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Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot G15 and Nikon Coolpix P7700 are two cameras with a long lineage (with the Nikon's being a bit harder to follow). The Canon PowerShot G-series and Nikon's competitive offerings have gone through numerous variations over the years, but haven't strayed far from the original design philosophy: a fast lens, manual controls, and expandability via system accessories. The thing that's changed the most has been how you compose photos. For a long time, both the G and P-series cameras tended to offer optical viewfinders and articulating LCDs. On these latest models, the G15 lost the flip-out/rotating LCD but retains the optical viewfinder, while the P7700 sports only an articulating display and has shed its viewfinder.

As one would expect, both cameras have their own strengths - and weaknesses. In our shooting we found that the Canon G15 was a much more responsive camera, while the Nikon P7700 produced better quality images (up to a point). The Coolpix P7700 also has a slightly broader feature-set, and a more versatile movie mode than the G15. As always, which you might end up judging 'best' depends on your priorities, but let's break down how the two cameras fared in the various comparisons that we've done throughout this review:

Design and Handling

The PowerShot G15 and Coolpix P7700 have similar designs, both offering dual command dials, hotshoes, and direct controls for exposure compensation. Everyone in the dpreview office likes the P7700's larger grip, but the general consensus was that the G15 feels more solid in the hand.

Each camera features a 3-inch LCD with VGA resolution that perform well outdoors and in low light. The Coolpix gets points for having a fully articulating LCD, which allows you to shoot over crowds or take ground-level shots without straining your neck. On the other hand, the PowerShot G15 offers an optical viewfinder - a feature nearly extinct on compact cameras. Don't expect a DSLR-quality viewfinder, though. The G15's small, tunnel-type viewfinder shows 80% of the frame, and offers a view of the lens when it's at the wide-angle position.

We found adjusting settings to be quite a bit easier on the PowerShot G15. Adjusting simple things like ISO or image quality simply requires opening up the Function Menu. On the Coolpix P7700, you must use the Quick Mode dial on the top of the camera, which requires a lot more dial-turning and button-pressing.

Both cameras support remote shutter control: wired in the case of the G15, and wired or wireless for the P7700. As mentioned above, each camera has a hot shoe, with the P7700 having the added ability to control external flashes wirelessly.

Winner: While the P7700's flip-out LCD is appealing, we think that the G15's smaller, more rugged body and optical viewfinder give it a slight edge. Naturally, this is completely subjective, and your opinion may differ.

Features

As with the question of optical viewfinder vs articulating LCD, buyers have another decision to make when it comes to lenses. The PowerShot G15 gives you a faster F1.8 - F2.8 lens, though its focal length its limited to 28-140mm (equivalent). The Coolpix P7700 offers a bigger zoom lens, with a focal range of 28-200mm, but it's slower, with a max aperture range of F2 - F4. What this means in the real world is that you'll need to use higher sensitivities on the P7700 than you would on the G15, especially in low light situations.

Both cameras have similar feature-sets, which include manual exposure controls, white balance fine-tuning, built-in ND filters, and electronic levels. The Canon gets points for having a dual-axis level (versus single-axis on the P7700), while the Nikon's in-camera Raw processor, time-lapse function, and aforementioned wireless flash control are appreciated. One flaw that we discovered on the P7700 is that the live histogram doesn't change when you adjust the exposure in manual (M) mode, which makes it effectively useless as an exposure guide.

The similarity in features continues when it comes to dynamic range expansion. The PowerShot G15 can reduce highlight clipping, brighten shadows, or both. In our tests, both features worked well, though noise levels increased slightly. Nikon's Active D-Lighting is similar to the G15's DR Correct feature, though we didn't think it was quite as effective. Both cameras have HDR (high dynamic range) features, though only the PowerShot produced realistic-looking images.

Speaking of realistic, as you'd expect these days, both the G15 and P7700 offer plenty of filters and special effects, such as toy camera, miniature effect, and selective color. The Coolpix has a handy 'sweep panorama' feature that performs well, though the field-of-view is a bit squashed. Still, it's a lot easier than having to stitch things together on your computer.

Winner: PowerShot G15

Performance

If there's one bad habit that Nikon's Coolpix P-series cameras can't seem to shake, it's poor responsiveness. Even when switching shooting modes or operating menus, the Coolpix P7700 always feels a half-step behind you. The only area in which the P7700 trumps the G15 is in startup speed, where it's twice as fast. In every other area, the PowerShot wins, often by a large margin.

In terms of autofocus performance, the PowerShot was a tad faster in good light, and about twice as fast in low light. The P7700 did a lot of 'hunting' when light levels dropped, which is disappointing to see on Nikon's flagship compact. That said, the occasional AF lockups which were a feature of the original P7000 appear to be gone for good.

Both cameras have a variety of continuous shooting modes, though the fastest modes (10 fps on the G15, 4 and 8.5 fps on the P7700) black out the LCD, which makes following a moving subject difficult (though the optical viewfinder on the G15 helps, in an approximate way). If you want to keep track of things on the LCD, you'll need to use the slower continuous modes, which shoot at 1.0 and 2.0 fps for the G15, and 0.4 and 1.0 fps on the P7700, for Raw and JPEG, respectively.

Where the Coolpix P7700 really falls down is write speeds. Whether you're bracketing, shooting continuously, or just taking a Raw image, be prepared to wait. For a long time.

While most cameras let you take another picture while saving images to the memory card - or at least enter the menu system - the Coolpix P7700 is totally locked up until it's finished This isn't a huge problem when JPEGs are involved, but if you're taking Raw or Raw+JPEG photos, then you'll be quickly frustrated. Using a SanDisk Class 10 SDHC card, a simple three-shot bracket (with Raw images) will lock up the camera for 16 - 19 seconds. If you've taken a burst of Raw images, expect to wait roughly 34 seconds for writing to complete. Delays on the PowerShot G15 range between 1 and 2 seconds (save for High-Speed Burst HQ mode, which locks up the camera for five seconds), and all functions are available during that time.

Coolpix P7700 buyers will absolutely want a UHS-I SDHC card for maximum performance. Even then, expect to do a lot of waiting.

The only way to reduce - but not eliminate - some of this pain is to use the fastest memory cards available, which write at a blazing 95MB/sec. These cards cuts these times by roughly two-thirds. Do note that these ultra-fast cards come at a price: they're roughly three times as much as a Class 10 card, with which the PowerShot G15 works just fine. If you're buying the Coolpix P7700, we can't recommend a high speed card enough.

Winner: PowerShot G15

Movie mode

No enthusiast compact camera would be caught dead without a 1080p movie mode in 2013. The PowerShot G15 records 1080/24p video, while the Coolpix P7700's video is smoother, thanks to its 30 fps frame rate. The recording times on both cameras are limited by file size. You can record up to 15 minutes of continuous video on the G15, where the P7700 allows for 25 minutes (due to its lower bit rate). Sound is recorded in stereo on both cameras, with the Coolpix having supporting an external mic, for higher quality audio.

Recording a movie is quite a bit easier on the G15 than on the P7700. The dedicated 'red button' allows you to record in any shooting mode, while on the P7700 you must first set the mode dial to one of two positions. The Custom Movie mode on the P7700 allows you to adjust the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed - none of which can be done on the G15.

While the Coolpix's video quality is decent, the higher bit rate on the G15 leads to sharper, less compressed-looking movies.

Winner: Coolpix P7700 (thanks to mic input and manual exposure control)

Image quality

While both cameras produce some of the best photo quality of any small-sensored compacts, we were especially impressed with the results from the Coolpix P7700 - at least at low ISOs. What stands out the most in the P7700's photos is just how sharp they are (for JPEG and Raw), which is a testament to the quality of the lens. The G15's images are a bit softer, though colors are more saturated than on the P7700. The PowerShot G15 also tends to clip highlights more often than its Nikon counterpart.

Both cameras have very little noise at low sensitivities. As the sensitivity reaches ISO 400, the cameras start to lose fine detail, though the PowerShot G15 holds on to more of it than the Coolpix P7700. This trend continues all the way up to ISO 3200 - a setting best reserved for small prints of web viewing. The highest sensitivities have far too little detail to be usable. Things aren't a whole lot different when shooting Raw. There's very little luminance noise visible, and chroma noise kicks in at around ISO 800. Impressively, chroma noise doesn't overwhelm photos on either camera until ISO 6400.

Winner: Coolpix P7700 (by a hair)

So which one is the best?

The Canon PowerShot G15 narrowly beats the Nikon Coolpix P7700 in our competition here, but it's a close-run thing. The G15 offers a fast lens, very good image quality, a compact yet solid body, snappy performance, and plenty of manual controls. And then there's the optical viewfinder which, while not great, is better than nothing. About the only things on our wish list are an articulating LCD display (like on previous models), faster frame rates in movie mode, and a bit sharper images, though the latter is subjective.

There's a lot to like about the Coolpix P7700. It fits well in the hand, has a great selection of customizable controls, and offers more manual controls than the G15. The P7700 is also considerably cheaper than its Canon counterpart. Its articulating LCD makes composing photos easier than a fixed screen. Image quality is also superior than the G15's, though only at lower ISOs.

As with its predecessors, the P7700 disappoints in the performance department. Where the G15 feels like an extension of your hand, the P7700 seems like it has to go through a middleman before you see the results of a dial twist or button-press. What's worse are those write times, which are inexcusable on a flagship camera. You can reduce these times by using a high speed SDHC card - and by that we mean 45 or 90MB/sec - which narrows (but does not close) the price gap between the P7700 and more expensive G15. If Nikon can address camera performance in the next revision in the P-series, it should be on to a winner. For now, the P7700 earns our silver recommendation.

Canon PowerShot G15
Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Photographers who want DSLR-like controls and build-quality in a pocketable package
Not so good for
Video shooters or users who cannot live without an articulated screen
Overall score
76%
The Canon Powershot G15 is a well-refined product and a joy to use. It is very quick and responsive in operation, built like a tank and offers the most external controls in its class. In combination with the fast 28-140mm F1.8-2.8 lens that makes it a very versatile and pocketable photographic tool that offers almost the same degree of control as much larger DSLRs.

Nikon Coolpix P7700
Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Enthusiasts seeking a compact with great image quality at low sensitivities, a plethora of manual controls, an articulating display, and more zoom power than the competition.
Not so good for
Photographers who will shooting RAW files continuously and don't want to wait to take the next photo. And, of course, optical viewfinder lovers.
Overall score
75%
The Coolpix P7700 offers an impressive feature set, a longer zoom range than most of its competitors, a fully articulating LCD, and very good photo quality. Unfortunately, it is marred by very slow write times, especially in RAW mode which makes continuous shooting a chore, and really forces you to use the fastest memory cards available for best performance.

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Comments

Total comments: 3
Karroly
By Karroly (9 months ago)

The BSI-CMOS sensor of the P7700 should feature a better signal/noise ratio over the "conventional" CMOS sensor of the G15 that we cannot notice in this comparison obviously. Is the advantage of BSI-CMOS sensor just marketing BS ? However it looks that it shows its superiority with purple fringing : the shorter distance between the micro-lenses and the photosites increases the tolerance to rays that do not hit the sensor perpendicularly. Unless it is the Nikon lens design that helps ?

0 upvotes
Spectro
By Spectro (9 months ago)

I can think of 5-8 cameras I would buy over these 2. Never seen anybody young with these, not a good valve.

Comment edited 9 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Karroly
By Karroly (9 months ago)

For sure, if young people (like you ?) mistake such a camera for a "valve" then I understand we cannot see them use it to take pictures...
So the question : Are young people skilled and trained in photography enough to evaluate a camera ?

3 upvotes
Total comments: 3