Canon G7X II Field Test

Notable improvements make the G7X II a good compact camera

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 06/29/2016

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/7.1, 1/60s, ISO 640.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Introduction

Following up on 2014's G7X, Canon's G7X Mark II maintains many of the same features, including the sensor and fast 4.2x optical zoom lens, but brings with it a number of improvements to the camera body as well as a new DIGIC 7 image processor (which itself leads to better performance). The premium compact camera has a lot of competition, but delivers good image quality and impressive optical specs. What are its biggest strengths and weaknesses? Let's find out.

Canon PowerShot G7X II Key Features

  • 20.2-megapixel 1"-type CMOS sensor
  • 24-100mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens
  • Compact 11.3-ounce body
  • Tilting 3-inch touchscreen
  • Native ISO range of 125-12800, expandable to ISO 25600
  • Continuous RAW capture at up to 8 frames per second
  • 1080p video at up to 60fps
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Product Image Front

The Canon G7X II handles well despite its compact size

While the camera body has seen many improvements since the original G7X, the Mark II is basically just as compact and still lacking a built-in viewfinder. Without adding much bulk or weight, however, the G7X II now includes a small rubberized front grip. This seemingly small change makes it a very comfortable compact camera to hold and use. It's a clear case where a little bit goes a long way. Also new is toggle switch for the lens control ring that switches between smooth and stepped rotation. It's another small detail, but a very handy one; the stepped rotation is ideal for controlling something like aperture changes.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Product Image Back

The 3-inch rear touchscreen display still has 1,040,000 dots of resolution but can now tilt 45 degrees downward in addition to the 180 degrees of upward motion found in G7X. The touchscreen display itself is really nice. The user interface is well-suited to the touchscreen and proved to be responsive during use.

Button layout is good and the shutter release feels particularly nice for a compact camera. I quite like the "Ring Function" button on the rear of the camera, which lets you quickly change the function of the control ring around the lens. The control ring itself has an excellent feel, particularly when set to click as you rotate it. While it's narrow, the diamond-knurled texture allowed me to get a good grip.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Product Image Back

On the top of the camera features both an exposure compensation dial with the mode dial stacked on top, just like with the original model. You have to be careful to rotate only the mode dial if trying to use just your thumb to make exposure mode changes, as I found that it was easy to accidentally rotate the exposure compensation dial.

Overall, the G7X II brings only a handful of changes to the camera body, but they're all excellent changes and help to make this compact camera feel really good in the hands. It's small, but it doesn't feel cramped. It's light, but it doesn't feel cheap. Add in its touchscreen-friendly menu system, and you have a very fun compact camera.

Built-in 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 lens is fast, but underwhelms

The built-in 24-100mm equivalent (8.8-36.8mm actual) f/1.8-2.8 lens is unchanged from the original G7X, which is a bit of a disappointment. The focal length and max effective apertures are both great, but the lens leaves something to be desired in terms of optical performance.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/1.8, 1/1600s, ISO 125.
At f/1.8, the G7X II can show some poor optical performance in certain lighting conditions, such as this shot taken in bright sunlight. Stopping down removed the aberrations around the high-contrast edges. Click for full-size image.

Center sharpness is good throughout the focal length range. Part of the appeal of the G7X II is that it offers a 24mm equivalent focal length, which is quite wide. Unfortunately, at this focal length, corners are rather soft. Another issue at wide angle is distortion. It's handled well by in-camera JPEG processing, but RAW files show a considerable amount. It's clear the G7X II is applying a lot of correction in-camera. Chromatic aberration is also more noticeable at wider focal lengths than at telephoto. At a 100mm equivalent focal length, sharpness is pretty good across the frame.

The G7X II can close focus to two inches when set to macro focus mode, but the macro focus range does come at the cost of a severe loss in corner sharpness.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image.

Overall, the G7X II offers a decent built-in lens. The focal length range is useful and the maximum aperture of f/1.8 is very good. While optical performance is not excellent at the wide end due to a lack of corner of sharpness and significant distortion, considering the compact size of the lens, it remains quite impressive.

Canon G7X II offers a positive user experience

Metering

Offering the usual array of metering modes -- evaluative, center-weighted average, spot and face detect AE -- metering performance is pretty good overall. Spot metering can linked to the autofocus point, which is very helpful, and exposure compensation is available via a dial on the top deck of the camera for up to 3EVs in 0.3EV steps.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
100mm equivalent (36.8mm actual), f/10, 1/200s, ISO 320.
While using f/10 introduces some diffraction with a sensor of this size, I wanted to keep the loon in the background as sharp as possible. The camera impressed me with its ability to meter the loon, a notoriously difficult subject to expose well. Click for original image.

Evaluative metering does a good job in many situations, although I did find that I had to use exposure compensation slightly more than I typically do when field testing a camera. It's not a big issue whatsoever as the exposure compensation dial is convenient, but worth keeping in mind when shooting with the G7X II. Auto white balance metering performs well, delivering consistently good results.

Modes

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/6.3, 1/60s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image.

There is a good variety of modes available with the G7X II. Standard P, A, S and M modes are all present and accounted for, but there are also creative modes. On the mode dial, there's a scene mode (designated "SCN"), which contains a wide variety of shooting presets that include portrait, fireworks, panorama, star and more. The scene mode also includes special effects filters such as fish-eye effect, art bold effect, miniature effect and more. It's nice to have these options, but they're nothing special, and it's worth noting that you can only record JPEG images in SCN mode.

When shooting in aperture priority and shutter speed priority exposure modes, the ring around the lens works very well for controlling your settings. I particularly like the control ring with the new stepped rotation setting because it allows for easy, quick adjustments and provides good tactile feedback. In addition to the control ring, the G7X II has a second command dial on the rear of the camera, which feels somewhat loose when you rotate it. This made it more difficult to make precise adjustments, overshooting a desired setting, for example, but I didn't have any issues accidentally pressing directional buttons though. When shooting in manual mode, the rear dial is used for adjusting the shutter speed while the ring around the lens controls aperture. In Program Auto mode, the lens ring changes function, however, acting as step-zoom ring to quickly adjust the focal length to 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 100mm.

As a side note, the fastest shutter speed available with the G7X II is a relatively slow 1/2000s, so you may need to make use of its built-in neutral density filter when shooting at fast apertures during the day.

Menus

The menus themselves are pretty standard, but I like that they are all navigable using touch. However, some of the system menus have rather small elements, which can make them slightly difficult to tap on accurately. While shooting, the 'Q' menu is very useful and helps make up for the lack of physical buttons on the camera (which doesn't have a lot of free space to place buttons anyways).

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
100mm equivalent (36.8mm actual), f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 2000.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Sensor and image quality

The Canon G7X II utilizes a 20.1-megapixel 1"-type CMOS sensor, the same one found in the original G7X. It produces detailed JPEG images, and I found that its RAW files contained a lot of data for rescuing highlights and shadow areas. While you can alter many image quality parameters for JPEG images (as well as in-camera RAW conversions), I found the default settings produced good saturation and sharpness.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
37mm equivalent (13.6mm actual), f/3.2, 1/80s, ISO 250, -2.67 exposure compensation.
Click for full-size image.
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
The above image after RAW processing. I introduced quite a bit of visible noise in the foreground during the shadow recovery, but I still find what I was able to do with the file quite impressive.

Overall

The overall user experience is quite good with the Canon G7X II. The tilting touchscreen proved very useful out in the field, particularly for quickly adjusting various settings. The shooting modes are plentiful, and the camera is surprisingly well-suited for more enthusiast-style shooting, though it handles nicely for fully automatic modes as well. Overall, it strikes a good balance between being user-friendly and intuitive while not handcuffing the photographer when he or she wants to take more control over their shooting.

Canon G7X II offers simple but dependable autofocus

While Canon didn't give any specific numbers, autofocus performance is supposed to be improved with regards to low-contrast scenes and subject tracking. I can't comment on how much this has changed, but I can say that its autofocus performance is impressive overall.

Utilizing a contrast detect autofocus system with 31 points, the G7X II provides reliably quick autofocus. The fully automatic AiAF focus mode works well at determining the appropriate subject and locking in autofocus, provided that your subject fills a decent portion of the frame. With that said, I much prefer using 1-point autofocus because it works very well with the touchscreen display.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
100mm equivalent (36.8mm actual), f/9.0, 1/200s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

One-shot autofocus performs well, as does continuous autofocus for the most part. When you set the camera to continuous autofocus, you can tap the screen on the subject you want to track, although it can also detect faces automatically and track them as well when that option is enabled.

In relatively low light, the G7X II still manages to autofocus with good success. Naturally, this performance needs to be considered in the context of it being a $700 compact camera, but nonetheless I was generally impressed. It has an autofocus assist light that does a good job with close subjects.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

Now, this isn't a camera that is going to track subjects as well as a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera, but it nonetheless has solid one-shot autofocus, decent continuous autofocus and a very good touchscreen focus experience. One thing I noticed is that if you're trying to get precise focus on a small subject (or a small part of a subject, such as a particular part of a flower) then you are better off utilizing manual focus and magnifying in to nail the focus, as the camera's autofocus system is not precise or sophisticated enough to handle very fine focusing situations.

New DIGIC 7 processor provides improved performance

Whereas the G7X was powered by a DIGIC 6 processor, the G7X II includes a faster DIGIC 7 processor. This new processor leads to improved performance and features. Not only are images captured at a faster rate, but the G7X II can now record 14-bit RAW files compared to the 12-bit RAW files captured by its predecessor. In addition, single-shot cycling times are also improved when using the G7X II in single-shot mode, cut essentially in half compared to the original G7X when recording RAW+JPEG files.

There's a 1.5 frames per second improvement to max continuous shooting speeds for both RAW and JPEG files, bringing the G7X II up to a respectable 8fps. Note that at this fastest shooting speed, focus, exposure and white balance are all locked with the first frame. However, you can still shoot with full AE and AF at 5.4fps.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
52mm equivalent (19.2mm actual), f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image.

Buffer depths are improved with the inclusion of the DIGIC 7 as well. We were able to capture 32 fine JPEG frames and 21 RAW frames when burst shooting. Buffer clearing is unfortunately still quite slow at 8 and 15 seconds respectively. Ultimately, the DIGIC 7 processor addresses one of the predecessor's more frustrating aspects, its continuous shooting performance. As a nice bonus, it also allowed the G7X II to become the first PowerShot camera to offer in-camera RAW image conversion.

It is also worth noting that despite using the same NB-13L battery pack, the G7X II's battery life is improved from the 210 shots of the original to a respectable 265 shots (up to 355 shots when using ECO mode).

Solid high ISO performance, particularly with JPEGs

The Canon G7X II produces pretty clean RAW images up through ISO 1600. At 1600, fine details become fairly soft with a noticeable amount of visual noise, but the images still look okay to me when viewed at smaller sizes. At 3200, the image becomes quite soft and noise is considerable, but I think you could still make a small print from a processed ISO 3200 file. The situation becomes a lot poorer at ISO 6400, and I wouldn't consider ISO 6400 or 12800 to be usable at all.

Canon G7X II Noise Comparison 100% Center Crops from RAW images with ACR defaults applied
(Click images for full-size files).
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 125 Full Scene
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 125
ISO 200
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 400
ISO 800
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 6400
ISO 12800

When considering JPEG files with default noise reduction applied in-camera, the situation is essentially the same with ISO 3200 JPEG images looking okay when viewed at smaller sizes. I don't think it would be too much of an issue to use ISO 3200 JPEG files on the web or perhaps a small print.

In-camera noise reduction options are low, standard (default) and high, and I strongly prefer the standard option. I'd generally steer clear of low, at least at very high ISOs, because it doesn't do enough to reduce visible noise, while on the other end of the spectrum, I think that high is absolute overkill.

Canon G7X II Noise Reduction Comparison
100% Center Crops from JPEG images straight from camera. (Click images for full-size files).
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
NR Low
NR Standard
NR High

The fact of the matter is that the sensor in the G7X II isn't very big, in the grand scheme of things, and you have to temper your expectations for high ISO performance. With that said, the DIGIC 7 image processor is designed in part to provide the G7X II with slightly better high ISO performance than its predecessor, and I think that it shows improvement, at least when viewing files at 100%.

Built-in flash

The G7X II has a built-in flash (but no hotshoe) that provides decent power. The flash's range with auto ISO is 1.6 feet to 23 feet at wide focal lengths and 1.3 feet to 13 feet at telephoto focal lengths (due to the maximum aperture changing from f/1.8 to f/2.8). The maximum flash sync is 1/2000s, which is quite impressive.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/2.8, 1/8s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image.

The Canon G7X Mark II In the field: Night shooting

A nice thing about the Canon G7X II for night shooting is its maximum aperture of f/1.8 (at the wide end), which lets in plenty of light for a decent night shooting experience considering its high ISO performance. It's not all positive, however, as there were a few aspects of the G7X II that make it frustrating to use.

For starters, the G7X II has manual focus, but it's not very user friendly. There's a distance scale on the right side of the display, but it's slow to react to you pressing up and down on the directional pad (which is how you adjust focus), and it would occasionally get stuck, forcing me to hold down a button and then wait for the scale to react, at which point it would go beyond where I intended.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/1.8, 15s, ISO 800.
Click for full-size image.

Further, the focus kept resetting to beyond infinity for some reason. I don't understand why it kept changing, but when you want to adjust focus after shooting you need to go into the focus menu by pressing left and then selecting "MF." All in all, manually focusing was frustrating.

If the camera turns off, not only do you have to set the camera to manual focus again, but you also need to re-enable the self-timer (which I was using for night shooting) again because the camera doesn't save these settings.

Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/1.8, 15s, ISO 1600.
Click for full-size image.

Sparse video features but decent performance

Video is something of a letdown with the Canon G7X II, I'm afraid. The camera, like its predecessor, does not shoot 4K video but is instead capped at 1080/60p. Full HD video at 60 frames per second is nice, but a lot of cameras offer 4K video these days so the G7X II is lagging behind in this regard.

Canon G7X II Video Sample, 1920 x 1080, 60fps
Download Original (105.9MB .MP4 File)

Full manual exposure mode is available for video recording, though your only other option is a fully automatic video mode that doesn't allow for any control over ISO. It would be nice to have an aperture priority video mode, at least. You can record video at any time by pressing the dedicated movie record button, including while in aperture and shutter speed priority modes, but once video recording starts, it switches to a fully automatic exposure mode. For manual video exposure control, you'll need switch the camera into its dedicated video shooting mode on the mode dial.

Canon G7X II ISO 3200 Video Sample, 1920 x 1080, 60fps
Download Original (48.8MB .MP4 File)

Video quality itself is fine and autofocus performance is acceptable as well. Maximum ISO when recording video is 3200, and 1080p looks surprisingly decent at ISO 3200 despite the small sensor size. There is quite a bit of noise, but it is still a relatively clean file considering, I think.

Unfortunately, although not particularly surprising, the G7X II lacks headphone and microphone ports. It does offer a wind filter for audio, but no other controls over the sensitivity of the built-in mic are available.

Canon G7X II Touch Focus Video Sample, 1920 x 1080, 60fps
Download Original (110.8MB .MP4 File)

Overall, video feels like something of an afterthought for the G7X II considering its somewhat limited offering of features, especially with the lack of 4K video recording. On the plus side, it's full HD video recording performance is still pretty good with decent high ISO performance and a handy 60p frame rate option.

Solid wireless performance with a versatile app

The G7X II has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC and can connect via the dedicated wireless button on the side of the camera to iOS/Android devices. I tested the wireless functionality on an iOS device, which means that I had to go through iOS's wireless settings menu before being able to connect to the camera. Once connected, performance was good: the connection was stable, and the live view display on my phone's screen was close to real-time.

Canon Camera Connect application screenshots
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Wireless App Screenshot Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Wireless App Screenshot

There are quite a few options and controls available in the Canon Camera Connect application, including drive mode and autofocus settings, and the touchscreen works well for selecting focus. It's a relatively standard assortment of features and offers good remote control functionality; I can certainly see the utility of the app when using the G7X II, especially for things like family portraits.

Canon G7X Mark II Field Test Summary

Canon G7X II is a fun, capable compact camera

What I like:

  • Compact but comfortable form factor
  • Maximum aperture of f/1.8 is nice
  • Very good touchscreen functionality
  • Consistently good autofocus performance
  • Good image quality overall

What I dislike:

  • No built-in viewfinder or option to attach an external one
  • Lens' optical performance leaves something to be desired
  • No 4K video
Canon G7X II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm equivalent (8.8mm actual), f/8.0, 1s, ISO 125.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

While the Canon G7X II doesn't address all of the shortcomings of the G7X, it does make numerous improvements to both the camera body itself and overall performance. Ultimately, it's an enjoyable camera to use and it does well capturing still images. The camera is well-designed, captures good quality images and delivers solid performance across the board. If I'm looking for a good compact camera for $700 or less, the Canon G7X II is definitely on my shortlist.

 



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