As good as the latest smartphones are, there are still plenty of reasons to use a dedicated pocket camera. Pros who reach for a big camera with changeable lenses for work may want something smaller for more casual outings. A smartphone may suffice for some, but if you prefer the ergonomics and the handling of a traditional camera, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III ($749.99) is worth a look. It’s not our absolute favorite in the category, but it is a very capable compact. If you can spend a bit more, think about our Editors’ Choice, also from Canon, the $900 G5 X Mark II, which has a bit more zoom power and an EVF.
The G7 X Mark III comes in at 2.4 by 4.1 by 1.6 inches (HWD) and 10.7 ounces. It’s small enough to slide into my pocket comfortably, even though it’s thicker than a phone. You can buy it in a black or silver finish, each with a black leatherette wrap.
Materials are a mix of plastic and metal. It’s not quite as solid-feeling as the G5 X, which uses metal in places the G7 doesn’t, including the top plate and exterior chassis. But the G7 does have a decent handgrip—one that I like better than the flat front used by Sony in its RX100 III.
The zoom lens falls in between the RX100 III and G5 X in coverage. It’s a 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 design, a bit longer than the 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 in Sony’s similar camera, but shy of the G5 X Mark II’s 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 range. In practical terms, there’s not a huge difference in reach, but the longer zooms can net a bit blurrier background when zoomed all the way in.
The G7 puts a control ring around the lens itself. It can be used as shutter or aperture control, depending on the mode, but you can reprogram it to perform other functions, including zoom control, ISO adjustment, and EV compensation.
Top controls include the On/Off button, shutter release, zoom control, Mode dial, and an EV compensation control. The EV dial is nested below the mode and supports three stops of adjustment in either direction with third-stop precision.
On the rear you’ll find buttons to lock exposure (*) and start video capture, along with Menu and Play. There’s a flat command dial; it has four directional presses (Drive/Delete, Flash, Info, Macro/Manual Focus), and the Q/Set button at its center.
Pressing Q brings up an on-screen menu with additional options, giving you quick access to photo and video settings, as well as control over the in-lens neutral density filter. Canon does a good job taking advantage of the touch screen. All menus are navigable by touch, you can swipe and pinch when reviewing photos, and you can pick a point of focus just by tapping on the screen.
The G7 X’s touch screen tilts up and down, and can face all the way forward for selfies. It’s bright and crisp, with a 1,040k-dot resolution. There’s no EVF included, though, which is something other cameras of this type often have. If it’s a feature you want, consider the G5 Mark II, RX100 III, IV, or VA, or Panasonic LX100 II instead.
Power and Connectivity
The G7 X Mark III includes micro HDMI, USB-C, and 3.5mm microphone connectors, and supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. In-camera charging is supported, but the camera is a little finicky about which power adapters it works with. I had success with my MacBook Pro charger, but you may find that your portable battery doesn’t get the job done.
Canon does include an external charger so you can replenish the battery outside of the camera body. But I’d recommend finding an on-the-go charging solution that works, as the CIPA rating is just 235 images. If you’ve got a serious day of photography in front of you, whether it be a national park or an amusement park, you’ll want a spare battery or an external pack to top off the G7 in between photo ops.
Canon includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you can connect the G7 X to your smartphone to transfer images on the go. It works with the Canon Camera Connect app, a free download for Android and iOS devices.
Canon has long supported direct transfer of photos from a camera to certain web services via its Image Gateway platform, but it’s a feature we’ve found many photographers ignore. If you’re transferring an image wirelessly, it’s more often to your phone. But with the G7 X Canon adds a new feature, live streaming to YouTube.
You’ll need both an Image Gateway and a YouTube account to make it work. It only takes a few minute to set up, though. After a few button clicks and password authorization I was streaming video from the camera directly to my YouTube page.
Should you care? It feels like a gimmick to me, but I’m neither a serious YouTube consumer or creator. If it’s your social network or platform of choice, you may want the option of beaming video directly from the camera. The feature would be more compelling if it was able to record the footage to a memory card simultaneously, which isn’t possible.
The G7 X Mark III uses a new sensor that supports faster readout than the previous-generation model, which also adds some high-speed capture options. The camera shoots in Raw format at 30fps with fixed focus for short bursts, and can also fire off at 20fps in your choice of Raw, Raw+JPG, or JPG format, also with locked focus. The shooting buffer is ample—you can snap close to 100 shots in a burst, and if you use a fast memory card, you won’t have to wait too long for the images to save.
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If you want the camera to focus between every shot, it slows to a still-speedy 8fps. In bright light, the G7 X locks focus very quickly, in 0.05-second or less. If it’s dark enough for the focus assist light to kick in, the acquisition slows to about 0.3-second.
That’s not to say the autofocus system is on par with pro interchangeable lens cameras—it’s not. When you’re working in single shot mode, you can track subjects and take advantage of face detection, but those features are disabled when you switch to burst capture. You can get good results with care, but it’s a shame face detection and subject tracking doesn’t work in conjunction with continuous drive.
Sensor and Lens
The G7 X Mark II uses a 1-inch-class 20MP image sensor to snap photos. It’s larger than what you find in point-and-shoot cameras with huge zoom power, and the sensors found in smartphones.
The sensor captures strong detail and little visible noise through ISO when working in JPG format. Details soften a bit at ISO 1600 and 3200, but image quality is still quite good. It’s not until ISO 6400 and 12800 where we observe significant blur in images. ISO 25600 is an option, although one you have to select manually, but image quality isn’t good when you push the sensor that far.
The f/1.8 lens does limit your need to shoot at extreme ISO settings. By default, the camera won’t range above ISO 6400 in its Auto ISO mode, but you can raise or lower that limit as you see fit.
Raw capture is an option for more advanced photographers. Raw images don’t have noise reduction applied by the camera, instead moving the task to desktop processing software. They also retain more information, so you have more room to adjust color and exposure.
We processed our studio test scene using Adobe Lightroom with default adjustments applied and have included crops to show image quality and noise at each standard ISO in the slideshow that goes along with this review.
The G7 X matches the Raw performance of most other 1-inch-sensor cameras, including the Canon G5 X and Sony RX100 VA—at heart, they capture photos with the same sensor. I’m happy with Raw quality through ISO 1600, where detail is strong and grain isn’t overpowering. You can push to ISO 6400 and enjoy good results, albeit with more visible noise. At ISO 12800 images are very rough in texture, but usable.
Canon hasn’t changed the G7 X’s lens design; the 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom dates back to the first version of the camera. It offers a bit more zoom power than the 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 Sony uses in its RX100 III, IV, and VA models, but doesn’t quite capture as much detail. You’re not likely to notice if you’re just looking at photos on Instagram or Facebook, but if you are thinking about print output or viewing images zoomed in on your monitor, you’ll see a bit more detail out of Sony’s lens.
I tested the G7 X Mark III using Imatest software. At 24mm f/1.8, it manages about 1,716 lines on a center-weighted evaluation, a little soft for a 20MP sensor model. Details do drop as you move toward the edge of the frame, which is a concern for landscape shots. Resolution holds steady through f/2.8, but improves at f/4 (1,850 lines) through f/8, before dropping to 1,515 lines at f/11, a result of light scattering as it passes through the stopped-down aperture.
Resolution is better at the midpoint of the zoom, around 50mm. At f/2.5 the camera scores a good 2,300 lines, with edge quality that is decently crisp (1,940 lines). There’s an uptick at f/4 (2,422 lines) and f/5.6 (2,317 lines), before diffraction starts to cut into detail at f/8 (2,220 lines) and f/11 (1,826 lines).
At 100mm f/2.8, the performance drops off to a soft 1,650 lines. It does better, netting results with good sharpness at f/4 (2,061), and crossing into very good territory at f/5.6 (2,275 lines) and f/8 (2,235 lines). There’s a noticeable drop in clarity at f/11, to 1,825 lines.
Canon puts a better lens in the more upmarket G5 X Mark II. The camera is just a little bit larger all around, but shares the same basic design and interface as the G7. Its lens covers a 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 range. While Sony RX100 models with the 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 design certainly win in resolving power, they don’t offer touch screens and don’t feel as good in the hand as the G7 X Mark III.
In most modes, hitting the Record button will start a video clip at 1080p resolution, at your choice of 30 or 60fps; Canon promises to add 24fps capture with a firmware update, due out later this year. If you set the Mode dial to the movie position, you’ll get access to additional options, including 4K—just at 30fps for now—as well as 120fps 1080p for slow-motion playback.
At normal speeds, both the 4K and 1080p video looks good, with crisp detail. Stabilization is pretty solid, though it doesn’t completely remove shake from our handheld test footage. You don’t get pro features, like flat profiles, but there is a microphone input, which adds some appeal for vloggers, along with the ability to live stream. If you use a clip-on mic, it’s easy enough to plug into the side, but you’ll need to get an external bracket or similar accessory if you want to mount a shotgun mic on the camera itself.
Slow-motion footage doesn’t look quite as good. The details are a little softer overall. You should also be careful after using slow motion, as once you switch back to normal video, the camera will switch back to 1080p60 capture, even if you had a different setting chosen previously.
My biggest complaint about the G7 X’s video features is that the 4K option is buried. If you don’t know to look for it, you may miss it entirely. In addition to adding 24p, Canon would be wise to tweak the firmware so that you can roll 4K by pressing the Record button, regardless of the set mode. This doesn’t just go for the G7 X—we have the same complaint about other recent releases, including the G5 X Mark II, EOS 90D, and EOS M6 Mark II.
A Good Pocket Camera
While many casual snapshooters have moved to smartphones for images that basic point-and-shoot cameras would have taken in the past, there are still folks out there who would rather use a dedicated camera. To seriously compete with the latest flagship smartphones, like iPhone 11 Pro, you’ll want to buy a pocket camera with a 1-inch sensor.
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III is the company’s third take on this design, and it’s a sound one. It sports a bright zoom lens, touch screen, and easy connectivity with your phone, so you can still share your images.
The price has creeped up a bit—the G7 X Mark II debuted at $700 and is still available at retail for $649. The Mark III gets you a few upgrades—notably a headphone jack, 4K video, and overall snappier performance. If those features aren’t key for your needs, the older model is a solid value.
There are alternatives in the space from others too. Sony has the RX100 III, IV, and VA, which all share the same basic design and lens, but have varying levels of video and autofocus capabilities. Panasonic has the LX100 II with its larger Micro Four Thirds format sensor and manual controls.
You can also look at 1-inch cameras with longer zoom power. Most, like the Panasonic ZS100 and ZS200, and the Sony RX100 VI and VII, net longer zoom power at the cost of low-light performance. Their lenses are f/2.8 at best and dim quickly when zoomed in. Still, they are worth thinking about if you want more zoom. The RX100 VI is our Editor’s Choice for this type, but costs more, currently around $1,100.
For models under $1,000, another Canon, the G5 X Mark II, is our favorite. It is only a bit bigger than the G7 X, but adds a better, longer 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom and a pop-up EVF. It does cost a bit more, $900, but we think the extra money is worth it. It’s a better version of the G7.
That’s not to say the G7 X Mark III is a poor choice. However, if buying the G5 X Mark II is too much of a stretch for your budget, think about saving a bit more and opting for older G7 X Mark II instead.
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