We took the Canon G7X Mark II in the Fantasea Line FG7XII underwater housing for some test dives in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba and in Cozumel, to see how it handles itself and check out all the great features of the camera and the housing. This review includes sample photos, tests, wide angle and macro results as well as some videos.
About the Canon G7X Mark II
The Canon G7X Mark II is the mighty successor for the popular G7X (read our review on the G7X). Canon have improved their leading compact camera in almost every aspect, giving the current champion – the RX100 Mark V, a good fight. At only US$679 retail, the Canon G7XII ranks high among high end compacts and offers one of the best value cameras for the avid photographers and especially the underwater photographer.
Some of the camera’s highlights include:
- 1.0-inch, 20.1 MP CMOS sensor with new DIGIC 7 Image Processor helps deliver outstanding image quality even in low light.
- Bright f/1.8-f/2.8 24-100mm lens, fully equipped with an Image Stabilizer (IS)
- High-speed continuous shooting up to 8 fps in RAW mode, as well as JPG.
- Crisp 1080p Full HD video in MP4 format.
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capability.
- In-camera RAW conversion makes it possible to preview modified conditions of images on the camera, without the use of a computer. (That’s pretty handy!)
- TTL flash exposure even on M (manual) mode!
- Read this excellent summary of all the upgrades on the Mark II compared to the original G7X.
Overall this is a fantastic camera, capable of producing excellent high quality photos and videos.
The FG7XII Housing
Fantasea are already well known in the industry, providing reliable, affordable, high quality housings for the leading compacts in the market. Their team puts their hearts and souls into every housing, put it through rigorous testing and quality control, until it is perfect.
The FG7XII was designed upon the successful FG7X and FG16 housings which preceded it, with the much welcomed addition of a 67mm thread on the front of the port, expanding your options for wet lenses and allowing both the easy snap-on accessories and the screw-on 67mm accessories.
The Fantasea FG7XII housing highlights include:
- Full access to all essential camera controls & functions with clearly marked buttons
- Depth rated to 60 meters / 200 feet (even though they test it down to 80m / 270ft)
- Shock resistant construction
- Ergonomic design
- Double O-ring protection for a perfect watertight seal
- Moisture Detector and Alarm, Hand Strap and Port Cover included at no additional cost!
- 67mm thread port ring allowing for wide and macro 67mm wet lenses and filters
When holding the FG7XII in your hand, you immediately feel comfortable with it. The controls are positioned within reach, the size is just right, and the housing feels very sturdy. The thumb rest is designed to be exactly where you want it, and the right side of the housing is designed for optimal grip with any hand size. Just like any diver, I love mounting points for securing stuff – the housing is equipped with 4 d-rings, one on each corner, allowing you to secure the flash connector plate, a lanyard, diffuser, wet lenses, filters or anything else you see fit.
The two right d-rings also allow you to mount the free hand strap, included with the housing, which takes the load off your wrist and secures the camera to your hand while diving.
Three 1/4″-20 mounting threads are included on the bottom of the housing, allowing you to attach it to the tray of your choice. A standard “Cold Shoe” mount sits on the top of the housing, for adding a focus light, GoPro, or any other accessory.
As I mentioned above the port of the housing is rectangular, compatible with all of Fantasea’s snap-on accessories, but they’ve also included a 67mm thread, which allows you to mount any macro lens directly on the port, and even more important – any wide angle lens! The new Fantasea UWL-09 is the preferred wide angle lens for this housing, creating little to no vignetting, and expanding your field of view significantly, with a gentle fisheye curvature. The Inon UWL-H100 can also be used, as well as the Nauticam WWL-1 and Ikelite W-30.
All the camera’s controls are easily accessible. The shutter trigger is a simple push button, similar to that of a camera and positioned in its natural location. I could easily find the half-press for focusing. The rear dial is controlled with a small gear, which can be reached with the right thumb, but usually easier to manipulate it with both fingers. It may be a bit harder to maneuver for those using thick gloves, but definitely possible.
The ring dial is controlled by a large gear on the left side of the housing. Fantasea were wise enough to include a control to pop up the internal flash, since many of us tend to forget to pop it up before the dive and start cursing underwater… Luckily with this housing, it won’t happen! There is no control to close down the flash, which you may be familiar with from previous housings, but you can easily turn it off with the flash button on the camera.
On all recent Canon compacts, starting from the Canon G7X , you can get TTL flash exposure even on manual (M) mode, which is very important for UW photographers! This way you can shoot with your favorite settings on M, darkening your background with faster shutter speed, while still maintaining automatic and precise flash exposure with TTL compatible strobes, via fiber optic cables.
If you’re not yet ready for an external strobe, Fantasea offers a large diffuser, included as a standard accessory, to utilize the built in flash in a better way, moving the light source forward to skip over the large port and provide good lighting for close up to medium range subjects.
I really like Fantasea’s locking mechanism, which is completely idiot-proof, snaps in place with a loud click, assuring you that your camera is safe and sealed.
A very useful anti-glare LCD hood is also included with the housing, providing shade on the back of your housing and helping you get a better visual on the screen in bright daylight dives.
A leak detector is built into the housing, which is highly sensitive and produces a sharp beeping sound, as well as flashing red LED, at the slightest detection of moisture inside the housing. The detection strip is positioned on the very bottom of the housing, which is likely where water will hit first, in the unlikely event of a flood.
No prior setting up is required. Simply slide the camera inside the housing, close the lock, and jump in the water!
Using the Camera and Housing Underwater
I took the G7X II for a spin in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba, as well as several dives in Cozumel, Mexico.
The camera performed beautifully. Focusing was very fast, image quality was superb and the camera is very user friendly, just like most Canon compacts.
The built in pop-up flash is a bit slow to recycle, so I would suggest giving up on TTL, setting the pop-up flash on manual with the lowest possible setting, then using the external flash on Manual as well. This would be the best way shoot continuously with a flash.
The controls on the housing were very intuitive, and clearly marked so you don’t have to remember anything before hand. All buttons and dials worked flawlessly at any depth I tried it. I also handed it around to a few divers on our group, who used an underwater camera for the first time in their life, and they found it to be super intuitive! It only required 5 minutes of basic explanations and they were ready to shoot.
The battery life on the Canon G7XII is quite pleasing, lasting 2 dives easily. I do recommend getting a spare battery anyway so you have it ready for the 3rd and 4th dive of the day.
The camera + housing by themselves are slightly positive, so make sure you secure it with the lanyard so it won’t pop up to the surface. Once you add a tray, arms, lighting and wet lenses, the rig becomes negative. Depending on your setup, you may want to add float units to make it neutral again.
The new Fantasea UWL-09 lens does an amazing job, expanding your field of view significantly, with very minimal vignetting thanks to the 67mm thread on the housing.
I recommend closing down the aperture to about f/9 to improve corner sharpness significantly when using a wide angle / fisheye wet lens.
I used the Inon UCL-165 for subtle macro shots, with larger subjects. If you want those nice super-macro shots, you can either mount a 2nd Fantasea SharpEye or UCL-165, or use a single Subsee +10 or Nauticam CMC-1. I found it quite easy to focus on macro subjects, either with a macro lens or without. The G7X II’s AF is very accurate and very quick!
Fantasea have just recently released 3 great new macro lenses – UCL-05LF (+6), UCL-06LF (+12) and UCL-09F (+12.5 Super Macro). These lenses work very well with the Canon G7X II and are highly recommended with the Fantasea housing.
One of the major advantages on compacts, vs DSLR’s and some mirrorless cameras, is the electronic shutter, which virtually eliminates the problem of Maximum Flash Sync Speed and allows you to use shutter speeds of 1/1000 or even 1/2000 with flash!
This effectively reduces your ambient light, allowing you to control it and make sure you get a nice dark background even in bright daylight.
When I’m using external strobes, I like shooting on M (manual), setting my shutter speed to about 1/1000 (on daylight dives), aperture to about f/5.6, or f/9 if I’m using wet lenses, ISO to about 200 and WB to Auto.
I shoot RAW, so it’s easy to change the WB in post processing, as well as adjust the exposure if needed.
The fast shutter speed takes care of the background while the strobes light up your subject.
As I stated above, I switch my pop-up flash to manual, on the lowest setting, to improve recycle speed and conserve battery.
Make sure you turn off your Red Eye function, as well as the AF assist beam which aren’t needed underwater and can get in the way.
You can find the AF method that works for you best – I usually set it to 1-point, One-Shot, but some people prefer the fully automatic AiAF focus, or the Servo mode to continuously focus on your subject while it’s moving. Try it and see what you prefer.
Read my full guide on Recommended Settings for Underwater Compact Cameras.
The Canon G7X Mark II with the Fantasea housing is an incredible imaging machine. One simple enough to start with, for the beginner underwater photographer, but also easily expandable, with strobes, video lights, wet lenses and filters, to create a compact monster, capable of award winning photos yet travel friendly and easy to handle.
Fantasea have done an exceptional job on this one, creating the best value housing for a super popular camera, which will surely be among the top cameras for UW photographers for 2017.
Already have the camera? Get the FG7XII housing here!
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