Canon G9X Field Test

The smallest large-sensor pocket zoom heads out for a real-world test!

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47mm-equivalent, 1/500 sec. @ f/4, ISO 125

Ever since the launch of the Sony RX100 back in mid-2012, I've been a big believer in the concept of an enthusiast-oriented pocket zoom camera based around a 1"-type sensor. The RX100's form factor provided a compelling advantage in terms of image quality over a smartphone, thanks both to its larger sensor and the fact that it could zoom optically. At the same time, it was so much more compact than even larger-sensored, interchangeable-lens cameras that it could easily be slipped into a pants pocket.

For a year and a half or so, Sony's RX100 and its more feature-rich siblings, the RX100 II and III, had the category to themselves. Canon's nearest rival was its G1X-series, which offered an even bigger sensor, but with the best will in the world couldn't be described as a pants pocket-friendly camera. Once Sony's image sensor division offered a 1"-type sensor to third parties, though, the game was truly on and Canon was quick to field its own 1"-type camera.

Last year, I reviewed that camera -- the Canon G7X -- and while there were a few rough edges, I found much to like. Calling it a "very promising first effort", I nevertheless had to concede that Sony's RX100-series cameras were still more impressive. In one respect, the original RX100 continued to rule the roost, besting not just the Canon G7X, but also its own siblings. The RX100-series cameras grew slightly with each generation, and although it could fit in a pants pocket, the G7X too was not as compact as the Sony RX100.

With the Canon G9X, the spirit (and biggest selling point) of the 1"-type enthusiast pocket zoom camera is restored once more. The G9X forgoes some of the lesser-used features found in its rivals -- and in the earlier G7X -- and instead focuses on providing the smallest, most pocket-friendly design possible. Sharing the same height as the RX100, Canon's camera was a tenth of an inch less wide, and even more importantly for comfortable pocketability, a full two tenths of an inch less deep. For bonus points, it was also a full 1.1 ounces lighter, loaded and ready to shoot.

57mm-equivalent, 1/1,250 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 125

This is one very compact camera

As a Sony RX100 owner who'd resisted upgrading to its somewhat bulkier siblings, my interest was piqued to say the least. I really wanted to get my hands on this camera, and when the time came for it to leave our lab for a real-world test, I found myself at the front of the queue. A couple of all-too-long days later, and UPS brought a treat to my doorstep. Pretty much the first thing I did on taking the Canon G9X out of its box was to compare it side-by-side with my own RX100, to get a feel for how noticeable the size difference might be.

The answer was one which I found to be very satisfying. The difference in weight and depth were both immediately noticeable, and not just when holding the cameras in my hands. Even with them slipped in my pants pocket, I could easily tell which camera was the more compact. The Canon G9X could accompany me all day long, and I could just about forget that I was even carrying it -- right up until the moment I needed it, that is!

60mm-equivalent, 1/200 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 125

Perhaps the most obvious difference with the two cameras side-by-side and powered off, their lenses retracted, was how much further the original RX100's lens barrel protrudes from the front of the body than does that on the G9X. The actual body thickness of the two cameras is near-indistinguishable, but the Canon's shorter lens barrel gave it a smoother, cleaner profile that was noticeably more comfortable in my pocket.

A more comfortable grip than that of the RX100

On first picking up the Canon G9X, I immediately noticed that it felt more secure in-hand than did my Sony RX100. The reason for that is pretty simple: There are some well-positioned, textured grips on the front and rear of the body right where your fingers and thumb fall, as well as at the front left corner of the body for your left hand, should you choose to shoot two-handed. (It probably also helps that the body isn't quite as thick as that of the Sony.)

I was expecting these grips to be a little more tactile than they actually are, incidentally. They appeared to be rubber or perhaps leatherette in the photos I saw prior to receiving the camera, but in actual fact they're hard plastic. That's probably more durable long-term, though, and they certainly still do a good job of providing purchase for your fingers.

By way of contrast, the RX100 has only a small grip for your thumb, and with a much less grippy texture to it. The remainder of the body is smooth and quite slippery. I had far less concern about dropping the Canon G9X than I do when shooting with my Sony.

Build quality of the two cameras is otherwise very similar. Both have a premium feel, with not a hint of flex or panel creak anywhere.

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

Two very different lens ring designs

Prior to receiving the camera, I'd had concerns that the shorter lens barrel might adversely impact handling. Both the Sony RX100 and Canon G9X have rings encircling their lens barrels, after all, and it seemed that with a shorter barrel it might be less comfortable to spin the Canon's lens ring. I needn't have worried: As it turned out, the Canon G9X's lens ring is the better of the pair. Although the lens barrel is shorter, the G9X's ring is actually deeper than that on the RX100, since Sony has placed its ring in front of a fairly deep trim piece that's fixed in place.

I should note here that unlike the RX100's stepless ring, the G9X's lens ring also has a click detent as it is turned. Which is the better choice really depends on what function you're intending to use that ring for. If you prefer to use it to focus manually or control the optical zoom, you'll probably favor the Sony's stepless ring.

28mm-equivalent, 1/1,250 sec. @ f/4, ISO 125

In fact, belay that: You'll definitely prefer the Sony's ring if you want to use it for focus, because rather bizarrely, manual focus can't be assigned to the lens ring at all! That struck me as a bit of an odd decision; even with the modest click detent of the G9X's ring, I'd still have preferred it to adjusting manual focus using the touch screen, which is your only option.

If you're using it to control exposure variables (shutter speed, lens aperture, ISO sensitivity) or for a stepped zoom control, though, then the G9X's stepped ring is preferable. And while it's customizable to control a variety of other settings, I found exposure control to be the most useful task for the G9X's ring.

Oh, and one last point in favor of Canon's ring: When shooting with the cameras tripod-mounted, I've found that I have to be very careful with how I position my Sony RX100. Otherwise, the lens ring has a tendency to bind up on the tripod head or quick-release plate. I had no such issues with the G9X, though. Its ring remained freely-rotating even with the camera tightly screwed down onto my tripod.

A fundamental difference in design philosophy elsewhere, too

With so much to fit into an even smaller body than that of the Sony RX100, Canon had its work cut out to come up with a sensible, intuitive control scheme for the G9X. Space on the rear panel, in particular, was at a premium -- in part because the LCD monitor has a rather wider bezel than it does on the RX100. But there's an ace up Canon's sleeve here: A touch screen overlay on the LCD which allows it to double as an input device.

That allows for far fewer physical controls, and indeed, where the Sony RX100 has 16 controls (including the four quadrants of the four-way controller), there are just 12 controls on the G9X. And that's despite the Canon offering a mechanical release for the flash strobe, something the Sony RX100 forewent.

68mm-equivalent, 1/400 sec. @ f/5, ISO 125

Four buttons line the right side of the display in a single column, one sits on the left side of the camera, and the remainder of the controls bar the lens ring can be found on the top deck. Two of these seem, to my mind, to be back to front. Pretty consistently during my time with the Canon G9X, I found that when I went to switch the camera off without paying attention, the lens never retracted. As soon as I took a closer look, I realized that I'd pressed the playback button, rather than the power button.

Why I couldn't get this through my head, I'm not entirely sure. If I was consciously thinking about it, I'd get the right button every time. (And indeed, the Sony RX100's power button sits in much the same place as that on the G9X, although its playback button is on the rear panel instead.) But for whatever reason, the Canon G9X's button placement for these two controls still seemed back-to-front to me, even after shooting with the camera for quite some time, and so I mention it here. If the G9X is your primary camera, though, you'll likely learn the correct placement pretty quickly even if you face the same initial confusion that I did.

84mm-equivalent, 1/800 sec. @ f/4.9, ISO 125

Pros and cons for the touch screen display

I found myself developing a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the Canon G9X's touch screen. On balance, though, the positives outweigh the negatives.

The touch panel used is very sensitive and responsive, much like that on a modern smartphone. Unlike some such panels, it won't react until your finger actually touches the surface of the screen, but when it does the location is detected accurately and swiftly. And it supports gestures you're doubtless already familiar with from your smartphone, like pinch-to-zoom (in playback mode only; not for operating the zoom lens in record mode) and swiping left or right (to switch between images in playback mode, or screens in the menu system.)

I really, really liked the touch screen for focus point selection, and liked it quite a bit in playback mode as well, although here the camera sometimes lagged behind my gestures just a little when I first zoomed an image, or if I made a sudden gesture while already zoomed. But I found the menus a bit less enjoyable to use.

It's in the menus that I felt the touch screen a bit limiting

In part, that was because with as many as nine rows of touch-responsive elements on screen at once in any given menu, the targets are quite small. I found myself moving just a little more slowly than normal to be sure I was touching the right place, and so spent a bit longer navigating menus than I would with a more traditional four-way controller. (Although with that said, probably 95% of the time I got the right menu item on the first try.)

The second point I found a bit more bothersome, though. It simply took too many taps to make selections in the menu. Usually you have to tap to select a menu item, then you have to tap on it a second time to see the options for that item. (Although that's not always the case; some menu items open immediately on the first tap.)

50mm-equivalent, 1/1,250 sec. @ f/4, ISO 125

And once you have accessed a menu item, you frequently have to not just tap on the option that you want, but also tap on a soft button to return to the menu again if you want to change other settings. And that's true even when there are just two options to choose from, with each having a large soft button that wouldn't easily be selected by mistake.

Yet again, some menu items instead open a drop-down listing their options (with the rest of the screen darkened, to focus your attention). And when this happens, a single-tap is enough to make your selection and return you to the menu. It all feels a bit inconsistent, and the endless double-taps to access the options you're after slow you down quite a bit.

59mm-equivalent, 1/1,250 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 125

I mentioned previously that you can swipe between menu pages with a swipe left or right, incidentally, but I don't recommend using the menu system in this manner. I found it quicker to tap on the tabs at the top of each menu page, for one thing. For another, if you don't swipe far enough before you let go, the menu snaps back to the page you started from rather than the one you intended to switch to. And finally, if you are touching the screen a little too gently, the camera can make a selection of the menu item beneath your fingertip, rather than switching pages.

The menu system can feel a bit disorganized

One last thought regarding the menus, incidentally. There are a whole lot of pages in the Canon G9X's menu system -- by my count, around 20 of them in total. Yet each has a rather non-descriptive name shown at top right of the screen, for example "SHOOT1", "SHOOT2", etc. Some of these pages disappear in certain operating modes, and the menu items on a given screen vary from mode to mode. Many of them also have fewer menu items than would fill the screen. (For example, in almost every operating mode, the SHOOT7 screen has just a single item -- blink detection -- even though that item could easily have fitted onto one of the other pages.)

I could understand this if the menu system was grouped more logically, but when the contents of a given menu page can bear no relation to each other in different operating modes it makes less sense. For example, that SHOOT7 menu I referenced previously consists solely of movie-related items in movie mode, and the blink detection option that was the sole inhabitant of that page in other modes vanishes when you're in movie mode. Plus if the pages were supposed to show a hierarchy of some kind in the menu, I'd expect them to have more descriptive names.

As is, the menus just feel a bit disorganized to me. I'd like to see either more consistency, or less wasted space on-screen to allow for larger touch targets on each menu item.

66mm-equivalent, 1/1,250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 125

The touch screen isn't ideal when you're shooting in extreme cold

I do have just one last thought about the touch screen, and then we'll move on to other things. As it happens, we've had some pretty cold weather here lately in East Tennessee, courtesy of the polar vortex. (We've been down to as low as 12°F / -11°C at night, and I've been out shooting more than once in those conditions.)

When it came time to head out in this weather with the Canon G9X for the first time, I quickly realized that it presented me with something of a dilemma. The cold weather demanded gloves to protect my hands, but with any of my regular gloves on, the touch screen wasn't able to detect my gestures at all.

Fortunately, I remembered getting a gag gift some time ago of a pair of gloves specifically intended for use with touch screens. The fingertips of these are coated in some kind of conductive material, allowing them to be detected by a capacitive touch screen like that in the G9X. Unfortunately, these were rather thin gloves -- as are all of the touch-capable gloves I've seen in stores -- so they didn't really give me a whole lot of warmth. They were better than the alternative, though, which was either fingerless gloves (brr!) or no gloves at all (double-brr and ouch!)

62mm-equivalent, 1/250 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 125

If you live somewhere that's often very cold, the Canon G9X's deep focus on the touch screen will probably make it a less-than-ideal camera for this reason. With so few physical controls, there are a lot of things you'll be relying on that screen for. Even the ability to delete images relies on the touch screen, as there's no physical delete button, nor any way to browse the menus to get to the "Erase" option without using the touch screen.

Weak battery life, but in-camera charging and a dedicated charger!

Moving on from the touch screen, I do have one more thought to share on the physical design of the Canon G9X, and then we'll move onto my shooting experiences. On taking the camera out of the box, I was thrilled to see that Canon has included a dedicated charger.

That's doubly handy because the Canon G9X's battery life was not great, even for this form factor. A single battery would usually be close to discharged after just an afternoon's shooting. Still, the batteries are small and it's easy enough to slip one or two spares in your pocket if you have a good way to charge them.

Far too many cameras these days forgo a dedicated charger in favor of charging the battery in-camera -- and if you want to charge a spare battery, that means you need buy a charger separately (increasing your outlay in the process), or that you can't be out and about shooting while your spare battery is charging, since the camera itself is the charger.

But that's not the case with the Canon G9X: Right out of the box, you have a separate, standalone charger. Buy a spare battery or two and you can be charging them while you're shooting with the camera. And you also get the best of both worlds, because if you want to travel light, you can still use a standard USB charger to recharge your battery in-camera.

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

That means you can share a single USB charger between the camera and your other devices if you don't want to deal with the extra weight and bulk of separate chargers. It also means you can grab a quick charge from recent cars, or at coffee shops, libraries etc. that offer USB charging points, so long as you've got a USB cable handy. And Canon has thoughtfully used a standard Micro USB cable, too, so chances are good that if you've forgotten yours, you'll be able to borrow one.

I really, really wish more manufacturers would follow Canon's lead on this. Of course, the standalone charger will add a little bit to the cost of the camera itself, but given that the G9X costs just $31 more than the now rather long-in-the-tooth Sony RX100 as of this writing, I really doubt it adds that much.

Good performance so long as you're not a raw shooter

I've touched on performance in playback mode briefly already, but to get a feel for how the Canon G9X handled in the real world, I headed to downtown Knoxville, Tennessee for an afternoon's shooting shortly after getting my hands on the camera.

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

Performance struck me as fairly good overall, but only if you're predominantly a JPEG shooter. Burst shooting when capturing JPEG files was reasonably fast by pocket camera standards, if still not as swift as Sony's RX100-series models. Our lab testing found the capture rate to be 6.5 frames per second with focus locked from the first frame, slightly better than Canon's spec. Enabling autofocus between frames slows this by around a third.

Just as I found with the Canon G7X last year, though, the G9X slowed to an absolute crawl as soon as I enabled raw capture. Compared to the 6.5 fps JPEG burst, the raw+JPEG or solely raw capture rates of around 0.6-0.8 fps respectively left me rather frustrated. My aged Sony RX100 manages triple this speed, after all, and that's with AF adjustment between frames!

Bracketing exposures in raw format is a real pain

This reduced performance for raw files was a particular pain point when shooting bracketed exposures as I do when reviewing cameras. (I'm ordinarily a raw shooter, but for reviews I switch to bracketed raw+JPEG, both to be sure of getting a good exposure and to allow you to view either raw or out-of-camera JPEG for any given gallery photo.)

Autoexposure bracketing is rather slow on the Canon G9X, especially if you're shooting in raw or raw+JPEG file formats. This Komatsu excavator is hardly a fast-moving subject, yet in this handheld series it manages to rotate a good 90 degrees or more in the time taken to capture a three-shot bracketed series.

With raw+JPEG bracketed exposures, the Canon G9X wasn't quite as slow as it was for straight burst shooting, perhaps because it didn't need to meter between frames since the subsequent bracketed exposure would be based off that of the first, metered exposure frame. Still, it took a good two to three seconds to capture each set of three bracketed frames, and since the live view vanishes as soon as the first frame is captured, that makes it very difficult to maintain your framing handheld for the whole series.

The bizarre thing is that when shooting HDR images, the Canon G9X is quite capable of shooting all three frames in less than a second. Why that same performance isn't available for bracketed shooting I'm not quite sure, but it's something I'd like to see Canon address in future models. As-is, I think I'd find myself using bracketing on the G9X very seldom outside of a review scenario, because it's just so frustrating to do.

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

The good news is that although buffer depths for JPEG bursts were only fair, once I'd filled the buffer the G9X still kept shooting JPEGs at around three frames per second. Raw buffer depths weren't an issue, simply because raw capture itself was so slow in the first place.

Great image quality, especially in the daytime

Looking back over the images I've shot during my time with the Canon G9X -- you'll find a selection of 32 real-world shots spanning the entire sensitivity range in my gallery -- I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with the Canon G9X's image quality, especially for low-sensitivity shots in the daytime. Shots outdoors in the sunlight are for the most part well-exposed, and by default have pleasing color that's a reasonably accurate reflection of the real world, albeit with boosted saturation for the punchier look that many people favor.

31mm-equivalent, 1/30 sec. @ f/2.5, ISO 800

The G9X's daytime images also show good dynamic range, and are packed with lots of detail. And for out-of-camera JPEGs or raws processed with most common apps, distortion and aberrations are fairly well-controlled. (It's typical for 1"-type pocket cameras like these to show some pretty extreme distortion before the image is processed, as that's part and parcel of achieving such compact optics in the first place.) Of course, fixing that distortion does lead to rather soft corners, but that's par for the course.

And once the sun sets, the Canon G9X performs pretty well in low-light conditions, too. It might trail its Sony RX100-series rivals a bit, but it's certainly head-and-shoulders above what you'd manage with a small-sensor compact or your smartphone. I felt that images up to ISO 3200-equivalent were very usable, although noise (and the effects of noise processing) do start to show from as low as ISO 1600-equivalent.

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

And even ISO 6400-equivalent was pretty usable, especially for smaller print sizes, although viewed 1:1 things are starting to get a bit noisy, and saturation falls off quite a bit. Beyond that point, noise levels were higher than I'd like, and I'd consider the maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800-equivalent to be a last resort if there's no way of throwing a bit more light on your subject.

Auto white balance in the day time was generally great, but at night and towards the upper end of the sensitivity range, there was a tendency towards a somewhat sickly greenish color cast.

47mm-equivalent, 1/50 sec. @ f/4, ISO 6400

Autofocus is quite accurate in the day, but less so at night

One surprisingly frequent concern in my night shots was the autofocus system. Perhaps once in every five shots or so, the Canon G9X indicated a focus lock for me even when it hadn't managed to set focus correctly. On the LCD monitor, some of these shots were visibly out of focus even when viewed full-screen, let alone if I zoomed in. Sometimes, though, the focus was at least close, and I didn't spot the problem either until I zoomed in on the image in playback mode, or once I got back to my PC.

I tried, but couldn't figure any rhyme or reason to when, precisely, the camera was going to indicate a focus lock when it hadn't been achieved. It seemed more common if there were bright point light sources in the frame, and simply trying a second or third time was usually enough to get a proper focus lock without reframing. You'll want to pay attention to focus in low light or even consider focusing manually for the best results, though. (Unfortunately, the touch-screen interface for manual focus is a bit obtuse, and you can't simply assign focus control to the lens ring, as I mentioned previously.)

53mm-equivalent, 1/10 sec. @ f/4, ISO 3200

A few weird glitches in other respects, too

I did also notice a couple of very intermittent issues in my time with the Canon G9X. I'm guessing these can likely be resolved with firmware updates, presuming they weren't just bad luck on my part or restricted to my review camera specifically.

Twice, I inserted an SD card into the camera and it completely failed to register its presence, insisting there was no card inserted. Simply removing and reinserting the card was enough to fix the issue both times, so it's easy enough to work around if the problem occurs.

Also, just a small handful of shots -- perhaps four or five in total -- that I'd captured with the Canon G9X showed wildly incorrect white balance, with very strong color casts across the entire image. Again, this problem was so infrequent that I couldn't really figure out a cause. Taking the exact same shot again yielded an image with more reasonably-balanced color, and the white balance on the initial shot was so far out of whack that it was immediately obvious the photo needed to be reshot.

84mm-equivalent, 1/30 sec. @ f/4.9, ISO 8000

Since these issues could be easily resolved, and were very infrequent in their nature, I don't consider either to be a significant problem.

In-camera Wi-Fi gets photos onto your phone with ease

I really appreciated the Canon G9X's in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking. For a camera like this, getting your photos onto your phone (and from there, onto social networks) is a big deal: Many G9X owners will be buying their camera to share photos with friends and family, after all. The easier it is to accomplish that -- and as soon as possible after capturing your photos, while they're still fresh -- the better.

For Android users like myself, the connection process really couldn't be much more simple and elegant. There's an NFC antenna for automatic pairing; it takes a moment to spot on the base of the camera, but its location is marked clearly with the standard NFC logo. And it's not just passive NFC, either -- it's an active connection which allows the camera to communicate intent. Tap the NFC logo on your phone against that on the camera for the first time, and you'll be taken to Google Play to install the required Camera Connect app. Do so again with the app already installed, and it will open automatically.

28mm-equivalent, 1/125 sec. @ f/4, ISO 6400

If your phone doesn't support NFC -- and that includes all Apple iOS devices, as the company has so far refused to open up the NFC hardware in its newer devices to third-parties -- then you''ll instead pair with the camera using the mobile device connect button on the left side of the body. This is also a pretty straightforward process, and once paired it's equally easy to transfer your creations to the phone.

After pairing, you're presented with three choices: Browse the images on your camera, control it remotely, or record location information. Select to browse images and you're presented with a thumbnail view very quickly. Tap an image and you see a larger version, although still much smaller than your phone's screen regardless of orientation. It's plenty to get an idea of what the image contains, though, and optionally is displayed with basic exposure and file information.

You can then tap a button to transfer the image to your phone, and from there you can share it. By default, the image will be transferred at reduced resolution. You can instead opt for the full image to be transferred, and can have your phone prompt you for which to do at the start of every transfer, if you want. You can't choose the size for the downsampled version, though. Instead, it's fixed at the G9X's four-megapixel "M2" size, although this is only stated on the camera itself. In the phone app, you're just told that it will be a reduced size.

56mm-equivalent, 1/13 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 4000

Even at full size, I found transfers to be fairly swift, taking perhaps eight to 10 seconds per image. If you want to transfer a larger batch of images at once, you can also do this from the thumbnail view, tapping the transfer icon and then tapping on the thumbnails of all the images you wish to transfer.

And as I mentioned previously, you can also control the camera remotely. A live view feed is shown, and I found it to be very responsive indeed up close to the camera. Range is fairly good for a camera of this size, with a fairly usable connection up to perhaps 30 feet away and thru a wall. Beyond that, the live view feed became rather too stuttery for active subjects, but I could still control the camera for perhaps another 20 feet. (All of this will be somewhat reliant on the phone too, of course; I used my own Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone.)

All of the on-camera controls other than the power, shutter, movie record and (sometimes) playback buttons are disabled while the Wi-Fi connection is active, so all setup has to happen from the phone. The power and playback buttons will power off the camera and drop the Wi-Fi connection in the process. (The playback button does this only when browsing already-captured images, or if in the main screen of the app.) Pressing the shutter or movie buttons will cause the camera to ask if you want to drop the connection, rather than doing so instantly as the other two will do.

39mm-equivalent, 1/20 sec. @ f/3.5, ISO 10,000

The live view feed shown in remote shooting mode, much like the image previews shown in image transfer mode, sadly can't fill the whole screen on your phone, or anything approaching it. On my phone's 5.2-inch screen, the live view area was actually just a bit smaller than the camera's own 3.0-inch screen, which is a bit of a pity.

You're also a bit limited in terms of what you can control: Lens zoom, focus point, aperture and shutter speed (if the camera's mode dial is set to the relevant mode to enable these), sensitivity, exposure compensation, burst mode / self-timer, focus mode, and flash. You can optionally separate the remote shutter button control from the autofocus, too. The exposure mode can't be controlled remotely, and nor can you control things like metering modes, file types, etc. The basics are all here though, so unless you need any more obscure settings you should be fine.

31mm-equivalent, 1/60 sec. @ f/2.5, ISO 12,800

I did find the layout of the app itself a bit wanting, though. Not only is the live view feed a bit small, but the controls aren't terribly well-arranged or marked. (In fact, there's one button at the bottom right of the screen which I couldn't find a way to use. In every mode I tried, it had no icon and did nothing when tapped. Nor are the shutter or optional focus button labeled. The remaining controls are all hidden in a soft menu that replaces the zoom control. Only the basic exposure controls are shown here, even though there's room to show more. You then have to tap an arrow button to access the remaining controls.

I also had some issues with reconnecting my phone to the camera. Even with the Wi-Fi connection established, the camera and phone app would both tell me that there was no connection. Resetting Wi-Fi on the camera did nothing, but after a short while I figured out that this could be resolved by simply force-closing the app on my phone and then reopening it.

28mm-equivalent, 1/60 sec. @ f/2.5, ISO 2000

All things considered though, I was pretty happy with the camera's Wi-Fi connectivity and its related app, and used them quite a bit -- especially just for transferring images.

A fairly robust movie mode, but no 4K

With the exception of 4K Ultra High-Def capture, which isn't supported by this model, the Canon G9X has a pretty comprehensive movie mode for such a small camera. You can record at up to Full HD resolution with a frame rate of up to 60 fps, and exposure can be controlled automatically or manually. Both an exposure lock and compensation function are available before or during capture.

The Canon G9X's movie image stabilization works fairly well, although I didn't notice a huge difference between its various adjustable strength levels in my real-world usage.

The latter adjusts exposure gradually rather than instantly, which is nice. The lens zoom and auto / manual focus are also available during video capture, including switching between auto and manual focus. These too adjust more slowly than they would for still image capture, to make them less obtrusive. And to help steady the video, there's also a Dynamic Image Stabilization function which has greater corrective power than the standard image stabilizer in still image mode. Throw in both an auto slow shutter function for low-light movies, and wind filter / attenuator functions to help correct for audio issues.

By way of comparison with the previous sample, this clip shows how the Canon G9X performs when stabilization is entirely disabled. As you can see, there's a lot more motion from my footsteps.

For a camera that slips in a pocket, it's about as comprehensive as you could hope for -- all that's really missing is 4K capture or slow-motion video, both features offered in Sony's latest rival cameras. Given that 4K isn't widely adopted yet, though, that's not a huge omission, and slow-mo while handy isn't yet a must-have feature, so it's easy to overlook these omissions.

Nighttime image quality with the Canon G9X is pretty good, especially for such a compact camera.

Doubly so because video image quality is pretty good, by Full HD standards. Between that, the stabilization and the smooth focus / zoom transitions it really does give a very nice feel to the clips.

28mm-equivalent, 1/60 sec. @ f/2.2, ISO 2500

Final thoughts

And that brings me to the conclusion of my field test. Although it has some shortcomings -- especially its raw file performance, low-light autofocus issues and limited battery life -- the Canon G9X strikes me as an altogether more mature offering than the earlier G7X. I found myself really rather enjoying shooting with it, and really appreciated the good image quality from such a compact camera. If keeping size and weight to a minimum are among your primary goals for your next camera purchase, but you also want better image quality than a smartphone or small-sensor compact, I really recommend giving the Canon G9X a closer look!

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