both struggle with the red-leaf fabric.

Canon G7X vs Sony RX100 III at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon G7X at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 III at ISO 1600

Similar to base ISO, both the Canon and Sony 1″ sensored cameras do fairly well at ISO 1600 considering their size, but again Canon’s processing looks more natural with fewer artifacts and slightly better detail while the Sony displays higher contrast and saturation, producing an image with more “pop”.

Canon G7X vs Canon G1X II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon G7X at ISO 3200
Canon G1X II at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, the G7X’s resolution advantage starts to give way to the G1X II’s pixel size advantage, with the latter producing comparable detail with less noise.

Canon G7X vs Canon S120 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon G7X at ISO 3200
Canon S120 at ISO 3200

Once again, the G7X easily comes out on top in this contest, with much better detail and lower noise, but both struggle to reproduce any fine detail in our troublesome red-leaf fabric.

Canon G7X vs Fuji X30 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon G7X at ISO 3200
Fuji X30 at ISO 3200

While the X30 does fairly well for such a high ISO in a compact, the G7X comes out ahead in terms of detail and noise, though color is still better from the Fuji.

Canon G7X vs Panasonic LX100 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon G7X at ISO 3200
Panasonic LX100 at ISO 3200

Once again, the LX100 comes out on top in this contest, with better detail, lower noise, and better color, but both struggle to reproduce any fine detail in our difficult red-leaf fabric.

Canon G7X vs Sony RX100 III at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon G7X at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 III at ISO 3200

Here again the Canon comes out on top overall, with a more natural rendering and slightly better detail. The Sony’s image is a little cleaner and more saturated, but noise reduction artifacts distort fine detail, while noise grain from the Canon is more consistent and less obtrusive.

Canon G7X vs. Canon G1X II, Canon G7X, Fuji X30, Panasonic LX100, Sony RX100 III

100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 125 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 80 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 200 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 125
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon G7X test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon G1X II test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon S120 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Fuji X30 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Panasonic LX100 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Sony RX100 III test image taken at ISO 6400
Canon
G7X
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
G1X II

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
S120
ISO 80
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fuji
X30
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
LX100
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
RX100 III
ISO 125
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing cameras in different ways, so we like to look at it too. At base ISO, the two 20-megapixel cameras come out ahead, easily resolving the fine lines inside the lettering as well as producing very good contrast, though sharpening is a little more obvious from the G7X versus the RX100 III. The G1X II produces excellent contrast as well, but its 13-megapixel resolution struggles to fully resolve the fine lines. This is also true of the 12.7-megapixel LX100, though contrast isn’t quite as good. The S120 and X30 both struggle to fully resolve the lines even at base ISO, but offer good contrast. At ISO 3200, the G7X pulls ahead of the Sony, resolving more detail, but contrast isn’t as good and there’s also some discoloration. The G1X II and LX100 continue to do well, but their contrast has dropped as well. The S120 and X30 fail to resolve any fine detail within the lettering at this sensitivity, and the Fuji’s saturation has dropped so much that the small red lettering is monochrome. At ISO 6400, the two larger sensors in the G1X II and LX100 are clearly on top. The G7X does a bit better than the Sony in terms of detail, but the Sony has better contrast and color. And once again, the S120 and X30 trail the pack with mushy detail and funky color.

Canon G7X Print Quality

High-resolution prints up to 20 x 30 inches at ISO 125-200; Good 11 x 14 inch prints at ISO 1600; and acceptable 4 x 6 inch prints are possible up to ISO 6400.

ISO 125 images are able to produce pleasing, vibrant prints up to 20 x 30 inches. There’s lots of fine detail upon close inspection at this print size and any larger would be pushing the limits of the sensor’s resolution, but we’d certainly be happy to take it up a notch for 24 x 36 inch prints for wall display in this case.

ISO 200 prints look extremely similar to base ISO prints, and we’re calling it here at 20 x 30 inches as well. Examining the prints very closely, there’s ever-so-slightly less very fine detail in some areas compared to ISO 125, but not nearly enough to cause a drop in print size.

ISO 400 images print up to 16 x 20 inches with no problem. There’s a slight reduction in fine detail compared to a similar-sized print at the previous ISO level, but visible noise is very well controlled and colors also remain vibrant.

ISO 800 prints look great up to 13 x 19 inches. We see a subtle increase in visible noise at this ISO and a further reduction in very fine detail, but contrast, colors and overall detail still look very nice and pleasing. Troublesome areas, such as many of our fabric swatches, begin to display a notable decline in detail, though.

ISO 1600 images have become noticeably softer overall, though prints still look good up to 11 x 14 inches.

ISO 3200 shots still display enough detail and low enough noise for pleasing 8 x 10 inch prints.

ISO 6400 images have become quite soft and lacking in fine detail, though there’s enough detail as well as pleasing colors and contrast for a usable 4 x 6 inch print. A 5 x 7 inch print may be usable, though, for less critical applications.

ISO 12,800 is overall too soft and lacking in detail for us to comfortably consider any size a usable print. However, for less critical applications, we’d be okay with a 4 x 6 inch print.

With a larger 1-inch-type sensor, the Canon G7X does a solid job in the print quality department, especially a lower ISOs, with nice, large 20 x 30 inch prints at both base ISO and 200. In the middle ISO range, images become softer in detail, though visible noise is still well-controlled. Prints as large as 13 x 19 and 11 x 14 are acceptable at ISO 800 and 1600, respectively. At the extreme end of the ISO scale, prints become very soft due to noise and NR processing, with 4 x 6 inch prints topping out at ISO 6400.

(imaging-resource.com)

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