I love compact cameras. Having a camera that fits into a pocket means, for me, a camera that I can take out anytime, whatever the weather. They don’t swing on a strap on your shoulder and get in the way and they are light enough to carry even if the weather is very unpromising for photography. My first compact camera was a Rollei 35 (still working), bought in the early 1970s from savings from a student summer job and since then, I’ve always had a pocket camera. Phone cameras are, of course, the ultimate compact and they are catching up on quality but they don’t have the quality or the controllability of today’s high-end compacts.
I’d always had Canon compacts until a bit more than 2 years ago when I was seduced by the quality of the Sony RX100. It has a large sensor, which makes all the difference. I bought the RX100 to replace a Canon Powershot 100, which was pretty good, but which was suffered when I dropped it on rocks in the Cairngorms.
My RX100 worked well until about 10 days ago when, on a short break to Seville, something went wrong and it displayed this pattern on the screen.
I tried various things – resetting the camera, charging the battery, updating the firmware and nothing made any difference so I was faced with the choice of a hardware repair (£120) or a new camera.
My experience of electronic hardware that’s getting on for 3 years old is that once something starts to go wrong, it’s the start of a slippery slope to ‘beyond economic repair’. I may be biased but Sony computers have a bad reputation for this and I wondered if this was a characteristic shared by their cameras. So a new camera it was – an unexpected expense, about a year or so earlier than I’d intended.
The RX100 has a large, 1 inch sensor and for a couple of years after it was introduced, it had no real competition. Canon (and others) had cameras with a comparable sensor but they were all much bigger. But, in 2014, Canon introduced the Powershot G7X, a pocket camera, which uses the same sensor as the RX100. Head to head reviews of these cameras suggested that they offered similar quality. The Canon has a slightly wider range zoom and a touch screen but poorer battery life and no electronic viewfinder.
I wondered about another RX100 but decided on the Canon G7X. This was partly a decision based on price (it’s cheaper) and features (I really like the touch screen focus) but mostly, I must admit, I went for the Canon because I was pissed off with Sony. I’ve had 3 Canon compact digital cameras and none of them have failed so I’m hoping this is indicative of better reliability. It cost about £350 from Amazon – more than £150 less than the equivalent RX100 model.
The camera arrived today so, after charging the battery, I took it out for a quick test. It’s a wee bit heavier than the RX100 and feels very solid. You might think that a heavier camera is not so good for backpacking but if it’s more robust, the weight penalty is definitely worthwhile.
The weather was not good for photography – a flat, dull day with the light starting to go by 3 o’clock when I went out.
My first test was in my home office, where I photographed my bookshelves.
The enlargement of this photo (not a zoom) shows both the quality of the lens and the stabilisation, as it was shot hand-held at 1/30 of a second. I reckon it’s pretty good. I used the touchscreen to focus on the ‘High Fells of Lakeland’ book.
The zoom range is excellent from a 24mm equivalent wide angle to a 100mm equivalent telephoto.
One advantage of high-end compacts is that you can shoot in RAW mode so giving the opportunity for a wider range of computer processing options. I deliberately shot this leaf 2 stops underexposed (the light was really pretty bad) but you can see that lots of detail has been captured and processing in Lightroom has brought this out.
So, on the basis of 90 minutes use, I’m quite pleased with the Powershot G7X. The quality seems at least as good as the RX100 and the user interface seems a bit simpler. There’s lots still to explore, such as the wifi connection. Hopefully the weather will be better this weekend when it’ll get its first outing to the hills.