Canon PowerShot G15 review: Fast lens, fine daylight photos

Battery life among enthusiast compacts is also fairly sad, but the G15 at least sits at the top end of the range. The LCD is bright and sharp enough for manual focus, though a peaking function (edge highlighting) would help.

Design and features
Though the basic shape of the camera remains the same as the G12, Canon made some tweaks and a lot of changes to the control layout. The grip remains relatively shallow but serviceable, and the dial on it feels a little awkward to operate without scrunching your hand.

Notably, Canon turned the flash into a pop-up, requiring the banishment of the ISO sensitivity dial. Instead, the mode dial and exposure compensation dials are stacked but offset from each other on the top right; that's an aesthetically interesting and functionally streamlined change. The shutter button is slightly larger, too.

The mode dial's changed a bit as well. It keeps the usual PASM, auto, and scene modes , movie mode, and two custom settings slots, but gone are the quick-shot and low-light modes; they're replaced by Movie Digest (2- to 4-second clips that are automatically strung together) and Creative Filters modes.

In addition to the dropping of the articulated LCD, on the back the rubberized thumb rest has expanded, with an inset movie record button where the exposure lock button used to be. The record button sits too flush with the thumb rest, however, which makes it quite difficult to engage quickly. The AE lock button replaces the metering button in that easier-to-access location; it, AF area, metering, and menu buttons surround the navigation dial, which contains buttons for ISO sensitivity, focus mode, flash, and display, as well as the Func Set button for pulling up frequently used shooting settings. There's also the shortcut button for one user-defined direct-access control on the top left of the back.

I've complained about the back dial controller in past G series cameras, but either I've finally gotten used to it or Canon has tweaked it for the G15, because it doesn't really bother me anymore. Overall, with the exception of the aforementioned record button, I like the design of the camera and find it delivers a pretty streamlined shooting experience. For the most part, the interface operates cleanly, with the ability to quickly dive down to more-detailed adjustments straight from the quick-settings menu. I find the menu options overly abstruse for this model, though, and the onscreen hints don't help much to differentiate between options like Servo AF and Tracking AF, for example, or why some options are disabled at any particular moment.

  Canon PowerShot G12 Canon PowerShot G15 Canon PowerShot G1 X Fujifilm X10 Nikon Coolpix P7700 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Sensor (effective resolution) 10MP CCD 12.1MP CMOS 14.3MP CMOS 12MP EXR CMOS 12.2MP BSI CMOS 20.2MP Exmor CMOS
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1.5-inch
(18.7 x 14mm)
2/3-inch 1/1.7-inch 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200/ 6400 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Lens 28 -140mm
f2.8-4.5
5x
28 - 140mm
f1.8-2.8
5x
28 - 112mm
f2.8-5.8
4x
28 - 112mm
f2-2.8
4x
28 - 200mm
f2-4
7.1x
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 0.4 7.9 0.4 0.8 1.9
Burst shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a raw
10fps
10 frames
4.5fps
6 JPEG
7fps
8 JPEG/ n/a raw
8fps
6JPEG/ n/a raw
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
Viewfinder Optical Optical Optical Optical None None
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
25-area Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a n/a 256 zones n/a n/a
Shutter 15 - 1/4,000 sec 15 - 1/4,000 se 60 - 1/4,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec n/a 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
LCD 2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed 922,000 dots 3-inch articulated 922,000 dots 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 1080/30p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/ 60p/50p
AVCHD Stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No No Yes Yes
Zoom during movies No Yes Yes Yes Yes
(Auto only)
n/a
Mic input No No No No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 390 shots 350 shots 250 shots 270 shots 330 shots 330 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 4.4 x 3 x 2 4.4 x 3 x 1.6 4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6 4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2 4.7 x 2.9 x 2 4 x 2.4 x 1.4
Weight (ounces) 14.2 12.3 18.8 12.4 13.9 (est) 8.5 (est)
Mfr. price $499.99 $499.99 $799 $599.99 $499.95 $649.99
Availability October 2010 October 2012 February 2012 November 2011 September 2012 July 2012

There are also a couple of things that bugged me. The camera relentlessly reverts to evaluative metering, even when just coming out of standby or playback. (It's possible that this metering behavior was in the G12, too, but I don't remember.) And while the G12 didn't support Adobe RGB, either, I'm getting around to being annoyed by it just now.

The G15 lacks features like GPS and wireless uploading -- though you're not missing much with Canon's implementation, as seen in the S110. And it deserves a ding for the fixed LCD. But it still offers the hot shoe and optical viewfinder. The electronic level now offers forward/backward as well as left/right display, although some of the UI touches that made it easier to use than most implementations are gone. Now it's OK, but still easy to overshoot.

Nominally interesting capabilities include Face ID, in which you can record up to five different views of a face to give them focus priority, and a face self-timer, which waits until you duck into the scene before it snaps a photo. The Super Slow Motion mode shoots up to 30 seconds of video for playback at 120fps or 240fps, but it's really low-resolution -- VGA for 120fps and 320x240 pixels for 240fps. For a complete accounting of the G15's features and operation, you can download a PDF version of the manual.

Conclusion
While there's nothing outstanding about this camera, and it's seemingly fallen from grace as the top choice for dSLR users who want a compact option, it's still a fine camera if you're looking for something better and with more manual controls than a typical point-and-shoot, but can't bring yourself to pay more than $500.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 5 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.