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Canon PowerShot G15 Review: A Professional's Point and Shoot
by Laura Hicks -  4/30/2013

It takes a lot for me to love a point and shoot cameras. In fact, I find very few that fit the needs of a seasoned professional. Sometimes they lack basic features I am looking for or they just can't capture an image with the quality I am used to. But that all changed when I got my hands on the Canon G15. This point and shoot camera is a thing of beauty starting with the full manual controls and going all the way to the fast, accurate autofocus. My objections with this camera are few and far between. And with a $450 price tag, deciding to purchase the G15 is a no brainer.

Overview
The Canon G15 is a step up from most point and shoot cameras. The camera features a 12.1-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor with the latest generation Digic 5 Image Processor. This sensor is on the larger size for point and shoot cameras. Also, the Digic 5 has some pretty significant improvements over the last version. The Processor has increased speed and power. It also has improved noise reduction to help the camera reduce grain in high ISO images. 

Speaking of high ISO, the G15 has high ISO sensitivities up to 12800. Want to take images in low light conditions? No problem. Working in unison with Canon's proprietary HS system, the camera will be able to produce better images in low lighting situations.

The G15 has a newly redesigned 5x zoom lens that has an equivalent focal length of 28-240mm in 35mm standards. The lens has a wide open aperture of  f1.8 (wide angle)-f2.8 (telephoto) allowing photographers to shoot with a shallow depth-of-field for soft, defocused backgrounds. For professionals and amateurs alike, being able to capture a subject with sharp focus while separating the background with smooth blur can be a very important feature.

The camera also has the ability to shoot 1080p full HD video with a dedicated video record button. In video mode, the user can make use of the full range of the zoom. Also, video is recorded in stereo sound. The camera accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards.

Build and Design
The PowerShot G15 is a compact digital camera with a solid, sturdy body. It has a rectangular build with slightly curved edges. It sits solidly on a table and will not fall over due to its sturdy base. The camera is on the larger side of the compact camera genre with measurements of 4.20(w)x2.99(h)x1.58(d) inches and has a little more weight than average at 12.4 oz. The camera easily fits in a jacket pocket or fits nicely into a purse, but slipping it into a jeans pocket will prove to be a bit cumbersome. The size and weight was a welcome feature for me since I am used to lugging around large DSLRs. Point and shoot cameras with small stature and tiny buttons don't do much for me. I really want a camera with some meat on its bones and the G15 delivers. Don't get me wrong though, the camera is easy to carry for long lengths of time and will not be a burden on long trips. 

Ergonomics and Controls
The Canon G15 is a well designed camera. Ergonomically, the camera is easy to hold for long amounts of time. It has a small raised hand grip with a textured surface. The back of the camera also features a thumb grip which also has the same textured surface as the front. For my hands, the camera is most comfortable to hold when I let my pinky finger drop off the bottom of the camera. 

The camera controls are well thought out and perfectly positioned. As a professional photographer, the G15 is a delight to use. All of the important controls are located on the outside of the camera instead of being lost in a sea of in-camera menus. Starting on the top left side of the camera, the G15 offers a pop-up flash with a slide lever for manual control. The top middle of the camera features a hot shoe mount. To the right of the hot shoe is an exposure compensation dial with 1/3 increments and a mode dial that is nestled on the top left of the exposure dial. Both of these dials move with a click response that requires a slight amount of force so that you do not accidentally change them. To the right of the exposure dial is the on/off button which turns green when activated. Above that is a traditional zoom lever and shutter release. 

The back of the camera is just as laden with physical buttons as the top. On the back left side of the camera is a shortcut/special button that allows you to access a most used setting. It also allows you to save an image to a print list designed to work seamlessly with Canon printers. In the middle is a small viewfinder equipped with a diopter in order to help compensate for less than 20/20 vision. To the right of the viewfinder is the playback button. It took me some time to get used to the placement of this button as I am used to them being lower on the back side of the camera. But once I got familiar with the placement I realized that it was much easier to use. All I had to do was slide my thumb over about an inch from the thumb rest and there it was. Housed on a dedicated button on the right top corner of the thumb rest is the movie record button.

Except for one of the neatest features of the camera, the * button, others below the thumb rest are the typical point and shoot buttons and four way toggle with a spinning wheel. The * button allows the user to access the aperture and shutter in a very unique way. Pushing the button bring up a small screen on the display that gives photographers the ability to adjust the shutter and aperture at the same time to perfectly expose the image. For example, if you want to take an image with a f2.0 aperture, but don't want to take the time to adjust your shutter speed you just touch the * button and then turn the spinning wheel around the four way toggle. Want to quickly change it again? No problem. This button makes changing your settings extremely quick and easy.   

To say this camera is jam packed with physical buttons might be an understatement. I loved not having to access the in-camera menu every time I wanted to change my settings and I really appreciate the way Canon was able to include so many dials and functions on the body of the camera. 

Menus and Modes
The in-camera menu on the Canon G15 is simple and intuitive. There are two easy-to-navigate pages and one totally customizable page for the users favorite settings. The in-camera menu, for example, will allow you to choose your desired digital zoom, let you choose your focus points, and allow you to access all of the basic camera settings. 

The Mode dial is accessed on the top of the camera. It has a full range of automatic and manual settings including auto "green" mode, manual P,S,A and M modes, custom 1 & 2, movie mode, movie digest mode, HDR mode, and scene selector mode. Whether you prefer a fully automatic camera experience or one that is fully manual and customizable, the G15 has got you covered. 

Display/Viewfinder
The Canon PowerShot G15 offers a 3-inch TFT LCD monitor with 922,000 dots. The screen is bright, crisp and easy to use. The only drawback to this display is that it is a fixed screen and does not swivel or tilt. Most of the time this is not an issue, but there are the occasions where a tilting LCD screen could come in handy. For me, this is not a deal breaker as I am used to cameras without tilting LCDs. Because the screen offers such a high resolution, viewing the display in a multitude of environments was not an issue besides some glare on the sunniest of days. 

The G15 also offers an optical, real-image zoom viewfinder. This viewfinder is probably my biggest complaint about the camera. It is small, basic, and pretty useless. For someone who loves using a viewfinder, I found myself never using it. It was just easier to compose my images on the LCD screen. Again, this was not a deal breaker for me. Because the LCD screen was such good quality I simply did not miss the viewfinder.

 

Performance
The Canon G15 is a speedy camera with great overall performance. I was happy to use it and, on many occasions, I chose the G15 over the multitude of other options I had available.   

Shooting Performance
Powering up the camera is relatively quick. Less than 2 seconds of depressing the button the camera is ready to take its first shot. Single shot times ran about 2 seconds. In continuous shooting mode the frames per second vary depending on the setup. In normal mode the camera shoots about 2 fps, in auto focus mode the camera shoots at about 1 frame per second, and in live view mode the camera also shoot at 1 fps. These numbers are acceptable, but not great.

The Canon G15 offers image capture in both RAW and JPEG formats just like the EOS line of cameras - a feature generally reserved for the professional or someone who likes to manipulate even the smallest of details in their images during post production. The images can be recorded as 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 1:1, or even 4:5. I am very fond of the option to crop the images in camera. This makes shooting for 8x10s or square images a breeze.

Shutter lag is intangible and autofocus is very fast. Only in low lighting conditions with the zoom fully engaged did I notice some autofocus hunting. The camera generally found a focus point within 1 to 1.5 seconds when faced with this condition. The camera's shutter speeds range from 15 seconds-1/4000 second. Those numbers are very respectable for a camera in this genre.

The G15 has a built-in flash that works very well for a small compact camera. I did not have too many instances where I needed to use it because the camera is so good in low lighting, but when I did utilize the flash it rendered positive results that were not harsh or dim. For an itty bitty flash I was happy. In the image above I used the flash to add fill light on a sunny day at the beach.

The camera comes furnished with a, NB-10L battery pack. Battery life for the G15 is listed at 350 shots when the LCD is used. I was able to note similar battery life and shot for quite a while before the battery was totally exhausted.  

Lens Performance
The Canon G15 features a 5x optical zoom lens with an equivalent focal length of 28-140mm in 35mm standards. The lens has an aperture of f1.8 on the wide angle end and an f2.8 on the telephoto end. Both of these apertures are impressive and performed very well. I just can't say enough good things about the speedy lens and overall image quality from the G15. Besides a few times in very low lit situations, the lens responded quickly to acquire autofocus. In those few situations it did take the lens about 1-1.5 seconds to capture focus. 

The G15 also has a 4x digital zoom feature. This can be disabled in the menu settings if desired. Personally, I would disable this feature. The images I captured when the lens was set to digital zoom were not high enough quality for me. I would much rather stick to the traditional zoom and get high quality images instead of being able to access the digital zoom and produce less than average images. Like most digital zooms the camera had a hard time keeping the subject sharp and steady.  

Video Quality
Video produced by the G15 was very good. It was easy to use with a dedicated movie button located next to the thumb rest. There are a multitude of video recording options available with the G15 ranging from full HD at 24 fps to super slow motion at 120 fps (640x480). Recording times vary depending on the type of movie recorded. 

Sound is recorded in stereo on the G15. In the sample video below there was a very strong wind. That wind noise is quite loud in this sample.

 

Image Quality
Image quality from the G15 was by far some of the best that come from a compact camera with a sensor of this size. Colors rendered similar to that of other Canon cameras on the market. The images provided a slight warm tone while providing a small pop of color. Canon has worked very hard to perfect their unique color pallet and the G15 is no exception. Overall, the images were pleasing and do not require post production unless you desire more than what the camera can offer. Good skin tones are demonstrated in the image below.

ISO range for the Canon G15 is 80-12800. As technology advances we see a increase in the camera's ability to shoot high quality images at ISOs we never thought possible just a few short years ago. The Canon G15 does a great job at being able to keep image noise at bay while entering the high ISO territory. Show below is an image taken at ISO 1000. Although the grain is minimal, with enough pixel peeping you can see that pixels begin to smudge. 

I prefer my images a bit sharper than the default setting in the G15. To change this setting you must be in one of the manual shooting modes. Tap the "func. set" button in the middle of the four way toggle on the back of the camera. Move to the custom color setting. Move the highlighted setting down one and you can access the sharpness level. For the purpose of the review I did not adjust the sharpness, but for my own personal use I would set the camera to a higher sharpness. Or, if you prefer, you can always adjust your sharpness with post production software.

Additional Sample Images

Canon G15 Sample Image

 

Conclusion
As the newest member of Canon's G Series cameras, the Canon G15 does not disappoint. It is an all around excellent point and shoot for anyone ranging from amateurs to seasoned professionals. The 12.1-megapixel sensor paired with the Digic 5 image processor makes for a great combination. It is able to be used in a wide variety of settings due to the vast ISO range, the great 28-140mm focal length and the fast f1.8-f2.8 lens. Add to that beautiful spec sheet the ability to shoot video at whim due to the dedicated movie button and you have a camera that will be hard to put down.

This camera has so much going for it. The body is durable and has a nice finish. It is solid while handling, quick to respond, and offers great image quality. Besides a few flaws that are pretty easy to overlook I can highly recommend this camera for a vast majority of the population. I think that professionals will respond very positively due to its nice feature set and plethora of physical buttons that negate delving into a deep in-camera menu.

Currently the Canon G15 sells for $450.

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