Operation & Performance
The G15's top-plate is home to the pop-up flash on the left and power button, shutter button/zoom rocker, mode dial and exposure compensation dial to the right of the viewfinder hump. The layout is very similar to the G1 X, but the repositioning of the exposure compensation dial means it's easier to operate using your thumb without loosening your grip of the camera.
The hand grip is slightly less protruding than on the G1 X, but thanks to its soft rubber material and the G15's lower weight and smaller dimensions, it works well and ensures a stable hold of the camera. Like on the G1 X the pop-up flash on the left is operated with the adjacent slider ( the G12 had a fixed unit at the front of the camera).
The G15 is very similar to both the G12 and G1 X in terms of operation. For a compact camera it has an unusually large number of external controls, including a dedicated video button. This allows you to change many crucial shooting settings at the press of a button or, in the case of exposure compensation, the turn of a dial. The new model is only marginally smaller than its predecessor, but without the protruding swivel-screen the G15 feels noticeably less chunky than the G12 and is an easier fit for many coat pockets.
The build-quality is as good as it gets. The camera feels like a mini-EOS 1D, extremely solid with soft and comfortable rubberized hand grip and thumb rest. The magnesium alloy surfaces have been very slightly roughened, giving them a quality feel. It'll be hard to find another compact camera that feels this well put together. That said, the new G15's metal body is a touch more matt than the G12's, and while this gives the camera a very attractive appearance the surface is more prone to scratches and abrasion.
|Thanks to the rubberized hand grip and thumb rest the Canon G15 feels very comfortable and stable in your hand. The exposure compensation dial is within easy reach of your thumb and the dedicated movie button gives quick access to video capture.|
The camera rear features exactly the same control layout as the the G15's large-sensor cousin, the G1 X. Most buttons are located to the right of the screen. There's also a combined control dial/multi-controller that lets you access ISO, focus mode, flash settings and display mode. A press of the center button opens the FUNC-menu that lets you adjust further shooting parameters. The function of both the front and rear dials is customizable.
|The function of the front and rear dials and the Shortcut-button on the back of the camera can be customized...||...as can the amount of information that is visible on the shooting screen.|
Above and below the multi-controller you find another four buttons - AF area selection, AE-lock, metering mode and the Menu button. The top right corner of the camera rear is the location of the video button, the play button is just to the right of the viewfinder and the only button on the left side is the customizable Shortcut-button. It can be programmed to have one of the following functions:
Shortcut button options
| • Not assigned
• White Balance
• Custom White Balance 1
• Custom White Balance 2
• My Colors
• Drive Mode
| • ND-Filter
• Aspect Ratio
• Select Raw or JPEG
• Servo AF
• AF Lock
• Digital Tele-Converter
• Display Off
|The G15's standard shooting screen displays you information about your shooting mode, ISO setting, exposure compensation, metering mode and battery status among other things.||The FUNC menu lets you change a number of parameters including white balance, drive mode and flash exposure compensation.|
|Pressing an external button such as the ISO button overlays a translucent settings display onto the screen.||The amount of shooting information on the screen can be customized. Here you can see the standard screen with an added histogram and digital level.|
|As usual you can also customize the amount of information on the playback screen. Options range from no information to detailed shooting information with histogram.|
|In playback mode you can also zoom in in ten steps and choose between four different thumbnail screens (2x2, 3x3, 6x6 and 10x10)|
Overall handling and performance
The G15 is an evolutionary update from the G12, and on the whole the changes Canon has made look sensible and well-considered. In terms of operation and handling the main differences are the increased AF speed and the lack of a swivel-screen and ISO-dial.
Canon says the G15's AF is 53% faster than the (already quite snappy) G12 at wide-angle (CIPA-standard) and while we have no way of precisely measuring the differences we have tried both cameras side by side in varying conditions and can confirm that the G15 is noticeably quicker and one of the fastest focusing compact cameras we have tested. In real-life conditions we would estimate the G15 to be between 20 and 30% faster than its predecessor. The AF also works reliably down to fairly low light levels, although it slows down a little in dimmer conditions.
In terms of continuous shooting the G15 has been improved over its predecessor as well. That said, at 2.1 frames per second it is still not blisteringly fast. The table below shows you our measured frame rates for JPEG and Raw. The good news is that you can shoot at these rates until your card runs full, the bad news is that you only achieve these rates at the long end of the zoom and at certain settings. The JPEG rate goes down to approximately 1.8 fps at wide-angle and slows down a little further at higher ISOs and with noise reduction set to 'High'.
|Frame rate||2.1 fps||1.2 fps||1.1 fps|
If you need more speed you can switch to the High-speed Burst HQ mode. However, this being a scene mode you have no control over shutter speed, ISO or indeed any other shooting parameter, although you can apply exposure compensation. In this mode the camera will take exactly 10 frames in one second. You'll then have to wait for the buffer to clear, which takes approximately five seconds, before you can press the shutter button again to shoot the next burst.
While the loss of the ISO dial is a shame, it's compensated by the much better positioning of the exposure compensation control which is very easy to use with your thumb. ISO can still be accessed quite easily via a dedicated hard-button on the multi-controller.
What's bound to be contentious, though, is the reversion to a fixed, rather than articulated, screen. This means you get a slimmer camera with a larger screen - something Canon is at pains to point out - and the 920k dot unit used is one of the best on any compact. But there's no doubt that a swivel screen offers more flexibility while shooting.
Despite the removal of the ISO dial the G15 offers one of the most extensive sets of external controls on any compact camera. Like its predecessor the G15 has both rear and front control dials which pretty much means you can operate the G15 like a mini DSLR. The rear dial is fine, but like most dials on a multi-controller is a little tricky to operate with cold or gloved fingers. By default, the front control dial changes aperture and shutter speed in Av and Tv modes, and shutter speed in manual exposure mode, but the behaviour of both dials can be customized if desired.
Overall the Canon Powershot G15 is one of the best-handling compact cameras we have seen for a while. It turns on very quickly and is generally very responsive, all important shooting settings are accessible via a dial or button, and with its high quality materials it simply feels nice in your hands.