Canon PowerShot G15 review - Quality

Quality

Canon G15 vs Nikon P7700 quality

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot G15 and the Nikon Coolpix P7700, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings. I also shot this in RAW and will compare these results on the next page.

The zoom on both cameras were set to their maximum wide angle, 6.1mm on the G15 and 6mm on the P7700, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Canon PowerShot G15 results
1 Canon G15 Quality
2 Canon G15 Quality RAW
3 Canon G15 Noise
4 Canon G15 Noise RAW
5 Canon G15 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot G15. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity was at 80 ISO. The PowerShot G15 metered an exposure of 1/125 at f4, which resulted in blown highlights in the sky and a histogram clipped on the right. In order to produce a correctly exposed result I adjusted exposure compensation by -2/3EV. Similarly the the Nikon Coolpix P7700 overexposed the scene and I adjusted its exposure by the same amount. This resulted in an exposure of 1/250 at f4 which most closely matched the result from the G15. The JPEG image file size was 5.69MB.

So, what do the crops tell us about the G15’s image quality? Overall they’re pretty good, though it’s a little disappointing that the G15’s Evaluative metering, which sets the exposure according the brightness of the overall scene, initially overexposed requiring nearly a stop of exposure compensation. Having said that the Coolpix P7700 made exactly the same error. Generally there’s a good level of detail in these crops, more than you’d see from a point and shoot compact with a 1/2.3in sensor, but don’t expect the sort of detail you’d get from a camera with a DSLR or CSC sized sensor, for that you’ll have to move up to something like the PowerShot G1 X.

The first crop looks a little soft on the fine detail, but there’s no evidence of noise or processing artifacts. In the second you can make out the lighthouse on its island, though it is a little blurry. Similarly the edge detail in the window frames in the foreground looks a little soft. The third crop from close to the frame edge is pretty good though. Once again it’s a tiny bit soft, but no more so that the other crops and there’s no evidence of chromatic aberration whatsoever.

The fourth and final crop is usually where you see a bit of an improvement in detail resolution and sharpness, and there is a slight improvement in the centre of the frame but not a massive difference. The remarkable consistency in these crops is down to the G15’s lens, which produces great results from the centre to the edge of the frame. The fine and edge detail is a little soft, although that’s something it may be possible to address if you shoow RAW and process the files yourself.

Compared with the Nikon Coolpix P7700 it looks to me very much like the Nikon crops are cleaner, sharper and show more detail than those from the G15. And I think this is more than just a question of processing. In all of the crops you can see more detail from the P7700 – the doors and windows in the chapel, the lighthouse and the bacony dividers in the final crop.

Check out my Canon G15 RAW results on the next page or see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Canon G15 Noise results.

 

Canon PowerShot G15
 
Nikon Coolpix P7700
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO


Canon PowerShot G15
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise

Canon G15 vs Nikon P7700 RAW Quality

 

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot G15 and the Nikon Coolpix P7700, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

The zoom on both cameras was set to their maximum wide angles, 6.1mm on the G15 and 6mm on the P7700, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Canon PowerShot G15 results
1 Canon G15 Quality
2 Canon G15 Quality RAW
3 Canon G15 Noise
4 Canon G15 Noise RAW
5 Canon G15 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot G15. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f4 and the sensitivity was set to 80 ISO. The PowerShot G15 metered an exposure of 1/125 at f4, which resulted in blown highlights in the sky and a histogram clipped on the right. In order to produce a correctly exposed result I adjusted exposure compensation by -2/3EV. Similarly the the Nikon Coolpix P7700 overexposed the scene and I adjusted its exposure by the same amount. This resulted in an exposure of 1/250 at f4 which most closely matched the result from the G15. The RAW image file size was 15.4MB.

I processed both files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 6000K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Just to note, at the time of writing you’ll need the ACR 7.3 Release Candidate update to process PowerShot G15 RAW files, which is available from labs.adobe.com.

Revealingly, these RAW crops show quite a bit more detail than the in-camera JPEGs on the previous page. They lack the softness of the G15’s JPEGs, or at least, the fine detail and edges in these crops is clearer and more distinct. These crops also look more grainy than the JPEGs, but what they show is that, if you shoot RAW and process your own files, there’s every chance of squeezing more detail from the G15’s sensor than you’ll get shooting with the best quality JPEG setting.

Compared with the RAW crops from the Nikon Coolpix P7700 processed in exactly the same way, there isn’t as much of a quality gap as with the JPEG crops. The Coolpix P7700 still has the edge, with crisper, sharper edges and superior fine detail resolution, and the G15 crops still look a little soft in comparison, but the difference isn’t nearly as noticeable. With these processing settings the P7700 crops also look grainier than those from the G15 and there’s clearly some chromatic aberration that’s being dealt with in-camera. But let’s take nothing away from the P7700 which produces very good in-camera JPEGs from RAW data that reveals a very capable sensor and lens.

Now, it’s time to examine their high ISO performance, starting with a JPEG comparison in my Canon G15 Noise results.

 
Canon PowerShot G15 RAW
 
Nikon Coolpix P7700 RAW
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4, 80 ISO


Canon PowerShot G15
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise

Canon PowerShot G15 vs Nikon Coolpix P7700 Noise

 
  Canon PowerShot G15 results
1 Canon G15 Quality
2 Canon G15 Quality RAW
3 Canon G15 Noise
4 Canon G15 Noise RAW
5 Canon G15 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot G15 and the Nikon Coolpix P7700 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings. I also shot this in RAW and you can see those results on the next page

The zoom on both cameras were set to their maximum wide angle, 6.1mm on the G15 and 6mm on the P7700, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot G15. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f2 and the sensitivity at 80 ISO. The PowerShot G15 metered an exposure of 1 second at f2, with exposure compensation set to +1EV to produce a sufficiently bright image with a histogram in the middle of the chart. With exposure compensation silmilarly set on the Coolpix P7700 it metered 1.3S at f2.

The PowerShot G15’s 80 ISO crop is relatively noise free, there’s some texture in the plain white wall which could be noise, but it’s fairly minimal. The most noticeable thing about this crop is the same softness and slightly indistict edges that were evident in the outdoor crops. Moving up to 100 ISO, this crop is a tiny bit more granular, but you need to peer very closely to spot the difference. At 200 ISO the granularity increases by a slightly larger margin and is now beginning to affect the text in the memorial panel, which was never very crisply defined to begin with.

At 400 ISO the edges of the memorial panel are beginning to look a bit peppery and the subtle detail in the cornicing on the right of the crop is beginning to suffer a little. All in all though, the G15’s lower ISO sensitivity range up to 400 ISO produces good results that are fine for everyday shooting.

At 800 ISO things take a bit of a turn for the worse though, The text in the memorial panel is looking quite smeared and the edges of the memorial are really beginning to crumble. By 1600 ISO the game really is up with the text completely illegible and fine and medium sized detail lost to the noisiness and the processing in more or less equal measure. Here at least, though, the processing is still keeping the worst of the noise under control, by 3200 ISO all but the crudest detail is lot to a blurry fuzz.

While you might question Canon’s decision to include two further steps up the ISO scale at 6400 and 12800 ISO don’t forget that we’re pixel peeping 100 percent detail here, but at reduced sizes, even at the upper limits, these high ISO shots are passable. But even at quite small magnifications the top two settings look pretty scuzzy and are best reserved for emergency use only.

Compared with the crops from the Nikon Coolpix P7700 it has to be said the PowerShot G15’s performance looks a little lacklustre. The P7700 gets off to a great start, with 80 and 100 ISO crops that are crisp and sparkling with nice clean edges. At 200 and 400 ISO the Nikon crops show much more detail with cleaner edges, there’s more graininess in the wall, but I’ll take that over the softness of the G15 crops. The P7700 doesn’t suffer the same magnitude of quality drop at 800 ISO as the G15 and I think it’s fair to say that up to there the Nikon has a clear lead all the way. At 1600 ISO I’d still give it to the P7700 but arguably its clumpy fuzz is equally offensive, if qualitatively different to the mushy G15. At 3200 and 6400 ISO I think the fine granularity of the Canon crops is preferable to the hard clumpy buzz of the Nikon’s, but at this level neither is retaining a great deal of worthwhile image detail.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Canon G15 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Canon G15 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Canon Powershot G15
 
Nikon Coolpix P7700
80 ISO
80 ISO
     
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO Not available


Canon PowerShot G15
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise

Canon G15 vs Nikon P7700 Noise RAW

 
  Canon PowerShot G15 results
1 Canon G15 Quality
2 Canon G15 Quality RAW
3 Canon G15 Noise
4 Canon G15 Noise RAW
5 Canon G15 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Canon PowerShot G15 and the Nikon Coolpix P7700 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The zoom on both cameras was set to their maximum wide angles, 6.1mm on the G15 and 6mm on the P7700, providing an approximately equivalent field of view.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Canon PowerShot G15. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f2 and the sensitivity was set to 80 ISO. The PowerShot G15 metered an exposure of 1 second at f2, with exposure compensation set to +1EV to produce a sufficiently bright image with a histogram in the middle of the chart. With exposure compensation silmilarly set on the Coolpix P7700 it metered 1.3S at f2.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 4500K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

As with the RAW outdoor crops, these high ISO noise crops from the PowerShot G15 and Coolpix P7700 are very revealing and tell us more about the quality and noise performance of these two sensors than the JPEG results on their own reveal. In terms of noise, there’s actually not as much of a difference between these two cameras as the JPEG results might lead you to expect. In fact I’d go so far as to say there’s really nothing in it throughout the ISO range, right the way up to the Coolpix P7700’s 6400 ISO maximum.

What you can see is that the PowerShot G15 crops are generally softer. Whatever the reason for that, when the noise suppression algorithms go to work it means there’s greater detail loss in the G15 crops. I expect that’s one of the reasons for the marked drop in quality of the in-camera JPEGs at the 800 ISO sensitivity setting.

What does this mean for enthusiasts attempting to get a quality boost by shooting RAW? At the low ISO sensitivities it should be possible to improve on the in-camera JPEG processing to produce a result with slightly more detail and crisper edges. But as you move up the sensitivity scale, it’s going to become more difficult to retain image detail while dealing with the noise. In itself the noise isn’t really the problem, it’s the slightly soft rendition characteristic of the G15’s lens and sensor combination.

Now head over to my Canon G15 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.

Canon Powershot G15 RAW
 
Nikon Coolpix P7700 RAW
80 ISO
80 ISO
     
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO Not available
     


Canon PowerShot G15
results : Quality / RAW vs JPEG / Noise

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