With smartphones all but eliminating the existence of the low-cost point-and-shoot camera, manufacturers have pivoted to create pricey, premium pocket cameras that can compete with SLRs on image quality. The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II ($699.99) fits that mold, capturing images with a 1-inch image sensor that does a solid job in dim light, a zoom lens that’s rated at f/1.8 at its widest angle, and a metal chassis. It’s a strong performer, but one that exists in a very competitive segment of the market. We’re going to stick with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III$648.00 at Walmart as our Editors’ Choice pick—its zoom range isn’t quite as ambitious as the G7 X’s, but its lens delivers crisper results, and it includes an electronic viewfinder.
There are a couple of subtle changes to the body—the EV compensation dial now operates in the same manner as most other models, and the lens control ring can be set to operate with or without click stops.
The svelte shooter measures 2.4 by 4.2 by 1.7 inches (HWD) and weighs about 11.3 ounces. But it’s not out of line with others in the category, including the Sony RX100 III (2.3 by 4 by 1.6 inches, 10.2 ounces).
Cameras with smaller image sensors can manage extreme zoom ranges—up to a 30x ratio—in this form factor. The G7 X manages just a 4.2x range (24-100mm, full-frame equivalent). Like most compacts in this class, the lens starts out with a bright f/1.8 aperture.
Close focus is possible at 2 inches. When combined with the f/1.8 maximum aperture, you’ll find it easy to blur the background behind subjects, just as you would with an SLR. There’s an in-lens neutral density filter that cuts incoming light, which lets you shoot stills and video at f/1.8 under bright conditions. You can toggle it manually or set the G7 X to engage it automatically as needed.
Canon has done its best to squeeze in as many controls as is reasonably possible given the G7’s small frame. A control ring surrounds the lens—its function can be set to your liking, with options including aperture control and zoom adjustment. The ring incorporates a toggle switch to change its operation from one that clicks as you turn (ideal for aperture control or Step Zoom) to one that turns freely. That’s a plus for video use, as it’s not intrusive to a soundtrack.
There’s a Wi-Fi button on the right side, and a mechanical release to raise the pop-up flash on the left. The flash is mounted on a hinge, and will fire when physically tilted back, giving the G7 X a modest bounce capability. The internal microphone, power button, shutter release and zoom rocker, EV compensation dial, and Mode dial also sit on the top plate. Unlike the first G7 X, the EV dial has positive values positioned toward the front of the body and negative values toward the back, an orientation that is ubiquitous enough to be considered standard. Exposure compensation can be set from -3 to +3EV in third-stop increments.
Rear controls run down a column on the side, bordered to the left by the LCD and above by a thumb rest. Four buttons flank the rear control dial/joypad: Ring Func. adjusts the behavior of the lens control ring, and is joined by a dedicated Record button to start and stop videos, and the normal Play and Menu controls.
The rear dial also has four directional functions. Drive Mode enables burst shooting when taking photos, and doubles as a photo album creation tool when reviewing images. It’s joined by a Flash output control, an Info button, and a Focus mode button that can enable the macro range or switch to manual focus. The Q/Set button sits at the center of joypad. It launches an on-screen menu that toggles additional parameters (among them the autofocus mode, image and video quality, ISO, white balance, metering, the self-timer) and doubles as an enter key.
The screen lets you set functions from the Q menu by touch if desired. It can also be used to set the focus point or subject for focus tracking just by tapping. The screen itself is 3 inches in size and sports a 1,040k-dot resolution—it’s plenty sharp and bright. It’s mounted on a hinge and can tilt both up and down, and face all the way forward for selfies. It’s an upgrade from the LCD on the original G7 X, which can only tilt to face forward. There’s no EVF or EVF add-on option. If you like the idea of the G7 X, but want an EVF, you can opt for the G5 X$699.00 at Walmart, which sports the same lens and sensor.
Two data ports—micro USB and micro HDMI—are located under a flap on the right side of the body. The removable battery (a charger that plugs directly into the wall is included) and memory card slot (SD, SDHC, SDXC) are in a compartment accessible via the bottom plate.
Wi-Fi, along with NFC pairing support, is built in. You can copy images and videos to Android or iOS devices using the free Canon Camera Connect app. The remote allows you to tap to set focus, change the focal length, adjust focus, drive, flash, and exposure settings, and fire the shutter. Finally, the app has a location log function that can add GPS metadata to photos—you just need to make sure the camera clock matches your smartphone, and remember to activate the log before you start shooting.
Performance and Image Quality
Even though it uses the same image sensor as the original G7 X, the Mark II improves performance by way of an upgraded Digic image processor. The Mark II starts, focuses, and fires in 1.9 seconds, locks focus in about 0.1-second, and rattles off shots in burst mode at 8.1fps. Its buffer is solid for a compact camera—it manages 19 Raw+JPG, 22 Raw, or 32 JPGs before slowing down. That’s not far off from the top-end of the Sony line, the RX100 IV, which shoots 27 Raw or Raw+JPG shots at 8.6fps, or 44 JPGs at 16.1fps.
Two focus modes are available: a wide area with face and subject recognition, and a more narrow flexible spot. When shooting in the wide area you can choose a subject to track by tapping on the touch screen—the G7 X Mark II does a fine job identifying both human and pets for tracking—but be aware that it’s not a camera for shooting fast action. When working in burst mode focus is locked after the first shot, even with the lens set to AI Servo—you can hold the shutter down halfway and let the focus system track your subject as it moves, waiting for the perfect moment to fire a shot, but you can’t shoot continuously and expect every photo to be in perfect focus as you can with a top-end SLR like the Canon 7D Mark II
For the most part, the focus system is strong for a compact camera. I didn’t run into any problems locking on when shooting with the wide focus area enabled. But I did get the occasional failure (signified by a yellow box with a matching exclamation point) when attempting to use the flexible spot, usually in scenes where contrast wasn’t strong. The G7 X does a better job with the spot when it’s set to its larger size, but if you want to focus on a smaller target you can set the box to be smaller.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the G7 X Mark II’s zoom lens. At 24mm f/1.8 it manages 2,172 lines per picture height, a solid result for a 20-megapixel camera, bettering the 1,800 lines we like to see in a photo. Performance is strong through most of the frame, but edges dip to 1,300 lines, giving them a noticeably soft look. Image quality stays steady through f/4, but diffraction is an issue at narrower apertures, dropping the overall resolution to just under 2,000 lines at f/5.6 and f/8. The Sony RX100 III delivers sharper results at 24mm f/1.8, notching 2,494 lines on average with edges that hit 1,769 lines.
Performance evens out when zoomed in. At 55mm f/2.8 the camera records 2,741 lines, with strong performance from edge to edge. There’s a bump at f/4 (2,942 lines), and image quality is still strong at f/5. (2,736 lines) and f/8 (2,586 lines). That’s actually a bit better than the Sony manages at 50mm f/2.8 (2,678 lines).
There’s a drop in sharpness at 100mm, but even at f/2.8 the G7 X does a good job (2,202 lines) on the center-weighted test. Edges aren’t as strong, dropping to 1,893 lines, but are well within the range of acceptable results. There’s a bump at f/4 (2,462 lines average, 2,174 lines at the edges), before the resolution drops slightly at f/5.6 (2,366 lines) and f/8 (2,390 lines).
Overall, the G7 X Mark II’s lens is a solid performer. It has a longer zoom range than its closest competitor, the RX 100 III, and betters it in image quality when zoomed a bit. The Sony is stronger at its widest angle, and more consistent throughout its zoom range.
We also use Imatest to check photos for noise. When shooting JPGs the Canon keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 1600. There is certainly a dip in image clarity when pushing the camera that far, especially when comparing photos with ones shot at the lowest ISO 125 sensitivity. The G7 X captures photos that are crisp, with no evidence of degradation through ISO 400, and starts to show some smudging at ISO 800. Details are more noticeably smudged at ISO 1600 and 3200, but still quite useable. It’s not until you push the Mark II to ISO 6400 and its top ISO 12800 that photos are really blurred.
You can eke more detail out of photos by opting to shoot in Raw format, especially when working at higher ISOs. As with JPG, images are as strong as they can be through ISO 400, with a modest drop in clarity at ISO 800 and 1600. Grain becomes more of an issue at ISO 3200, but fine lines in our test scene are still distinct. There’s a big difference between JPG and Raw output at ISO 6400, as the latter is not nearly as blurry. And while noise does wipe away intricate lines at ISO 12800, you can still get a useable, albeit grainy, photo when pushing the camera that far in Raw.
Video is recorded in MP4 format at up to 1080p60 quality. The ability to roll at 60fps—or 24 or 30fps, if you prefer a more traditional look—is a plus, as the original G7 X topped out at 30fps. Video quality is strong, and changes in focus are smooth and gradual, whether you opt to tap to refocus or set the video focus mode to AI Servo for automatic changes. The internal mic picks up audio close to the camera, but also catches a lot of background noise. If a mic input is important, consider moving up to the G5 X, even though its video capabilities don’t quite match the G7 X Mark II.
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II looks a lot like its predecessor on the outside, but delivers some palpable performance updates. An improved burst rate when shooting in Raw format and modest updates to the focus system, video capabilities, and body may not seem like a lot on their own, but it’s a case where their sum is greater than the parts. The G7 X delivers a strong zoom range for this class, a bright lens, and a large image sensor that delivers solid photos in difficult lighting. We still give preference to the Sony RX100 III as our Editors’ Choice, however. Its zoom isn’t as ambitious, but it delivers more consistent sharpness and the camera itself includes an innovative pop-up viewfinder.
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