Canon G9X Conclusion

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As I noted when the Canon G9X was announced some months back, this camera strikes me as a very interesting one indeed. It is, in essence, a return to form for the 1-inch sensored compact camera. Revisiting the original values of the large-sensor compact, it gives you a roomy, light-loving imager paired with the smallest possible body, and it's noticeably smaller even than the original RX100, let alone the cameras which have followed both from Sony and its rivals.

A pocket-friendly companion to your smartphone

What that means for you is that the Canon G9X is a camera which can remain forgotten in your pants pocket until you need it, yet offer image quality and versatility that will utterly outclass your smartphone's camera. And then once you've got the shot, it's a snap to get it offloaded to your phone, and from there to social networks.

Panasonic G7 review -- Sample photo

59mm-equivalent, 1/800 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 125

Small size means pared-back feature-set

Of course, making the Canon G9X so small means that there have had to be some sacrifices made. You won't find as many features as in some other 1-inch sensor-shod cameras, including the G9X's own siblings. There's no articulated LCD or electronic viewfinder, for example, and the lens isn't as generous at the wide-angle end as some, either. (Although with that said, the Canon G9X does offer one trick which most rivals lack: A touch-screen display which makes light work of selecting your subject for autofocus, and also allows you to use intuitive gestures like pinch-to-zoom in playback mode, just as you would on your smartphone.)

Great image quality produces good print sizes

If you're willing to live without a few features like those, though, there's quite a lot to recommend the Canon G9X beyond just its small size. It offers great image quality, producing good 8x10 prints all the way to ISO 3200, and 4x6 prints as high as ISO 6400. And while -- like most any camera in this class -- the corners are a bit soft thanks to distortion correction, images towards the lower end of the sensitivity range are packed with detail, especially if stopped down and zoomed in just a little.

Panasonic G7 review -- Sample photo

84mm-equivalent, 1/1,250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 125

A noticeably more mature design than was the G7X

The last time I reviewed one of Canon's 1-inch sensor-based compacts -- the original G7X -- I found that while there was much to love, it was also quite apparent that this was a first-generation product. Now that Canon is fielding a broader line of cameras in this category, are there still any rough edges in the G9X? Well, yes, but they're definitely fewer and further between than they were in the earlier camera. I found myself enjoying shooting with the Canon G9X a whole lot more, and also found it easier to be forgiving of the occasional flaw every time I slipped it in a pocket and almost forgot it was even there.

Not a camera for raw shooters, though

If you're a raw shooter, it's a little harder to recommend the Canon G9X, because its performance becomes quite sedate when shooting in this more versatile format. If your subjects aren't fast-moving and you don't frequently bracket shots, it will likely still suffice, but for more active shooting you'll want to stick to JPEG format or live with a somewhat larger body for a higher-performing camera.

Panasonic G7 review -- Sample photo

31mm-equivalent, 1/30 sec. @ f/2.5, ISO 200

The occasional rough edge, offset by a smartphone-like touch-screen

Auto white balance was an occasional issue both in the lab and in the real world, especially when shooting under warm incandescent lighting or at higher sensitivities, but this is pretty easily worked around with the array of white balance settings on offer. And while I didn't find the G9X's touch-screen display so fun when navigating the weighty and occasionally disorganized menu system, I absolutely loved using it to set focus on my subjects while shooting, or when reviewing images in playback mode.

The tiny G9X presents a strong challenge to its rivals

For what it is -- a companion to your smartphone that will be there when you need it and which will give you much better photographic results -- the Canon G9X is an altogether better camera than was the G7X, and it presents a much stronger challenge to the best offerings from rivals. Especially with the inclusion of a really easy-to-use Wi-Fi mode that gets your photos onto your smartphone in short order. (And doubly so for Android users, who can also take advantage of quick-and-easy NFC pairing.)

Panasonic G7 review -- Sample photo

84mm-equivalent, 1/100 sec. @ f/4.9, ISO 640

Final thoughts on the smallest 1-inch compact to date

Would I buy the Canon G9X, were I in the market for a pocket-friendly compact camera today? So long as I wasn't a raw shooter, and didn't predominantly shoot in cold climates where gloves would be an issue with the touch screen, then yes, I think I would. And if you, too, find yourself in search of a camera that can provide excellent JPEG photos and get them on your phone with a minimum of fuss, then magically disappear in your pocket until the next time you need it, you should definitely take a close look at the Canon G9X.

It's a worthy addition to our Dave's Pick list, even if it isn't ideal if you're predominantly a raw shooter. Let's face it: There's a world of photographers out there who will never want to shoot raws, and for them this is a really great little camera!

Panasonic G7 review -- Sample photo

84mm-equivalent, 5 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 125

 

Pros & Cons

Image Quality

  • Generally very good image quality, even better from RAW
  • Very good high ISO performance and dynamic range for its size
  • Good hue accuracy with manual white balance
  • Slightly noisier high-ISO images than G5X/G7X
  • Poor auto white balance indoors under tungsten lighting or at high sensitivities

Performance

  • Swift 6.5 frames-per-second burst mode when shooting JPEG images
  • Able to focus in very low light at wide angle
  • 6.5fps JPEG buffer is limited to 10 frames
  • Burst mode slows to a crawl (<1 fps) when shooting RAW files
  • Slow bracketing, especially for raw, and no live view after the first frame, either
  • Mediocre autofocus speeds compared to recent enthusiast compact competitors
  • Too often indicates a focus lock when it doesn't have one

Video

  • Great movie mode features
  • Good movie image quality
  • No 4K or slow-motion video capture, unlike some rivals

User Experience

  • Smallest 1-inch sensored camera to date
  • Exceptionally compact for a 1"-sensor pocket zoom camera
  • Excellent build quality with no hint of creak or panel flex
  • Comfortable in-hand with a good, secure grip, especially when compared to the next-smallest 1-inch camera, Sony's original RX100
  • Short lens barrel (when retracted) provides good in-pocket comfort
  • Lens ring with subtle click-detents feels better than a stepless ring for adjusting most exposure variables
  • Touch screen with smartphone-like pinch-to-zoom and swipe control
  • Standalone charger included in the product bundle
  • In-camera charging is also possible via USB
  • Fast, reasonably far-ranging in-camera Wi-Fi with very easy NFC pairing
  • Menu system feels disorganized, and requires too much touch-screen tapping
  • Manual focus can't be assigned to the lens ring
  • Limited physical controls mean more time in menus or fiddling with touch screen
  • Touch-screen operation isn't ideal in the cold (most gloves won't work with it)
  • No LCD articulation (but the RX100 didn't have this either, and it would add to size)
  • Poor battery life (though Eco mode helps, batteries are small and a standalone charger is included)
  • Remote live view via Wi-Fi uses a very small window on your phone screen
  • Remote control provides access only to a fairly limited subset of camera features

Optics

  • Fast lens at wide angle
  • Decent optical performance for a lens of its class
  • Macro mode focuses quite close to the subject
  • 3x lens has limited zoom range and doesn't go as wide as most (28mm-equivalent vs. 24mm-equivalent)
  • Lens isn't very bright at telephoto (f/4.9)
  • Soft corners at wide angle even stopped down (due to strong distortion correction, but that's typical of cameras in this class)

Flash

  • Manufacturer-specified flash range is accurate
  • Weak flash (common in compact cameras)

 



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