Canon has traditionally been the champion of compact cameras, but in the last few years things have changed significantly, thanks to Sony, Fujifilm and others deservedly making waves in the market.

The PowerShot G7 X, which debuts the company’s use of a large 1-inch sensor size, is Canon’s response to that shift; it’s a compact that almost “resets” the G-series - despite not replacing the current G16 model by any means - in a new and smaller-scale mould, without compromising Canon’s known ability. But is the G7 X any good and can it stand out ahead of its already established rivals?

Ahead of Photokina 2014 kicking off, we got our hands on a pre-production G7 X to see whether Canon can deliver big in a small body. The camera measures 103 x 60.4 x 40.4 mm so it’s aiming at the more pocketable end of the market - and successfully so. We’re glad it’s not another giant-sized model like the G1 X (good though that is).

READ: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II review

However, the Canon is not as well equipped as the likes of the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III as there’s no viewfinder or ability to add one. The G7 X is very much a camera designed to appeal to a broad customer base, built on the typical touchscreen compact concept to make for ease of use whatever your ability.

It works rather well too. The 3-inch, 1.04m-dot LCD panel is mounted on a tilt-angle bracket that can flip all the way up and forward for selfies or - and we think this will be the more practical use - for overhead or waist-level work.

The touchscreen is responsive and can be used to guide the focus point around the screen in addition to selecting through various options by a literal touch. We found the 31-point autofocus system to be fast and effective, but perhaps not as instant as some of the competition when focusing on trickier subjects with less contrasting areas.

But just because there’s a touchscreen doesn’t mean the G7 X is oversimplified by design. In addition to a lens control ring on the front, there’s a double dial stack encompassing a mode dial and exposure control dial beneath. Neither lock into position, so we’re not sure if that’ll become a problem over time - only something we can assess when we get hold of the camera for review.

That lens ring is a real sell though, as it’s great for adjusting aperture values and other such manual controls without needing to dig into the menus. On the rear there’s a dedicated “Ring Func” button that displays various custom options that can be applied to the ring. And if you do need to select one then the touch-based screen speeds up the process, or simply use the rear rotational d-pad instead.

However no lens-based zoom control (that we’ve seen) means relying on the compact-camera-like zoom toggle that lives around the shutter button. We’re more keen on the twist-to-zoom classic lens barrel of the Fujifilm X30, for example.

READ: Fujifilm X30 preview

Build quality is first rate too. Think PowerShot S120 meets PowerShot G16 and you’re not far off what the G7 X is like. The tactile, textured feeling of the metal dials and lens ring further asserts the price point and quality.

Beneath the G7 X's frame is a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, paired with Digic 6 processor for quality image capture. That’s matched with a 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent zoom lens which puts it in a similar ballpark to the original Sony Cyber-shot RX100 model. It maintains a fast aperture throughout its zoom range which is top stuff - the RX100 dipped to f/4.9 at its longest zoom, something the RX100 III countered by replacing the lens with a shorter, faster optic (24-70mm f/1.8-2.8).

READ: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III review

However you look at the G7 X’s lens, it bodes well. Fast aperture and ample focal length add up to it being one of the most desirable in the high-end compact category. There’s an optical image stabiliser and 5-axis shake correction for video capture too. Close-up focus is possible with macro mode switched on to around 5cms from the lens (at the widest angle 24mm equivalent), unlike some of the larger-sensor PowerShot models in the Canon range that struggle to take such snaps - the G1 X being a prime example.

How good image quality will be, however, isn’t something we’re able to assess just yet. Canon makes its own sensors, so we assume that means the G7 X’s innards different to the Sony RX range. Which manufacturer will come out on top? That has to remain a lingering question for now.

Elsewhere the G7 X also houses plenty of top tech. There’s Wi-Fi and NFC for easy pairing with smart devices to share images or utilise the app for remote control functions via those devices. Raw capture, burst shooting up to 6.5fps and video capture up to 60fps also make the cut. No stone remains unturned.

Except, of course, for the lack of a viewfinder. The early rumours suggested that the G7 X would feature one - but no such luck. There’s also no hotshoe to add one at a later date, so this is very much a screen-based solution. And a good one at that - but it’s not good enough to negate all sunlight, so reflections may be a problem.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X will be available in October 2014 for £579. From what we’ve seen it looks like a success, although if you want a viewfinder or the possibility of one then the current competition will give Canon plenty to chew on. In that regard the G7 X feels very much like a first generation camera, one that might still lag behind three generations of Sony and Fujifilm product - but it’s still a solid bit of kit.