The Canon G7 X was my favourite camera of 2015. Its image quality was a match for consumer SLRs (with their kit lenses at least) and yet it was small and light enough to slip into a trouser pocket. Key to its success was its 1in sensor and wide-aperture lens, which combined to capture just as much light as consumer SLRs. This meant it was able to compete with them for image quality — not bad for a camera weighing 301g and measuring 40mm thick.
The G7 X wasn’t the only camera to pull off this trick. In fact, Sony invented the concept with its RX100 series. However, the G7 X rose to the top with its more generous 4.2x zoom range, elegant touchscreen interface and lower price than the Sony RX100 III.
In 2016 the market for compact cameras with 1in sensors has picked up in pace. We’ve seen the arrival of the Panasonic TZ100 with its 10x zoom, the 4k-capable Sony RX100 IV, a trio of cameras from Nikon and the Canon G9 X with its incredibly svelte design and aggressively low price. Canon now hopes to up the ante yet again with the G7 X Mark II.
Design and features
The improvements are relatively subtle — a faster processor, a proper grip on the front of the camera, a redesigned hinge on the 3in LCD screen so it tilts down as well as up. Battery life is up from 210 to 240 shots — a welcome improvement but still below average. Extra batteries cost a staggering £49.
The rubber grip is only a few millimetres deep but there’s a well-defined ridge that’s unlikely to slip through fingers. It’s a big improvement on the smooth, featureless fronts of the G7 X and Sony’s RX100 series cameras. Another design tweak is a small lever beside the lens that lets you choose whether the lens ring has a smooth or ratcheted motion. The former makes more sense for autofocus adjustments while the latter is better for aperture adjustment. I can’t say that it’s a life-changing innovation.
For me, the lens ring itself felt a bit out of place on such a small camera, which I prefer to hold with a pincer-shaped grasp in both hands rather than cradling it with the left hand. As a result, I found it more natural to spin the rear wheel to make adjustments. Fortunately, the touchscreen makes it quick to call up settings for adjustment with the wheel.
Using the Custom White Balance function is frustratingly long-winded. Whereas most cameras let you calibrate the white balance by pointing the lens at a white or grey subject and pressing a couple of buttons, the G7 X II demands that you take a photo of said subject and then navigate to an obscurely located menu page in order to perform the calibration. I use this function far more than manual focus, for instance, but it’s manual focus that has a labelled button on the back of the camera.
For most other purposes, the controls are quick and intuitive. There’s a chunky exposure compensation dial on the top plate, and the touchscreen makes light work of moving the autofocus point. I’m a big fan of touchscreens on cameras, and also of screens that tilt up for comfortable shooting at hip-height. The Sony RX100-series cameras have tilting screens, while the Panasonic TZ100 and Canon G9 X have touchscreens, but the G7 X II includes both.
Performance of the original G7 X was unremarkable, but the updated model makes significant improvements. Shots were captured every 0.5 seconds in normal use, with decisive autofocus quickly locking onto subjects. Continuous JPEG shooting was at 8fps for 30 frames before slowing to 5fps — a superb result. Continuous RAW performance was much improved from the dire 1.2fps achieved by the G7 X, capturing 22 frames at 8fps before slowing to 1.9fps.
The video mode is good rather than great. It supports 1080p recording at frame rates up to 60fps, and the touchscreen is particularly useful for on-the-fly autofocus adjustments. Details aren’t as refined as on the best 1080p footage and can’t begin to compete with 4K footage, but this needn’t put casual video shooters off. A bigger issue is how it stops recording without any warning when video files reach 4GB — that’s about 16 minutes.