Canon G7 X, Canon's first camera with a 1-inch sensor (hands-on)

The newest addition to its enthusiast compact line seems targeted at drawing buyers away from Sony's RX100 II.

Lori Grunin

Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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Canon introduces a new sensor size into its product line with the enthusiast-targeted PowerShot G7 X: like Sony's advanced compacts, the G7 X features a 1-inch BSI (backside illuminated) sensor. At $700 (£570, AU$1,020), the G7 X is only about $100 less than its big brother, the G1 X Mark II, and that gap will probably narrow as the months go on.But because the G7 X is better in some ways but worse in others, it promises to make the choice between them more difficult than it should be.

Relative sensor sizes Lori Grunin/CNET

It's increasingly looking like having a 1-inch BSI seems to be the only way manufacturers can break the 12-or-so-megapixel barrier in cameras this size while still delivering a reasonable sensitivity in lower light. Even the bigger Four Thirds sensor in the Pansonic Lumix LX100 is lower resolution.

The G7 X has some features that are welcome in the G X line, most notably a fast 24-100mm f1.8-2.8 lens with a 9-blade aperture and a flip-up touchscreen display. Incorporating Canon's new Digic 6 imaging engine brings it a few modes new to Canon: Star Portrait, Star Nightscape and Star Time-Lapse.

Canon G7 X, a little more compact enthusiast camera (pictures)

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That said, in some ways this fills the spot of the stripped-down enthusiast model in the product line, so it's missing some features, such as a hot shoe and viewfinder. And Canon's taking its Sony emulation a bit too far by not including a grip. Canon says that the slightly textured surface where a grip should be makes it feel like it has a grip. It doesn't.

My take

When comparing to competitors in this price class, the G7 X comes out ahead in some places but behind in others. Because it's newer than the G1 X Mark II, it has some advantages over it -- a faster (but shorter) lens, 60fps video, a display that flips all the way up, and a newer image processing engine that probably ekes some better performance out of the same autofocus system. However, the G1 X Mark II has a significantly larger CMOS sensor that likely delivers better highlight detail than the BSI sensor, though it's probably not as good in the dark. It's more compact than the older model, but that's partly because it lacks a hot shoe.

More interestingly, the LX100 has quite a few advantages over it for the $100 extra and only a few drawbacks. It has a larger -- but lower resolution -- sensor, as well as built in EVF and hot shoe, plus it shoots 4K video. On the downside, the zoom range isn't as long and it has a fixed LCD; clearly it's targeting a less selfie-obsessed crowd.

Finally, it's obvious that the G7 X is intended to make a dent in the segment dominated by the Sony RX100 II; the feature sets are quite similar. The G7 X's only obvious advantage is what looks like a much faster lens. (Note that I suspect the 6.5fps burst specification for the Canon is with focus fixed on the first frame, so I'm not counting that yet.) However, that camera's age gives Sony an advantage -- it's cheaper now and it will likely always be cheaper.

Comparative specifications

Canon PowerShot G7 X Canon Powershot G16 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 t DSC-RX100 II
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP HS CMOS (BSI) 12.1MP CMOS 12.8MP MOS 20.2MP Exmor R CMOS
Sensor size 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8 mm)
(7.6 x 5.7 mm)
Four Thirds
(17.3 x 13mm)
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 4.6x 2.0x 2.7x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/25600 (exp) ISO 80 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 160 - ISO 12800
Lens (35mm equivalent) 24-100mm
24 - 75mm
28 - 100mm
Closest focus 2.0 in/5 cm 0.4 in/1.0 cm 2 in/3 cm 1.9 in/5 cm
Burst shooting 6.5fps
31 JPEG/n/a raw
(this spec might be without AF)
unlimited JPEG
(40fps with electronic shutter)
(10fps with fixed exposure)
12 JPEG/13 raw
(mag/ effective mag)
None Optical
Reverse Galilean
0.4 in/10.2 mm
2.764m dots
100% coverage
2.36m dots
100 percent coverage
Hot shoe No Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 31 area
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
49 area
Contrast AF
25 area
Contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter speed n/a 30 - 1/4,000 sec 60 - 1/4,000 sec (1/16,000 electronic shutter); bulb to 2 minutes 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Metering n/a n/a 1,728 zones n/a
Metering sensitivity n/a n/a n/a n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 24p
MP4 UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p AVCHD
1080/60p, 50p, 25p,
Audio n/a Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes No n/a Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time n/a 4GB/29:59 minutes n/a 29 minutes
Optical zoom while recording n/a Yes Yes Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical
LCD 3 in/7.5 cm
Flip-up touchscreen
1.04m dots
922,000 dots
3 in/7.5 cm
921,000 dots
3 in/7.5cm
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes Yes Bundled optional Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a 360 shots 300 shots 350 shots
Size (WHD) 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.6 in
103 x 60.4 x 40.4 mm
4.4 x 3.0 x 1.6 in
108.8 x 75.9 x 40.3 mm
4.5 x 2.6 x 2.2 in
114.8 x 66.2 x 55.0 mm
4.0 x 2.3 x 1.5 inches
101.6 x 58.1 x 38.3 mm
Body operating weight 10.7 oz
304 g (est)
12.5 oz
354.4 g
13.8 oz (est.)
393 g (est.)
9.9 oz
280.7 g
Mfr. price

£530 (est.)
UK and AU pricing to be announced
Release date (US) October 2014 October 2013 November 2014 July 2013