Cameras with a one-inch type sensor are popular right now, with Sony, Nikon, Panasonic including them in their compact cameras along with Canon, whose G7 X Mk II is its latest camera to feature one. A one-inch sensor is larger than the sensor in a typical compact, and the main benefit is improved image quality, especially in low light conditions.
The G7 X Mk II succeeds the G7 X in the middle of Canon’s high-end G series range of compact cameras. Not a huge amount has changed from the previous version, but there are some significant, if incremental, updates.
There’s still the same 20.1 million-pixel CMOS sensor, and a 4x optical zoom lens that offers an equivalent focal length of 24-100mm and covers an aperture range of f/1.8-f/2.8.
A couple of minor changes have been made to the exterior of the camera, but perhaps the biggest upgrade of note is the addition of a Digic 7 processor, the newest available in any Canon camera. This brings with it upgrades to shooting performance, including a faster burst shooting rate. Battery life is also improved, up to 265 shots per charge, a 25% increase on the G7 X.
Full HD video recording is available, although there’s sadly no sign of 4K yet for Canon’s compact cameras. Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity is present, while the touch-sensitive screen tilts to enable shooting at awkward angles; however there’s no inbuilt viewfinder, and, with no hotshoe or accessory port, no option to add one either.
As with all of the other current Canon G-series compacts you can record images in raw format, and manual exposure control is available, along with semi-automatic exposure modes (aperture priority and shutter priority) and a collection of automatic settings.
The G7 X II’s main competitor is probably the Sony RX100 IV, which also has a one-inch sensor and a relatively restricted focal length range (24-70mm equivalent). For now at least, the Canon camera has the cheaper retail price.
Build and handling
Not too much has changed when it comes to the build and design of the G7 X II. It’s one of the smaller G-series cameras, and will just about fit in a loose jeans pocket. While it’s not as sleek as the G9 X, there are compensations: the G7 X II’s tilting screen and longer focal length range.
However, being small the G7 X II does lose out on a built-in viewfinder, something the larger G5 X incorporates. And both the Sony RX100 IV and the Panasonic TZ100 have found ways to include a viewfinder, so it’s a little disappointing not to have one here, especially given that this is a camera designed to appeal as a backup to your DSLR.
That said, the tilting screen is great. It’s bright, it’s not unduly prone to reflections and it boasts a high resolution. It also tilts, so you can angle it out of direct sunlight if you need to, as well as framing shots from up high or down low, or flipping it for self-portraits. Although it’s not fully articulating, the ability to tilt the screen downwards is an improvement over the original G7 X, and is helpful in some situations.
There are relatively few buttons and dials on the G7X II, and those that are present are all grouped together to make it easier to use the camera one-handed. On the top of the camera is a mode dial, which sits atop another dial that gives you quick access to setting exposure compensation.
The mode dial features manual and semi-automatic options, as well full auto, hybrid auto, scene and video modes. One option that’s missing from the previous iteration of the camera is ‘creative shot’ – perhaps Canon felt this wasn’t being used by the average enthusiast and decided to ditch it.
Around the G7 X II’s lens is a dial that you can assign to adjust one of a number of settings – the obvious choice would be aperture. The dial clicks as confirmation that it’s been moved, but there’s a switch under the lens to turn the click off if you’re trying to be discreet – another new feature.
Of the buttons on the back of the camera, a particularly useful one is marked with a Q. This brings up a quick menu on the rear screen which gives you access to a host of commonly used settings, such as file quality, ISO, white balance, metering and so on, saving you from having to delve into the main menu.
There’s also a virtual version of this button on the touchscreen, which you tap to access the same menu. This quick menu, along with the main menu, can be navigated either by touch or by using the physical buttons. To set the autofocus point you tap the desired area on the screen.
The original G7 X was an impressive all-round performer, and its successor builds on that. Images directly from the camera display vibrant, warm and life-like tones.
Detail reproduction in JPEG images is very good throughout much of the camera’s native sensitivity range. At the higher end (ISO3200 and above) image smoothing is apparent in some areas of shots viewed at around A4 size or above, while for images shot at ISO6400 it’s best to keep to smaller printing or sharing sizes, such as 7×5.
The introduction of the Digic 7 processor seems to have facilitated slightly better high ISO performance than the original G7 X, with a little less noise visible at higher speeds.
At present it’s not possible to process the G7 X II’s raw format images in Adobe’s Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements (an update for Camera Raw will arrive in due course), but you can use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software.
Viewing raw files in DPP it’s evident that the corresponding JPEG images are subject to a fair amount of noise reduction processing. For example, in a raw image shot at ISO6400 you can see luminance noise throughout the image, but there’s also significantly more detail – this gives you scope to adjust the image in post-production, prioritising noise reduction or detail preservation as you prefer.
In general the G7 X II produces accurate exposures, coping well with a range of conditions; I found I barely needed to touch the exposure compensation dial at all. The auto white balance also copes well with mixed or artificial lighting, producing accurate colours in most situations.
The camera has a relatively modest, but useful, zoom range. Detail is maintained well throughout the focal length range, with pleasing image quality at the far reach of the telephoto optic. Two digital zoom options are available – the first is usable if you’re sharing images at small sizes, while the second is best avoided unless you’re really desperate to get a long shot.
While the ‘creative shot’ mode has gone, you can still find a few filter effects under Scene mode. The choice isn’t huge, but a couple of the effects are fun to experiment with – although it would be useful if you could apply these while simultaneously recording an unfiltered raw version of the image, should you later decide you’d rather not have the filter effect.
Most of the time the G7 X II focuses very quickly on the subject, particularly in good light. It can take a touch longer in lower light, but it’s fairly rare for a false confirmation to occur. Where the G7 X II does struggle, though, is with focusing closely on fine or small subjects, even with macro focusing enabled; if you like to take macro shots of insects, flowers and so on this isn’t really the camera for you.
Canon has introduced a series of small but significant improvements in the G7 X II which continue to make this series a very likeable alternative to a DSLR or other chunkier cameras.
If you have the original G7 X you may not be tempted a great deal by this upgrade; but if you’re looking for a solid back-up camera, or replacing an older compact, the G7 X II is an even more attractive proposition than its predecessor.
It would have been nice to have seen a fully articulating screen in this model, but at least the screen now tilts downwards, which adds a little more flexibility than before when shooting from some awkward angles.
The addition of a Digic 7 processor makes the camera very fast in operation, with minimal shot-to-shot time and rapid playback. Battery life has also improved, so when taking the camera on your travels you can feel a little more confident that it won’t die on you before the end of the day.
Image quality was great from the G7 X, and it remains so here. Colours are bright and punchy, while low light performance is very good, especially if you’re only likely to be sharing your images online or printing at relatively small sizes.
The G7 X II is an easy and enjoyable camera to use, while the manual controls will appeal to enthusiasts. The fact that you can shoot in raw format is very useful when you’re trying to claw back some detail in high-ISO shots.
If you’re familiar with DSLRs you’ll probably find that you miss having a viewfinder. While it seems likely that the viewfinder option was rejected because it would increase the camera’s size, both Panasonic and Sony have found ways to include one on their diminutive camera bodies.
Canon has once again produced a very appealing G-series camera – it’s a high-performing compact, which makes it both a good alternative for when using your DSLR isn’t practical, and a great camera in its own right.
If you’re an existing Canon user the biggest decision you’ll have to make will be between the G7 X II and the G5 X. If you’re not especially brand-loyal, you’ll likely be torn between this and the Sony RX100 IV; for now at least the Sony costs more, so the Canon may edge it on value.