The Canon PowerShot G15 is the latest in a long line of G series PowerShots aimed at enthusiast photographers looking for a compact lightweight body that doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of features, controls and handling offered by a DSLR.
The PowerShot G15 replaces the G12 which was launched in September 2010, but two years is a long time in the camera world and the G15 faces competition on more fronts than its predecessor. There are many more large sensor fixed lens compacts around, some of which, like the Sony RX100 and Canon’s own PowerShot G1 X have much bigger sensors, and deliver better quality than the G15.
Then there’s the continuing rise in popularity of mirroless ILCs, compact system cameras, DSLMs or whatever we’re calling them this week. They are more expensive, and not everyone wants the bother of interchangeable lenses on a compact camera, but they also offer an experience that in many ways comes closer to that of a DSLR without the bulk – exactly what enthusiast photographers say they are looking for.
In spite of all this, the G15 still has plenty to offer. Its bright f1.8-2.8 lens combined with excellent optical image stabilisation not only provides it with great low light performance, the 1cm close focus distance at the wide angle setting together with it’s ability to focus reasonably close when zoomed in, makes it possible to achieve a fairly shallow depth of field on macros and portraits, something that’s often proved elusive on small sensor cameras. The abundance of physical controls will continue to endear it to enthusiasts and while dropping the articulated screen may not meet with universal approval, for me, the more compact lightweight form that results is well worth the sacrifice. So before my final wrap-up, let’s look again at how it compares to its main rival in this category.
Compared to Nikon Coolpix P7700
The Nikon Coolpix P7700 makes for an interesting comparison with the Powershot G15 for all sorts of reasons. Firstly, if you cried into your breakfast cereal when you discovered Canon had dropped the flip out screen on the G15, you’ll be delighted to discover the P7700’s 3in 921k dot screen is fully articualted. This of course makes the P7700 bigger and heavier.
One advantage of a bigger body, though, is you can fit more controls on it and where the G15 has lost its dedicated ISO dial, the P7700 has a multi-function dial that can be used for, among other things, ISO sensitivity, white balance, quality settings and bracketing. It also has two programmable function buttons and three user positions on the mode dial compared with two on the G15. Additionally the P7700 has both front and rear control dials in addition to the rear control wheel, providing one more than the G15.
Both cameras have the same physical sized 1/1.7in CMOS sensor and both share the same 12 Megapixel resolution. But in my testing the Nikon Coolpix P7700 beat the Canon PowerShot G15 in both the outdoor real life resolution and high ISO nose tests. The Coolpix P7700 also outreaches the PowerShot G15 with a 7.1x zoom compared with 5x on the PowerShot G15. Both start at a 28mm wide angle, but the G15 stops at 140mm equivalent where the P7700 keeps on going to 200mm. The other important factor when it comes to the lens, though, is the maximum aperture; the G15 has a brighter f1.8-2.8 aperture than the f2-4 lens on the P7700, which allows it to exploit lower ISOs under the same conditions.
Both models have standard hotshoes and built-in pop-up flash units, but the P7700 lacks any kind of viewfinder where the G15 has an optical viewfinder built-in. Finally, both of these cameras are fairly evenly matched in terms of their video capabilities. They’re also closely matched on price, though you’ll find there are regional variations. To sum up, the Coolpix P7700 is bigger and heavier, has more physical controls with greater customisation options, a longer, less bright zoom lens and a flip-out screen, but it lacks the G15’s optical viewfinder. You’ll therefore have to think carefully about which features – and designs – are most important to you.
See my Nikon P7700 review for more details.
Canon PowerShot G15 final verdict
The PowerShot G15 is a worthy successor to the G12, the question is, does it still have something to offer in a market teeming with options for enthusiast photographers looking for a compact DSLR back up? Canon has made some good calls with the G15, switching the CCD sensor for a higher resolution CMOS one and upgrading to the Digic 5 processor, opting for greater compactness by dropping the articualted screen and fitting a bright f1.8-2.8 zoom lens.
But it’s also missed out on opportunities. A viewfinder is a must on a camera like this but in an age of high resolution electronic viewfinders and optical viewfinders with LCD overlays, the G15’s little glass window just doesn’t cut it. At the very least, a proximity sensor is needed to automatically switch the screen off when you put your eye to the viewfinder. I’m also a little disappointed Canon didn’t equip the G15 with a touch screen, which would have made touch focussing possible and added to the overall handling. The addition of Wifi and or GPS would also have given it an edge over many rivals – lest we forget the S110 has Wifi and can also exploit the GPS of a smartphone. Finally, the continuous shooting performance of the G15 is poor for a camera at this level.
Despite those shortcomings the G15 is a compact and capable performer which will continue to attract those looking for a sturdy compact with a larger sensor, bright lens, and plenty of physical controls. It’s a fun camera to use and is without doubt the best G Series Powershot to date, earning a Cameralabs Recommended award. The design and feature-set also makes sense in Canon’s overall line-up, successfully slotting between the S110 (aimed at those who want a smaller camera with similar quality and control), and the G1 X (aimed at those willing to accept a bigger body in return for a larger sensor and DSLR quality).
(relative to 2012 advanced compacts)
17 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20