The PowerShot G15 is available now in black, at a price of $499.99.

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Box Photo

• PowerShot G15 Digital Camera

• Battery Pack NB-10L

• Battery Charger CB-2LC

• Neck Strap NS-DC11

• USB mini cable

• Getting Started Guide

• Digital Camera Solution CD

With an exceptionally bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, the 5x zoom lens is indisputably one of the G15's most exciting features. While the series had drifted away from large-aperture designs in recent models, the new G is a bold return to that proud tradition. The 28-140mm equivalent focal length is slightly disappointing—in that 24mm equivalent has increasingly become the standard on the wide end for advanced compacts—but the fact that the lens is still capable of f/2.8 at full telephoto is a major win. A larger aperture not only allows the sensor to gather more light, which is helpful in dim shooting situations, but it also creates greater separation between your chosen subject and the background. This is commonly referred to as background blur, or "bokeh."

When the camera is powered on, the lens extends out to just about double the body's depth. When it's retracted, the camera is actually quite slim for a camera in this class—just 41mm, or 1.6 inches. Unlike some other advanced compacts, the G15 doesn't have an on-lens control dial, so there's no manual control over zoom or focusing. We would have preferred to see this option included, but its absence isn't a deathblow by any means.

The G15 uses a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor capturing 12.1 effective megapixels. Physically, the sensor is larger than most compact camera sensors, but it's smaller than class leaders like the Fuji X10 and XF1 (2/3-inch), the groundbreaking Sony RX100 (1-inch), or the odd-duck Canon G1 X (1.5-inch).

The fixed 3-inch rear LCD is certain to be one of the most contentious features of the new G15. The G-series has, in part, been defined by an on again, off again love affair with articulating screens. Way back in 2000, the G1 kicked things off with a stunning-for-the-era 1.8-inch flip 'n' swivel screen. This remained the status quo up through the G6, which made the jump to a 2-inch unit. But then came the dark years. The G7 through G10 all had fixed screens, but public outcry was so great that Canon flip-flopped again and graced the G11 and G12 with beautiful 3-inch articulating panels.

So, is it any surprise that Canon's designers have changed their minds once more and opted for a fixed screen on the G15? The new panel bumps the resolution up to 922,000-dot resolution, which is certainly nice, but the PR department's suggestion that the fixed screen was chosen to reduce the camera's overall weight and bulk seems like a bit of misdirection to us. First off, articulating screens don't really add that much depth or weight, and second, the G15 is not exactly a pocketable camera anyway.

The G15 is equipped with a pop-up flash with a range of 1.6-23 feet (50cm-7m) at wide angle and 1.6-15 feet (50cm-4.5m) at full telephoto. Canon rates the flash recharge time at "10 seconds or less," but in our experience it never took anywhere near 10 seconds from flash to flash. It also sports a fully functional hot shoe, which makes it compatible with Canon's Speedlite external flashes and other accessories.

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The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.

Like most compact cameras (even advanced ones), the PowerShot G15 is limited to just a few ports. All of these are found under the spring-loaded hard plastic flap on the right side of the body. Included are a mini HDMI port, USB mini (for either a direct data connection or A/V output to your TV), and a remote terminal.

Also present are a fully functional hot shoe and a little flap near the battery/memory card compartment that allows for use of the optional AC power adapter kit (part number ACK‐DC80).

The G15 uses Canon's NB-10L proprietary lithium-ion battery pack, which is the same battery used by the top-tier G1 X, as well as Canon's SX series of superzooms. According to CIPA testing, users should expect to see battery life of about 350 shots with the LCD turned on, or up to 770 when it's off. We can't see too many users relying on the G15's optical viewfinder, so that number will probably be on the low end of the scale in real-world usage.

Battery Photo

As is par for the course these days, the G15 accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. There is no on-board storage, which should be no surprise to anyone who's used an advanced compact or interchangeable lens camera in the past decade.

Memory Photo

The K2000 accepts inexpensive, easy to find SD cards.

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If you're looking for a compact camera that will provide the best the format can offer (at least without going for the larger sensor and larger price tag of the Sony RX100) the PowerShot G15 is a great choice. The G15 offers a very sharp sensor/lens combo, a lens with a wide maximum aperture on both ends of its zoom range, and excellent low-light sensitivity. Dynamic range is equally impressive, and the G15 excels at recording HD video, though it could do with more manual control.

Every camera sharpens its JPEG images in-camera to some degree. Some models are transparent about it, giving you a sharpness scale for each "picture mode," while others can be sneaky. Like most other things in life, software sharpening is acceptable in moderation, but lately we've noticed an unfortunate epidemic of oversharpening sweeping the industry.

What does oversharpening look like? Well, it tends to show up most prominently as a dark line around high-contrast objects, almost as if someone has outlined them with a felt tip pen. Recent cameras like the Samsung EX2F and Canon's own ELPH 110 HS have recorded sky-high oversharpening figures in our lab testing, ranging as high as 150% of normal. The PowerShot G15 doesn't quite reach those heights, but it still hits about 130% at its worst, resulting in high contrast edges that look distinctly unnatural.

And that's a shame, since the sensor and lens combination is pretty darn good anyway. Sharpness remains high if not exceptional across the frame, regardless of focal length or aperture. It definitely falls off a bit wide open at f/1.8 and full wide angle, and it's not superb at the narrowest aperture of f/8 at any focal length, but it's good just about everywhere.

If you want to avoid the effects of oversharpening and take advantage of the G15's natural capabilities, we strongly suggest either shooting RAW or setting up a custom My Colors setting with the sharpness slider cranked all the way down. While we did not test this latter suggestion, we suspect it would give you far less oversharpening than any of the default My Colors modes, including Off and Natural. More on how we test sharpness.

Color accuracy is a strength of the PowerShot G15, but not an overwhelming one. The camera's best uncorrected color error value of 2.72 was recorded when shooting in the "Neutral" My Colors mode. As is typical for Canon's compact cameras, this best color mode was also the only one to report a sub-100% saturation score (92%). All of the other color modes cranked saturation up to at least 113%.

Like other PowerShots we've tested recently, the G15 showed the largest errors in its yellow and orange tones, which can be critical in reproducing skin tones. Cyan was another problem, but it's less critical. If you plan to shoot a lot of portraits, we recommend that you use either the Lighter Skin or Darker Skin color settings, which have much lower yellow and orange errors (at the expense of errors in other colors), or shoot using the Portrait scene mode, which probably employs these by default. More on how we test color.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

While it can't match the performance of the Panasonic LX7, the G15 is a massive improvement over its predecessor, and is clearly one of the better-performing models in its class with regard to color accuracy.

Like virtually every other digital camera, the PowerShot G15 is horrible when using automatic white balance and shooting under incandescent light—an average of 1900 kelvins off. That's the bad news.

The good news? It's competent-to-great in every other lighting situation. When using AWB under compact white fluorescent light, the G15 was only 185 kelvins off. In daylight it did even better, recording an error of just 80 kelvins. If you have the time and patience (and a white card) to set your own white balance, the G15 is also remarkably consistent in its manual white balance performance. It scores nearly perfect kelvin temperatures for whites, while rendering greys only slightly cooler than ideal.

There are a total of eight white balance presets on the G15, as well as two custom white balance settings. The presets include AWB, Day Light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, and Underwater. Any of these presets can be manually adjusted by pressing the Menu button and using either the front and rear command dials or the four-way control pad to move a cursor around a dual-axis grid.

Custom white balance is set by selecting either Custom preset from the white balance menu and then pressing the dedicated metering button to take a reading. This is a very intuitive solution, and one we wish Canon's DSLR designers would take under advisement. It's a bit embarrassing that it's far easier to set a custom white balance on a point and shoot than on a high-end interchangeable lens camera.

There are three high-ISO noise reduction options on the G15, but much to our chagrin, none of them is "off." By default, the camera is set to Standard NR, but there are also Low and High options available. With the default setting, noise levels start at 0.49% at ISO 80 and don't top 1% until ISO 1600. Even at ISO 3200, noise is kept to an impressive 1.69%, and the real-world results look just as good. In short, the G15's noise reduction algorithms are among the best we've seen in this class at maximizing detail while minimizing noise. Things do fall off substantially at ISO 6400 and the maximum setting of ISO 12800, however, where you'll notice the camera taking more time after each shot to complete its processing.

At these higher settings, the images aren't really usable for more than drastically downsampled web shots, but up to ISO 1600 you should be able to get perfectly usable shots for most purposes. Compared to the competition, this is a very solid result. Of the cameras in the comparison chart below, the G15 is one of only two that offer a full-resolution ISO 12800 option (the other being the Samsung EX2F), and it's no coincidence that those two have the lowest scores. They're suffering there for their extended sensitivity range, but at like-for-like ISO comparisons they perform at least as well as the Panasonic LX7 and Canon G12. More on how we test noise.

Uncommonly for a compact camera, the G15 offers 1/3-stop ISO settings throughout its entire range. Starting at ISO 80, it goes all the way up to 12800, with a total of 23 options. The Auto ISO mode lets you choose your max ISO range, but limits it to ISO 1600 at the high end (which is likely the sensor's native high-ISO limit, the others being simulated in software). You can also set the Auto ISO mode's rate of change, choosing between slow, standard, and fast. This option determines how aggressively the mode reacts to lighting changes.

The G15's dynamic range performance is well above average in its class. At the base ISO 80, it records as much as 7.6 stops of "high-quality" dynamic range. Up through ISO 400 it keeps this number above 6 stops, but it falls to 4.34 stops at ISO 800 and 3.53 at ISO 1600. By ISO 3200, dynamic range is severely compromised by high noise levels, and above this sensitivity level it drops off to almost nil.

That being said, lab-based dynamic range numbers are influenced to some degree by noise reduction, since they depend heavily on signal to noise ratios. For instance, the lowly Canon ELPH 110 HS actually recorded a larger number of stops at base ISO than the G15 could manage, and both cameras score higher than the Sony RX100, which boasts a much larger sensor and visibly better dynamic range performance in the field. For this reason, we cross-reference our lab results with both our noise testing figures and our real-world observations of dynamic range performance.

We're happy to report that in the real world we observed excellent dynamic range from the G15, which is more than we could say for the ELPH 110 HS. Shooting high-contrast scenes, as can be seen in our sample images, resulted in the occasional blowing out of extremely bright areas, but this was a rare occurrence. Shadows generally retained a good amount of detail, except in truly dire circumstances. In general, the G15 isn't producing DSLR-level performance, but it's certainly an improvement on most point-and-shoot models.

In addition to its post-shot "i-Contrast" option, the G15 offers three levels of Dynamic Range Correction: Off, 200%, and 400%. Essentially, this feature applies different ISO sensitivities to different areas of the frame while shooting, brightening shadows and protecting highlights. In our experience, it works about as well as the similar modes from other manufacturers. In other words, don't expect miracles, but it just might save you from time to time. More on how we test dynamic range.

Low light performance from the PowerShot G15 is clearly above average for a small-sensor compact. The highly sensitive CMOS sensor has a large hand in this, as does the camera's extremely bright zoom lens. Combined, they allow for each pixel to get the most out of a low-light scene without excessive smearing and loss of detail. Comparatively gentle noise reduction doesn't hurt, either. From roughly ISO 80 to 1600, noise levels are kept extremely low, but there's still plenty of detail. At ISO 3200, things get a little grimmer, and beyond that point performance really begins to drop off. But shooting at ISO 1600 and f/1.8, as you can reliably do with the G15, opens up a lot of new possibilities for low-light shooting with a compact camera.

There are three high-ISO noise reduction options on the G15, but much to our chagrin, none of them is "off." By default, the camera is set to Standard NR, but there are also Low and High options available. With the default setting, noise levels start at 0.49% at ISO 80 and don't top 1% until ISO 1600. Even at ISO 3200, noise is kept to an impressive 1.69%, and the real-world results look just as good. In short, the G15's noise reduction algorithms are among the best we've seen in this class at maximizing detail while minimizing noise. Things do fall off substantially at ISO 6400 and the maximum setting of ISO 12800, however, where you'll notice the camera taking more time after each shot to complete its processing.

At these higher settings, the images aren't really usable for more than drastically downsampled web shots, but up to ISO 1600 you should be able to get perfectly usable shots for most purposes. Compared to the competition, this is a very solid result. Of the cameras in the comparison chart below, the G15 is one of only two that offer a full-resolution ISO 12800 option (the other being the Samsung EX2F), and it's no coincidence that those two have the lowest scores. They're suffering there for their extended sensitivity range, but at like-for-like ISO comparisons they perform at least as well as the Panasonic LX7 and Canon G12. More on how we test noise.

Uncommonly for a compact camera, the G15 offers 1/3-stop ISO settings throughout its entire range. Starting at ISO 80, it goes all the way up to 12800, with a total of 23 options. The Auto ISO mode lets you choose your max ISO range, but limits it to ISO 1600 at the high end (which is likely the sensor's native high-ISO limit, the others being simulated in software). You can also set the Auto ISO mode's rate of change, choosing between slow, standard, and fast. This option determines how aggressively the mode reacts to lighting changes.

In good light, the G15's focusing is fast and accurate. We rarely found a subject it couldn't lock onto, and those it did fail on were typically of incredibly low contrast. Being a contrast-detect camera (as are all compacts), the G15 simply needs some contrast in a scene in order to autofocus properly. In low light, the G15 is quick to use its powerful AF assist beam in order to find focus, and it works exceedingly well, even in the darkest conditions.

In testing the Canon PowerShot G15's low-light sensitivity, we found that it required just 3 lux of illumination to produce an image that achieved 50 IRE on a waveform monitor (i.e., the BBC's minimum broadcast quality). To put this in perspective, Canon's latest mid-level DSLR, the EOS Rebel T4i, required 5 lux to achieve the same result, despite its huge advantage in sensor size. This is a remarkable achievement for the G15's sensor, and one that has favorable applications in both stills and video shooting.

Typically, designing an exceptionally bright zoom lens involves some image quality tradeoffs. One might expect to see excessive purple fringing or excessive distortion as a result of trying to cram a lens this fast into a body as small as the G15's. But as it turns out, that's simply not the case: The G15 displays far less chromatic aberration than most of its competitors. It's all but invisible in our samples below, regardless of aperture or focal length, and our experience shooting in the real world backs up our observations in the lab.

Similarly, geometric distortions are amazingly well-controlled. The lens shows mild (-0.37%) barrel distortion at full wide angle. Barrel distortion is still in evidence at middle focal lengths (-0.30% at 13.8mm) before flipping over to moderate pincushion (0.66%) at full telephoto. We're not sure whether there's correction being done in-camera by software in this case, but if there is we can see no evidence of it, and that's good enough for us.

Under our bright lab lights, the G15 recorded extremely clear, vibrant, and smooth HD video. Artifacting and trailing were kept to a minimum, though the 1080P mode's set framerate of 24fps is inherently more prone to trailing than faster framerates like 30 or 60fps. However, we did notice quite a lot of rolling shutter (jell-o vision, as some call it) when shooting with the camera out in the real world, so we suggest shooting with a tripod and ball head if you want to capture the clearest possible video.

In low light, artifacting became markedly more apparent, though trailing was still pretty limited. The camera's excellent low-light sensitivity helps here in other ways, too, preventing shadowed areas from being completely lost to darkness. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The G15 recorded extremely impressive video sharpness numbers, with 675 lw/ph of observed horizontal sharpness and 650 lw/ph of vertical sharpness in our bright-light studio test. These are remarkable scores for a compact camera, outdoing the mighty RX100 and its comparatively massive sensor. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Sharpness didn't fall off as much as you might expect in low light, either. We recorded a maximum horizontal sharpness of 650 lw/ph and a vertical measurement of 625 lw/ph in our 60 lux low-light test.

In testing the Canon PowerShot G15's low-light sensitivity, we found that it required just 3 lux of illumination to produce an image that achieved 50 IRE on a waveform monitor (i.e., the BBC's minimum broadcast quality). To put this in perspective, Canon's latest mid-level DSLR, the EOS Rebel T4i, required 5 lux to achieve the same result, despite its huge advantage in sensor size. This is a remarkable achievement for the G15's sensor, and one that has favorable applications in both stills and video shooting.

Though it's clearly aimed at advanced enthusiast photographers, Canon has worked to ensure that the G15 can be picked up and used by buyers of any photographic background. The consistent FUNC menu provides simple guideposts for adjusting settings, and full Automatic modes will cater to those who don't know an aperture from an LCD. Experienced shooters, meanwhile, will appreciate the depth of control available when they delve a little deeper.

The PowerShot G15 is devoted about half and half to automatic and more hands-on shooting modes. Its main mode dial is pretty crowded for a compact camera, offering traditional PASM modes as well as Auto, Scene, Effects, and user-defined Custom modes.

The automatic shooting features are all-encompassing, and range from standard full-auto point-and-shoot operation to more creative options like HDR, toy camera effects, and monochrome options. In full Auto mode, you can only change image size, quality, drive mode, self-timer, and exposure compensation settings. Aside from exposure compensation, none of these options is likely to cause a novice user much grief, and it's set using a dedicated physical dial that should be pretty hard to forget or overlook when you've changed it.

A wealth of direct control options sets the G15 apart from many of its peers. The rear panel has a familiar control scheme, with Canon's standard four-way controller, rotating command dial, and central FUNC/SET button. Each of the four directional controls also offers direct access to a vital shooting function; from the top and going counterclockwise, these are ISO, focusing distance, display options, and flash settings. There are four more buttons surrounding this cluster, including focus point selection, AE/FE lock, metering mode, and main menu access.

Toward the top edge of the rear panel you'll also find a dedicated movie recording button, the playback mode toggle, a viewfinder diopter dial, and a user-customizable Shortcut key. This last can be set to access one of 14 different shooting settings: i-Contrast, White Balance, Custom White Balance 1 & 2, My Colors, Drive Mode, Self-Timer, Neutral Density Filter, Aspect Ratio, File Format, Servo AF, AF Lock, Digital Tele-converter, and Display Off.

Like all of Canon's other PowerShot models, the G15 includes a fairly impressive array of scene modes and creative filters. The former category includes traditional options like Portrait and Snow, while the latter ranges from options like HDR shooting and Monochrome to crazier effects like Fisheye and Miniature Effect. In total, there are seven scene modes and 11 creative filters, along with some oddballs like Smart Shutter (which uses the camera's face detection abilities to take photos automatically) and High-speed Burst HQ (which takes 10 shots in rapid succession at full resolution). Generally speaking, Canon's filters are pretty cool, but they don't match the dizzying variety that we've seen from some recent Sony and Olympus models.

Canon's traditional PowerShot menu system is in full effect on the G15. As usual, it's divided into three tabs. When shooting, these are Shooting, Setup, and My Menu; when in playback, the first of these changes to show Playback settings. The options in each tab are presented as a long list. Each option has either an on / off option that can be set directly from the main menu, or a sub-menu that's accessed by pressing the FUNC/SET button. Generally speaking, it's pretty easy to figure out what's what, and you rarely have to go hunting too long to find the option you're looking for.

Luckily, though, most vital shooting settings can be changed via the Function menu, which is accessed by pressing the FUNC/SET button while shooting. Doing so brings up an overlay on the LCD live view, letting the user change everything from picture quality and size to more esoteric options like flash exposure compensation and bracketing. Many of the more technical options are unavailable in the automatic modes, but all of them are available when shooting in the standard PASM modes.

The G15 ships with a brief 33-page "Getting Started" guide, but the full manual is available only in PDF form. You can get it either from the included CD-ROM or by downloading it from the G15 product page on Canon's website.

When you come right down to it, the truth is that most compact cameras handle badly. They're made to be as small as possible, not to fit your hand. So when we talk about handling, we grade on a curve. The best-handling compact cameras rarely approach the worst-handling DSLRs (or even the worst superzooms), but we don't expect them to. Their goals are simply different.

The PowerShot G15 can't quite break out of this paradigm, but it does a remarkable job within the constraints of its class. We harshed it pretty badly in our First Impressions Review at Photokina 2012, but given more time to play with our review unit, our concerns fell away one by one, until there was really just one left. But we'll get to that later.

The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the G15 is its heft: it's not big, exactly, or really heavy, but it has a pleasing density and a general feeling of substance that you rarely get from a compact camera. The textured front and rear grips are just grippy enough, and even the coating on the body itself has a decent amount of traction.

Handling Photo 1

The G15 isn't exactly pocketable, at least not in a pants pocket, but we carried it in our jacket pockets without much concern during our testing. With the lens retracted, it clocks in at just over 1.5 inches thick. While this limits its pocketability, it pretty much equally improves its handling. The thicker (but not thick) body is easier to grip and fits more naturally between your thumb and index finger than many slimmer models.

Button placement is generally excellent. The cleverly stacked shooting mode and EV compensation dials on the top plate are perfectly positioned to be adjusted with your index finger and thumb, respectively. The shutter release is lovely, with a pillowy half-press before the firm click of the full-press, though the zoom ring encircling it is insubstantial and doesn't offer fine enough adjustment for our tastes. The rest of the buttons are wonderfully tactile. The rear command dial's placement is a minor concern—it makes it nearly impossible to turn without using two hands, and the left button is too close to the raised edge of the screen—but it's something we adjusted to.

What we weren't able to adjust to was the front command dial's awkward location. Placed up against the extreme right edge of the body, it requires you to bend your index finger at a pretty unnatural angle to use it. Alternatively, you can again use two hands to give yourself better leverage, but that pretty much defeats the purpose of a quick adjustment dial. We also felt the dial was too recessed, and the actual action of turning it felt somehow off to us. In total, it's a weird aberration that nearly ruins an otherwise excellent ergonomic design.

Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3

A wealth of direct control options sets the G15 apart from many of its peers. The rear panel has a familiar control scheme, with Canon's standard four-way controller, rotating command dial, and central FUNC/SET button. Each of the four directional controls also offers direct access to a vital shooting function; from the top and going counterclockwise, these are ISO, focusing distance, display options, and flash settings. There are four more buttons surrounding this cluster, including focus point selection, AE/FE lock, metering mode, and main menu access.

Toward the top edge of the rear panel you'll also find a dedicated movie recording button, the playback mode toggle, a viewfinder diopter dial, and a user-customizable Shortcut key. This last can be set to access one of 14 different shooting settings: i-Contrast, White Balance, Custom White Balance 1 & 2, My Colors, Drive Mode, Self-Timer, Neutral Density Filter, Aspect Ratio, File Format, Servo AF, AF Lock, Digital Tele-converter, and Display Off.

Buttons Photo 1

The top panel is similarly feature-rich. As usual, there's the shutter release, surrounded by the zoom ring. Just behind this combo is the power toggle, which is a button here rather than a switch, as on many other cameras. To the left of these are two large dials. One selects your shooting mode, while the other is dedicated to exposure compensation. The EV compensation dial in particular is a touch that many manual shooting enthusiasts will be overjoyed to see included. Up front is the primary control dial, which can be customized (as can the rear ring dial) for each shooting mode. While we were sad to see the PowerShot G12's dedicated ISO ring go, the new top plate arrangement is a definite improvement ergonomically, and the ISO setting has a dedicated button on the rear of the camera.

On the other side of the flash hot shoe is a manual flash release slider. The only other button is the ring release button, below and to the left of the lens housing, which allows you to unscrew the beveled ring surrounding the lens. Once it's removed, Canon's accessory converter lenses can be installed.

Buttons Photo 2

The fixed 3-inch rear LCD is certain to be one of the most contentious features of the new G15. The G-series has, in part, been defined by an on again, off again love affair with articulating screens. Way back in 2000, the G1 kicked things off with a stunning-for-the-era 1.8-inch flip 'n' swivel screen. This remained the status quo up through the G6, which made the jump to a 2-inch unit. But then came the dark years. The G7 through G10 all had fixed screens, but public outcry was so great that Canon flip-flopped again and graced the G11 and G12 with beautiful 3-inch articulating panels.

So, is it any surprise that Canon's designers have changed their minds once more and opted for a fixed screen on the G15? The new panel bumps the resolution up to 922,000-dot resolution, which is certainly nice, but the PR department's suggestion that the fixed screen was chosen to reduce the camera's overall weight and bulk seems like a bit of misdirection to us. First off, articulating screens don't really add that much depth or weight, and second, the G15 is not exactly a pocketable camera anyway.

The PowerShot G15's crowded mode dial has options for everyone's personal tastes, from traditional PASM modes (Program, Aperture & Shutter Priority, and Manual) to full Automatic, Scene modes, and Creative Filters. Users can also create two custom shooting modes to suit the environments they most often shoot in.

We've already mentioned that the G15's dedicated exposure compensation dial is a very nice touch, but beyond that there aren't really any manual controls. The lens area looks like it might have a mechanical ring to adjust aperture or focus, but sadly it's just a cover for the conversion lens mount attachment.

In good light, the G15's focusing is fast and accurate. We rarely found a subject it couldn't lock onto, and those it did fail on were typically of incredibly low contrast. Being a contrast-detect camera (as are all compacts), the G15 simply needs some contrast in a scene in order to autofocus properly. In low light, the G15 is quick to use its powerful AF assist beam in order to find focus, and it works exceedingly well, even in the darkest conditions.

The G15 can record JPEG, RAW, or RAW+JPEG, and you can choose from five different aspect ratios. The default is 4:3, but other options include 16:9, 3:2, 1:1 and the oddball 4:5 in portrait orientation. Each aspect ratio has four resolution settings, meaning that there are a total of 20 different resolution options.

On top of that, you can also choose between Fine and SuperFine JPEG compression. For some reason, the G15 defaults to Fine, and in Automatic shooting modes, it's even impossible to select the SuperFine option. We're not certain why Canon wants to deny their users the choice of getting the best possible image quality out of their camera, but there you go.

The G15 is equipped with three distinct continuous shooting modes, as well as a full suite of self-timer options. Both are accessed via the FUNC menu overlay.

The default continuous shooting mode tops out at about 2 fps and will continue shooting until your finger gets too tired to keep holding the shutter release (provided you're shooting JPEG, anyway). This mode focuses before you start shooting but locks focus while continuous shooting is in progress. There's also an alternative version that focuses continuously throughout, but this increases shot-to-shot time noticeably. If you turn the mode dial to SCN, you'll find a special "High-speed Burst HQ" mode, which takes 10 shots in the space of one second, at full resolution. In most situations, we think this is the best burst mode to use.

The self-timer can be set to 10 seconds, 2 seconds, or to a custom setting that allows you to pick between 1 and 10 shots, with a shot-to-shot time of 0 to 30 seconds.

In good light, the G15's focusing is fast and accurate. We rarely found a subject it couldn't lock onto, and those it did fail on were typically of incredibly low contrast. Being a contrast-detect camera (as are all compacts), the G15 simply needs some contrast in a scene in order to autofocus properly. In low light, the G15 is quick to use its powerful AF assist beam in order to find focus, and it works exceedingly well, even in the darkest conditions.

While it lacks the trendier bells and whistles that have wormed their way into the market of late—such as WiFi, GPS, and touchscreens—the G15 offers a competitive feature set in its class. Its 12-megapixel sensor isn't groundbreaking, but its low-light sensitivity might be. Its video mode is crippled with regard to manual control, but it records a beautiful moving image. Its expansive ISO range is tops among its peers, and it makes the most of the added leeway with the addition of a super-bright f/1.8 lens. The usual bevy of scene modes and creative filters are present, though perhaps not as many as some manufacturers offer. Canon clearly intends for this camera to appeal to the serious amateur, though, and to that end it's got all the features it needs.

The PowerShot G15 can record full-HD 1080P video, as well as 720P and VGA (640x480). The highest quality video mode records at 24 frames per second, while 720P and VGA come in at 30fps. In addition, 720P video can be recorded in Apple's iFrame format, which is perfectly suited to editing in FinalCut Pro and iMovie. All HD videos are recorded in H.264 format in a .MOV container. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Bizarrely for a camera that's extremely capable in nearly every other respect, there are virtual no manual controls available during video recording.

Even more bizarrely, the one major shooting setting you can adjust—exposure compensation—doesn't take advantage of the beautiful physical EV comp dial. If you turn the dial while in Movie mode, the EV compensation overlay shows up and moves, but it's greyed out and has no effect. To actually adjust the exposure, you need to press the AE Lock (*) button (which brings up a separate on-screen sliding scale) and turn the rear command dial. We can't figure out a good reason why Canon would do this.

Beyond this one option, video recording is entirely automatic; no adjustments are possible.

Zoom

The full zoom range is available during video recording, but the lens zooms at a massively reduced rate in order to keep the noise of the zoom mechanism under control.

Focus

The camera does focus automatically during video recording, but it's a pretty unremarkable implementation. The focusing mechanism is pretty slow, and hunts occasionally in low light. You certainly won't want to use it for any sort of action shooting.

Other Controls

You can use a number of the scene modes during video recording, and the Miniature Effect is also available when shooting 720P and VGA movies. Using this effect will bring framerates down to at least 6fps, though, so don't expect cinematic quality. Another nifty trick is super slow-motion VGA and half-VGA recording, at 120 and 240fps, respectively.

The on-board stereo microphone records bright, clear audio with ample volume, but its omnidirectional design means that it's prone to picking up annoying environmental noise. Moreover, it records clicking and whirring noises from the lens's zoom and focusing mechanisms very easily. This is pretty much par for the course, but we always hope for better.

Mic Photo

In some recent reviews, we've taken Canon to task for a lack of innovation in their consumer-oriented product lines. The ELPH 110 HS, PowerShot S110, and EOS Rebel T4i were all frankly lazy updates to well-worn camera concepts. So, going into our time with the G15, we had every reason to expect it would suffer the same fate. Happily, our expectations were well off the mark.

The G15 is an evolutionary upgrade—that much is true. But it's an evolutionary upgrade that does some truly exciting things, mostly to do with its remarkable new lens. The zoom itself is a conservative 5x ratio design (28-140mm equivalent), but what's exciting about it is its exceptionally bright maximum aperture. Starting at f/1.8 on the wide end and only dropping to f/2.8 at full telephoto, it's by far the most consistently wide aperture of any fixed-lens zoom camera. The result? Beautiful bokeh (for a small-sensor compact) and very good sharpness throughout its range of aperture settings and focal lengths. Better still, distortions are kept to a minimum. There's very little geometric distortion, and chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) are virtually nonexistent.

The camera's low-light performance is excellent, and that's due to a collaboration between lens and sensor. A bright maximum aperture paired with excellent sensitivity is a dream come true, and the G15 manages some truly impressive low-light numbers. In our video sensitivity test, it took only 3 lux of illumination to reach a broadcast-standard 50 IRE, which betters even some of Canon's own DSLRs and their comparably massive sensors. This has great implications for both stills and video shooting. Dynamic range is yet another win, offering more than 7 stops at base ISO and not dropping off significantly until ISO 800.

Still, even with all of this praise there's room for improvement. Oversharpening creates unnecessary image quality problems, at least when shooting JPEGs with the included color modes. Canon has also made a few odd choices with regard to the user interface (its awkward EV comp solution in video mode being the most egregious example). Ergonomically, the body is solidly put together, but we really couldn't get along with the front command dial, and the rear ring is difficult to operate one-handed. We wouldn't mind seeing the articulating screen from some previous G models make a return, either. (We don't think the decrease in bulk is a good justification for leaving it out.) Finally, while the G15's video quality was a very pleasant surprise, it's severely hampered by an almost total lack of manual control.

On the whole, we're thrilled with the G15's performance. It's a bold return to (most of) what made the G-series so great in the first place. In the future, we hope Canon will take a long hard look at the larger sensors found in some competing models and give some thought to merging the two tiers they've created with the G15 and G1 X, but for the time being, the company has set itself firmly on a path toward re-conquering the market.

Meet the testers

Ben Keough

Ben Keough

Contributor

@ben_keough

Ben is an experienced industry journalist who formerly served as Senior Editor of News and Features at Reviewed. He now contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Most recently hailing from the vast wilds of the American southwest, he is an avid photographer who is deeply disturbed by the lack of wide open landscapes in Boston.

See all of Ben Keough's reviews
Ben Keough

Ben Keough

Contributor

@ben_keough

Ben is an experienced industry journalist who formerly served as Senior Editor of News and Features at Reviewed. He now contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Most recently hailing from the vast wilds of the American southwest, he is an avid photographer who is deeply disturbed by the lack of wide open landscapes in Boston.

See all of Ben Keough's reviews

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