Canon PowerShot G15 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: November 4, 2012

Last Updated: November 30, 2012

The PowerShot G15 ($499) is the latest entry in Canon's long-running series of enthusiast compact cameras. This latest iteration addresses two issues that have plagued recent G-series models: the aperture range of the lens, and focusing performance. While previous models had lenses with a maximum aperture range of F2.8-F4.5, the range on the new PowerShot G15 is a much more impressive F1.8-F2.8. More light through the lens means better photo quality in low light. You'll also have a shallower depth of field to work with, for better background blurring.

The other issue with previous G-series models has been sluggish autofocus performance. Canon has addressed this by improving AF performance by 50% compared to the PowerShot G12. Shutter lag has been reduced, as well.

Unfortunately, Canon giveth, and Canon taketh away. One of the best features on the PowerShot G12 -- its rotating LCD display -- has been replaced by a fixed screen on the G15.

The chart below compares 2010's PowerShot G12 with the new G15:

  PowerShot G12 PowerShot G15
Sensor size / type 1/1.7" CCD 1/1.7" CMOS
Sensor resolution (effective) 10.0 MP 12.1 MP
Processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC 5
Lens max aperture range F2.8 - F4.5 F1.8 - F2.8
Lens focal range (zoom ratio) 28 - 140 mm (5X)
Intelligent IS No Yes
LCD size (type) 2.8" (rotating) 3.0" (fixed)
LCD resolution 461,000 pixel 922,000 pixel
Dedicated ISO dial Yes No
ISO range (full res) 80 - 3200 80 - 12800
Burst rate (full res) 2 frames/sec 10 frames/sec
Creative Filters No Yes
Flash type Built-in Pop-up
Flash working range (Auto ISO) 0.5 - 7.0 m (W)
0.5 - 4.0 m (T)
0.5 - 7.0 m (W)
0.5 - 4.5 m (T)
Max movie resolution (frame rate) 1280 x 720 (24 fps) 1920 x 1080 (24 fps)
Movie Digest mode No Yes
Dedicated movie rec button No Yes
Battery used NB-7L NB-10L
Battery life (CIPA standard) 370 shots 350 shots
Dimensions 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9 in. 4.2 x 3.0 x 1.6 in.
Weight (empty) 351 g 310 g

That's a very nice upgrade, I'd say. If only Canon had retained that rotating LCD that so many G-series owners have to come to enjoy...

Ready to learn more about the PowerShot G15? Keep reading: our review starts right now.

What's in the Box?

I have to say that Canon's bundles have really gone downhill in recent years. First they ditched the included memory card (while not building memory into their cameras), and then it was putting the manual on a CD-ROM. On the G15 they don't even provide a 72 cent USB cable. Here's what you'll find when you crack open the PowerShot G15's box:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot G15 digital camera
  • NB-10L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
  • 33 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

As I mentioned, Canon neither builds memory into their cameras, nor includes a memory card in the box. So, unless you have one already (which you probably do), you'll need to buy yourself an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card right away. You're going to want a 4GB card at the very least, and an 8 or 16GB card if you plan on taking a lot of Full HD videos. I'd recommend a high speed card (Class 6 or higher) for best performance.

The PowerShot G15 uses the same NB-10L lithium-ion battery as its large-sensored sibling, the G1 X. This battery contains 6.8 Wh of energy, which is average for this class. This battery has less juice than the one used on the PowerShot G12, and as a result, battery life is down, but only by 5%. Here's how the PowerShot G15 compares to other enthusiast compact cameras:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot G15 350 shots NB-10L
Fujifilm X10 270 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix P7700 330 shots EN-EL14
Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS 310 shots Li-90B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 330 shots DMW-BCJ13
Samsung EX2F 240 shots SLB-10A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 330 shots NP-BX1

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturer

Despite dropping a bit since the G12, the PowerShot G12 still has the best battery life of any camera in this group. It's always a good idea to pick up a spare battery, and a genuine NB-10L will set you back around $40.

When it's time to charge the NB-10L, just pop it into the included charger. This charger, which plugs directly into the wall, takes about 110 minutes to refill the battery.

One shouldn't be surprised to hear that the PowerShot G15 supports a host of optional accessories. Here are the most interesting ones:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Tele-conversion lens TC-DC58E $250 Boosts the focal length by 1.4X, giving you a new focal range (equivalent) of 39.2 - 196 mm. Requires conversion lens adapter below.
Conversion lens adapter LA-DC58L $40 You'll need this if you plan on using the tele-converter above, or either of the two available macro ring lites.
Filter adapter FA-DC58D $50 Allows you to attach standard 58 mm filters to the PowerShot G15.
External flash 270EX II
430EX II

From $154
From $270
From $254
From $540

The 270EX II is a basic flash that can't tilt or pan. The three higher-end flashes can do that, plus at as wireless slaves (you'll need something to control them, though, like the 600EX). The 320EX has a built-in video lamp.
Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 From $227 This transmitter allows you to wirelessly control a compatible Canon external flash.
Remote shutter release RS60-E3 From $20 A shutter release button on a 2 foot-long cable.
Waterproof case WP-DC48 $350 Take your G15 up to 40 meters (130 ft) underwater.
AC adapter ACK-DC80 From $45 Power the camera without draining your batteries.
A/V cable AVC-DC400ST From $25 For connecting your camera to a old school television.
Soft camera case SC-DC85 N/A A fitted, soft leather case for your G15. Not sure if it's actually sold in the USA.
* Prices were accurate when review was published

That's a pretty standard selection of accessories for a G-series camera. If you're into macro photography, then I should point out that both the MR-14EX and MT-24EX ring lites are also supported.

Canon has one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter CameraWindow, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ImageBrowser EX, which replaces the old ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser twins that came on earlier models. I'm not sure what Canon used to build this software (it feels like Adobe Air), but it definitely doesn't feel like a native application anymore, at least on the Mac side. That said, it'll let you edit your photos in a number of ways, including auto correct, redeye removal, tone curve and level adjustment, and more. It also allows you to edit your videos, including adding transitions and special effects, and save the results as a new movie. Both stills and movies can be shared via e-mail, Facebook. YouTube, or Canon's own Image Gateway service.

For editing RAW images you'll need to use Digital Photography Professional, which is a very capable product. Here you can adjust exposure, highlight and shadow detail, the tone curve, noise reduction, and white balance. There are also tools for reducing lens distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing. If you want to use Photoshop to edit RAW files, you'll have to wait until Adobe releases a version of their Camera Raw plug-in that is compatible with the PowerShot G15.

Also included with the PowerShot G15 is PhotoStitch. PhotoStitch can take photos that you've lined up (manually on the G15), and combine them into a single panoramic image.

As I mentioned earlier, Canon only supplies a 33 page "basic manual" in the box with the G15. It'll get you started, but for more details, you'll need to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The manuals themselves aren't what I'd call pleasure reading, but they will certainly answer any question you may have about the camera. Instructions for the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.