I was an SLR and later DSLR shooter and I lugged around a ridiculous amount of gear. Sometimes I still do. But I always had a compact camera. Now I have a new one.
For people used to shoot with a DSLR or high end mirrorless camera it is sometimes hard to compromise and shoot with a compact camera. For me it is the same. I had a Sony RX100. It was a love and hate relationship. I loved its files but hated its handling. Maybe that sounds a little strong but for me the Sony RX100 just felt awkward.
But recently I started to think about to get another one because I missed the option to have a real pocketable camera with a zoom lens to be more flexible especially for landscape shots. I looked at the the RX100 mkIII or the mkIV first since those cameras have addressed some of the issues that I had with the RX100. Sony addressed some but not all. Luckily I found the Canon G7X.
Here are my biggest complaints about the Sony RX100:
- lens not wide enough and slow at tele setting (pushes camera for high iSO)
- IS not effective
- no clicks on the lens wheel
- its Auto White Balance (too cool) and colors (yellow greenish tint)
- no exposure compensation in manual mode
- flimsy and small controller on the back (i.e. for exposure compensation)
- no tilt screen
- no touch screen
And now here is what the Canon G7X has to offer:
- a fast 24-100 lens (f1.8 to f2.8)
- very effective IS
- click wheel on the lens
- AWB and colors are very good (just like with Canon DSLRs)
- exposure compensation works in manual mode
- a real exposure compensation dial on the top plate
- tilt screen
- touch screen
Right after I bought the camera I went on a 3 week business trip that brought me to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hongkong, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta. Shooting was restricted to after work hours and weekends so most of the shots are from Bangkok, Hongkong and Taipei.
All those points that I mentioned above make the Canon G7X so much better to shoot. Don’t get me wrong. I still prefer to shoot a DSLR or with my Fuji X-T1 but the Canon G7X is at least not as awkward as many compact cameras. It does’t get into your way when you take a shot. Yes I miss a viewfinder sometimes but I can live without one on a compact camera.
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/4, 1/640 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/2.5, 1/100 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (36.8mm, f/3.2, 1/200 sec, ISO1000)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (36.8mm, f/3.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (24.078mm, f/4.5, 1/1600 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (9.916mm, f/3.2, 1/30 sec, ISO125)
What I don’t want to miss anymore is a touchscreen. It is immensely useful to just point at the subject that you want to have in focus and shoot. You can even combine AF plus shutter release which gives the G7X an almost smartphone like shooting experience. But of course it is so much better than what you get from your phone. First of all there is a real zoom and second it deals beautifully with contrasty scenes or low light.
Since I talked about phones there is one thing which is strangely missing on the G7X: a panoramic mode. I don’t know why but I guess is it is because of lack of processing power. The panoramic mode on my RX100 also didn’t work properly. But it is a nice feature and its sad that I have to go back to my iPhone 6plus if I want to take a pano shot. But it gives you the chance to shoot high res selfies. I’m not a big selfie shooter but when I took one with my phone I didn’t like the fact that my iPhone produced only a super low resolution image.
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/2.2, 1/125 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (16.792mm, f/2.5, 1/125 sec, ISO160)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/2.5, 1/30 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/4, 1/60 sec, ISO1000)
- the lens range and speed
- the touch screen
- the dedicated exposure compensation dial (even though is works in the wrong direction)
- the clicks on the front wheel (if you shoot video it might be a different story)
Things I would like to see improved:
- sharper corners @24mm
- more reliable AF if the background is contrasty
- I wish it would be lighter
- a simple snap focus feature like in the Ricoh GR instead of the strange manual focus
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/2.5, 1/160 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (19.66mm, f/4, 1/800 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (16.583mm, f/4, 1/320 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (19.932mm, f/5, 1/1250 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (36.8mm, f/4, 1/400 sec, ISO125)
What other things did I find out during the trip?
First that I really enjoyed the output of the Canon G7X so much that I left my Fuji X-T1 in the hotel when I went for dinner. The camera also required less explanation when I handed it over to somebody to take a picture of my local partners and me. “Just push this knob.” It’s obvious that many of the younger waiters never handed a camera. Their first and only camera was their smartphone. The only thing I must remember is to get the flash out first because it doesn’t jump out automatically. Something I prefer a lot but I must remember myself that I have an in camera flash now.
The camera is easier to hold than the Sony RX100. I think it is because its slightly thicker plus it has a small thumb rest on the back. It is still not very comfortable to hold and the best way is to use the strap to give it additional support. At least there is no need to use a half case to hold the camera. Talking about cases. I got the original fake leather case from Canon which is very nicely finished, fits great an offer real protection for the camera. This is great if you just throw your camera into a backpack or in a winter jacket pocket. But the case is rather bulky so it stayed at home when I took my Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag with me.
With the case the camera is bulky but without the camera is only slightly larger than the RX100s with tilt screens. It is surprisingly heavy though. Just over 300 grams. I remember that the low weight of my Ricoh GR almost put me off because it felt hollow. But now I got used to it and even though the Ricoh GR is slightly bigger it weighs just 245 grams. That’s a huge difference. The Ricoh is also rather flat thanks to its pop out lens. And lets not forget that the Ricoh GR has an APS-C size sensor. But the Canon is the more versatile camera and it is by far the better social camera. It is rather simple to take a portrait of your friends in a dim lit restaurant where the almost helpless AF of the Ricoh will drive you crazy. AWB and colors out of the box are another reason why the Canon G7X will replace my Ricoh GR. And of course its lens. When I go to Asia I only take the Fuji 14mm and the Fuji 27mm lens with me to save weight. Of course I missed a tele lens from time to time. The Canon G7X will give me that.
I will miss the Ricoh GR for its brilliant snap focus feature. You just select the distance where the camera should focus. For example if you choose 2.5 meter and if you stop down a little to f4 or f5.6 everything in-between 1.5 meters to infinity should be in focus. I would love to see the same thing in the Canon. Because of the much smaller sensor it works even better as a street shooter because the depth of field even with the lens wide open is huge. On the other hand you will have a hard time to separate your subject from the background. But the Canon G7X is still better than the Sony RX100 mkIII or mkIV thanks to its longer maximum focal length. If you shoot at f2.8@100mm you should be able to separate your model from a slightly blurred background. It can’t be compared to what you get from a larger sensor camera but it is good enough to clearly separate the Canon G7X from its direct competitors and of course from any small sensor camera or smartphone.
Two high ISO samples above. The later shot at ISO 2.500! Maybe that’s asking a little bit too much for such a camera but the results are good enough if you really need to get the shot.
The two images below are also low light but low ISO. They were shot from the balcony of our restaurant. I just put the camera on the handrail for support and shot at 1/8s.
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/1.8, 1/8 sec, ISO250)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (20.495mm, f/2.8, 1/8 sec, ISO400)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/2.8, 1/30 sec, ISO250)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (23.713mm, f/2.8, 1/125 sec, ISO800)
The Canon G7X is not perfect. No compact camera can be perfect. The Fuji X100 cameras come close but they are hardly compact. The Ricoh GR is an amazing street camera but is compromised in other areas. The Canon G7X is a solid compact camera with a rather large 1 inch sensor that gives massive resolution, good high ISO performance and good dynamic range.
The lens has a very useful 24-100mm range and its fast too f1.8-f2.8! The edges are soft at 24mm but the lens gets better when zoomed in. It is sharp at 100mm and can be used wide open. In general there is little reason to stop down on cameras with smaller sensors. It usually does more harm than good because diffraction kicks in fast. I would not recommend to shoot at f5.6 or below if there is no specific reason to do so. There is a built in ND filter which allows you to shoot wide open in sunlight. Unfortunately there is no auto setting for it.
Canon PowerShot G7 X (22.669mm, f/4, 1/1250 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/1.8, 1/25 sec, ISO1600)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (15.418mm, f/2.5, 1/50 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (32.89mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO500)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO250)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (28.343mm, f/2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO800)
I wanted the camera to focus on the foreground but there was no way! If the foreground is low contrast and there are light and contrast in the background the camera will always focus on the background. After some attempts I gave up and took the shot I wanted with my Fuji X-T1 which had no problem at all.
On the other hand the touch screen helped a lot to grab the shot in the memorial hall in Taipei. I just put my finger on the iPhone and snapped the shot. This will always take longer without touch screen even if the camera provides you with a dedicated AF controller like the new Fuji X Pro-2.
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO500)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/2.2, 1/25 sec, ISO200)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (31.034mm, f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (8.8mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO125)
Canon PowerShot G7 X (18.138mm, f/2.5, 1/100 sec, ISO800)
The handling which is the Achilles heel of most compact cameras is surprisingly good thanks to the touch screen which is great for focus point selection and the dedicated exposure compensation dial. Is it perfect? No but it comes close. If you are looking for a compact camera I recommend to add the Canon G7X to your shortlist.
PS: I almost forgot to mention battery life. Some reviews report a very poor battery life. I was very concerned when I was shooting in Hongkong because I wasn’t able to purchase a second battery before I went to Asia. I took more than 500 shots and the battery was still not empty. Not too bad I guess.
As the images in this post are resized for the web and only 1.500 pixels wide. I also used VSCOs slide films presets (mostly Velvia) to develop the RAW files in Lightroom. It’s just personal taste. To give you an idea about the output here is a full size test shot straight out of the camera that I took on the Sony RX1R mkII stall.