Canon G7 X review
Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 4.2x (24-100mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/4.9-7.6, Weight: 301g, Size (HxWxD): 64x107x40mm
The Sony RX100 series has been a soaring technical success, so it's about time other manufacturers began to follow suit. The Canon G7 X may be named in reference to the Canon G1 X but everything from its lens and sensor to its control layout, size and weight put it direct competition with the Sony RX100 III.This is a camera that will slip easily into jeans pockets, and its large sensor and bright lens can capture masses of light for such a slim camera. The sensor and lens are equivalent to f/4.9-7.6 on a full-frame camera, which puts it on a par with SLRs and compact system cameras (CSCs) at this price – with a typical 3x zoom kit lens attached at least.
With so much in common with the Sony RX100 III, it's the differences that are most interesting to potential buyers. The G7 X lacks a viewfinder, which was a major new feature on Sony's Mark III model. We have mixed feelings about this. An electronic viewfinder (EVF) is great if it's high quality, and the Sony's certainly is, but the diminutive RX100 III felt a bit odd pressed against the face. The Canon is currently around £140 cheaper than the Sony, and while the EVF may justify the higher cost for some people, others will prefer to save their pennies. Both cameras' 3in screens tilt upwards, which makes it easy to hold them at elbow height and brace the elbows to the sides for extra stability.
The Canon comes with a larger zoom. 24-100mm compared to the Sony's 24-70mm (equivalent) focal length range is a distinct advantage for head-and-shoulder portraits and distant subjects. Both cameras have a 20-megapixel sensor – most likely it's exactly the same one – so there's scope to crop photos and still have plenty of detail. The extra zoom is still extremely welcome, though, not least because Canon still manages to match the Sony's bright f/1.8-2.8 aperture.
Another difference that lies in Canon's favour is its touchscreen. Again, this will appeal to some people more than others, but we find it a huge timesaver for moving the autofocus point – something that we do often and frequently, especially as the bright 35mm-equivalent aperture delivers a shallow depth of field. Touching the screen in multi autofocus mode invokes a track focus function, while touching in spot focus mode moves the autofocus point to a new static position. It's simple and extremely effective.
The menus follow Canon's usual compact camera design, with a Func Set button revealing various photographic settings and the Menu button for less often-used settings. It's well equipped for manual control, too, with a rear wheel and lens ring for shutter speed and aperture changes, plus a dedicated exposure compensation dial. There's a dedicated button for reassigning the lens ring to various functions including ISO speed, manual focus and zoom, but the ring itself is a bit too stiff for our liking. Regularly reassigning it felt a bit clumsy.
Still, that's the only weak point in an otherwise friendly and responsive control system. It's well suited to both casual snappers and keen photographers, with features ranging from HDR and exposure bracketing to the ability to trigger the shutter simply by smiling or winking at the camera. The 1/2,000-second fastest shutter speed is a little slow, but there's a three-stop neutral-density (ND) filter built in for very bright conditions. The ND filter also comes in handy for deliberately blurring motion, such as for silky flowing water. The slowest shutter speed is 250 seconds, which is perfect for capturing night skies.
Wi-Fi with NFC is built in. Holding the camera to our NFC-equipped Nexus 4 phone launched the app on the phone, but we still had to launch the Wi-Fi mode on the camera and make the Wi-Fi connection manually. Even then, we weren't able to get Canon's Android app and the camera to communicate. We had more luck with the iOS app, and browsing and transferring JPEGs was straightforward. The remote shooting mode is pretty basic, with a very slow image refresh in the app and functions limited to shutter release, flash, self-timer and an extremely sluggish zoom control.
The video mode is packed with useful functions. The touchscreen makes it easy to control the tracking and flexible spot focus modes while recording. Depending on the selected shooting mode, it's also possible to lock the exposure, switch to manual focus and adjust exposure settings, all via the touchscreen to avoid spoiling the soundtrack with clicks from the buttons and dials. As with photo capture, it's possible to set the shutter speed and aperture and leave the camera to adjust the exposure via the ISO speed. 1080p videos are recorded at 30 or 60fps – the lack of 24p and 25p will frustrate keen videographers but it shouldn't bother most people. It's annoying that the camera shows the remaining card capacity in minutes, suggesting it can record for an hour to a 16GB card, but stops without warning when it reaches its 4GB file size limit.
Video picture quality was hard to fault, with sharp details, flattering colours and remarkably little noise in low light. However, our studio test scene revealed that the RX100 III delivered smoother fine details – the G7 X's videos looked a little pixelated in comparison.
^ Comparison with the Sony RX100 III shows that the G7 X's video details are a little coarse.
Photo capture performance is generally up to scratch, with responsive autofocus and 0.9 seconds between frames in normal use. The 6.9fps continuous mode can't match the Sony RX100 III's 9.6fps, but it's not a significant difference in a camera that's unlikely to be used for sports and wildlife photography. It managed 4.5fps with continuous autofocus – almost three times faster than the Sony. However continuous RAW capture was at 1.2fps – more than five times slower. Overall, the Canon's performance isn't a concern but rapid-fire RAW photographers may prefer the Sony.