This is where things get interesting! It's over two years since Sony shook up the compact camera market by putting a 1"-type sensor into a genuinely pocketable compact. The Cyber-shot RX100 looked a lot like one of Canon's S-series of high-end compacts but used a sensor 2.8 times larger to offer a substantial increase in image quality.

Amazingly, Sony has remained unchallenged in this field for over two years, in which time it's managed to introduce two more generations of RX100. The RX100 III brought an electronic viewfinder and a more consistently bright (albeit shorter) zoom, helping it climb even further beyond the competition. That essentially unchallenged supremacy ends with the arrival of Canon's PowerShot G7 X.

Like the RX100 III, the G7 X offers a 1"-type, 20MP BSI sensor mated to an F1.8-2.8 zoom starting at 24mm equivalent. The two cameras are also similar in size and offer broadly similar feature sets. Which is great for photographers, because it means the Sony finally has some proper competition.

PowerShot G7 X key features

  • 20MP 1"-type BSI CMOS sensor (13.2 x 8.8mm)
  • 24-100mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens
  • Clicking control dial around lens
  • Flip-up rear touchscreen
  • Dedicated exposure compensation dial
  • 3.0" 1.04m dot LCD (720 x 480 pixels)
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Wi-Fi with NFC

Canon is one of the only manufacturers to have consistently offered a dedicated enthusiast compact camera in its lineup, and the arrival of the G7 X means it now offers four: the S120, G16, G7 X and G1 X Mark II, each offering a different balance of size, price and capability. The styling and size of the G7 X make it look like an S-series, but the degree of direct control justifies its G-series moniker.

The camera's combination of touch screen, dedicated exposure compensation dial and clicking control dial around the lens give a high degree of direct control for such a small camera and Canon's iterative, evolutionary approach to camera interfaces, along with a little time spend playing with the camera suggests it should work pretty well.

Meanwhile, the details of the sensor strongly suggest it uses Sony's IMX183CQJ sensor, so could well be able to match the latest RX100 series in terms of image quality. That alone would make it a significant addition to the market. The G7 X is just as small as the Sony but offers much more in terns of direct control.

Then, of course, there's the lens:

The Lens

Given that image quality is all about light capture, the best way of making the most of a large sensor is to mate it with a bright lens. One of the things that helped the RX100 III earn its Gold award was the inclusion of an F1.8-2.8 zoom which meant the camera maintained much more of its large sensor advantage as you zoomed in (rather than stifling it with the F4.9 maximum aperture at telephoto on the first two RX100s). However, this speed boost came at the cost of the lens' range, with Sony restricting the zoom to a 24-70mm equivalent range to keep the camera small.

Consequently, it's interesting to see Canon fit a 24-100mm equivalent lens into the G7 X while also offering a F1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range. And, to paraphrase some hateful web phrasing: we looked at the aperture progression of the G7 X and you won't believe what happened next:

Taking sensor size and aperture into account allows cameras to be compared on a similar basis. This graph shows the focal lengths and aperture ranges offered by each camera, normalized in terms of the 35mm format. This shows how much control over depth of field each camera can offer and gives a rough idea of low-light performance (lower is better).

Clearly Canon has found some weird trick that has let it combine a fast maximum aperture range with a usefully broad zoom range, while keeping the camera size down. Note, on the graph above, how the G7 X's maximum aperture stays bright for much longer than the RX100 III's. They may offer the same range on paper, but at any point from 24-50mm equivalent, the Canon's lens can be kept wider-open than the Sony's, with the difference reaching over 2/3EV at 30mm equiv.

What the above graph should make clear is that the G7 X is amongst the most consistently bright compacts on the market, once sensor size has been taken into account, which should give excellent control over depth-of-field (including at focal lengths useful for classic portraiture) and low light performance. Given the very high likelihood that both cameras use the same (excellent) sensor, it's reasonable to expect the Canon's image quality to be pretty competitive, if its lens is any good.

Only Panasonic's DMC-LX100 is able to offer more light capturing ability and that's a bigger camera with a more restrictive zoom range (though we also think that's hugely appealing, depending on your exact needs and tastes).

Specs compared

The size, sensor, lens spec, and price make Sony's RX100 series the most obvious rivals for the G7 X, but we think the G1 X II should have reason to be worried, too. The big G offers a slightly longer zoom and the ability to add an electronic viewfinder, but the G7 X is considerably smaller, slightly cheaper and can match it in terms of direct access to controls. In aiming for the RX100's crown, the G7 X risks overshadowing Canon's existing champion.

Canon PowerShot G7X
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II
Canon PowerShot G1 X II
Effective resolution
Sensor type
(Size 3:2 crop)
(116 mm2)
(116 mm2)
(233 mm2)
Focal length (35mm equiv).
Max aperture
F1.8 - F2.8
F1.8 - F2.8
F1.8 - F4.9
F2.0 - F3.9
Minimum focus distance
5cm - 40cm
5cm - 30cm
5cm - 55cm
5cm - 40cm
ISO range
125 - 12800
125 - 12800
160 - 12800
100 - 12800
Built-in 1.44m dot EVF
Optional 2.76M dot EVF
Optional 2.76M dot EVF
3" LCD (1.04m dot)
3" LCD (1.23m dot)
3" LCD (1.23m dot)
3" LCD (1.04m dot) touchscreen
Max burst rate (JPEG)
6.5 fps
10 fps
10 fps
5.2 fps
Video formats
Top video frame rate
24p support
External controls
Lens, exposure, rear dials; touchscreen
Lens, rear dials
Lens, rear dials
Lens, rear dials; touchscreen
Built-in flash
Yes (with NFC)
Yes (with NFC)
Yes (with NFC)
Yes (with NFC)
Battery life (CIPA)
210 shots
320 shots
350 shots
240 shots

As should be clear, the G7 X doesn't get everything its own way. The Sony RX100 III's video shooting is excellent and there's nothing in the G7 X's specifications or Canon's recent history of compacts to suggest it's going to be able to match the Sony in this respect. The love-it-or-hate-it click-less control dial on the Sony is undeniably useful when it comes to shooting video footage. The Canon's battery life is also pretty disastrous.

The G7 X also has no option for including a viewfinder, whereas the RX100 III has one built-in. This is likely to be a decisive factor for some photographers. But the brighter, longer lens of the Canon, along with its better range of external controls could be a convincing counter-argument.

Updates to review:

September 15, 2014: Introduction, Specs, Body, Features and First Impressions published.
October 21, 2014: Controls, Performance, Shooting Experience & Studio pages added. First Impressions deprecated.
November 11, 2014: Image Quality, Dynamic Range, Studio analysis and Conclusion added.