Compact cameras as they were once known are dead and buried. Now if you go looking for a dedicated camera - one that's not on your smartphone, anyway - it'll come with a larger-scale sensor and more features to help it stand out.
That's the case with the Canon G9 X Mark II, which includes a large-scale 1-inch sensor at its heart, paired with a 3x optical zoom lens to offer more creativity. Those two points make it more capable than your average smartphone, while Canon has been savvy and included a touchscreen to help simplify the interface and controls.
Thing is, back in 2015 the original G9 X launched, which was fine enough - but the Mark II model doesn't really change much. It's the same design, the same sensor, the same lens. All you'll find is an updated processor for faster continuous shooting. With that in mind, here's our quick review of the G9 X II.
Canon G9 X II review: Touch-focused design
- 98 x 58 x 31mm; 206g
- Black or silver & tan finishes
The G9 X II looks like a modern camera: dressed in silver and tan mock leather it looks the part, while its all touchscreen-based controls and only four physical control buttons to the rear (comprising video record, quick menu, main menu and info) ensure it's very much a hands-on experience. However, as there's no directional pad (d-pad) we've found ourselves fumbling for non-existent directional controls a number of times, before reverting to the must-use touchscreen.
To the front of the camera the lens has a control ring surround, which often needs to be used in conjunction with the touchscreen to manipulate certain controls, such as focus area size, and that doesn't always feel natural in use to us. Maybe we're too fixed on older cameras' methods, but if Canon wanted to go truly modern then a pinch mechanic on the screen would have been a good idea.
This push towards touch-based controls also feels at odds with the physical shutter button's placement, which is too far over the camera's body. You have to reach over the mode dial, which feels unnatural. This might not be a problem, however, as activate touch shutter and, you guessed it, a simple tap on the screen will focus and fire the shutter automatically - which makes far more sense for a camera designed like this.
It's a big shame that the screen is fixed to the rear, too, as a bracket-mounted one would have been great for even more creative control. Can't have it all, though.
Canon G9 X II review: Lens
- 28-84mm f/2.0-4.9 equivalent lens (3x optical zoom)
Protruding from that control ring is the lens itself: a 28-84mm equivalent, just like in the original model, which is tucked away when the camera is powered off. It's fairly wide angle - we'd liked it to be 24mm, really, though - and not particularly long at its full zoom extension. It's good for portraits, just don't anticipate that you'll be zooming in to capture shots of, say, the moon or distant subjects. Which might feel altogether limited, especially for a dedicated compact camera.
The aperture - that's the size of the opening that lets light in - is large, at f/2.0, when shooting at the widest-angle 28mm. That means extra creative control with making blurred backgrounds, or greater ease when shooting in low-light. Thing is, that aperture shrinks down to f/4.9 when extending the zoom to 84mm, thus negating those benefits to some degree.
If the aperture was f/2.0 throughout that zoom range then the camera would be physically much larger and pricier - as it stands, fortunately, it's a pocketable snapper, which is a large part of the G9 X's appeal.
In a sense Canon has created a problem for itself here: the slightly chunkier G7 X II offers 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent lens, meaning it's wider-angle, longer reaching, plus offers an f/2.8 maximum aperture at the 100mm equivalent. That's just a far better spread to work with, but it does raise the price tag by around 30 per cent - which is something to not ignore.
Canon G9 X II review: Performance
- Fixed 3-inch, 1.04m-dot touch-control LCD screen
- No viewfinder or hotshoe for adding accessory
- Wi-Fi, NFC & Bluetooth for sharing
- 8fps continuous shooting
When it comes to autofocus Canon has kept it pretty simple in the G9 X II, just as it does in all its compact cameras. An AF point can be appointed anywhere around the screen using touch, with two size options available. We've always complained about the lack of versatility when it comes to the small/large focus area, but Canon continues to stick with it.
In terms of performance, it's a capable enough system. Speed is ample, and while low light can slow things down, the G9 X II always gets there in the end.
Close-up focus is possible, within certain confines: a 5cm-from-subject maximum at 28mm, reducing to 35cm-from-subject at the 84mm equivalent sometimes means you'll need to manually activate the macro mode from within the menus to ensure focus works.
Don't expect any viewfinder option in this camera, nor the provision to add one, but at this level that's no surprise - it's what the G9 X is all about. If a finder is essential then there are other options out there, but they'll cost you big bucks - the Sony RX100 V being a prime example.
Elsewhere the Mark II G9 X features Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth for use in conjunction with the Canon Camera Connect application - available for iOS or Android devices - to share images to your favourite social media sources, or use the app to remotely control the camera.
A new processor means a slightly speedier continuous shooting mode, now at eight frames per second (8fps), but for a camera of that type it's not a huge sell. Canon hasn't used the extra speed of processing to implement 4K movies, though, with 1080p still being the best this camera can muster.
Canon G9 X II review: Image quality
- 1-inch sensor size, 20.1-megapixels resolution
- Digic 7 processor; ISO 125-12,800 sensitivity
- 1080p / Full HD MP4 movie capture
In terms of image quality, expect much the same from the G9 X Mark II as from the original model.
That's to say: image quality from the 1-inch sensor is potentially great, but you need to take into consideration potential limitations due to the lens' maximum aperture restrictions. A little zoom and it's not long before f/4.9 is the maximum available, which isn't great if the light is low. Couple that with an Auto ISO that seems keen to opt for higher sensitivities and fast shutter speeds and it's not uncommon for a high ISO sensitivity to used - sometimes to the detriment of capture quality.
Fortunately, however, image quality overall can be very impressive - miles ahead of what a phone camera can offer. Shoot from ISO 125 to ISO 1000 with no worries, then image noise - largely shown as colour noise within shadow areas - does begin to rear its head. If you do need to use those higher ISO sensitivity settings due to poor lighting conditions then the processing of shots will be harsher - but even by ISO 6400 shots aren't smoothed into oblivion.
On balance the G9 X has decent image quality that reflects its £400 price tag in a positive light. But given the G7 X is available for not a huge sum of money more, we think itsbrighter maximum aperture makes it the preferable choice. Of if you have unlimited funds then the Sony RX100 V is a top choice (and a darn expensive one).
The G9 X Mark II is as much a success as it is a missed opportunity. Compared to the original G9 X model very little has changed. We’d like to see a bracket-mounted touchscreen, for the shutter button to be in a more sensibly placed, and for autofocus options to be more detailed.
Saying that, for its £400 outlay, the 1-inch sensor at its heart is very capable and the lens - while it lacks a constant wide aperture or particularly long reach - combines to produce images that are far beyond what a phone camera could produce. Add the touchscreen controls combined with physical buttons and the lens ring and the G9 X II is an example of camera companies forging forward into the modern age. And doing so rather well.
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Alternatives to consider
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
With a wider-reaching 24-100mm f/2.8 equivalent lens, the G7 X II is the more logical choice - and it's not too much pricier than the G9 X II either.
Read the full article: Canon G7 X II review
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V
The daddy of all 1-inch sensor cameras, the RX100 is expensive, but it offers an unrivalled autofocus system, has a clever pop-up viewfinder, tilt-angle LCD screen, plus its resulting images are sublime.
Read the full article: Sony RX100 V review