Using the Canon G7 x

24th December 2014
I'm not a great one for reviewing bits of kit, but I recently had need of a 'quality' compact camera, so how did that procurement adventure go?

The problem arises when you are looking around and at the hundreds of options out there - you suddenly realise that most reviews are not aimed at photographers actual requirements. They analyse in depth the technical specs but nothing very practical - you get the impression that many reviews have been done based on specs and no actual images were taken or the camera handled. Too much emphasis is put on garnish like wifi and being compatible with the ubiquitous social media which only ever demands the lowest quality….

As for the stuff you find on YouTube….. nerd city!!

Can I just say now: GPS - not interested. Selfy's - not interested. Wifi connectivity to social media - not interested. A squillion modes - not very interested. Movie functionality - probably not…. I just needed something small that would do quality images, that could be used in a professional capacity.

Ultimately it came down to the new Canon G7X or the Sony RX100 Mk3. I had a play with the Sony and immediately had trouble focusing, so opted for the Canon G7X. It has to be said that the reviews had been a bit sniffy, so I thought a brief write-up might help other snappers.

I'm not going to go into many specs - you can read them elsewhere….

The first thing is, the Canon G7X is tiny, very tiny. This is something I don't normally like, but the size was compensated for by a nice substantial weight - you knew you had something well built in your hand.

Tis a tiny thing - but substantially built. No plastic!

The main problem with compacts to date, has been the minute sensor. This has meant that as soon as you used an ISO of 400+, images became grainy and unusable. This always results in extreme disappointment and my previous Powershot 120 has long been consigned to the glove compartment of the car. The G7X has a 1" sensor, which should improve the quality no-end.

One of the review negative points of the G7x is that it doesn't have a fully prehensile LCD screen, nor a viewfinder. OK, a viewfinder is nice. However, as someone who generally prefers a low viewpoint I soon started holding the camera at waist height looking down onto the upwardly tilted LCD screen. This worked very nicely. By the way, if you need an editorial/papp shot taken from a high viewpoint, it doesn't take a lot of lateral thinking to hold the camera upside down so you get the proper view with the LCD tilt angle 'corrected'.

Apologies if these seem like holiday snaps - but they are included for a purpose… The reduction to LowRes for the interweb doesn't do any favours.

A backlit tree on a sunny morning in The Tiergarten. No probs with a tweak of the Exposure Compensation dial…

A low viewpoint of the Brandenburg Gate. The tilted LCD makes this simple. Focus point moved to the pavement blocks by way of the touchscreen. Obviously at about F11 as it was bright. There is an ND filter for occasions such as this….. or creating blur/art etc

One of the innovations, new to me, which I really like is focusing via the LCD screen. The lens has an F1.8 lens so accurate focusing is essential if you are going to make best use of the bokeh which the compact gives - especially for close ups. This worked brilliantly - I soon got into the habit of holding the camera at waist hight, looking down onto the LCD screen. I would then use my right thumb on the shutter button and zoom, and my left thumb selecting where to touch the screen to select focus. The screen was sensitive and wherever you touched the screen the focus rectangle moved to that point. My only suggestion would be to reset the focus point to the centre when you have done with your shot……….so you are ready for 'next time'

A couple of close up images - emphasising that the compact can produce bokeh at F1.8. In fact this could probably have been better with another stop?

Obviously i didn't want this beer, but used it purely as a prop. I think I had to use several.

The camera has a zoom equivalent to 24-100* - some have cited this as inadequate, but it was usually fine for me. I doubt if you ever have a sufficient zoom, so it is easy to criticise. I found I could have done with the image being a bit wider on occasion - especially given my habit of shooting from a low perspective.

(*Thanks to CJ Morgan of Ontario for pointing out that my original 24-70 was incorrect. This makes it more attractive, perchance?)

An uncropped image is 5472 x 3648px

Three GV's of Potsdammer Platz. The camera coped well with the high contrast with no highlights lost……. a benefit of a simple Exposure Compensation dial.

Keep your glasses on so you know whether it should be turned clockwise or anti-clockwise, until you get familiar with it. A helpful hint for grumpy glasses wearers!!!

I found the camera easier to handle than any other compact I have used (or the squillion that I have become familiar with when teaching). I think this is due to the fact that you are not having to regularly go into the menu's. Whichever mode you are in - in my case usually swapping between AV & TV (Aperture or Shutter Speed Priority), you change the setting by way of an actual ring/dial around the lens - just like a proper camera! This ring can be customised, but I found no need to.

The second innovation on a compact, to me anyway, was the exposure compensation dial. This sits under the main 'mode' dial. As someone who mainly works in AV or TV a simple way of using this functionality is a real plus - especially when the compensation is reflected in the LCD.

So what of the results……. all these snaps are from a few days in Berlin, when I deliberately stretched the camera past points where compacts had failed me before - especially night shots. It had a good run ashore….

Christmas Market from the preferred low perspective

A shot from a high perspective. Not great, but I just wanted to prove that holding the camera upside down is not an issue. The angle is deliberate

Firstly, the battery - I have read criticism. I took RAW+jpeg (quality being key) and the battery lasted all day, some 300 images plus plenty of off&on and chimping. This was about 75% of the battery life. Very reasonable, but I will be buying a spare…… I suspect that some have found the battery life inadequate when shooting in burst mode, or movies. I'm not saying that I will never use burst mode, but I can't think of many situations when I would rely on a compact if I needed 'burst', so AI Focus & burst is probably not the norm for me on the G7x.

Random night shots to test the ISO. The thing that has always let down compacts.

Berlin art on Ku'Damm. Taken at ISO 1600

As an aside, when chimping, you could delete the RAW, the jpeg or RAW+Jpeg. New to me and I like it.

Cliche'd holiday snap…… but no problem with the exposure…. although a problem with passers by with iPhones, sudden stopping taxis and the odd tour bus

Nice low perspective Christmas Market, with a handily wet pavement

One of my main issues would be quality at high ISO. As a snapper I push the ISO only as far as I need to get the image. I pushed it here to ISO 1600 (it does go to 12000+) and the results were good - far better than any other compact used. Sensor size is so, so important. As usual I suspect that if you amend the Levels/BrightnessContrast too far in PS then grain will appear but with the Exposure Compensation being so easy, there should be no need.

All the images here are taken pretty much out of camera and are Jpegs - I haven't yet got a camera profile for my RAW Conversion Software.

My sort of Berlin night shot - although Helmut Newton (splendid Institute around the corner from here), would be a tad more descriminating.

I occasionally used the 'info' screen to amend the ISO - I like to be in charge and don't use 'auto', but most shot adjustments are made with the dials. A couple of times I changed the White Balance the same way. The only time I used the menu was when I changed from OneShot to test AI Focus.

Another aside that I found handy was; when you are using AI Focus (continuous auto focus), the focus point rectangle was blue as opposed to green. Handy to know what mode you are in…..

God knows how much more I would find if I bothered to read the manual, but it is a download and, unsurprisingly, I only received the camera the day before Berlin - but as a Canon user I found it pretty intuitive.

Overall the G7X did everything I asked of it and have to begrudgingly admit that I am very happy with the little beast. In fact, last night I took it to a Capital One Cup Quarter Final as I really do think I will be using it for off-pitch images.

OK, strange one……. inclemency made a visit to the aquarium essential. Gave the little beast a work out with AI Focus under very demanding circumstances. Refractive glass and difficult-to-train jellyfish, plus darkness with a single top light. You'll have to take my word for it but the colour is accurate and this is out-of-camera. Not too bad