Canon Powershot G7 X Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Ultimately, a camera is only as good as the photographs it produces. For this reason, the ratings in our digital camera reviews is based primarily on image-quality. The Canon Powershot G7 X is one of the few compacts to feature a moderately large sensor which is hugely beneficial.
The 20 megapixels 1" CMOS sensor in this camera has roughly 4X the area of sensors found in the vast majority of compact digital cameras. This lets reach a class-leading resolution while maintaining significantly larger pixels than most its peers. There are a few compact cameras with even larger sensors, yet they have a fixed lens which is significantly hampers versatility.
The baseline ISO 125 sensitivity is virtually noise-free and usable for very large prints. ISO 200 performs almost identically with only a very fine noise-pattern visible at 100%. While ISO 400 is also incredibly smooth, it shows the first signs of noise-reduction. Given 20 megapixels of resolution, this will not show unless printed quite large though.
ISO 800 is similar to 400. There are plenty of details with a fine grain pattern showing at full resolution. Noise-reduction is visible but minimal. There is no problem getting a reasonably-large high-quality print at this sensitivity. ISO 1600 is both noisier and softer. Maximum prints sizes are reduced slight, yet common sizes still look great.
There is a veil of noise at ISO 3200 with noticeable softness induced by noise-reduction. Mid-sized prints are no issue but dynamic-range starts to drop visibly at that point. The effect of noise and its removal increased once more at ISO 6400. That causes large prints to lack detail and contrast. ISO 12800 is very soft when seen at 100%. This is no surprise, obviously, and even mid-size prints appear noisy.
The dynamic-range of the Canon Powershot G7 X is surprisingly good. It certainly exceeds what most fixed-lens cameras can do. When highlights get clipped, it gives a natural bloom with a relatively smooth cut-off. Shadows look natural with deep blacks until ISO 800. The default contrast setting is spot-on for this but can be adjusted to taste ±2 steps.
The Multi-Segment metering system is generally reliable and consistent. It is tuned for mid-tone exposures, so it regularly clips small highlights and makes high-key scenes overly dark. It rarely misses by much though, 1/3 or 2/3 EV being typical.
Canon has very well tuned colors to look pleasing on the G7 X. This is made clear by the fact that image parameters are hidden under the Custom option when My Colors are enabled. There, one can improve accuracy slightly by tuning Red and Blue down to -1. Otherwise, they are slightly oversaturated. Automatic White-Balance could fair better. While it generally produces neutral colors, it misses more often in low-light, leaving an colors too cool.
Sharpness is just right at the default setting. Artifacts start showing at +1 and noticeable softness appears at -1. One can always perform their own processing by shooting RAW files instead of JPEG. The main limitation on this Powershot is that there is no buffer for shooting RAW files continuously.
The ultra-wide 24-100mm equivalent lens on the G7 X has a bright F/1.8 maximum aperture at wide-angle, and F/2.8 at telephoto. This allows it to use lower ISO sensitivities than usual and produce even higher-quality images than its large-sensor alone could. The lens extends about 5cm ahead of the body when on which is relatively compact.
Wide-open this lens shows significant edge softness going deep into the frame. It sharpens up well when stopping down. By F/2.8 things look better and F/4 is very reasonable. Chromatic aberrations are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no sign of vignetting and only minimal optical distortion which is very impressive for such a small lens.
The Canon G7 X is quick and responsive. Given how several controls are prone to accidental activation, it might seem too responsive! The touchscreen is particularly annoying since anything that brushes against it changes the focus-point. We dare not try the High-Sensitivity mode. Every button and dial turn gets an instance response with good visual feedback from the camera.
The performance of this digital camera is characterized by the following numbers:
- Power-On: 1½s. Good.
- Power-On to First-Shot: Just under 2s. Above average.
- Autofocus: ¼-1s, generally closer to ¼s. Quite good.
- Shutter-Lag: Instant with 1/3s blackout. Excellent.
- Shot-to-Shot: Almost 2s with AF, 1s without. Average.
- Zooming: 2s, wide-to-tele. Average.
- Playback: 1s to enter, ½s to exist. Average.
- Power-Off: 2-3s, depending on zoom. Average.
In short, the Canon Powershot G7 X offers a typical performance for a premium compact. It does very well in terms of shutter-lag and autofocus, which arguably count the most. While AF is highly variable, it tends to be relatively quick.
One remaining performance metric is battery-life which is quoted at 210 shots-per-charge according to the CIPA standard. This is one of the shortest among all digital cameras. A second and even third battery is therefore highly recommended.
The Canon Powershot G7 X presents a highly attractive offering. It packs a moderately large 1" CMOS sensor and an ultra-bright F/1.8-2.8 lens in a compact body with dual control-dials. This results in good image-quality even in relatively low-light with efficient controls for advanced photography.
Given its size, the image-quality of the G7 X is outstanding. Noise levels are low until ISO 800 with high retention of details and very good dynamic-range. Images show nicely saturated colors and good contrast. Keep in mind that the bright aperture lens means that this digital camera can shoot the same scene at a lower ISO than usual.
Metering is generally good, although it burns highlights a little more than ideal. Automatic white-balance gets most scenes right and only tends to leave a bluish cast in low-light. There are plenty of options to overcome this, including Custom WB and White-Balance Fine-Tuning which help achieve completely neutral colors.
Sharpness is good provided that the lens is stopped down, starting around F/2.8 near wide-angle, and that noise-reduction is not noticeable, which happens from ISO 1600. Otherwise, the optics of the Canon Powershot G7 X are impressive. There are no signs of vignetting or chromatic aberrations, only a slight amount of barrel distortion.
Speed is where the Canon G7 X simply matches expectations, rather than excelling. Most importantly though, autofocus in bright light and shutter-lag are both quick. However, AF slows down considerably in low-light. Battery-life is frankly low but this is a simple issue to work-around.
The achievement Canon did with the G7 X is difficult to over-state. Simply, this premium compact delivers high-quality images with photographic controls that advanced users are looking for.
Canon G7 X Highlights
Sensor-Size: 13 x 9mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|20 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 125-12800|
|4.2X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-250s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|6.5 FPS Drive, 12 Images||Spot-Metering|
|1920x1080 @ 60 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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