Santa brought me a new camera this year, with some help from me, of course. I did a considerable amount of research and even tested several cameras in person. I finally bought the Canon G7X Mark II at Precision Camera and held off using it until Christmas. So why the Canon and not the Sony RX100? Read on to find out.
I’ve recently talked about these enthusiasts’ 1 inch sensor cameras. Its main benefit is a pocketable camera with very good image quality. For serious photographers using larger gear, there’s always a desire to have a small, high quality camera that you can bring anywhere. I’ve used the Ricoh GR for this, but I’ve had a love-hate relationship with that camera. I finally started thinking about getting a 1 incher, a couple of months ago.
I first considered the Canon G9X Mark II, the smallest 1 inch camera you can get. But after a lukewarm review on DPReview and a confirmed softness in the optics, I backed away. Another big negative was the Capture One’s RAW converter for the G9X Mark II is still not available.
Tamra at Precision Camera suggested the Panasonic LX10, a slightly larger 1 inch camera with a bright f1.4 lens. After many reviews and in person time, I had high hopes for the camera. I shot a number of test shots in RAW and JPEG and analyzed the photos at home. I was, in fact, ready to get the LX10, until I discovered some serious issues.
First, I really disliked the washed out JPEGs. Why are JPEGs important? The default look of video and the nice 4K photo modes on the Panasonic all mimic the JPEG look. I, however, love the pliability and color of the LX10 RAW files. There’s a deep richness that’s missing in the JPEGs. I almost convinced myself to ignore the JPEGs and just concentrate on the RAW files, when I noticed another even larger issue.
The lens distortion profiles for RAW on Capture One was doing some really weird things, especially at a 24mm equivalent. They were over-correcting the considerable barrel distortion and leaving a pincushion distortion. Capture One claims they were using the “Manufacture Profile” for the lens profile, so I’m not sure if this is an issue with Capture One or Panasonic’s in-RAW hinting. I have not tested this with any other RAW conversion software since I’ve moved to the well-regarded Capture One. The distorted wide-angles in RAW effectively knocked out the Panasonic LX10 for me.
How about the remarkable Sony RX100 series? I’ve mentioned yesterday that Sony really kicked off the one 1 inch sensor movement. While I did play with the RX100 III at Precision, I quickly rejected it. Here’s why.
1. The RX100 III seems kind of dated. The rear LCD looked dim and the build was not as robust as the Panasonic or Canon. But at $749, ($699 with a holiday discount), it was already more than I wanted to spend. The newest Mark V version is a hefty $998 ($949 with discount) and it didn’t have any extra features I wanted.
2. I used the RX100 IV for a couple of days at Precision Camera University, and while it took very nice photos, I didn’t enjoy using it. I found the camera very fiddly. The compact size was great but the physical controls were lacking. Changing exposure compensation required using a tiny circular wheel. The menus are very complicated. Overall, I really didn’t bond with the camera. It did not give me joy using it.
3. While Sony has improved their colors, over the years, I’m still not a fan. Their colors are too cool for my taste. My personal shooting and image samples online confirm this. Their colors tend to be blueish to my eye and sometimes there is a muted flat gray under tone. I realize this is a personal thing. Some people have commented that they prefer Sony’s muted colors. Yes, I can shoot in RAW and correct. But it’s always nicer and easier to start with base colors you generally like.
With the Sony RX100 and Panasonic LX10 excluded, I moved back to Canon. One step up from the G9X Mark II, is the larger but more capable G7X Mark II. It’s roughly the size of the LX10 and ever so slightly larger than the RX100. At $649, it was still more than I wanted to spend, however, it was the best alternative for my needs. In particular, there are two things that I really like about the G7X Mark II.
1. The physical controls are excellent. There’s a dedicated exposure compensation dial and also a ring around the lens and a small circular dial on the back. While not perfect, I can generally select shutter speed, exposure and focal length quickly. The G7X Mark II also has a surprisingly nice front and rear grip, especially for such a small camera. The Canon is a few millimeters larger than the Sony but that and the layout makes a big difference. Also, the Canon menus and the touch controls make it a whole lot nicer to navigate than the interface on the Sony.
2. I like the out of camera Canon JPEGs as well as the RAWs. Unlike the Panasonic, the Canon JPEGs and RAWs look fairly similar. The RAWs, of course, allow a lot more extensive post processing but the out of camera JPEGs can look very nice too. I’ve used a lot of cameras and I consistently prefer the look of Olympus and Canon’s colors.
The Canon is not perfect, of course. I’ve put the camera though its paces during my holiday break and I’ve discovered some shortcomings. I’ll go into those in future posts. Unfortunately, this is not a magic camera that will replace my other, larger cameras. Certainly, my Olympus micro 4/3 cameras makes better images. But for a small take anywhere, pocketable camera, the G7X Mark II is quite good.
Perhaps equally important, I enjoy using the camera — so far. I don’t have to fight (too much) the physical and on-screen controls to make the photos I want. I’ll certainly feature a more photos from the camera. Until I do, as sort of a tradition on this blog, I have a portrait of Lucky, who generously modeled for my new camera.
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