Canon G7X Conclusion

Pro: Cons:
  • Impressively compact body easily slips in a pants pocket
  • The main exposure controls aren't too easy to bump
  • Offers some much-needed direct competition to the Sony RX100-series cameras ;-)
  • Versatile wide-angle 4.2x zoom is more powerful than anything in its competitors
  • Fast maximum aperture (f/1.8-2.8, but you may have to stop down to avoid flare)
  • Selfie-friendly tilting LCD monitor (but can't tilt downwards)
  • Intuitive touch-screen interface, something its rivals lack
  • Very good image quality for its size, particularly when shooting RAW
  • Good dynamic range in RAW files
  • Generally good color and hue accuracy, though yellows were a little problematic
  • Decent autofocus speed
  • Able to autofocus in very low light
  • Built-in neutral-density filter
  • Built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking (complete with NFC pairing for Android) supports remote control
  • Strong uncorrected distortion at wide angle (but it's corrected automatically when shooting JPEGs or processing raw files)
  • Soft corners at wide angle
  • Localized flare issue when shooting at wide apertures and close distances, similar to G1X II
  • Purple or red fringing when wide open around heavily backlit objects
  • Larger than average minimum macro area
  • Below average max continuous mode speeds
  • Very slow (0.7 to 1.2 fps) continuous mode speeds when shooting RAW files
  • Has a tendency to underexpose significantly in low-light shooting
  • White balance often leaves cold color casts under city street lighting
  • No EVF or support for an external one
  • No hot shoe
  • Short battery life
  • Built-in flash is weak, uneven and slow to recycle (but at least it has one!)
  • Tripod socket isn't on the central axis of the lens
  • No in-camera panorama mode

Finally, there's a direct competitor for the Sony RX100-series cameras! Sure, there have been other large-sensor enthusiast compact cameras with zoom lenses -- the Panasonic LX100, for example, or Canon's own G1X-series -- but none has come quite so close to Sony's pants pocket-friendly formula as does the Canon G7X. And it doesn't just mimic the RX100-series cameras, but rather tries to better them, taking Sony on in its own turf with some notable advantages to its well-entrenched rival.

Key among these is clearly the Canon G7X's lens, which at once offers both a more powerful zoom and an equal or brighter aperture across the entire zoom range. And there are other important differences, too -- for example, a touchscreen interface that the G7X's rivals lack.

During my review of the Canon G7X, I was fortunate to be able to compare it side-by-side with its rivals, and more than once I definitely found myself appreciative of the G7X's extra zoom reach. It's remarkable what Canon has done with this lens, and I often marveled at it, as I reached into a pants-pocket for the camera.

Still, there were inevitably some compromises made to achieve this optic. Canon is subject to the same laws of physics and optics as are its rivals, and the G7X's lens not perfect, by any means. Images shot with this lens are quite soft in the corners wide-open, almost certainly due to the significant image stretching required to make up for the fact that the image circle doesn't cover the entire sensor surface. And while it's an amazingly bright lens, it has some issues with flare and fringing when shooting wide-open. That's especially noticeable if you're shooting nearby or macro subjects at the wide-angle end of the range.

A bigger concern for me, though, was performance -- and performance in one very specific area which strikes me as an important one for an enthusiast camera. While the Canon G7X is quite a swift camera in many respects, enabling its raw file format absolutely demolishes its otherwise-swift burst-capture speed. That takes the G7X from being enjoyable to shoot with to being quite frustrating, especially if you're a fan of bracketing your exposures: With raw files enabled, you'll face more than a second's delay between frames, by which time your subject may be long gone.

And this one performance failing is doubly frustrating because with a little work, you can definitely manage to improve the G7X's image quality by shooting in raw. Not just that, either -- the Canon G7X's raw format also offers very good dynamic range that could give you the chance to restore blown highlights or blocked shadows after the fact, if you missed the correct exposure. In other words, even though the G7X's JPEG image quality is still very good -- save for the shortcomings mentioned previously, which really only rear their head when you're wide-open, shooting a nearby subject at wide-angle -- you still feel you're sacrificing something by not shooting raw.

That's a great shame, because in many other ways I greatly enjoyed shooting with the Canon G7X, and I especially liked its touch-screen interface, which all of its rivals lack. Tapping the screen just as you would on your smartphone is intuitive, and makes focus point selection in particular just incredibly easy. And as I said at the outset, I really, really liked the extra zoom reach of the Canon G7X compared to the shorter zooms provided by the competition.

In fact, if you know for sure that you won't bother fiddling with raw files, I'd probably still recommend that you buy the Canon G7X. Its lens issues can be worked around by stopping down a little, or shooting from further away and then zooming or cropping post-capture. And while exposure metering was a bit iffy in low light, that again can be worked around with generous bracketing.

But for the enthusiast shooter this camera is really aimed at, raw shooting is likely to be an important feature, and its performance a very significant Achilles' heel. If, like many enthusiasts, you often or even exclusively shoot raw, I'd have to recommend you consider the Sony RX100-series or Panasonic LX100 over the G7X, at least unless zoom reach is the main factor in your buying decision.

Sadly, the Canon G7X doesn't quite merit a Dave's Pick this time around. It's a very promising first effort from Canon, though, and were it not for the fact that it already has a strong rival it would have been huge. (Just a few short years ago, this camera could have set the market on fire!) I'm certainly holding high hopes for the next generation, and I really can't wait to see what Canon will bring to the enthusiast compact market next time around.

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