Canon G9X Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Typical saturation levels with good hue accuracy, though yellows were a little problematic.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Click chart for a larger image.

Saturation. The Canon G9X produced fairly typical saturation levels overall, with only mild to moderate oversaturation in reds, greens, purples and blues. Bright yellow, aqua and cyan were undersaturated by relatively small amounts. Mean saturation at base ISO is 110.7%, or 10.7% oversaturated, which is about average these days. Overall, the Canon G9X's images appear to have pleasing color and saturation levels, and you can always adjust saturation using the camera's "My Colors" options. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. With Auto white balance in simulated daylight, the Canon G9X rendered lighter Caucasian skin tones just a touch yellow and flat. Manual white balance produced better, slightly more pinkish skin tones. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Canon PowerShot G9X produced a few color shifts relative to the correct rendering of colors in its images, most visibly pushing cyan toward blue (probably for better-looking skies), orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green. Mean "delta-C" color error after correcting for saturation at base ISO was 4.68 which is a bit better than average, though the shift and reduced saturation in yellows was noticeable in some of our test shots. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Strong color casts with Auto and Incandescent settings, but very good with Manual white balance setting. Average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was pretty awful with Auto white balance setting, producing a strong red/magenta cast. The Incandescent white balance option was better, but too warm, with a strong yellow/orange cast. The Manual white balance setting was pretty accurate, though, but a touch cool. The PowerShot G9X's exposure system handled this lighting well, requiring a typical amount of exposure compensation (+ 0.3 EV) for this shot. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

Outdoors, daylight
Slightly cool colors, with high default contrast. Above average exposure compensation required.

Manual White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The Canon PowerShot G9X performed fairly well in the simulated outdoor lighting of our "Sunlit" Portrait shot. Although above average exposure compensation of +1.0 EV was needed to keep the mannequin's facial skin tones bright, the number of blown highlights in her shirt and the flowers is actually not bad for such a compact camera, and detail in the shadows is pretty good. The G9X underexposed our outdoor far-field shot a bit producing some very deep shadows, but as a result very few highlights were blown. Luminance noise is a bit high in deep shadows, however chrominance noise is fairly well controlled, though very deep shadows are discolored. Color outdoors was good with the Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool, though the camera rendered skin tones just a little more yellow than Manual white balance in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
2,500 ~ 2,550 lines of strong detail from in-camera JPEGs, about the same from converted RAW files.

In-camera JPEG:
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
In-camera JPEG:
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,550 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,500 lines in the vertical direction in a JPEG straight out of the camera, though there was some aliasing visible as low as 2,100 lines in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred just past 3,000 lines in the horizontal direction, and just past 3,200 lines in the vertical direction. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more resolution, however it did generate more false colors than the in-camera JPEG. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp, detailed images overall, though with some visible sharpening artifacts on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits detail in low contrast areas.

Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with some visible
edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot G9X captures fairly sharp JPEG images at default settings, though some edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the halos around lines and text in the crop above left. Sharpening isn't as overdone as some cameras, but enthusiasts might want to shoot with a lower sharpening setting and apply additional sharpening in post processing, or shoot RAW for complete control over sharpening. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some significant smudging of low contrast detail due to noise suppression, as individual strands of hair are blurred together in midtones and shadows, but performance here is still better than average for a compact digicam. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon G9X produces fairly sharp, detailed in-camera JPEGs at base ISO. But with a good raw converter, more detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (125)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.3 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, ACR did extract additional detail that isn't present in the JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf swatch where the thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also slightly improved, but as is often the case, a lot more noise can be seen in the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Color was improved as well, with ACR removing the slight yellow-to-green shift in the JPEG. And, as expected, sharpening halos aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. Still, in-camera default JPEG processing isn't bad, but as usual you can do better with a good RAW converter however you'll likely need to experiment with noise reduction and sharpening.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for a camera its size.

Default Noise Reduction
ISO 125 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1,600
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400 ISO 12,800

The PowerShot G9X's high ISO performance is quite good for its size, though oddly its images are a little noisier than ones from its larger siblings sharing the same sensor and processor, the G7X and G5X. ISOs 125 and 200 are detailed and pretty clean, but ISO 400 already shows some significant softening due to strong noise reduction. ISO 800 is noisier and softer from more aggressive noise reduction, and ISO 1600 is of course softer still. Image quality drops off rapidly above ISO 1600, with increasing luma noise as well as stronger blurring from noise reduction, though chroma noise is reasonably well-controlled.

Note that the G9X offers three levels of noise reduction (Low, Standard and High), and these shots were taken using the default Standard setting.

Of course, the impact of noise and detail loss are highly dependent on the size the photos are printed at, and pixel-peeping on-screen has surprisingly little relationship to how the images look when printed: See the Print Quality section below for recommended maximum print sizes at each ISO.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Pretty good dynamic range for its class. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness at all ISOs.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot G9X did fairly well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above. To keep facial tones bright, +1.0 EV compensation was required, which led to some clipped highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, but not as many as expected for its size. Some may prefer the +0.7 EV setting for its reduced highlight clipping, but we found the face a bit too dim. Detail is quite good in the shadows at +1.0 EV, though very deep shadows are a little grainy and posterized, however chroma noise is well-controlled. Very good results in harsh lighting for such a compact camera, but consider using fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

Outdoor Portrait i-Contrast Series
i-Contrast
Setting:



DRC Off
(Default)



DRC 200%


DRC Auto


Shadow
Correct



As part of the G9X's Intelligent Contrast (i-Contrast) feature, the camera has "Dynamic Range Correction" to help tame highlights, and "Shadow Correct" to bring out more shadow detail.

Above are examples of our challenging "Sunlit" Portrait scene shot with the G9X's two available Dynamic Range Correction settings, plus Shadow Correct. Mouse over the links to the right to compare, and click on the links to get to the full-resolution images.

Because the G9X underexposed this scene, DRC made little difference no matter the setting. 200% did increase highlights slightly, but it's a pretty subtle change. Shadow Correct worked better, boosting shadows without impacting highlight, leading to the best overall exposure for this series, although it's still a bit dim. Check out our G7X results where we applied to +0.7 EV exposure compensation to these shots.

Note that Dynamic Range Correction may boost ISO depending on your current setting, so more noise and/or stronger NR may be visible with it enabled. (In our samples above, DR 200% used ISO 250, while DR Auto and Shadow Correct left ISO at 125.)

Far-field i-Contrast Comparison

Above, you can see the effect of the available i-Contrast settings on our Far-field shot. Here, DRC 200% made a significant difference actually boosting highlights, while the Auto setting made little difference. Shadow Correct also made quite a difference, boosting midtones and shadows while maintaining highlights.


Face Detection Examples
Aperture Priority
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face-Detection Enabled
0 EV
Smart Auto
0 EV

The table above shows results with the default exposure using Aperture Priority AE with Face Detection disabled and then enabled, as well as Smart Auto. As you can see, the G9X's face detection in Aperture Priority and Smart Auto modes both increased exposure dramatically compared to the default exposure in Aperture Priority mode, going from very underexposed to bright images. Smart Auto mode selected an aperture of f/4.9 instead of f/5.6 we used in Aperture Priority and it boosted ISO to 250 as well.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we've decided to compare the Canon G9X's dynamic range to its larger sibling, the G7X, as well as to another enthusiast compact, the Sony RX100 IV, as all three use a 1"-type 20-megapixel sensor. You can always compare to other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger image), all three cameras have fairly similar dynamic range, though the G9X generally lags the others slightly. The G9X's (orange) maximum dynamic range is 12.3 EV at base ISO, with a minimum of 6.3 EV at the top ISO. The G7X (yellow) managed 12.7 EV at base ISO and 6.5 at maximum ISO. This difference agrees with our observation that the G9X produces slightly noisier images than the G7X at the same ISOs. At base ISO the Sony RX100 IV is in between the two Canons at 12.6 EV, but does a little better as ISO climbs, however do note that DxOMark has detected some smoothing (noise reduction) in the raw data at the top two ISOs from the Sony.

Bottom line, the Canon G9X produces very good dynamic range for a camera its size, even if it slightly lags its somewhat larger and more expensive rivals.

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon G9X for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
125
Click to see G9XLL001253.JPG
0.8s, f2.0
Click to see G9XLL001257.JPG
12.6s, f2.0
Click to see G9XLL001257XNR.JPG
12.6s, f2.0
ISO
3200
Click to see G9XLL032003.JPG
1/32s, f2.0
Click to see G9XLL032007.JPG
0.5s, f2.0
Click to see G9XLL032007XNR.JPG
0.5s, f2.0
ISO
12800
Click to see G9XLL128003.JPG
1/128s, f2.0
Click to see G9XLL128007.JPG
1/8s, f2.0
Click to see G9XLL128007XNR.JPG
1/8s, f2.0

Low Light. The Canon PowerShot G9X performed very well in our low-light tests thanks to its fast lens at wide angle, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even at the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 125). Keep in mind the lens gets a little slow (dim) as you zoom towards the telephoto end (f/4.9), so try to use as short a focal length as possible for best low-light results.

As expected for a 1"-type sensor, luma noise is a little high at ISO 3200, but fairly fine-grained, while chroma noise is well-controlled. The G9X's highest ISO of 12,800 is quite grainy with strong blurring, but that's no surprise.

Color balance is pretty good with Canon G9X's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool, even at highest ISO and lowest light level. We didn't notice any significant issues with hot pixels, pattern noise or heat blooming.

The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level in our tests, which is excellent, and the G9X was able to focus in complete darkness with the aid of its AF assist lamp.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 125/200; a nice 8 x 10 at ISO 1600; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 6400.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 125/200 prints look quite good up to 24 x 36 inches before sensor resolution limits the size from going higher. The images show nice colors and crisp fine detail throughout the print. ISO 125 is the slightest bit sharper than ISO 200, but the latter still holds up nicely at this size.

ISO 400 yields 20 x 30 inch prints that are fine to use for less critical applications, but are just a bit too soft to warrant our "good" rating here. Stepping down in size to 16 x 20 inch prints resolves this issue, and the images have a nice amount of fine detail and "pop".

ISO 800 produces a 13 x 19 inch print that just passes our good rating. Colors remain quite good here, sharpness is above the acceptable threshold and noise is well-controlled as well. A reduction in size to 11 x 14 inches is recommended for the most critical applications where sharpness is concerned.

ISO 1600 prints introduce a bit too much noise at 11 x 14 inches to pass our good grade, but are fine for less critical applications. We can safely recommend the 8 x 10 inch prints here for yielding good printed image quality across the board.

ISO 3200 images are also good at 8 x 10 inches, with just enough fine detail to warrant our good rating. All contrast detail is now lost in our tricky target red swatch, but that's typical of all but the higher-end cameras we test at this and higher sensitivities.

ISO 6400 prints display a marked decrease in overall image quality. We can rate the 4 x 6 inch prints here as "good" and displaying enough color saturation and detail to be usable for most applications, but we don't recommend using this setting unless 4 x 6 inches is sufficient, as anything lager exhibits too much in the way of noise and muted colors.

ISO 12,800 is not usable and we recommend avoiding this setting.

The Canon G9X produces printed images at base ISO that look terrific, and ISO 200 images are quite good as well. The G9X manages a print size larger than the G7X at 125/200 while matching the G5X, but critical sharpness does decline a bit faster than we found in the G5X, which allowed for a good 20 x 30 inch print at ISO 400, where the G9X is only sufficient at 16 x 20 inches. Similarly, we found this camera only capable of a good 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 1600, as compared to a good 11 x 14 from the G7X and G5X. Otherwise, the three siblings perform similarly at the other ISO settings, and images are capable of going to 8 x 10 inch prints up to ISO 3200, which is a useful size for that setting in general. Beyond this image quality deteriorates rather markedly, so remaining at ISO 3200 and below is certainly recommended for your critical printing purposes.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot G9 X Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot G9 X with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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