Canon G9X Mark II Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II is Canon's latest compact camera with a 1-inch sensor. There is a lot about the G9X II that is similar to its predecessor, including a very compact form factor, but there are many new features such as a faster processor. We have had the G9X Mark II in the field and put it through its paces in our lab. Let's take a final look at the Canon G9X II and see how it stacks up.

G9X II offers good image quality, especially with color accuracy & high ISOs

25.9mm (71mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/8s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Featuring a 20-megapixel 1-inch type CMOS sensor, the G9X II uses the same image sensor as its predecessor, but there have been improvements made to image processing and overall image quality. For example, we found better color and detail from the G9X II than the original G9X. In fact, the G9X II produces essentially identical image quality as its more expensive and larger sibling, the G7X II.

When you increase the ISO, the improvements in the G9X Mark II over its predecessor are even more apparent. The G9X II delivers cleaner and clearer images at higher ISOs than the G9X. When considering print quality, the G9X II can deliver excellent 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 125 (base ISO) through ISO 200. At ISO 1600, you can make an okay 13 x 19 inch print, although 11 x 14 works much better. A good 8 x 10 is even possible at ISO 3200 and usable 5 x 7 prints can be produced with ISO 6400 images. This is impressive performance for a compact camera with a 1-inch sensor. We believe that improvements in image quality over the original G9X are due to the improved image processor, as the cameras do utilize identical image sensors and the same built-in lens.

3x zoom lens is compact but a bit limited compared to the competition

The Canon G9X II has a 28-84mm-equivalent built-in lens which has a maximum aperture range of f/2.0-4.9. This is a fast maximum aperture, although the lens does become an f/2.2 lens 30mm and an f/2.8 lens at 33mm, so it is only fast at essentially its very widest focal length. Speaking of the wide focal length, the G9X II does not offer a very wide lens.

10.2mm (28mm equiv.), f/2.0, 1/160s, ISO 125.
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The 3x zoom lens proved to offer decent far-field performance for its class. While its zoom is not quite as impressive as some of the competition, the G9X II retains a very compact form factor so there had to be compromise. Macro performance is about average, but distortion is particularly well-controlled in most cases. The case where distortion is bad is when considering RAW images captured at wide angle; uncorrected files have very high distortion. Most RAW converters will automatically correct for it, so it is not a big deal but is worth keeping in mind if you shoot a lot of RAW. This will also reduce the quality of the corners in wide angle shots as the corrections stretch the pixels. This applies to JPEG images as well, which are corrected automatically, as the corners are noticeably soft in wide-angle shots.

Combined with the image sensor, the G9X II's built-in lens offers pretty good performance, and the camera produces images with good fine detail. Save for corner performance at wide angle focal lengths, the G9X II offers solid imaging performance across the board.

10.2mm (28mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1s, ISO 125. Processed RAW image.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Performance: Improved over its predecessor and generally quite good

The Canon G9X II offers improved performance thanks to its new image processor. The G9X II has a DIGIC 7 image processor and can shoot at over 8 frames per second. This is impressive speed for the compact camera and is about 1.5 fps faster than the original G9X when shooting JPEGs, and over 7 fps faster when shooting RAW format as the G9X II no longer slows down with RAW files like the G9X did. Buffer depth is pretty good as well, with the G9X II offering 31 JPEG frames and 20 RAW frames when continuously shooting, or 19 if you're shooting RAW+JPEG. Startup time, autofocus speed, shutter lag and cycle times have also improved.

In the field, the G9X II proved to be a pretty quick camera as well. However, an area where the G9X II comes up quite short is in terms of how fast the camera is to clear its buffer. While shooting speeds and the buffer depths themselves are pretty good, the camera can take nearly 20 seconds to clear its RAW buffer and over 20 seconds to clear the RAW+JPEG buffer. It's a rather small blemish on an otherwise good set of performance results.

30.6mm (84mm equiv.), f/4.9, 1/500s, ISO 125.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

A more important weak area for the G9X II is its battery life. The camera is rated for 235 shots, which is a 15-shot improvement over its predecessor, but remains only mediocre. There is an optional "Eco" mode, which improves the battery life to 315 shots by dimming the LCD and turning it off quicker when the camera is not being used. A spare battery is still highly recommended if you regularly go on extended outings.

Overall, the G9X II offers pretty good performance for its class. While it's not perfect, it is improved over its predecessor and is competitive in the compact camera class.

G9X II autofocus is fast for most subjects, but struggles with C-AF

With 31 autofocus points and a contrast-detect autofocus system, the G9X Mark II does well with focus in most situations. The camera includes single-point autofocus, touch to track, fully automatic autofocus, face detect and more. The continuous autofocus performance proved to work well with slower subjects, but couldn't keep up with speedy ones. One of the highlights of the camera's autofocus performance is its good touchscreen implementation, which allows you to easily move your autofocus point around the frame. Overall, the G9X II offers quick, reliable autofocus in most scenarios although may not be well-suited for tracking fast-moving subjects.

30.6mm (84mm equiv.), f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 125.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Video: G9X II captures fine video and offers some nice features

The Canon G9X II records 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) video at up to 60 frames per second, which is quite nice. It is worth noting that the camera can only record at 60 fps when using the dedicated video recording mode. If you start a recording using the dedicated "movie record" button in other shooting modes, the camera tops out at 30 fps. The video quality is quite good, although disappointingly the G9X II crops in when recording video, rendering a camera that already does not have a very wide lens even less wide for video. Generally, the video features and performance on the G9X II are not excellent but they are certainly usable and pretty good for a compact camera.

Build quality: This compact camera has a few trade-offs

If you have used a G9X, then the G9X II will prove very familiar to use. The camera retains the same form factor as its predecessor, which is to say that it's very compact. The G9X II weighs only 7.3 ounces (206 grams) and can easily fit in pants pocket or a jacket pocket. The small size comes with a few compromises in terms of usability. As with the original, the G9X II has very few physical controls, forcing you to use the touchscreen extensively. Those accustomed to cameras with more buttons and dials might find this frustrating. The lack of a front grip can make it tricky to get a good hold on the camera body, and the camera lacks a viewfinder. Without a viewfinder, you have to exclusively use the 3-inch rear display for framing your images. The display works well, but does not tilt, which makes it difficult to use in bright lighting conditions. If you want a compact camera, the G9X II definitely checks that box, but it is worth considering the trade-offs.

Review Summary: Canon G9X II is a solid all-around compact camera

The Canon G9X II takes what made the original a good compact camera choice and adds a few upgrades along the way. The camera is faster and more refined, but it still has some of the same weaknesses. The built-in lens is not very wide -- although it is fast -- and it does not offer excellent performance. The camera lacks a viewfinder, and the display does not tilt. However, the G9X II captures nice images in a compact form factor and has a wallet-friendly price tag, thus earning it a spot as a Dave's Pick.


Pros & Cons

  • Improved JPEG image quality compared to its predecessor
  • Very good high ISO performance for its class
  • Fast lens at wide angle
  • Can focus in low light at wide angle
  • Very good hue accuracy
  • Pretty good macro mode
  • Supports Canon's Fine Detail Picture Style
  • Canon ALO and HTP features help in difficult lighting
  • Fast startup, autofocus, shutter lag and cycle times
  • Faster 8 fps burst speed with decent buffer depths
  • No slowdown for bursts with RAW files (unlike G9X)
  • Quick Menu works well with the touchscreen interface
  • Shoots 1080/60p video
  • Compact camera body and lens
  • Built-in Bluetooth added to Wi-Fi & NFC
  • In-camera charging via USB
  • Dedicated battery charger included
  • Excellent value
  • Subject tracking focus doesn't work very well
  • Soft corners at wide angle even stopped down (due to strong distortion correction)
  • 3x lens has limited zoom range and doesn't go as wide as most (28 vs 24mm eq.)
  • Lens isn't very bright at telephoto (f/4.9)
  • Auto White Balance indoors under tungsten lighting still dreadful
  • Default colors with Manual WB are more accurate, but a little less saturated than predecessor
  • Sluggish buffer clearing, with limited access to settings while clearing
  • Mediocre battery life (though Eco mode helps)
  • No 4K UHD video recording
  • Display can be difficult to see in bright light
  • No tilting display, although not all competitors have this feature either
  • Minimal physical controls mean more time in menus or fiddling with the touchscreen
  • Touchscreen operation isn't ideal in the cold (most gloves won't work with it)

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