Top critical review
Fantastic Hardware Let Down By Mediocre Software
29 June 2018
Believe it or not, I've actually bought this camera twice in the past couple of years after weighing up the pros and cons of it and a couple of rivals –and, both times, I've ended up sending it back after a couple of weeks.
At the moment, I'm currently toying with the idea of trying for "third time lucky". And, also as before, its main rivals in my decision making are the Sony RX100 M3 and the Panasonic Lumix TZ100. The problem with these three options [and with the 1" pocketable compact market in general] is that each camera ticks so many of the boxes on my wish-list, but then [for no accountable reason] seems to miss out one or two of the others
My wishlist is:
 Solid construction [because of previous]
 1" Sensor
 RAW capture
 4K Video
 Fast lens with useful reach
 Swivel / Tilt screen
 GPS or Geotagging
So the Sony ticks all the boxes apart from 5 & 9 [and gets half a point for 6 because of the limited zoom].
The Lumix ticks all the boxes apart from 7 [and gets half a point for 6 because of the slow aperture].
This camera, the G7X II ticks all the boxes apart from 5 & 8.
In the end, I opted for the Canon for a few reasons:
I'm not a 'fanboi' for any particular brand. [Remember, folks --they don't love you back!] but I do seem to end up buying Canon gear more than any other. So opting for Canon I had a fair idea how the software would be set up and the overall build quality. Although, on a lot of counts Panasonic do seem to deliver more 'bang for buck', I once had a bad experience with a panasonic shaver I bought and [illogical though it is] it's kind of put me off the brand, ever since. Sony, I view a bit like Apple; good quality products, but not averse to slapping an unnecessary extra quid or two onto the purchase price.
The G7X's 24-100 equivalent lens [and ƒ1,8] seemed like a nice combo of versatile range and fast aperture. The RX100 seems a bit unnecessarily limited and, although the Lumix has a longer reach, it's a bit slower as a consequence. I decided I'm more likely to be shooting in low/natural light than doing telephoto work.
Screen / Viewfinder.
This was probably the decision that had me see-sawing back and forward the most. I came so close to buying the TZ100 on more than one ocassion, because of its viewfinder. But then I'd waver and think of the potential that the Canon's tilt/swivel screen offered for shooting from all kinds of awkward angles. In the end, as I live in England, I went for the versatility of a tilting screen over the usefulness of a viewfinder in bright sunlight [not a problem we run into that often, in this part of the world!]
So, the Canon G7X II it was and; once the camera arrived and I took it out of its box, I was sure I'd made the right decision. If ever the term "Small Object of Desire" deserved to be applied to an electronic device, this camera merits the monicker. It's reassuringly solid and dense and just oozes quality. Likewise when I started to take photos with it. I've always preferred Canon's ever-so-slightly more colour saturated JPEG rendering to that of its rivals and the colours this camera produces are superb. The lens seems pin-sharp to me [I'm not a pixel-peeper] and it's nice and fast with what seems to be the ideal zoom range.
Unfortunately, however, as I began to familiarise myself with the layout and controls of the camera, the niggles and eventually the buyer's regret that led to me returning it [twice!] began to set in. I'll list some of these niggles, in no particular order. But as they occur to me:
1: Lack of customisability of the rear control wheel.
On previous Canon DSLRs I've owned, the rear control wheel nearly always acts in tandem with the aperture ring [read 'front control ring' in G7X terms] such that it's nearly always possible to change aperture and shutter speed without looking at the camera.
On the G7X, the rear control wheel seems almost redundant. It works [as expected] to control shutter speed in manual mode, while the front control ring adjusts aperture. But in every other mode, it seems to do nothing. I would have expected at the very least that in programme mode, it could be used to 'shift' exposure by nudging shutter speed up or down to force the camera to select a new aperture, but it doesn't [unless I've missed a trick]
Add to this annoyance, the fact that there is actually a dedicated button on the mode dial for what Canon [with Japanese stoicism] calls 'Hybrid Auto' but which, if found on an Android or Apple smartphone would be called something twee like "Special Memories" --a completely gimmicky mode whereby the camera shoots tiny bursts of video around your still shots and then assembles them into a movie 'memento of your day' [Pass the sick bag!]
Again, unless I'm missing a trick, it seems daft that [especially on a compact aimed at serious photographers], such a pointless function gets its own dedicated button, whereas something as basic as being able to nudge aperture or shutter speed in programme modes is neglected.
2: WiFi Connectivity & GPS Logging.
One of the other things I would have liked but which none of the cameras on my wish-list provided was GPS. I really like the ability to open up a photo on my phone [or in Lightroom] and see on a map exactly where I took it. Along with my other shortlisted cameras though, the G7X did offer the promise of synching GPS data logged on a smartphone with the photos on the camera. So this seemed an OK compromise.
Unfortunately though, I'm finding connecting the G7X to my phone to be pretty flakey. When connected the Canon Connect software on my phone seems to work well to control the camera and retrieve images. But, unfortunately the software is annoyingly slow to connect. Every time I try to pair the two, it seems to take several minutes before the software recognises the camera and connects. Also, adding GPS location to photos requires opening the Canon app on my phone and choosing to start logging GPS data [which can later be synced with the photos on the camera]. Unfortunately, this GPS logging is quite the battery hog and, if i left it on permanently, I doubt my phone would last a full day. So, although it's not difficult to turn it on, it's something you need to activate only when you need it [ie. when heading out with the camera], which of course makes it all too easy to forget to do.
This has put a bit of a dampener on my notion that, heading out with the camera, I'd just quickly flip open my phone, let the two connect and then be off and away, GPS logging being taken care of and the ability to control the camera from my phone at my disposal. Seems it's going to be more of a 5-10 minute palaver each time.
3: Flash vs. Viewfinder.
This one always puzzles me. All the reviews on this camera bemoan the lack of a viewfinder, but put it down to having to sacrifice features to keep the size down and maintain pocketability. Yet the camera includes a Mickey Mouse pop-up flash. Why?
I can see why you'd put a flash on a point'n'shoot camera aimed at the masses. But does anyone who's a 'serious' amateur photographer ever use the built-in flash on their camera? I know I never do. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but the "rabbit caught in a truck headlights" look has never really appealed to my photographic sensibilities.
So why waste precious space on a serious specc'd pocketable camera by sticking a silly wee pop-up flash in there, when you could have used that room to include a viewfinder? Anyone who's a semi-competent photographer will either shoot in natural light, or set up studio lighting.
4: Lens Protection
Although the camera body itself feels solid enough, one more area of concern is the lens guard [or however its called]. Although made of metal, it seems very flimsy and, just touching it with your finger is enough to have the 'leaves' start to move apart. For something I'd be wanting to carry in my pocket a lot of the time, I'd be worried about how much protection it's actually giving the lens. [I did have a problem with my old Canon G10, where a piece of grit got through the lens guard and [due to the lack of space between lens guard and glass, actually scraped the lens by being dragged across it by the lend guard opening].
5: Lack of Viewfinder Info
This is probably one of my biggest annoyances with the camera. As an 'old school' photographer, who cut his teeth on manual SLRs loaded with film, I like to know what the camera is doing –even when in full Auto mode. In respect of providing that info, I find the G7X unaccountably lacking.
Whenever you're in Av [aperture priority] or Tv [shutter priority] modes, the camera doesn't show you the corresponding 'other' setting when you adjust the prioritised one. ie. when selecting an aperture in Av mode, the camera doesn't tell you what shutter speed it is matching it with. Likewise when selecting a shutter speed in Tv mode, the camera doesn't tell you what aperture speed this is being paired with. Actually, that's not strictly true; if you half-press the shutter, you can see the currently selected pairing. But, as soon as you alter the aperture again [Av mode] or shutter speed [Tv mode], this info disappears again.
This seems incredible to me. When in Tv mode, adjusting shutter speeds, I want to be able to monitor in real-time how this is affecting the aperture the camera is selecting [to judge how the depth of field is being affected]. Likewise when in Av mode and adjusting aperture, I want to see the shutter speed updating in real-time so I can keep and eye on it [for avoiding camera shake, etc]. This is the first camera I've experienced used where this info isn't provided as a matter of course. Even my clunky old mechanical SLRs back in the 70's allowed you to see the interaction between Aperture/Shutter/Exposure as any of them was changed.
6: Serious 'Stuff' Omitted in Favour of Pointless Gimickry
The Canon G7X does not provide any kind of panorama mode / in-camera stitching, but has modes for pointless junk like "fish eye", "art", "miniature" and "toy camera" effects. The kind of thing you click on once, out of idle curiosity, to see what it does and never go near again.
I mean, let's consider that last one for a minute: "Toy Camera" --you buy a £500 camera with a large sensor and advanced processor, so you can take almost SLR quality photos. And it has a function built-in whereby it can make your photos look like they were taken on a £5 plastic camera from a car-boot sale? Am I the only one wondering what the hell they were smoking at Canon HQ, when they came up with that one?
Then there's other pointless junk like 'Face ID' which can 'tag' people in your photos, like it's trying to be 'cool' and 'Facebooky'.
Then there's Hybrid Auto mode. I've mentioned this one before; another pointless gimmicky mode, whereby the camera will waste more of its already mediocre battery life taking movies, while you set and compose your still shots, so you can have a "memento" of the day, afterwards. Canon are so proud of this nonsense, they've even given it its own dedicated position on the mode dial!
The more I look at it, the more the Canon G7X II is looking like the camera that fell between two stools, or the camera designed by two teams who never sat down to discuss things beforehand.
The hardware people built a camera for photographers looking for a serious enthusiast compact, while the software people were busy designing an operating system that would show off how clever they were at making "fun" [but ultimately idiotic] features and ignoring the kind of basic functionality that the target market attracted by the hardware would expect to be there. It's such a shame. On paper the G7X II is almost perfect for my needs. But, in use, I just keep getting irritated by the unfathomable decisions Canon's software engineers made.
Unfortunately, none of the many reviews I read before plumping for this camera mentioned any of these software failings. So, hopefully this long review [which I've cobbled together from several of my postings on the subject on internet photography forums] will redress the balance a wee bit. It's a lovely camera but it will test your tolerance for small niggles, to the utmost.