Sony RX100 III vs Canon G7X vs Panasonic LX100: Which is the best compact camera for enthusiasts?
posted Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 2:34 PM EST
For the last couple of years, Sony has dominated the enthusiast compact camera market with its RX100-series, three closely-related, zoom-equipped cameras that are both pocket-friendly and feature much larger sensors than previous enthusiast compacts. Their nearest competitors have been Canon's G1X-series cameras, which are much larger, intended for the coat pocket rather than the pants pocket. But last month, the biennial Photokina tradeshow changed all that, as two brand-new contenders appeared, ready to vie for the title of best enthusiast compact camera.
Although both are clearly intended to compete with Sony's RX100-series models, the Canon G7X and Panasonic LX100 each take a decidedly different approach. Canon's camera is very similar in size, weight and design to Sony's creations, and looks to defeat its well-entrenched rivals with a farther-reaching optic and an interface that will help smartphone users to feel right at home with their new purchase. By contrast, Panasonic courts the enthusiasts with a no-frills design that's jam-packed with physical exposure controls and a significantly larger sensor than those of either the G7X or RX100-series cameras, albeit at the expense of a somewhat larger and heavier body.
But which of these cameras offers the greatest threat to Sony's dominance, and belongs in your camera bag? We've pored over the specs and compared these cameras side-by-side in search of the answer. In our three head-to-head comparisons below, the flagship Sony RX100 III is pitted against the Canon G7X and Panasonic LX100, as we aim to answer the question on everyone's lips: Which is the best compact camera for enthusiast photographers?
The most logical starting point for our head-to-head comparison is the Canon G7X, a camera which is not only very similar to the Sony RX100 III in terms of size, weight, and basic layout, but which also looks to sport a very closely-related image sensor. (Both the resolution and base sensitivity range of the Canon G7X are near-identical to those of the RX100 III, suggesting it may well be based around the same Sony sensor.)
Where this camera differs most from the RX100 III is in its choice of lens. The Sony RX100 III has a relatively short 2.9x optical zoom, where the Canon G7X provides a much more generous 4.2x zoom -- and yet its lens is also brighter over most of the zoom range. The added zoom range is all to be found at the telephoto end, and that means the G7X should be able to bring your subject much closer. And Canon's decision to include a touch screen means focus point selection is easier, as is panning and zooming in playback. Smartphone users will feel right at home with the G7X!
But there are a lot more subtle differences between these two models than we've yet mentioned. For the full story, read our in-depth Sony RX100 III vs Canon G7X comparison, and see which camera we think is best! (You'll also find much more info on each camera in our Sony RX100 III review and Canon G7X review, respectively.)
The Panasonic LX100 isn't afraid to stray from Sony's well-established formula. Panasonic has clearly taken its own path with the LX100, opting for a somewhat larger (although still jacket pocket-friendly) body. In doing so, though, Sony's rival has allowed itself sufficient room to use a much larger image sensor with close to double the surface area of that used in the RX100 III, a 4/3"-type sensor. There's more to it than that, though, because the Panasonic LX100 doesn't actually use the full sensor area for any given aspect ratio, allowing the corners of the sensor to protrude slightly beyond the image circle. And there's also a difference in sensor technology at play here.
We look at all this in our in-depth Sony RX100 III vs Panasonic LX100 comparison, as well as considering the rather different photographers each camera is designed to attract. While Sony courts consumers with friendly features like scene modes, Panasonic has taken the LX100 back to basics with a design that will appeal to experienced shooters, including physical controls for shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity and lens zoom. And there are more than a few other differences between these cameras, as well -- some subtle, and some quite radical. Read the comparison for more, and when you're done, take a look at the Panasonic LX100 review and Sony RX100 III review.
And finally, we compare the two new challengers -- the Canon G7X and Panasonic LX100 -- against each other. Where our comparisons against the Sony RX100 tell you how each model compares to the state of the art from Sony, this head to head will give you insight into the best that the brand-new competition has to offer.
If you've already read the RX100 III vs LX100 comparison, some of this might seem familiar, simply because Canon's entry is so reminiscent of the Sony. Still, there are some very important areas in which the Canon G7X and Panasonic LX100 differ, and understanding these is key to determining which camera is right for you. Read our Canon G7X vs Panasonic LX100 comparison for the full story, and when you're done, take a look at our Canon G7X review and Panasonic LX100 review for more.
We're not quite at the point where we can draw final conclusions yet, but what we can say is that the market for enthusiast compacts has suddenly gotten a whole lot more competitive, and for photographers, that's great news. As we note in each of the comparisons above, the final pieces of the puzzle will slot into place just as soon as we complete our real-world and lab testing of the Canon G7X and Panasonic LX100, allowing us to offer final judgement of these new models' image quality and performance. In the meantime, though, it's very interesting to compare all three of these cameras side-by-side to see where the similarities and differences are to be found.
Hopefully you've found value in these match-ups! Please do let us if you know if you have suggestions for improvement, if we missed any key advantages, or if you have questions about which one is right for you. Also give us a shout if you'd like to see a particular editorial comparison in the future. Scroll down to the comments section below to leave your notes!