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Technical

The power of 7: creating the PowerShot G7 X Mark II

The power of 7: creating the PowerShot G7 X Mark II

March 2016

The original PowerShot G7 X was a breakthrough model for Canon’s PowerShot series, redefining quality with EOS-led design cues and stunning performance thanks to a brilliant new zoom lens and a 1.0-type sensor. With the new PowerShot G7 X Mark II, the bar has been raised yet again with a brand new DIGIC 7 processor and Canon engineer Hideaki Yamaki (Manager, Image Communication Products Operations), along with his department colleagues Kota Terayama, Yousuke Takagi, Shimpei Miyahara, Hitoshi Miyazawa, Seiji Ogawa, Akihiko Masuki, Yoshikazu Sakagami and Keita Takatani from Canon’s Design Centre discuss the challenges they faced turning concept into reality...

From left to right: Hideaki Yamaki (Manager, Image Communication Products Operations), along with his department colleagues Kota Terayama, Yousuke Takagi, Shimpei Miyahara, Hitoshi Miyazawa, Seiji Ogawa, Akihiko Masuki, Keita Takatani (Canon’s Design Centre) and Yoshikazu Sakagami (Image Communication Products Operations).

Q: What is the position of the G7 X Mark II in the G-series line-up?

Yoshikazu Sakagami: The G-series has always pursued the best in image quality and controls. To ensure the joy of owning and shooting with a G-series model, all of Canon’s best features are incorporated into the design – from the large 1.0-type sensor, to the lens, image processor, and exterior design. The G7 X line is built on the concept of excellent image quality in a pocket-sized camera, providing the perfect balance between the size of a compact digital camera, excellent image quality, high-performance and speed. This line is at the core of the G-series where users can experience the true pleasure of a premium compact with excellent image quality.

Q: What has changed from the original G7 X?

Yoshikazu Sakagami: A number of improvements have been made based on user feedback, but the biggest was the switch to the new DIGIC 7 processor. Not only does this improve image quality, but also detection and tracking performance, image stabilisation, as well as including new shooting features such as panning.

Hideaki Yamaki: The G7 X and G5 X were masterful models; equipped with a 4.2x optical zoom f/1.8 (W) – f/2.8 (T) and 1.0-type sensor. The accumulation of fine-tuning know-how from our experience with these cameras mades it possible to maximise the DIGIC 7’s high performance to strike the perfect balance between the convenience of a compact camera and excellent image quality.

Achieving the perfect balance between image quality and efficient image processing was the prime concern among Canon engineers when developing the PowerShot G7 X Mark II.

Yoshikazu Sakagami: I also think the inclusion of Picture Style and in-camera RAW image processing on the G7 X Mark II - which are familiar features from EOS DSLRs - are major advantages. There are also significant advances in controls and convenience: a new grip, the ability to switch between step and continuous control as well as USB charging.

Q: What is the primary appeal of the G7 X Mark II?

Yoshikazu Sakagami: The compact body size means that it can be taken anywhere at any time. This one model will cover a variety of scenes. The all-round ability is the most significant appeal of the camera. The more chances you have to take the camera with you, the more possibilities for photo opportunities you’ll encounter. Because of this, the camera is capable of shooting in a wide variety of situations – from using the bright lens and 1.0-type sensor to achieve beautiful defocusing effects in snapshots, to high-sensitivity shooting in dark scenes, stopping down the aperture for landscape shots, and providing image quality that can satisfy DSLR users. But simply having good image quality is not enough. Without long battery life, good controls, and a quick response, you’ll miss a great photo opportunity. These features are all advanced on the G7 X Mark II, achieving even higher standards for a compact digital camera. I believe it is a reliable backup for EOS users and a good step-up model for those using smartphone or standard compact cameras.

Q: How does the DIGIC 7 processor compare to the DIGIC 6?

Hideaki Yamaki: The DIGIC 7 is based on the DIGIC 6 with overall improvements. Shooting functions include improvements to subject detection and tracking, as well as significant improvements to image stabilisation and performance. Noise reduction has advanced and resolution is improved during high sensitivity shooting for better image quality. Additionally, resolution for small aperture shooting and compensation for diffractive blurring is better with DIGIC 7.

Q: Can you explain improvements to subject detection and tracking?

Kota Terayama: The DIGIC 7 features advanced image analysation technology using subject information. This brings significant improvements in detection and tracking performance. Detection performance is improved for subjects that are difficult to detect, such as those with low colour saturation or subjects that are in the same colour range as the background. This makes high-precision tracking possible even in scenes where subjects change position and move around. Mistaken tracking of human subjects is reduced in situations such as when a person crosses in front of another, or momentarily moves out of the frame.

Hideaki Yamaki: Another major point is the significantly reduced LCD display lag. Compared with the G7 X this feature has been improved by approximately 50% so that even quick-moving subjects can be displayed in real-time.

Q: What improvements have been made to image stabilisation (IS)?

Shimpei Miyahara: On the previous version of IS, the optical IS unit was controlled based on angular shake information detected by the gyro sensor. This model adds image blur information from the shooting sensor for controlling the IS unit. Because it is possible to analyse image blur in real-time based on image information from the DIGIC 7 processor, this can be utilised for image stabilisation. In addition, a new algorithm was developed that merges angular blur information from the gyro sensor and image information, and high-precision IS unit control makes four steps of image stabilisation possible, compared to the G7 X’s three steps.

Adaptive Image Stabilisation with Dual Sensing IS technology provides up to 4-stops of correction.

Q: What IS merits besides four-stop correction are available with image information?

Shimpei Miyahara: The nature of IS using angular blur information from the gyro sensor make it good for fine high-frequency shaking such as camera shake although it is not useful for low-frequency shaking such as slow body shake. When holding the camera your body slowly shakes, even when you try to stop moving and this can be tricky to counteract. On the other hand, IS based on image information is useful for low-frequency shaking. Utilising both these properties together makes powerful IS possible in every direction, including fine camera shake and slow shaking.

Q: How much better is the high sensitivity performance?

Kota Terayama: Processing has been reworked for improved noise reduction performance. Problems with the amount of information handled during noise reduction processing on the previous DIGIC 6 processor made it impossible to distinguish between noise and texture, resulting in texture loss and insufficient noise reduction. Since the DIGIC 7 can handle approximately 14 times more data as the DIGIC 6, higher precision processing is possible. Noise that occurs around the edges of images is reduced, maintaining high resolution even at high sensitivity settings. On the G7 X Mark II, this feature is more effective than an ISO speed of 1600. Compared to the G7 X, noise reduction on the edges of images rivals ISO 800 and contributes to improved resolution.

Q: Have any other improvements to image quality been made?

Kota Terayama: Correction of diffraction blurring, even for a small aperture, has been added. DIGIC 7’s high-speed processing performance is used along with optical information for compensation. Be sure to experience this for yourself, especially in dynamic landscape shots and performance shooting!

Hideaki Yamaki: Also, the EOS Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) is included on this model for the first time on a compact digital camera. As the first model to be equipped with DIGIC 7, one feature of this camera is even more advanced ALO performance than on the EOS M3 mirrorless compact. This makes it possible to compensate the brightness while maintaining contrast, making it the perfect feature for photographing people in backlit scenes.

Q: Is image processing the same as on EOS models?

Yousuke Takagi: Although it is basically the same, the ability to select and process multiple images in a batch is also unique to the compact digital camera. This is useful for when you want to continue processing multiple images with the same settings. We also focused on the preview UI that appears when changing parameters. I believe that the reason some users don’t want to process RAW images on the camera is because they want to check the results of setting changes on the larger screen of a computer. For these people, the display was designed so that you can enlarge a specific section and view it full screen for intuitive identification of differences in setting changes rather than having both the before and after images displayed on the screen at the same time.

Q: What improvements have been made to processing speed?

Yousuke Takagi: Shooting intervals have been shortened. The processing abilities of the image processor were maximised to significantly reduce this time on the G7 X Mark II. The system design can now perform parallel processing of Live View and still images. This results in a significantly shorter shooting intervals where the viewfinder image is blacked out, allowing a light response to shutter button operation.

In particular, because image processing takes considerable time after continuous shooting, I think users missed photo opportunities on previous models, while waiting for the camera to be able to shoot the next image. You no longer need to worry about this happening. Now, even if the camera needs time to process images after shooting, you can press the button to immediately switch to Live View and shoot again. The G7 X Mark II is capable of continuous RAW image shooting.

The new grip maintains that authentic high-end feel appropriate to a premium PowerShot model.

Q: Why is the camera equipped with a new grip?

Keita Takatani: When designing, we started over from scratch, asking ‘what is the role of the G7 X line in the expanded G-series?’, ‘what is the essence of the camera?’ and ‘what is a legitimate camera style?’. The planning department and development department discussed this extensively, finally deciding a grip was necessary. However, because the G7 X is a compact line, we didn’t want to make the grip too big. Even so, just a surface-level grip is pointless. Keeping the weight of the camera in mind, we made many prototypes and improvements, adjusting the dimensions of protrusions on the edges to ensure the best balance between finger rests and centre of gravity. The result is a grip that is not too large. Not only does this make for a camera that has excellent grip and portability, but results in a unique grip that maintains the authentic high-end feel appropriate to a premium model.

Akihiko Masuki: Many of those involved in design gathered together numerous times to try out the prototype grip and give their impressions. In addition to the grip protrusion, I also think that the rubber covering from the side of the lens barrel to the flat sections is important.

Keita Takatani: True. By adding a rubber covering to the sections where your fingers rest, the hold on the camera is completely different. It has a comfortable fit for a grip that provides a feeling of stability.

Q: What are some of the other design details on the controls?

Keita Takatani: The shape of the thumb grip was optimised for using the exposure compensation dial. On the other hand, the width of the exposure compensation dial was made wider and placed vertically so that it is easier to operate with the pad of the thumb. Simply sliding your thumb up from the thumb grip provides stress-free, speedy exposure compensation control. The button layout around the cross keys has also been optimised. Also, the movie button and MENU button which are most easily contacted with the thumb and palm of the hand have been flattened. This area was designed based on feedback from users of the original G7 X.

Seiji Ogawa: Another important point is the UI from the EOS. Although the graphics are the same as on the G3 X, G5 X, and G9 X, the menu screen in particular will be familiar to EOS users because it has the same easy-to-use layout.

Q: It looks like the control feel of the Control Ring can be adjusted?

Hideaki Yamaki: Yes, it can. The lever to the side of the lens barrel can be used to freely switch between the step ring which provides a solid feel of changing numerical values and the smooth, fine adjustments of the continuous ring. Because it can be operated with the left hand, intuitive switching is possible while holding the camera.

The control ring offers DSLR-like control with customisable options to include shutter and aperture settings.

Akihiko Masuki: This is an area that is divided by user preference. Adding a switching lever is a significant advantage in freedom of usage, because users can switch between control types depending on the scene.

Seiji Ogawa: Yes, that’s true. For example, the step ring can be used for changing parameters with steps such as the shutter speed and ISO speed, and then switch to the continuous ring for changing parameters without steps, such as manual focus. This option provides a more intuitive way to control the camera. The newly designed seamless zoom can also be assigned to the Control Ring. Of course the step zoom and zoom lever operations are available; however, the seamless zoom provides more fine-tuned control over angle of view. Because it is possible to assign the seamless zoom even in Auto mode, I believe users can experience the fun of casually assigning different shooting functions to the Control Ring. Although settings can only be changed using touch operations while recording movies on the G7 X, parameters can now be changed using the continuous ring with the PowerShot G7 X Mark II.

Hideaki Yamaki: Assigning functions not only to touch, but to manual controls such as the ring while shooting provides the fun of controlling a gadget and shooting with a camera. Users can learn how to use the ring and dials comfortably to capture beautiful photos.

Q: It looks like the design has changed a lot from the original G7 X?

Keita Takatani: Since the release of the G3 X, G5 X, and G9 X last year, we have aimed for a more refined and legitimate camera design in the G-series with a ‘timeless’ concept. Because we have carried on with this concept on the G7 X Mark II, I believe a more camera-like, dauntless, straight-line design has been achieved. We are not tied down to old-fashioned styles of the past. We actively strive to incorporate new elements and we do our best to achieve a design that is a fusion of classical and modern elements. In this camera, we focused on incorporating the finest of details, from the G-series trademark red line, to the cut lines on the edged top cover, spin-cut finish and laser engraved text.

Q: What design considerations were made in making the camera compact?

Akihiko Masuki: In addition to the traditional approximately 180° upward axis for the LCD, a new downward tilting axis mechanism (approximately 45°) was added, making it necessary to cancel out the thickness of the added parts. This size was achieved by reworking and optimising each and every part, and gradually filling in the dead space. However, this aggressive design made the manufacturing process more challenging. We studied mass production possibilities at the factory in Nagasaki while making adjustments during the design stage. Recent premium models, including compact digital cameras, require an extremely high level of manufacturing precision. To negotiate this hurdle, Canon has efficiently adopted automation systems to prevent inconsistencies and errors during manufacturing. Of course, complex tasks are still faster and more accurate when skilled workers are involved. We were able to succeed in mass production through a combination of this automation and skilled technician work.

Akihiko Masuki: At first we put the Step/Continuous selection lever away from the lens barrel on the front of the camera body. However, we were told that this was clumsy so we did our best, and were able to move it near to the side of the lens. In the end, having the switching lever and Control Ring close together makes controls easier because your finger doesn’t need to move as much.

Keita Takatani: I believe the entire design is appropriate to the face of the new G-series, and as such this camera will be cherished for a long time.

POWERSHOT G7 X MARK II – KEY FEATURES

  • 1.0-type back-illuminated 20.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor.
  • Bright f/1.8-2.8 24-100mm 4.2x Canon lens with 9 bladed aperture; 8.4x ZoomPlus.
  • 8 fps burst in RAW.
  • EOS-like processing with Auto Lighting Optimizer and Diffraction Correction.
  • Super fast AF and shot-to-shot time.
  • Adaptive Image Stabilisation with Dual Sensing IS technology provides up to 4-stop correction.
  • Steady footage with 5-axis Dynamic IS and Auto Level support.
  • In-camera RAW processing and compatible with Picture Styles.
  • WiFi with Dynamic NFC for easy connectivity. WiFi Button provides simple shortcut to wireless functions.
  • Full HD 60p movies in MP4 at 35 Mbps.
  • MF Peaking aids user to achieve perfect focus in stills and movies.
  • Full Manual Mode offers great opportunity for creative photographic and cinematic controls.
  • Versatile variable frame rate (24p-60p).
  • Large, tilt-up/ down high resolution (1,040K dots) 7.5 cm (3.0”) touchscreen LCD.
  • Dual function Control Ring (Smooth and Step) ensures intuitive handling in stills and movies.
  • Closest focusing distance of 5 cm (wide) 40 cm (tele).
  • Auto ND filter allows large apertures in bright conditions for stills and movies.
  • Eco mode, USB charging and a sculpted grip.
  • Timelapse and Advanced Star Mode for great looking star timelapse movies.