Today's camera shoppers have been spoiled by smartphones that offer "good enough" image quality and extreme portability. That's why, when their smartphone falls short, they immediately look for a "real" camera that offers great image quality in a pocketable form factor.
Since the Sony RX100 inaugurated the idea, most camera manufacturers have adopted 1-inch sensors to solve this equation. They're far larger than the 1/2.3-inch chips popular a few years ago, providing far superior image quality, but still small enough that the lenses designed around them can fit in your pocket. Canon's original PowerShot G7 X was a great take on the concept.
We had few complaints with that camera, even as we wondered why it took Canon so long to follow Sony's lead. Despite arriving late to the party, it earned a well-deserved Editors' Choice award. Now, the G7 X Mark II (MSRP $699.99) takes what already worked and improves on it in small but important ways.
What We Liked
Full marks for attention to detail
Canon could have slapped a "II" on the body, added Bluetooth or a couple extra megapixels, and called it a day. Heck, it wouldn't be the first time. But the G7 X Mark II isn't just a minor refresh. There are significant updates here, both internal and external, that should improve both usability and performance. Physically, it looks quite different. Internally, it sports a similar 20.1-megapixel sensor and Canon's brand-new Digic 7 imaging processor.
The upgraded rear display is higher resolution, and it also has a more complex hinge system that lets it tilt up and down, instead of just up like its predecessor. It's a small difference, but we love being able to shoot above the crowd at concerts and other packed venues.
There's a new grip around front that's a serious ergonomic improvement over the original. It's not contoured to match your fingers or anything, but it's better than nothing, which is literally what the first G7 X had. With the extra bit of rubber, the Mark II more naturally fits the hand, and feels a lot more secure. It also adds to the high-quality build that makes it feel worth its asking price.
The G7 X was acclaimed for its great lens, and the G7 X Mark II doesn't mess with success. It's a 4.2x zoom (8.8–36.6mm, or 24–100mm in film terms) with optical image stabilization and an ultra-bright f/1.8–2.8 aperture range. A customizable control ring encircles the lens, like on the G7 X, but now there's a switch to let you choose whether it clicks or not when you turn it. (The new option for smooth action on the ring feels great.)
What We Didn't Like
Too big for its britches. Er, battery.
If there was one complaint that dogged the original PowerShot G7 X, it was the camera's lousy battery life. Perhaps that's unavoidable if one of your prime directives is to make your camera ever more compact, but it was well below par for this class of camera.
For the Mark II, Canon has improved the battery life by nearly 25%, but it's still pretty disappointing: around 265 shots with the screen on. The Sony RX100 IV, for instance, can manage 280 shots under the same conditions. Canon does note that you can get up to 355 shots with ECO mode on, but such shooting modes typically impact performance in all kinds of undesirable ways.
Battery life aside, this is a better camera than last year's for the same competitive price. Rather than charging more for its new features and better design, Canon has kept the G7 X at an MSRP of $699.99. That's pretty fair, all things considered.
Are we being too positive?
If it sounds like there's not a whole lot to gripe about, you'd be absolutely right. We really liked the original G7 X, and this camera takes everything we loved about that model and makes it a little better. There's plenty of competition in this space—especially with Nikon's recent announcement of the DL-series compacts—but Canon has made the right upgrades to keep its pocket champ relevant for another year or two.
Battery life aside, the G7 X Mark II isn't Canon phoning it in, as it's sometime wont to do. Instead, this camera shows that the market leader is listening to feedback and refusing to rest on its laurels. Even small things like a new screen or a nicer grip can go a long way toward improving how a camera feels, and we're excited to see how the G7 X Mark II performs in the real world.