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Canon PowerShot G7 X review: Canon's G7 X is a swell but slow shooter

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The Good The Canon PowerShot G7 X delivers excellent photo quality for its class, along with a fine lens and relatively streamlined shooting design.

The Bad Its performance and connectivity implemenation don't impress, and some people may miss the hot shoe.

The Bottom Line The Canon PowerShot G7 X would jump from very good to excellent if it could just pick up the pace.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

Canon introduces a new sensor size into its product line with the enthusiast-targeted PowerShot G7 X: like Sony's RX series of advanced compacts, the G7 X features a 1-inch BSI (backside illuminated) sensor. At $700 (£580, approximately AU$775) the G7 X is only about $100 less than then its big brother, the G1 X Mark II -- even less in Australia -- and that gap will probably narrow as the months go on.

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. With great photo quality for this class and a streamlined shooting design, the camera fares well against its Sony competitors. Unfortunately, weak performance holds it back.

Image quality

Photos look excellent, and video quality is fine for most casual use. The G7 X uses a 1-inch Sony sensor -- apocryphally the same one as the RX100 III -- and it's interesting to see what the photos looks like paired with a different lens and image-processing software. The answer: a bit sharper with better white balance and more detail in the shadow areas.

Relative sensor sizes

Lori Grunin/CNET

The G7 X's JPEGs look relatively clean through ISO 400, though at ISO 400 you can see the noise reduction kick in little; by ISO 800 noise and detail degradation starts. Still, the JPEGs, depending on scene content, are OK through ISO 3200. Using raw increases that to ISO 6400.

Canon's white balance is generally pretty accurate, though as frequently happens, I had to manually switch it from auto to Cloudy or Shade to get correct colors in those conditions. The defaults tend to push the color saturation a lot more than I like, and unfortunately, the Neutral color setting isn't available when shooting raw or raw+JPEG.

It has a decent tonal range for its class, delivering reasonable highlight detail and only clipping shadows a little. There's also a surprising (for this type of camera) amount of detail recoverable from highlights and shadows in the raw files without introducing artifacts.

Video quality, even in low light, is quite good; a little better than the RX100 II 's but not as good as the XAVC S-codec video out of the RX100 III.

Analysis samples

Note: unless you view the samples at their full 770-pixel width they won't look right.

JPEGs look clean through ISO 200 and good through ISO 400, where you can see some blurring due to noise reduction. By ISO 800, there's noticeable detail degradation. Lori Grunin/CNET
You can see smearing at ISO 1600, but depending upon scene content, I found JPEGs usable through ISO 3200 and raw through ISO 6400. Lori Grunin/CNET
Though it uses (possibly) the same sensor, the G7 X's JPEGs look much sharper than the Sony RX100 III's because the lens is slightly sharper. The noise on unprocessed raw files looks close to identical. (ISO 1600 JPEG) Lori Grunin/CNET
As usual, Canon's default color settings push the saturation a bit too much, though it's probably pleasing to a lot of people. Lori Grunin/CNET
Though I don't like what it does to bright, saturated reds, overall the colors are bright and pleasing. Lori Grunin/CNET
The sharpening in the JPEGs brings out some fine detail, but exacerbates some noise issues. Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

Note: We recently updated our testing methodology, so the results aren't comparable with previous testing. Where possible, I've retested cameras for comparison.

Unfortunately, the G7 X upholds one of the less admirable traditions of the G series: generally sluggish autofocus performance. Note that we test with continuous autofocus turned off for single shots because in real life leaving it on drains the battery -- I also personally find the constant lens movement irritating -- and the G7 X's battery life is pretty bad to start. The camera has an ECO mode, which turns off the screen almost immediately: too soon and too often. It's telling that the three-bar battery level goes straight from two bars to blinking red with no stops in between.

The only real bright spot in the camera's performance is continuous shooting with autofocus, where it's one of the faster cameras in its class (although we haven't yet tested the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, which might be faster).

In all other respects the camera's speed ranges from typical to middling. It powers on and shoots in 1.5 seconds, which, alas is about average for this class of cameras. It takes between 0.5- and 0.8-second to lock focus and shoot, depending upon lighting conditions, and runs 1.1 seconds to shoot two sequential JPEGs or 1.4 seconds for raw; using flash raises that to 2.5 seconds.

Autofocus problems plagued me during testing, though. The camera bafflingly failed to focus frequently on single-point AF, for reasons I couldn't discern: well-lit, reasonably high-contrast scenes of unmoving subjects, at a distance within the appropriate focus range for the lens and regardless of the size of the AF area. Sometimes it would indicate trouble, but the image would be in focus. The touch AF comes in handy for moments like this. And the Servo continuous AF works pretty well for moderately moving objects, like a casual cyclist crossing the frame.

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