Operation & Handling

The Canon PowerShot G15 is the smaller of the two cameras, though neither it nor the Coolpix P7700 are going to fit into your jeans pocket. The G15 can be easily held with one hand, with quick access to both the movie record button and the exposure compensation button with your thumb. That said, the front dial is placed a little too low in our opinion, which doesn't give the most positive 'grip'.

Canon PowerShot G15
Nikon Coolpix P7700
We did a quick survey around the office and found that while most people preferred the larger grip on the P7700, the G15 felt more solid and compact.

Speaking of grips, the one on the P7700 is considerably larger than that on the G15. Nikon has placed the important controls in all the right places: your thumb should reach the rear and exposure compensation dials with ease, your pointer finger is well-positioned to move quickly between the shutter release, Fn2, and front dial, while your ring finger sits right next to the Fn1 button. The only downside is that your right thumb might accidentally bump the 'up' direction on the four-way controller, which adjusts the flash setting.

Information displays (live view)

Canon PowerShot G15
Nikon Coolpix P7700
Both cameras offer live histograms and electronic levels. We prefer the less obtrusive histogram on the P7700, while the G15 wins for its dual-axis electronic level. These images show both cameras' live view screens with absolutely everything activated - you can opt for a less cluttered view on both if you prefer.
The ultimate 'live view' of course is an optical viewfinder. Like all previous G-series compact cameras the G15 offers a 'tunnel-type' finder, which boasts ~80% frame coverage.

There's no shooting information in the finder (unlike Fuji's X20), but flash and AF confirmation lights can be found on the right (the two gray circles in this view).

Something we noticed about the live histogram on the Coolpix P7700 is that it does not change when you adjust the exposure in manual mode. Since the whole point of a histogram is to obtain an accurate exposure (which is how Nikon describes the feature in the manual), the fact that this feature essentially does not work in the way a photographer might expect is troubling. Effectively, the only purpose it serves is to represent the tonal distribution of the live view image, which isn't really useful.

Menus and settings

Nikon and Canon's compacts handle quick setting adjustment in different ways. On the P7700, this is accomplished by rotating the 'Quick Mode' dial on the upper-left of its top plate (and pressing the button at its hub) you can adjust the ISO sensitivity, image quality, Picture Control, bracketing mode, and white balance. You can also create a 'My Menu', containing the menu items of your choice (the G15 has a similar feature).

The P7700's Quick Mode dial is how you'll adjust things like image quality, ISO sensitivity, and white balance.

While this control might sound convenient, it's actually takes a bit longer to adjust settings than a traditional shortcut menu such as the one found on the PowerShot G15 (and many other cameras in this class). To adjust something like ISO sensitivity on the P7700 (forgetting about the Fn buttons for a moment), you must rotate the Quick Mode dial, wait a moment for the menu to load, use the control dials to select the setting you want, and press another button to confirm. The fact that the P7700 always feels like it's a half-step behind you doesn't make things any better. As we just hinted though, you can get around this somewhat by using the customizable function buttons on the P7700. The Fn2 button, adjacent to the P7700's shutter release, is in a handy position if you want to assign it to ISO.

On the PowerShot G15, adjusting settings is much easier - just press the 'Func' button, and use the rear dial to quickly scroll to the desired item. There are no delays when doing any of this, unlike on the Nikon.

Canon PowerShot G15
Nikon Coolpix P7700
The shooting menu on the G15 scrolls quickly, and offers a description of each option. The shooting menu on the P7700 is also quick, though it lacks the help feature.
The G15's Function Menu, opened via the Func button on the camera's rear, contains a lengthy list of commonly used settings. The items found on the P7700's Quick Menu, which is navigated using the aptly named Quick Mode dial on the top-left of the camera.

Another big difference in terms of rear controls is related to movie recording. The PowerShot G15 has a dedicated red button next to the thumb rest, which allows you to record a movie in any shooting mode. The P7700, on the other hand, requires you to switch the mode dial to the movie position first, and then use the shutter release button to start recording, which isn't great if you want to quickly capture a moment.