Canon PowerShot G15 Review


The Canon PowerShot G15 is a premium compact camera, sitting one rung lower than its larger-sensored sibling, the PowerShot G1 X. The G15 fixes many of the issues that were found on its predecessor (the PowerShot G12 -- there was no G13 or G14), though some may not forgive Canon for removing their beloved rotating LCD. The G15 is well built camera made mostly of metal, and everything is well put together. The camera is easy to hold (though a larger grip would've been nice), and the controls aren't overwhelming. One of the biggest complaints people had about the G12 was regarding its unremarkable lens. Canon took care of that on the G15, providing users with a fast F1.8-2.8, 5X zoom, with a focal length equivalent to 28 - 140 mm. Naturally, the PowerShot has optical image stabilization, now with the ability to select the correct IS mode automatically. On the back of the camera you'll find a fixed 3-inch LCD display with 922,000 pixels (twice that of the G12) and very good outdoor/low light visibility. While Canon got rid of the rotating LCD on the G15, the optical viewfinder thankfully wasn't also on the chopping block. As with its G-series predecessors, the PowerShot G15 supports a host of accessories, including a tele-conversion lens, external flash, wired remote control, and underwater housing.

I don't think anyone will complain about the feature set on the PowerShot G15. The point-and-shoot crowd will find the camera's Smart Auto mode to be quite capable. It'll select one of fifty-eight scene modes for you, and can even tell the difference between sleeping and smiling babies, adjusting the camera settings appropriately. As with most cameras these days, the G15 also has plenty of special effects, including an HDR mode that'll improve the contrast in your photos. Another handy feature is DR Correction, which will reduce highlight clipping in photos, though they may be a bit noisier as a result. There's no shortage of manual controls either, with exposure, white balance, and focus available to tweak. You can fine-tune white balance, bracket for exposure and focus (but not WB, strangely), and save files in RAW format. Add in customizable buttons and menus and an electronic level, and I think most enthusiasts will be pleased. The G15 can also record movies at 1080/24p with stereo sound, use of the optical zoom, and continuous autofocus. Unfortunately, manual controls are not available in movie mode.

The other area in which critics dinged the PowerShot G12 was with regard to performance. Canon has brought the G15 up to speed, though it's not going to win any awards. The startup speed of 1.4 seconds is about average, as are the new and improved focus times. In low light the G15 seemed to focus a bit quicker than other cameras in its class. I didn't notice any shutter lag, and shot-to-shot times ranged from 2-3 seconds. The PowerShot G15 has a number of burst modes, and I'll focus on two. The standard continuous mode (without LCD blackout) shoots at 0.9 - 1.9 frames/second, with the speed depending on whether RAW images are involved. There's also a High-Speed Burst HQ mode, which takes ten photos in a row at 10 frames/second, but the LCD will be blacked out during shooting, and the ISO is set to "auto", so your photos may be noisy. Despite a slight drop in battery life since the PowerShot G12, the G15 still managed to squeeze out best-in-class numbers.

The photo quality on the PowerShot G15 is impressive, though there is some room for improvement. Its accurate metering system means that you don't have to bracket every shot, unlike on some cameras. That said, the G15 loves to clip highlights, so you may need to use DR correction or RAW to try to reduce some of that. Colors are quite saturated, and subjects are nice and sharp. The camera keeps noise levels low through ISO 800 in low light and ISO 1600 in normal lighting. I found the G15 to produce better quality JPEGs than the Nikon Coolpix P7700 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 at higher sensitivities. The only other photo quality issue I had with the G15 was redeye, though you can remove it by using the tool in playback mode. Purple fringing was not an issue.

Though I'm still a little bitter about the removal of the rotating LCD, I have to say that Canon's PowerShot G15 is a great enthusiast camera. It takes very good photos, has plenty of features for both beginners and enthusiasts, offers good (but not class-leading) responsiveness, and has a huge selection of accessories. As always, there's room for improvement (less highlight clipping and manual controls in movie mode would be nice), but as it stands, the PowerShot G15 is a camera that I can easily recommend.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, with better-than-average performance at high sensitivities
  • Well-designed camera with solid build quality
  • Fast F1.8-2.8, 5X optical zoom lens (28 - 140 mm equivalent)
  • Optical image stabilization, with new Intelligent IS feature
  • Super-sharp 3-inch LCD display (too bad it's a fixed one)
  • Optical viewfinder is always a bonus
  • Full manual controls, including RAW support
  • Smart Auto mode picks a scene mode for you, can even tell when babies are smiling or sleeping
  • Tons of scene modes and Creative Filters
  • Dynamic range correction and HDR features improve image contrast (though a tripod is recommended for the latter)
  • Customizable button, menu, and spots on mode dial
  • Dual-axis electronic level
  • Built-in neutral density filter
  • Records Full HD (1080/24p) video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom, and continuous AF
  • Best-in-class battery life
  • Lots of available accessories, including conversion lenses, filters, external flash, wired remote, and underwater housing

What I didn't care for:

  • Likes to clip highlights (hint: use DR correction)
  • Redeye a problem (though removal tool in playback mode helps)
  • Rotating LCD will be missed
  • ISO fixed at 80 at shutter speeds below 1 second
  • Movies are a bit choppy due to 24 fps frame rate; no manual controls available
  • Can't access memory card when using a tripod
  • Cheapo bundle puts manual on CD-ROM, doesn't even include a USB cable anymore

Some other premium compact cameras to consider include the Fujifilm X10, Nikon Coolpix P7700, Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, Samsung EX2F, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100.

As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the PowerShot G15 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.