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Canon G15 Review

Overview by Roger Slavens
Posted 09/17/2012
Shooter's Report by David Schloss and
Posted

With their latest enthusiast powerhouse camera, Canon leapfrogged the G13 and G14 names for the superstitious among us, landing instead on PowerShot G15. Luckily, this jump wasn't in name only. The Canon G15 boasts a bevy of advanced technologies, especially the 28mm wide-angle 5x optical zoom lens which starts out at a G-series-best of f/1.8 wide open and ends at a G-series best f/2.8 at full telephoto. That's some impressive speed and brightness throughout the entire zoom range. Add in the upgrade to a 12-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 processor, and the G15 definitely has more imaging firepower to compete against its competitors' flagship compact digital cameras, which have arguably leapfrogged the G12 in recent months. It's nice to see that Canon's paying attention.

Sensor and AF performance. The new CMOS sensor actually has 13.3 megapixels total, is the same one built into the S110, and includes technology brought over from Canon's EOS DSLR sensors. The company says the sensor has "a wide range in the light-receiving surface area per pixel," thus improving light reception even in low light. ISO ranges from 80 to 12,800 -- a huge upgrade. The new sensor and the DIGIC 5 processor work together to help make AF speeds and shutter lag considerably faster in the G15 (53% and 45% reduction compared to the G12, respectively), according to Canon.

Keeping up appearances. The Canon G15's appearance hasn't strayed too far from formula. One instantly noticeable difference is the pop-up flash that replaces the embedded flash of the G12; this should help a little with red-eye issues. The top dials have also radically changed configuration.

The Exposure compensation dial, which now has a range of ±3 EV (up from ±2) and used to be on the other side of the flash hot shoe, has moved to just behind the Mode dial; a flash release slider has replaced it. Meanwhile, the Mode dial remains in roughly the same place, but it no longer sits on top of a manual ISO selection dial (which has disappeared altogether from the G15). The Power button moves over a bit to make room for the Exposure compensation dial, and the Shutter release button is still ringed by a zoom control.

Dominating the back of the Canon PowerShot G15 is a 3-inch, 922K-dot, fixed LCD screen. That's right, Canon ditched the hinged, vari-angle screen of the G12 -- definitely not a plus. Canon kept the optical viewfinder, as well as the hot shoe on top for adding a Speedlite or other accessories. The button layout on the back of the Canon G15 should be fairly familiar to those who've shot with the G12, with only a couple buttons changed, namely the video record button replacing the AE Lock/FE Lock button at the top right, and the asterisk button moved down to one of the four surrounding the navigation disk.

Some thought the Canon PowerShot G12 was a bit too chunky, but the G15 has slimmed down a bit. The G15 measures 4.2 x 3 x 1.6 inches (107 x 76 x 40mm) with the zoom lens retracted, and weighs almost 12.4 ounces (350g), nearly 2 ounces less than the G12. Unfortunately, it's still too big to be considered a pocketable camera; that is, unless you're wearing cargo shorts or a jacket.

Video and other features. The Canon PowerShot G15 boasts Full HD video shooting capabilities, recording 1080p at 24 frames per second, and 720p at 30 fps, while the G12 only filmed at 720p. The Canon G15 permits you to zoom while recording, and has a built-in stereo microphone. Movies are recorded in MOV format with H.264 compression and Stereo Linear PCM audio.

High-Speed Burst HQ mode provides up to 10 frames per second at 12 megapixels, and the camera uses Canon's Intelligent IS, specifically of the four-stop correction, lens-shift variety, to keep the camera image steady during both still shots and video.

Smart Auto now detects 58 scenes, and creative modes include the oft-useful Handheld Night Scene, and add filters such as Toy Camera Effect and Soft Focus. There's even a Super Slow Motion Movie function to slow down fast action. The Canon G15 can also accommodate accessories such as a Teleconverter Lens, a Conversion Lens adapter (to allow for a Macro Ring Lite or Macro Twin Lite), and a threaded Filter Adapter for 58mm filters.

Connectivity. The G15, unlike many digicams these days, has no WiFi connectivity or GPS. For some, that may be a serious shortcoming, but it appears that Canon focused its efforts on maximizing the advanced photographic features of the camera rather than trying to cram in wireless sharing functionality, too.

The Canon G15 is equipped with a remote terminal for use with an optional RS60-E3 Remote Switch, a combined AV/data Mini USB port, and a Mini (Type C) HDMI terminal with CEC support. And Canon's Direct Print system allows you to print right from the G15 to a Canon PIXMA or SELPHY photo printer with a USB cable and a touch of the camera's Direct Print Button. USB, AV and HDMI cables are all optional, however, as no cables are included in the product bundle.

Battery and storage. The G15 uses a NB-10L Lithium-ion battery with a CIPA-rated life of 350 shots with the LCD monitor on, 770 shots with the LCD off, and playback time of approximately 7 hours. The included CB-2LC battery charger has a convenient folding plug design. And an optional ACK-DC80 AC adapter is available.

The Canon G15 supports SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards, including Eye-Fi cards. SD Speed Class 6 or faster memory cards are recommended for recording HD video. There's no built-in memory available for storage.

Price and Availability. The Canon PowerShot G15 launched at a suggested retail price of US$500 in October 2012. An optional WP-DC48 Waterproof Case, rated to depths of up to 130 feet, is sold separately.

 

Canon G15 Shooter's Report

By David Schloss and Roger Slavens

Canon's PowerShot G-series cameras were some of the first premium compact cameras to really grab the attention of the professional photographer and the amateur shooter alike. Canon's success in the SLR and compact digital spaces generated huge buzz when it announced the G1. It seemed as if the holy grail of photography had been reached, a camera both compact enough to take everywhere but professional enough to act as a backup camera or travel body for someone that needed SLR-quality images without the bulk.

At this point you'd probably expect me to talk about the failure of the G1, how it didn't live up to expectations and made photographers run to competing systems. That's not how this narrative ends. Instead the Canon G1 was tremendously successful (despite the limitations often encountered in a first generation) and spawned a succession of G-series cameras that -- for the most part -- have gotten better and better. There were some hiccups along the way, notable the G7 that had a slower lens than its predecessor and no RAW shooting capabilities.

Improvements. The G15 has improved over the G12 in a few notable areas; most exciting is the lens, which is more than a stop faster than the G12 and runs from f/1.8-2.8 across the 28-140mm (equivalent) range.

Another improvement is autofocus speed. Canon claims the G15 is 53% faster than the G12, and it certainly felt quick in my hands and rivaled the speed of any compact camera I've ever tested.

One disappointing downgrade. One thing that didn't make it over from the G12 is an articulated LCD screen -- the 922K-dot display on the G15 is fixed in place. Canon, naturally, says that the use of a fixed display allowed the camera to be smaller, and indeed the G15 is more svelte than the G12 (which is a good thing).

Still, it feels odd to have a camera that relies primarily on the LCD screen for operation that lacks the ability to pivot that screen. The G15 is an excellent macro shooter, yet it's not possible to tilt the display so that it's possible to see low-level shots without getting down on the ground. In fact, the lack of an articulated screen was the first thing that photographers noticed when I handed them the camera, even before commenting on the size or the weight. Though fixed in place, I did find the LCD to be reasonably bright, and usable even in direct sunlight -- but luckily the camera does have an optical viewfinder when the LCD view isn't sufficient.

The Canon G15 kept pace with good image quality across a wide variety of subjects and shooting situations, including macro images.

Speaking of the optical viewfinder -- which our readers typically appreciate on an enthusiast-level compact camera -- the view it provides is small and exhibits parallax (since the opening for the viewfinder is above the lens) and does not provide 100% coverage. Alongside the viewfinder is a diopter adjustment dial, but it lacks any markings to indicate the center ("zero") position, so you have to fiddle with it until you find the right setting for your eye. Bottom line, the optical viewfinder is nice to have -- even if it's far from ideal -- and is a fairly rare feature on a camera of this type these days.

Getting rid of the articulated LCD monitor is not the death knell for the G15; in practice it doesn't matter that much. The G15 is so light and comfortable that shooting with it at arm's length isn't much of a problem. This is not, after all, a DSLR.

Ergonomics. The G15 is comfortable to hold and is one of the most ergonomic compact cameras I've used. The matte finish on the outer housing provides an extra level of "stickiness" to the camera, making it easier to hold and to operate.

The buttons and control dials, while diminutive, are easy to use, although it's nearly impossible to actuate them while wearing gloves. (That's something that's true with many compact cameras.) The top mounted control dials (there's one for shooting mode and thankfully a dedicated exposure compensation dial) have nice, strong-feeling detents, meaning that it takes a bit of force to rotate the dials. This prevents accidental changes to shooting modes or EV during normal operation. However, many DSLR users will be familiar with the issue of pulling the camera out to shoot and having the dials turned to odd positions as there's no dial lock.

The primary control dial for the G15 is located on the front of the camera (at index finger level) rather than the rear spot that's home to the controls on many point-and-shoot cameras. The EV dial occupies exactly the space where a rotating control dial would go, and actually feels like it would have been the more natural choice for the control dial location as it's less cumbersome to raise the thumb and turn a dial than it is to take the pointer finger off of the front grip and rotate the front dial -- but this is splitting hairs. For Canon SLR shooters this front-forward design will be comfortable and familiar.

The G15 features a contoured rear thumb grip on the rear of the camera which is especially comfortable and helpful with stabilization of the camera during shooting. It also protects the new dedicated (and overdue) one-touch video button.


Focal length
28mm
38mm
50mm
70mm
140mm
Maximum
f/1.8
f/2.0
f/2.2
f/2.5
f/2.8
Minimum
f/8 at all focal lengths

Optics. The highlight of the Canon G15 is the bright lens, and with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the widest zoom it's good enough for nice background bokeh. And with a maximum of f/2.8 at the longest (140mm equivalent) zoom, it's a fast lens at any focal length. Minimum aperture is f/8 across the zoom range. (See the table below right for maximum aperture versus approximate equivalent focal length as reported by the camera.)

Actual focal length is 6.1 to 30.5 mm, and construction consists of 11 elements in 9 groups, with one single-sided aspherical lens, one UD lens and two double-sided aspherical lenses.

The lens is optically stabilized using Canon's excellent Intelligent IS, which the company says is good for up to four stops of correction.

The G15 also provides exceptional macro focus, with a close-up focal distance down to 1cm from the front of the lens at wide angle. (This is one of those areas where an articulating LCD screen would be handy, of course.) One of my favorite uses for the G15 is handheld macro work.

Images are everything. Thanks to Canon's smart mix of optics, sensor and processor, the G15 produces tack-sharp images from the built-in zoom lens. Photos have excellent saturation and color fidelity, and almost seem to look as if they came from a DSLR when shot at low ISOs.

The Canon PowerShot G15's images were sharp, colorful and mostly artifact free. Not quite DSLR quality, but they certainly rank among the best from the premium compact category.

That's not to say that images off the G15 sensor aren't without flaws, as it's simply not possible to crank pixel-peeping-proof pictures from a small CMOS sensor. The APS-C sensor in the Canon's entry-level Rebel is many times larger than the G15, for example, and gives you higher quality images with more latitude for adjustments in post, especially at higher ISOs.

It's possible to see artifacts in the G15 images, but usually only at high magnifications. For the typical G15 user -- someone who chooses it for convenience over ultimate image quality -- this won't be an issue, but it points to the differences and trade-offs between compact digital cameras and full-blown DSLR setups. The bottom line is the Canon G15 captures great pictures for a compact enthusiast camera.

No filter
Toy Camera filter
Super Vivid filter
Nostalgic filter
Monochrome filter
Poster Effect filter
Canon G15 Creative Filters: The camera features a number of different in-camera filters, ranging from HDR (which merges three consecutive photos together to achieve more dynamic range) to Monochrome. These filters can help you add a more dramatic look to your everyday snapshots. Above, five of the eleven available Creative Filters are shown.

Interface. For Canon fans, the G15 interface is familiar. Menu items and settings are organized with the same simple tab-based interface of just about every other Canon camera. That means that a shooter of a 1D series camera can pick up the G15 and get to work with no hesitation and conversely it means that photographers starting off with the G15 will be comfortable when they move up the camera food chain.

The G15 features an on screen "help" tool that displays relatively useful feedback on selected settings. For example, set the camera to Auto ISO and it says "Automatically sets the ISO for the scene" but if the camera is set to, say ISO 100 it says (directly under the ISO value) "ISO set to 100." Thanks.

The minimalist menu system of the G15 is, however, very comforting. Canon has tweaked their menu design over the years and the screens aren't filled with dozens of oddly-named settings, as is the case with many cameras.

Several buttons on the back provide access to dedicated or programmable functions. My favorite is the button that toggles face detection without having to activate it by digging through menu items.

Autofocus. One of the advantages of high-end compact cameras is the expectation of speedy autofocus, and the G15 is certainly one of the fastest PowerShots we've seen. The IR lab measured the G15's full autofocus shutter lag at 0.46 second, quite an improvement over the G12's 0.66 second. While a noticeable improvement over its predecessor, the G15's autofocus still isn't as fast as some competing models, though. The Samsung EX2F we just reviewed managed 0.38 second, the Nikon P7700 0.42 second, while the Panasonic LX7 clocked in at a very swift 0.24 second. Still, the G15 locks onto targets quickly and accurately, and that's certainly important with shots at the maximum f/1.8 since there's not a lot of wiggle room for critical focus.

Like most Canon cameras it can often feel almost preternaturally accurate at detecting the most important subject in the frame, even when that subject isn't the closest or largest, relatively speaking. I found the G15's low-light focus to be particularly impressive -- I was able to focus the camera in astoundingly dim conditions, even without the assist beam.

1x (28mm eq.), f/2.8, 1/1000s
5x (140mm eq.), f/2.8, 1/2000s
Canon G15 zoom range. Here's a demonstration of the G15's 5x zoom range, which starts at 28mm equivalent wide and goes to 140mm equivalent at full tele.

Face detection. One interesting note is that in certain lighting situations the G15 doesn't seem as adept at detecting faces as other cameras. When I reviewed the Panasonic Lumix G5, I was impressed with its ability to find and latch onto faces regardless of their angle to the camera. Often times I'd be shocked when that system realized that the outline of a person poking out behind a tree was a face.

By comparison the G15 gets facial detection right most of the time. In one shot I had two subjects (my wife and my son) sitting near each other, with my wife in profile and my son facing the camera, but looking down. The lighting for this shot was typical indoor tungsten and the G15 picked the arm of the chair between the two as the face. I tried to compose the shot a dozen times and each time it locked onto the chair.

Yet a few moments later the G15 picked out four faces in a crowded room full of motion, so clearly the processor is more adept in certain situations.

The Canon G15 is also capable of face recognition, allowing you to register the names and birthdays of up to 12 people. The camera will optimize focus and exposure for registered faces it detects, and will also record the registered information in stills.

Full HD video. 1920 x 1080 @ 24 fps. Click image to view/download 111MB MOV file.

Video. The G15's video features are on par with the current crop of compact digital cameras, at least in terms of resolution. The G15 now can capture Full HD 1080p video (as compared with the 720p of the G12), however frame rate is limited to 24 frames per second. Competing models can capture Full HD at 30p or even 60p, so the G15's 1080p videos aren't as smooth as most. The Canon G15 still offers HD 720p video at 30fps which is smoother, but quite a few models offer 60p at that resolution. A standard definition 640x480 mode at 30fps is also available.

The Canon G15 allows you to optically zoom while recording -- always a plus -- and for the most part, the camera handles zooming smoothly and quietly. However, sometimes I found it wouldn't fully pause at 5x optical zoom, and would lurch into digital zoom which was annoying. The camera did a decent job with video image stabilization, which Canon says the G15 selects from among Dynamic, Powered, Macro or Tripod IS modes.

The PowerShot G15 can also capture video at up to 240fps for "slow mo" shooting, however that video resolution is limited to 320x240 for the 240fps and 640x480 for 120fps. Sound and optical zoom are not supported in these modes.

Like most cameras in this category, the PowerShot G15 lacks an external microphone jack so all sound comes from the built-in stereo mic. A Wind Filter setting is available.

The video quality is pretty good for casual use and looks great when played back on an HDTV screen.

WiFi and GPS. Unfortunately, the Canon G15 doesn't support wireless connectivity, nor does it have GPS. These are by no means deal breakers for us -- we generally prefer to transfer our images via memory card or USB straight to our computers -- but some shooters will have to look elsewhere if such functionality is a must.

 

Canon G15 Lens Quality


28mm eq.
56mm eq.
140mm eq.
4x Digital Zoom

Zoom: The Canon PowerShot G15's lens covers a 28-140mm equivalent range, with up to an additional 4x digital zoom. Overall performance is good at full wide angle, though just slightly soft. At full telephoto, sharpness is more consistent throughout the frame, though details are still a touch soft. Up to 4x digital zoom is also available, with the usual loss of quality and more visible noise that accompanies that much digital magnification.


Maximum Aperture
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Slightly soft at upper left
Tele: A hint soft at center
Tele: Very mild blurring, upper left corner
f/5.6 Aperture
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Slightly soft at upper left
Tele: A hint soft at center
Tele: Very mild blurring, upper left corner

Sharpness: At maximum aperture ("wide open"), the wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot G15's zoom shows only minimal blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, though what is there extends a little far into the main image area. At telephoto, details in the corners are only a little softer than those at center, which are also a bit soft.

Stopping down to f/5.6 from maximum aperture (f/1.8 at wide angle and f/2.8 at telephoto) didn't produce significantly sharper results, though corner shading (vignetting) is improved.

Overall, very good results, especially considering how fast the lens.


In-camera JPEG
Wide: Very slight barrel distortion; hardly noticeable
Tele: A small amount of pincushion distortion, barely visible
Uncorrected Raw
Wide: Very strong barrel distortion
Tele: A small amount of pincushion distortion

Geometric Distortion: There is a very small amount of wavy barrel distortion at wide angle in JPEGs (less than 0.2%), and minimal pincushion distortion (about 0.2%) at telephoto. The PowerShot G15's processor does a good job of squashing lens distortion here.

Uncorrected barrel distortion is quite high at wide angle at about 2.1%, though pincushion at telephoto stays relatively minor at just over 0.2%.


In-camera JPEG
Wide: Moderate but dull
Tele: Also moderate and dull
Uncorrected Raw
Wide: High and very bright
Tele: High and bright

Chromatic Aberration: The PowerShot G15 does a good job keeping chromatic aberration in check as well, with only minimal distortion visible on either side of the target lines at both wide angle and telephoto. What pixels are visible are pretty faint, with a thin line of red pixels balanced by a slightly wider, though still faint, swath of blue-ish pixels. Uncorrected Raw files show fairly high and bright CA, particularly at wide angle.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Canon PowerShot G15's Macro mode captures a lot of fine detail, though definition is a little soft throughout the frame. Some blurring is present toward the corners, but the effect is actually minimal. (Most digital cameras produce some blurring in the corners in macro mode.) Exposure is also a bit hot in the top left corner with shadowing in the lower right, likely due to the very close focusing distance. Minimum coverage area is 1.15 x 0.86 inches (29 x 22mm), which is quite good. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens, resulting in a dim exposure.


 

Canon G15 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Wide: Optical
Tele: Optical

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Canon PowerShot G15's optical viewfinder was pretty tight, showing only about 83% coverage accuracy at wide angle, and about 78% at telephoto. The image is also offset, due to parallax error. (This will vary with distance.) The camera's LCD monitor proved much more accurate, however, showing right about 100% coverage at wide angle, and closer to 101% coverage at telephoto. Very good results from the LCD, and optical viewfinder accuracy is typical for its type.


 

Canon G15 Image Quality


Color: Overall color good, with only mild oversaturation in bright reds, blues and greens. (Bright yellows are actually a little muted, but not severely.) Mean saturation at base ISO is 108% (8% oversaturated), which is a little less than average. Hue accuracy looks very good overall, though cyans are pushed toward blue and some yellows toward green. That's quite common, though, and the G15's average "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation was only 4.09, which is excellent. Dark skintones are fairly accurate, with a small nudge toward orange, while and lighter skin tones are a hint pink. Still, very good results overall.


Auto WB:
Good, though slightly red
Incandescent WB:
Too pink
 
Manual WB:
Very good

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting much better than the Incandescent setting, which resulted in a very strong pink cast. Auto white balance also produced very good results, though with a hint more red than Manual.


Horizontal: 2,100 lines
Vertical: 2,000 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,100 lines per picture height in the horizontal directions, and 2,000 lines in the vertical direction. Extinction of the pattern occurred at a little before 2,400 lines per picture height.


Wide: Very Bright
Tele: Bright
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) produced very bright results at wide angle and rated distance of 23 feet, though ISO was boosted to 640. The telephoto test came out bright at 15 feet, also with a boost to ISO 640.

 

Auto flash produced very (almost too) bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a hint of the ambient light the 1/50 second shutter speed, (ISO 320). The Canon PowerShot G15's image stabilization should help with any slower shutter speeds, but movement of the subject could be problematic at this shutter speed. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


80
100
200
400
800
 
1,600
3,200
6,400
12,800

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is very good up to about ISO 800, where we start to see the first significant softening (though fine detail is still quite good here). Starting at ISO 1,600, noise pixels become much more evident and and intrusive, with stronger chroma (color) and luminance noise, as well as noise suppression. At 12,800 ISO, the image is yellow-ish and very blurry, but results aren't terrible considering the super-high sensitivity setting. See how this affects printed images in the Printed section below.


Print Quality Assessment: ISO 80 and 100 images look good printed at 16 x 20 inches; ISO 800 shots make a nice 8 x 10; ISO 6,400/12,800 shots are not usable at 4 x 6.

ISO 80 and 100 prints are good at 16 x 20, with only minor loss of detail in our red swatch. Colors are nicely rendered, and the 20 x 30 makes for a nice wall display print.

ISO 200 shots are great at 13 x 19. 16 x 20s show slightly more softness in our red swatch, but many would consider them fine.

ISO 400 prints a great 11 x 14 and a very usable 13 x 19.

ISO 800 prints are usable at 11 x 14, but look better at 8 x 10. The red leaf swatch is becoming soft at this ISO.

ISO 1,600 prints are usable at 8 x 10, but look snappy at 5 x 7.

ISO 3,200 shots are usable at 5 x 7 for less critical applications, with a slight watercolor effect from overaggressive noise processing. We prefer the 4 x 6-inch print.

ISO 6,400 shots have a strong enough watercolor effect that we can't call it usable even at 4 x 6.

ISO 12,800 prints are too soft and noisy for printing at 4 x 6.

Overall, the Canon G15 does about as well as the competition (Nikon P7700), producing a good 16 x 20 inch print from its 12-megapixel sensor. Noise is well controlled, but results in artificially smoothed low-contrast areas. The results will be pleasing to most snapshooters, and enthusiasts using the Canon G15 will likely shoot RAW, so noise suppression is less of an issue.


 

Canon G15 Performance


Startup & Shutdown Times: The Canon PowerShot G15 takes about 2.2 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's about average for its class. Shutdown takes about 1.9 seconds.


Mode Switching: The Canon PowerShot G15 takes about 1.7 to switch from Play to Record and take a shot. Switching from Record to Play takes 3.1 seconds to view an image just shot. Switching from Record to Play and viewing an image already on the card takes 1.7 seconds.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is about average, at 0.46 second at wide angle and full telephoto. Enabling the flash increases shutter lag to 0.71 second. Manual focus and Continuous autofocus also yielded about 0.46 second lag. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.073 second, not the fastest out there, but still reasonably fast.


Cycle Time: Single-shot cycle time is a little slow, capturing a large/fine JPEG frame every 2.07 seconds, a RAW file every 2.83 seconds, and a RAW+JPEG pair every 2.91 seconds.


Burst Mode: Standard continuous mode captures large JPEGs at 2.14 fps, without AF. (With AF, the rate drops to 0.83 fps.) RAW mode managed 1.15 fps, while the RAW+JPEG rate was 0.95 fps. The G15's HQ Burst mode managed 10.2 fps for 10 shots, but does not support RAW files.

Buffer lengths are greater than 20 frames for all modes except RAW+JPEG, which slowed after 5 frames. Buffer clearing is surprisingly fast with our 95MB/s UHS-I SDHC card, ranging from 1 second after a burst of JPEGs in standard continuous mode, 4 seconds after a RAW+JPEG burst, to 4.5 seconds after an HQ JPEG burst.


Flash Recycle: The Canon PowerShot G15's flash recycles in about 3 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is very good.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled. Excellent results here.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Canon PowerShot G15's download speeds are quite fast. We measured 11,006 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: The Canon G15's battery life has a CIPA rating of 770 shots per charge with the LCD off, and about 350 shots with it on, which is about average for its class.


 

In the Box

The Canon PowerShot G15 retail box includes (may vary by region):

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Canon G15 Conclusion

Pros: Cons:
  • Excellent, fast f/1.8-2.8 5x optical zoom lens with 28-140mm equivalent range
  • Intelligent IS with up to 4-stops of correction
  • Upgraded to 12-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor
  • Comfortable and ergonomic build, with a slimmer design than the G12
  • High quality images for enthusiast compact camera, exhibiting very good color and sharpness
  • Minimal geometrical distortion and chromatic aberration in JPEGs
  • Advanced photographic controls, including PASM dial
  • Easy-to-use dials and buttons
  • Bright 3-inch, 922K-dot LCD monitor
  • Menu system is refreshingly minimalist compared to over-complicated offerings of certain competitors
  • Plenty of customization options
  • Macro focusing as close as 1cm
  • Accepts conversion lenses and filter adapters
  • Flash hot shoe
  • Good built-in flash range, thanks to fast lens
  • Dual axis electronic level
  • Improved autofocus speed
  • AF works well in low lighting
  • 10fps HQ Burst Mode
  • Supports wired remote
  • Full 1080p HD video recording, and slow-mo recording at 240fps at 320x240 resolution
  • Surprisingly fast buffer clearing and USB transfer times
  • LCD screen no longer articulated (unlike its predecessor, the G12)
  • Lens slightly soft at wide and tele
  • High chromatic aberration and barrel distortion at wide angle in uncorrected RAW files
  • Optical viewfinder has limited coverage (about 80%) and demonstrates significant parallax
  • Full HD videos limited to 24 frames per second
  • Too big to be considered a pocketable camera, unless it's a jacket or cargo shorts pocket
  • No WiFi or GPS
  • Shot-to-shot cycle time is a little slow
  • Face detection appears to be hit-and-miss
  • HQ Burst Mode does not support RAW shooting
  • Almost too bright built-in flash at both wide and tele
  • No external mic jack for video recording
  • No cables included

 

The Canon G15 premium compact digital camera steps up its game over its predecessor, the G12, in many ways. The most notable is the 5x optical zoom (28-140mm equivalent) lens that's very fast for a camera of this type, ranging from f/1.8 at wide to f/2.8 at tele. The G15 has also been upgraded with a 12-megapixel, 1/1.7 CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 processor, giving it an edge in image quality with good color and sharpness and minimal artifacts. And the G-series finally got full 1080p HD video recording capabilities, a virtual must-have these days in for most compact cameras.

One big downside, however, is that Canon took away the articulating LCD monitor for fixed one to slim down the G15's dimensions. This really limits shooting options and fails to take advantage of the camera's great Macro skills (focusing as close as 1cm!). And yet, despite this omission, the G15 is still not quite pocketable. It also would have been nice to include some WiFi connectivity, or even GPS functionality, but clearly Canon focused on the G15's picture-taking skills rather than to try to cram in wireless features.

Back on the positive side, we liked the camera's advanced photographic controls, especially the PASM dial and ability to shoot in RAW, as well as its easy-to-use dials and refreshingly minimalist menu system. And the camera's slim design does give it a better, more responsive feel than its predecessors.

With just one major omission (the articulating LCD) and a few things to nitpick about, the Canon PowerShot G15 offers a ton of useful upgrades for the G-series, takes great pictures and ranks resoundingly well among its premium compact camera competitors. For all this, we give the G15 a big thumbs up and a definite Dave's Pick.

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