Canon G9X II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Realistic saturation levels with very good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
125
200
400
800
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 toward 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. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon G9X II produced realistic saturation levels, with only mild boosts to blues, browns and orange, and moderate boosts to red. Bright yellow, light green, aqua and cyan were undersaturated by relatively small amounts. Mean saturation at base ISO is 106.3%, or 6.3% oversaturated, which is lower-than-average these days. Overall, though, the Canon G9X II's images still appear to have pleasing colors and realistic 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 II did a very good job with rendering Caucasian skin tones that appeared realistic with a healthy pinkish tint. 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 II 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). Mean "delta-C" color error after correcting for saturation at base ISO was 4.05 which is better than average, and without any yellow to green shift we often see. 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 II'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. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The Canon PowerShot G9X II performed quite well in the simulated outdoor lighting of our "Sunlit" Portrait shot. Average exposure compensation of +0.7 EV was needed to keep the mannequin's facial skin tones reasonably 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 II 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.

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
~2,500 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 2,500 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 was able to extract a bit 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 II 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 too overdone as with 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.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The Canon G9X II offers the Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon EOS 5DSR/5DS DSLR. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (125)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon G9X II's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its new Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like more recent Canon DSLRs, the Canon G9X II offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than other PowerShot models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (0 to 5) and "Threshold" (0 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The result is a slightly improved, more natural-looking rendering of fine detail along with slightly less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting. However, noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop" than the default Picture Style. There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon G9X II 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 9.12 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.6 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 II performed well here for its size, with improved color and reduced noise compared to its predecessor, though default noise reduction appears to be stronger. ISO 125 and 200 are quite clean with good detail, however low-contrast areas in the hair are already smeared. ISO 400 is noticeably softer due to stronger noise reduction, but detail and clarity are still pretty good. ISO 800 is the point where lumanance noise starts to become noticeable, but the noise "grain" is quite fine and detail is fair. ISO 1600 is of course noisier and chroma blotching starts to become an issue in darker areas, but there is still some fine detail left. Image quality drops off rapidly at ISO 3200 and above here under tungsten light, with very soft details, strong luma noise and noticeable chroma blotching in darker areas.

Note that the G9X II 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 II did fairly well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above. To keep facial tones fairly bright, +0.7 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 +0.3 EV setting for its reduced highlight clipping, but we found the face a bit too dim and +1.0 EV has too many blown highlights. Detail is quite good in the shadows at +0.7 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.)

Face Detection

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

The table above shows results with the default exposure using Aperture Priority AE, as well as with face detection enabled, and Smart Auto mode. As you can see, the G9X II's face detection 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 the maximum aperture of f/4.9 instead of f/5.6 we used in Aperture Priority and also employed Standard Auto Lighting Optimizer (see below).

Highlights and Shadows
Previous generation PowerShot models offered an Intelligent Contrast (i-Contrast) feature, with "Dynamic Range Correction" to help tame highlights, and "Shadow Correct" to bring out more shadow detail, however the G9X II implements Highlight Tone Priority as well as Automatic Lighting Optimization, just like Canon's EOS models.

Highlight Tone Priority
While very few highlights were blown to begin with at default exposure, below you can see the Canon G9X II's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option still toned down highlights while essentially leaving shadows and midtones alone. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority (+1.0 EV)
HTP
Setting:



Off


On

Highlights
Shadows
(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)
Histogram

Both shots above were captured at the same +1.0 EV exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which necessarily increases the minimum ISO to 250; part of how HTP works. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise and stronger blurring due to noise reduction is the price you pay.

Far-field Highlight Tone Priority
Off
On

Above you can see Highlight Tone Priority at work in our Far-field shot. Because the default exposure was a bit dim there weren't any blown highlights to begin with, however you can see that some of the brighter highlights have been toned down.

Auto Lighting Optimizer
Like Canon EOS models, the G9X II offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic mode (Smart Auto or Hybrid Auto) and some scene modes, ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv, Av and M exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimizer (0 EV)

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and darker mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening shadows and indeed most of the image without affecting highlights much. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

Far-field Automatic Lighting Optimization
Low

Above are the effects of ALO on our Far-field shot. As you can see, it operated mainly on the shadows and midtones, leaving highlights pretty much intact, producing a more balanced and pleasing exposure.

HDR Mode
The Canon G9X Mark II's HDR feature takes three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. Unlike Canon EOS cameras, there are no strength options on the G9X II, however the camera still lets you choose between Natural, Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed effects. Note that the source images captured are not saved, and RAW mode is not supported.

Far-field High Dynamic Range
Off
On

Above is in-camera "Natural" HDR comparison of our Far-field scene (mouse over the links above to load the corresponding thumbnail). Notice that all settings produce a slightly cropped image which is upsampled to full resolution, so details are a little softer than the non-HDR image, but quality is otherwise quite good with no noticeable haloing even at the highest setting. Be aware that ghosting can occur when elements of the scene move during the sequence capture, though, as can be seen with the flag and some of the leaves in this shot.

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 II's dynamic range to its predecessor, the G9X, as well as to another enthusiast compact, the Sony RX100 III, 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 very similar dynamic range, and while on paper the G9X II comes out slightly ahead at base ISO (12.49 EV vs 12.27 for the other two), the differences are so minor, that they are negligible.

Bottom line, the Canon G9X II produces very good dynamic range for a camera its size.

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

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
125

0.8s, f2.0

12.6s, f2.0

12.6s, f2.0
ISO
3200

1/32s, f2.0

0.5s, f2.0

0.5s, f2.0
ISO
12800

1/128s, f2.0

1/8s, f2.0

1/8s, f2.0

Low Light. The Canon PowerShot G9X II performed very well in our low-light tests thanks to its fast lens at wide angle, capturing clean, 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 it's fairly fine-grained, while chroma noise is very well controlled even when noise reduction is minimized (far right column). The G9X II's highest ISO of 12,800 is quite grainy and somewhat blotchy with strong blurring of fine detail, but that's no surprise.

Color balance is pretty good with Canon G9X II'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.

LLAF: The camera's AF system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast target down to about -1.6 EV unassisted, and on our newer high-contrast target down to -2.5 EV, which is pretty good for its class. The G9X II has AF assist lamp, which lets it focus in complete darkness as long as the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast.

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
Excellent, detail-rich prints up to 24 x 36 inches at ISO 125-200; Nice 8 x 10-inch prints at ISO 3200; and usable 5 x 7-inch prints at ISO 6400.

ISO 125 prints look really nice up to an impressively large 24 x 36 inches. With a 20MP 1-inch-type sensor, this is pushing the limits of the sensor's resolution, but prints up to this large size look great with lots of fine detail and pleasing, vibrant colors. In fact, 30 x 40-inch prints, though showing some pixelation upon close inspection, could be acceptable for wall display.

ISO 200 images look nearly identical to base ISO files, again, showing excellent detail and nice colors up to 24 x 36 inch prints. We only observed an extremely subtle decrease is low contrast details, mainly in our notorious red-leaf fabric swatch, but overall, it's hardly enough to impact print size.

ISO 400 prints display a slight increase in visible noise, though not to any severe degree. Still, 24 x 36-inch prints are a bit soft to our eye compared to the lower ISOs, so we're calling it at 20 x 30 inches for this ISO sensitivity. At this size, fine detail looks crisp and clean.

ISO 800 images begin to show more prominent noise, especially around darker, shadow areas. Noise is still fairly well controlled elsewhere, but it forces us to drop the maximum print size down to 13 x 19 inches. With careful post-processing or for less critical applications, a 16 x 20-inch print could be acceptable.

ISO 1600 prints show an expected increase in noise and a further, yet subtle, drop in fine detail compared to the previous ISO. Print sizes at ISO 1600 therefore top-out at 11 x 14 inches, with a 13 x 19 useful for less critical applications.

ISO 3200 images definitely show noise-related softness, which takes a toll on fine detail across the image -- and our red-leaf fabric swatch is practically devoid of detail. Therefore, the largest prints size we're comfortable with is 8 x 10 inches at this sensitivity, which is still quite impressive for a pocketable compact camera.

ISO 6400 prints are quite noisy, and noise-reduction processing definitely impacts fine detail. 5 x 7-inch prints are really the largest size we recommend at this ISO sensitivity.

ISO 12,800 images are much too soft and lacking in detail to really be useful for print making. Perhaps a 4 x 6-inch print could squeak by for less critical applications, but otherwise, we'd avoid this ISO for prints.

Like the larger PowerShot G7X II, the ultra-portable Canon G9X II sports a 20MP 1-inch-type CMOS sensor and faster DIGIC 7 image processor; up from the DIGIC 6 processor of the original G9X. Overall, the G9X II offers similar print quality performance to the G7X II, with subtle improvements in image quality at certain ISOs compared to the original G9X. At lower ISOs, the G9X II is capable of excellent, large prints up to 24 x 36 inches at ISO 125 and 200. In the midrange of ISOs, the G9X II begins to show some visible noise, but it remains very well controlled, allowing for prints up to 11 x 14 inches at ISO 1600. As the ISO is raised further, noise becomes more of an issue and impacts fine detail. However, we're still able to make usable prints up to 5 x 7 inches at ISO 6400. The G9X II's maximum ISO of 12,800, however, should be avoided for prints.

 

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