Few cameras can justifiably claim to be as important as the long-running PowerShot G series. Canon's mature line of high-end pocket snappers has a well-earned reputation for flexibility, performance and image quality.
This is the second PowerShot G this year, and Canon has wisely kept spring's feel a little expensive when compared to its closest rivals -- including the G1 X.on sale, with the G15 sitting beside it. As their names suggest, they share many common features, but while the G15 is a less advanced option, it has a few enticing enhancements all of its own. That said, at £529 it does
The G15 and G1 X look very alike. They both have sturdy, slightly retro bodies with a decent handgrip and generous range of hardware controls. The G15 benefits from a minor redesign with the shooting selector and exposure compensation dials offset from one another. On the G1 X, the exposure compensation wheel surrounds the mode selector, but the new orientation means that you can simultaneously switch between, say, shutter and aperture priority using your forefinger and exposure compensation using your thumb, and find your preferred shooting setting more quickly.
To the rear the layout matches the G1 X. In the G15 though, the screen is fixed, so you can't fold it out to unusual angles in order to capture trickily-placed subjects the way you can with the G1 X.
Around the front the G15 sports a lens equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera, which offers a greater range than the 28-112mm lens on the G1 X. The G15 delivers a 5x zoom where the G1 X delivers only 4x.
Much of the improvement can be explained, however, by the smaller sensor in the G15, which in turn supports a lower resolution. The G1 X has a 14.3-megapixel sensor delivering images of 4,352x3,264 pixels. In the G15 it's a 12.1-megapixel chip putting out 4,000x3,000 pixels at the highest setting.
The G1 X, then, certainly offers the better deal in this respect, and even though the zoom doesn't extend as far, those extra pixels allow you to crop more tightly while retaining a larger image to compensate.
The G15 is in many ways the more exciting camera in everyday use though, on account of its bright f/1.8 maximum aperture at wide-angle and f/2.8 at full telephoto, each of which afford great flexibility when it comes to keeping just a small portion of your image in focus and thus directing your viewer's eye. With the G1 X, maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/5.8.
Despite this, for anyone who spends more of their time working in shutter than aperture priority mode, the G1 X may yet be the better bet. With a maximum exposure time of 60 seconds it offers great nighttime potential in comparison to the G15's cap of 15 seconds.
That's where the main differences lie, and in most other respects the two are closely matched. They share an maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800 with compensation of +/-3.0EV in 1/3 stop increments, and like the Samsung EX2F and , they each have a built-in physical neutral density filter.
The image below demonstrates perfectly how the impressive maximum aperture can be put to good use, for while the insect's back and closest legs are sharply focused, the legs that move away from the camera, and the end of its antennae are de-focused, despite being slightly less than an inch from the point of focus.
Macro performance is consistently strong, with fine details such as the fibres on the sweet chestnuts below accurately rendered, and a sharp falloff in the level of focus outside of the main subject area setting the surroundings in a beautiful creamy blur.
I performed my tests on a bright, cloud free day, and the G15 put the incoming light to great use. Colours were punchy in all cases, and skies were particularly satisfying. Blues and greens were bright and in all cases the captured tones accurately reproduced the original subjects.
Autumnal reds and browns were faithfully reproduced, and fine detail such as sunlight catching on a cobweb was clear in the finished result, even under extreme conditions.
In the image below, I was shooting directly towards the sun, which is flaring between two leaves at the centre of the frame. While you'd not expect the leaves to be completely silhouetted -- as the sun is able to pass through them -- you might expect a darker stem. Here though, the G15 has retained its original colours, and the cobwebs to the upper left corner are cleanly picked out. Furthermore, the sky has not been bleached out, nor the surrounding foliage rendered as deep shadow through excessive compensation.
Focus remained sharp right into the corners of the frame and there was very little difference between the level of detail rendered there and at the centre. This indicates excellent performance on the part of lens, which would need to bend the light at the edge and allow it to pass straight through the centre, while still directing everything to the same point on the sensor.