Canon PowerShot G7X compact camera
A 1in sensor gives this compact a brighter capability than other small cameras
Compact cameras that can easily fit in your pocket are no longer confined to 'point-and-shoot' status. With a camera like the Canon Powershot G7X, the capability is there for you to take the reigns of the exposure completely, rather than just making use of its auto and scene modes.
Those modes are there, too, but with the inclusion of some manual controls, you can dial in to the aperture size and shutter value that you desire, and really put your own mark on your photography. A camera like this can be seen as a step up from a regular compact, as an intermediary before you get a digital SLR. Or, it can simply be a supplement to your existing digital SLR, an alternative camera that you can take with you inconspicuously when a digital SLR would just be a pain to lug around.
What sets the Powershot G7X apart from other compacts is a bigger sensor than usual for a small camera. Its a 20-megapixel sensor of a one-inch size, and it uses backside illumination (BSI) technology, which simply means it has the capability to capture more light than a traditional sensor.
This all adds up to a product that can be used to capture run-of-the-mill portraits and landscapes easily, but it can also give you a bit of extra depth-of-field so that you can blur the background of a photo a little more while keeping your foreground object in focus. What also helps here is the wide aperture of the lens, which opens up to a maximum of f/1.8, and which can keep an aperture of f/2.8 all the way through the zoom range. The zoom range is adequate, going from a wide angle of 24mm to a tele angle of 100mm.
You can't do it all with this camera, though. For example, it's not ideal for tasks such as macro photography, and there are also some imperfections in its image quality that could leave you frustrated. A couple of these include lens distortion that's visible at the widest angle (certainly not something that's only found in this camera), chromatic aberration (which was mostly seen in high-contrast and blown-out areas in our photos), and excessive blurring at the sides of an image when shooting close-ups.
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Using the camera isn't hard. It has a traditional layout and can be learned comfortably in the space of a couple of shooting sessions. You only get an 3in LCD screen through which to frame your photos, and it's a screen that's friendly to selfies, allowing you to flip it up so that you can see yourself in the frame. If you have a good enough selfie stick, you could attach it to the end, enable the self-timer, and have yourself a wild old time.
We wish the screen did more than facilitate selfies. Having hinges that could make the screen angle downwards would be a great boost to creativity. Something similar to the screen on the Sony Cybershot RX100 would be nice; that has a screen that can be angled up or down from the rear, but which isn't ideal for selfies. That camera also has an electronic viewfinder built in to its body, and that's another thing that the Powershot G7X could use. That said, the Canon does cost a little less than the Sony.
A flash is built in to the Canon's body, and you get manual controls in the form of a ring around the lens, and a ring around the 5-way controller on the rear, both of which can be used to adjust the exposure. Furthermore, there is an exposure compensation dial at the top of the camera, just under the mode dial. It serves to allow for quick adjustments to the light in your shots, and can come in handy when you want to change the mood of your scene with a minimum amount of fiddling.
Focusing can be switched to manual if you desire, and there is a peaking feature present so that you can see the focus plane easily. We found that manual focus was sometimes needed due to the autofocus jumping away from our intended target. In particular, when we tried to focus on a foreground image from a relatively close distance, the camera could not always pick the subject and switched the focus to the background.
Focus tracking and face recognition are both present, and these worked very well, especially when shooting selfies. The focus zone was clearly visible on the screen, and once it detected the prominent feature of our shot, it latched onto it and tracked it as we moved the camera.
If all of that manual work just seems tedious, you can keep the camera in auto mode, or use one of its many scene modes to do the work for you. Exposures were handled very well, even on bright days, despite the shutter speed topping out at 1/2000th of a second, and dynamic range was good for the most part, though we did get customary blown-out areas in some shots. It has a high dynamic range mode that can attempt to do a better job of capturing scenes with lots of variable lighting.
When you're out and about and you want to share with the world some of the photos you've captured, you can enable the Wi-Fi feature to transfer photos to your phone and upload them from there. It's a little fiddly to use, primarily because the smartphone app that allows you to browse photos from the camera on your phone does not also allow you to save those photos to your phone. To save photos from the camera to the phone, you have to use the camera's interface.
Keep this camera in mind if you want a pocket-sized camera that gives you the ability to be creative. That said, we still think it's a bit underdone, and, in particular, we would have liked to have a built-in viewfinder similar to Sony's RX100 camera. But that would also put up the price, and it's already a little in really-have-to-think-hard-about-it-before-splurging territory. Image quality is high overall, with especially natural colours present when using JPEG mode. There is scope for cropping due to the large 20-megapixel size, but images start look grainy when you crop too closely.
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