Canon PowerShot G15

12MP | 28-140mm (5x) Zoom | $499 (US) £490 (UK) €550 (EU)

Canon's PowerShot G-series is one of the most iconic lines of digital compact cameras, with the original G1 having debuted back in September 2000. The resurgence of the market has seen Canon radically re-work the G even if its efforts are masked by the family resemblance to recent models. The G15 has a lens that's a whole stop faster across its range than its predecessors' was. It's also a smaller camera than recent G series model - foregoing the flip-out screen of the G12 in the name of portability. And, to top off the developments, the more svelte G15 gains full HD movie capture and significantly improved focus speed, helping ensure it can stand up against the latest competition.

Key Features

  • 12.0MP 1/1.7" CMOS sensor
  • 28-140mm (equivalent), F1.8-2.8 optically stabilized zoom lens
  • ISO 80-12800
  • Front dial, rear four-way dial and exposure comp. dial
  • 1080p30 video with stereo microphones
  • 3.0" LCD screen with 921k dots
  • 350 shot battery life (CIPA)
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Hot shoe for external flash units
This latest model features a 28-140mm zoom with a fast maximum aperture of F1.8-2.8 mated with a Canon-made 12.1MP 1/1.7"-type CMOS sensor. The G15 features an ISO range of 80 to 12,800 and full HD movie recording at a frame-rate of 24 fps, with stereo sound from the built-in microphones.
The G15 is smaller than its predecessors but is still one of the largest cameras here...

...and that's mainly because of the viewfinder hump on top of the camera.

The G15 retains the exposure compensation dial introduced on 2008's G10 but the smaller body means it's now nested with the exposure mode dial. The G15 also has a front control dial, which makes it quick and easy to change exposure settings.

The G15 is one of the largest cameras in this group. In part because it has one of the longest lenses but also because it retains that rarest of things - an optical viewfinder. The viewfinder isn't terribly good (they never have been on compacts), but there are people, particularly those in sunny climes, who find them essential. The build quality is impressive, even in this company, with dense rubber grips and metal dials extending from the magnesium alloy case to give the sense that you're getting a durable, quality product.

The smaller body size has meant the mode dial and exposure compensation dial now overlap but the G12's front dial is retained to mean you still have plenty of at-your-fingertips control. That said, we found we had to adjust our hand position to adjust the front dial.

Performance and Image Quality

In our testing, we found that the G15's long but impressively bright lens is a real selling point compared to both its predecessor, and indeed most of its competitors. Having a maximum aperture of F1.8-2.8 combined with a useful 28-140mm (equivalent) zoom means that you've got a lot more flexibility in poor light, allowing you to set either a lower ISO sensitivity for cleaner images, or a faster shutter speed to avoid camera-shake or blurring due to subject movement.

Wide Angle (28mm Equiv.) Telephoto (140mm Equiv.)
The G15's lens does well at all but the extreme corners, where there's a slight loss of sharpness. Overall the color and exposure of the outdoor shots is good though.
The portrait shot has very slightly over-warm skin tones but not to a problematic degree. The background is nicely separated and the rendering of the out-of-focus regions isn't distracting - a good result. The flash shot has rendered skin tones in a pleasantly warm manner. There's slight over-exposure of the second greyscale patch on the colorchecker but it's generally pretty good. Little effort has been made to balance flash exposure with ambient lighting.
The G15's lens is very good at closer focusing distances. You'll get the most control over depth of field with subjects that are relatively small and close to the camera, as here. While it hasn't got nearly the reach of a dedicated superzoom camera, the G15 offers a longer lens than most of its rivals. The quality is also high enough to allow you to crop into the image if you want to get a slightly closer view.
The G15's metering system could easily have underexposed this shot but the camera has delivered a very well-balanced image.  At ISO 3200, detail capture from the G15 isn't as good as it is at lower ISO sensitivity settings, but it's still pretty impressive. 

Detail capture is high at the low end of its ISO sensitivity scale, and its 28-140mm lens is excellent, aided by a very effective image stabilization system that we've found can deliver sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/15sec at full zoom. The G15 gets noisier at its higher ISO settings, but even at ISO 3200 and 6400 image quality is good enough for small prints or web use. For more critical work, shooting in Raw mode will allow you to get the most out of the camera. 

Summary

All in all, the G15 is a great performer and a pleasure to use. The G15 is highly recommended for anyone who needs a general-purpose compact with lots of manual control that can deliver great quality images. The lack of an articulated screen will bother some people, and it makes the G15 less flexible when shooting from awkward angles, and when recording movies. Of course the flip-side is that the increased portability compared to earlier models, and competitors such as Nikon's Coolpix P7700, is very welcome. 

Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)

Studio Comparison Tool Canon PowerShot G15 Samples (49 images)

What we like: Excellent 'hands-on' ergonomics in a small, relatively portable body, optical viewfinder can be handy on occasion, very nice image quality, good, responsive operation. 

What we don't like: We miss the G12's articulated screen, and the lack of any meaningful manual control in video mode will frustrate budding filmmakers. 

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