With a large sensor, a fast zoom lens, and manual controls, the compact Canon Powershot G7X Mark II can be different things to different people. It could be a step up from a smartphone, a versatile vacation shooter, or the chance for enthusiasts to travel light. We recently packed one to take on holiday, to put through its paces. But what did we make of our diminutive travel companion? Read on to find out.
The US$700 Canon Powershot G7X II is one of a fairly recent breed of compact cameras which feature a large sensor and a fast zoom lens. This makes them more versatile than your smartphone, and able to deliver better quality images. They’re probably best seen as a step between a smartphone and a bulkier mirrorless or DSLR camera. Other similar devices in this category include the Sony RX100 IV and the Panasonic ZS100, which each have their own merits.
Key features of the G7X II include its 20-megapixel 1-inch CMOS sensor, a 24-100-mm F1.8-F2.8 equivalent lens, an ISO range reaching up to 12,800, and built-in Wi-Fi. However, the original G7X, which was launched in 2014, also looked great on the spec sheet, but was something of a disappointment in person. So we were curious to see how this second generation camera fares.
In the hands, the Canon Powershot G7X II feels very much like a solid bit of kit thanks to its metal construction. While it’s small enough to be pocketable, the 319 g (11.3 oz) weight would probably mean you’d be constantly hoiking your pants up, so it’s probably best carried in a jacket pocket or bag.
The heft is partially due to the lens which protrudes as you power the camera on, which it does nice and quickly, meaning you’re not going to miss too many photo opportunities. Unfortunately, Canon hasn’t made any claims about weather sealing, so even though it feels like it should be able to withstand most situations, it’s best to treat the G7X II with a bit of care.
Despite its small size, the G7X II manages to pack in controls galore for a compact camera. This is what makes it a good option for both experienced users of interchangeable lens systems who want to travel light, and would-be enthusiasts who want to learn the ropes of photography without getting bogged down by a bigger camera.
We found the various buttons, dials, and rings were accessible and made the camera easy to take control of. That said, if you have the chunky hands of a UFC fighter, or are used to the space afforded by a professional DSLR, you might find the G7X II a tad cramped. We particularly liked the control ring around the lens which can be set to rotate smoothly, or stepped, where it gives tactile feedback.
Around back, there’s an LCD touchscreen which can be used to navigate menus. Movement has been increased over the original G7X, and the screen can now be angled down 45 degrees in addition to tilting up 180 degrees. The ability to navigate menus (which will look very familiar to current Canon shooters) with your finger, is also more helpful than we expected it to be. While we wouldn’t dare admit it in certain photography circles, we often found ourselves using the touchscreen over the physical controls for some settings.
In addition to the menus familiar to Canon DSLR users, there are simple touchscreen-focused menus which kick in when doing things like setting a scene mode. This sort of intuitive control again makes the point that the G7X II is a good option for those aiming to improve their photography skills, and that it won’t be too intimidating for beginners stepping up from a smartphone.
With a reasonably snappy 31-point autofocus system, the G7X II is also going to give you more keepers than most compact cameras, though it’s obviously not a patch on professional cameras like the 1DX Mark II. It’s competent at tracking moving subjects, and was able to keep up as we tracked speed boats and kids running around on a beach. Here the continuous shooting of up to 8 fps (frames per second) was also welcome, though it soon slows down after a second or two as the buffer fills.
Face detection focusing also proved a handy addition in our tests, particularly on occasions when the rear screen was hard to see because of sun glare. Indeed this glare, and the lack of an electronic viewfinder, was our biggest gripe with the camera. While this problem can be negated by trying to angle the screen away from the sun, we’d have preferred an EVF option.
The Canon G7X Mark II offers a reliable, and fun, user experience which we would whole-heartedly recommend. Indeed, we’ve already pointed a couple of people toward it. These have including a mother who wanted better images of her kids, but without carrying a mirrorless or DSLR camera, and a photojournalist who needed an inconspicuous but capable camera which would allow him to get pictures back to his picture desk quickly.
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