Canon PowerShot G7 X Review

October 21, 2014 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Canon PowerShot G7 X is a new pocketable premium compact camera with a large CMOS image sensor and a fast lens. The metal-bodied G7 X has a 1.0-type back-illuminated 20.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor, an f/1.8-2.8, 4.2x lens with 9-blade aperture, full manual controls, shooting mode and exposure compensation dials, 3-inch tilting LCD touchscreen with 1,040K dots, built-in pop-up flash, DIGIC 6 processor, wi-fi and NFC connectivity, ISO range of 100-12800, full HD movie recording, 14-bit RAW image capture, 31 AF points, focus peaking function, 6.5 fps burst shooting and a lens control ring. The Canon Powershot G7 X is available in black priced at £579 / €599 / $699.99.

Ease of Use

Measuring 103.0 x 60.4 x 40.4 mm and weighing 304g including the battery and memory card, the Canon PowerShot G7 X is significantly smaller and lighter than the G1 X Mk II camera that sits above it in Canon's PowerShot range. Featuring a metal body with a solid feel and sturdy construction, the G7 X feels very well made indeed, with external controls that offer just the right amount of stiffness and resistance and are large enough to be easily and quickly accessed in the heat of the action. The Canon PowerShot G7 X will fit into a trouser or shirt pocket, but is more at home in a deep coat pocket or a small camera bag.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X features a large multi-aspect, 20.2 megapixel CMOS sensor that captures images either in the 3:2, 4:3, 16:9 or 1:1 aspect ratios whilst maintaining the same angle of view, even when shooting RAW images. The 1-inch sensor should add up to better image quality especially in low-light, greater depth-of-field, and greater dynamic range, all the things that your typical compact cameras struggles to deliver.

The G7 X has a very handy exposure compensation dial on top, a useful control that was omitted from the G1 X Mk II, although setting the ISO speed is still a rather convoluted affair. The G7 X doesn't have an optical viewfinder, and there's no way to add an electronic one either. Another grumble is that, annoyingly for such a creatively rich camera, the full user guide is still provided on CD only. In what comes across as a cursory gesture, only a very slim printed quick start guide is included in the box. Canon have also decided to only provide their software via download from their website.

Canon PowerShot G7 X
Front of the Canon PowerShot G7 X

The Canon PowerShot G7 X's unassuming-looking front plate is dominated by the 4.2x zoom lens, with a bulb for the built-in self-timer/AF assist lamp flanking it on the left. Note that there's no thread included for fitting filters. The G7 X doesn't have a front control dial, as featured on EOS DSLR cameras, which makes changing the aperture and full Manual shooting mode a little more difficult.

Instead you use a combination of the lens control ring and the rear navigation wheel to change the aperture and shutter speed, each of which can be configured to suit your particular way of working. The clicking lens ring can be assigned to one of nine different settings, accessed via the Ring Function button on the rear (which itself can be customised). We found the rear navigation wheel on the rear a bit too thin to use precisely and quickly.

There's no handgrip on the Canon PowerShot G7 X, just a textured surface, which makes it more difficult easier to steady the camera, although there is a textured small pad at the back for your right thumb to rest on.

Canon PowerShot G7 X
Rear of the Canon PowerShot G7 X

From left to right the G7 X's top-plate houses the folding pop-up flash, with a switch on the side for manually releasing it, a springy raised nipple-style shutter release button surrounded by a rocker switch for operating the optically stabilised 4.2x zoom (24-100mm equivalent on a 35mm camera), and behind this again the small, recessed on/off button. The fact that the lens is image stabilised, says Canon, provides a four-stop advantage when shooting handheld, while the Intelligent IS system analyses the focal length, focal distance and type of camera movement and applies the most appropriate mode from seven possible settings, and the Hybrid IS system makes shooting macros easier than before by counteracting both shift and angular movements.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X is quick to power up in a second or so, the rear LCD blinking into life with the optical zoom lens simultaneously extending from storage within the body to its maximum wide-angle setting. It starts at the equivalent of 24mm, making it very useful for those landscapes group portraits or getting the required shot in confined spaces. The G7 X's lens has bright apertures of f/1.8 at the wide-angle end of the zoom range and f/2.8 at full telephoto, plus a 9-blade aperture for better bokeh effects. As a further aid to landscape fans, a 3-stop neutral density filter option is provided among the function menu options, to be turned on or off as required, and the horizontal Electronic Level and RGB histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure.

Canon PowerShot G7 X
Tilting LCD Screen

The G7 X has a very good continuous shooting mode, which in conjunction with Tracking AF makes it well-suited to both slow and fast moving subjects. The Canon PowerShot G7 X can capture up to 692 full-resolution JPEG shots at 6.5fps with the focus point locked at the first frame, or you can shoot continuously at 4.4fps with AF tracking.

The shooting mode dial features settings for Auto capture, Hybrid Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual, along with a user customisable setting, a smattering of scene modes (8 in all), Creative Effects and Creative Shot modes, and finally a video mode. The Canon PowerShot can shoot 1080p HD video quality at 1920x1080 pixels at 60fps or 30fps, you can adjust the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and there's manual focus peaking too. The G7 X also boasts stereo sound courtesy of tiny microphones positioned on top, and you can use the creative filters and the 5x optical zoom when filming.

The Creative Filters shooting mode contains 10 different options to help spice up your images. The High Dynamic Range mode is probably the most useful, automatically taking three exposures of the same scene at different settings, then combining them in-camera to create a single image with greater dynamic range. Note that you need to mount the G7 X on a tripod or stable surface to avoid camera-shake.

Canon PowerShot G7 X
The Canon PowerShot G7 X in-hand

We appreciated the flexibility presented by the tilting LCD screen in terms of trying out unusual and formerly awkward framing. It can be tilted up through 180° for easier selfies, but it can't be tilted down. The LCD is a 3 inch monitor with 3:2 aspect ratio and a a high resolution of 1040K dots.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X has a touch focus/shoot option which is on by default. To switch it off, change the Touch Shutter option in the main menu. This then becomes a touch focus screen which will lock onto the subject wherever you touched, with a press of the Display button centering the AF point. In playback the touchscreen can be used to change the magnification of an image by spreading and pinching two fingers, and switch between images by swiping from side to side, just like on a smartphone. You can also adjust the LCD's touch sensitivity to your liking with Standard and High settings available.

On the right flank of the G7 X is a button for quickly connecting to a previously paired smartphone or tablet. The G7 X's wi-fi capabilities allow you to share images during playback via the Up button on the navigation pad. Simply enter a nickname for the camera and five more icons then appear, connecting the G7 X to another camera, a smartphone, a computer, a printer and the Internet respectively. Setup is relatively straight-forward for each scenario, although you'll need a basic understanding of the protocols involved. Note that you need to install the dedicated and free Canon CameraWindow app to connect the G7 X to an iOS or Android device.

Canon PowerShot G7 X
Top of the Canon PowerShot G7 X

The G7 X's wi-fi functionality is also employed to tag your images with GPS data recorded by your smartphone ( latitude, longitude, altitude and shooting time) via the Canon CameraWindow app, which effectively replaces a more conventional built-in GPS system. We actually prefer having GPS built-in to the camera rather than having to sync it with an additional device, so in this regard the G7 X doesn't compare well with rivals that offer this feature, although it does side-step the issue of negatively affecting battery life. The G7 X also features NFC (Near Field Communication) technology (the same technology that's used for mobile payments), which allows you to connect it to a compatible Internet enabled device or another NFC-enabled camera by simply tapping them together.

Returning to the rear, alongside the Ring Function button (which also doubles up as the Delete button) is the one-touch movie record button, which as its name suggests instantly begins recording a movie at the current quality and creative settings.

Underneath this pair of controls is the four-way selection or control pad, with, at points north, east, south and west a means of selecting the burst shooting mode, choosing from the on-board flash settings, setting the Display mode, and activating manual, normal or 5cm macro focus modes. The G7 X's 31-point AF system focuses very quickly for a compact camera in either good light or bad and at both ends of the zoom range, with a slight delay of around 0.15 second.

Canon PowerShot G7 X
Side of the Canon PowerShot G7 X

At its centre is the Function/Set button that is again consistent with the Canon G-series. Press this button at its centre when in any of the capture modes and an L-shaped toolbar that will be familiar to Canon users appears on the screen, offering pull out toolbars with further options from the range when you come to rest on a particular setting.

At the bottom right hand corner of the backplate are a further pairing of buttons for playing back your images and accessing the main menu. A press of the Menu button brings up a trio of folders on screen, the first the Shooting menu where the likes of the AF assist beam and blink detection modes can be turned on or off, the second the Setup menu where sound options and LCD brightness can be tweaked, and the third being a 'My Menu' option for commonly used functions.

On the right hand flank of the camera - viewed from the back - we find covered ports for HDMI out and a combined USB 2.0/AV out connection. On the bottom is a familiar metal screw thread for a tripod, and a sliding cover for the compartment that houses the lithium-ion battery needed for power and the SD, SDHC or SDXC cards needed for image storage. Battery life is not great at around 210 shots from a full charge, so you'll need to budget for at least one spare battery.