Canon PowerShot G15 Review
The Canon PowerShot G15 is a new premium compact camera aimed at the DSLR owner looking for a backup model or the enthusiast who wants DSLR functionality without the added size and weight. The Canon G15 has a 12.1 megapixel 1/1.7-type CMOS sensor, DIGIC 5 image processor, 3-inch 922,000-dot LCD screen, 5x 28-140mm equivalent zoom lens with fast maximum apertures of f/1.8 - f/2.8, RAW image capture, optical viewfinder, 10fps burst mode, flash hotshoe, 1cm macro mode, ISO 80-12800 and full range of manual shooting modes. Other standout features include Full 1080p HD video recording, a front control dial, 4-stop hybrid image stabilisation system, multi-aspect shooting, High Dynamic Range mode, an electronic level, SDXC card compatibility and an optional Lens Filter Adapter. The Canon Powershot G15 is available in black priced at £549 / €649 / $499.99.
Ease of Use
At first glance the Canon PowerShot G15 looks very similar to its two-year-old predecessor, the G12 (there were no G13 or G14 models), with little changed in terms of shape and form. Canon's developers are confidently suggesting 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', with a smattering of new features for 2012. The biggest change is the omission of a tilting LCD screen, replaced instead by a higher-resolution but crucially fixed 3 inch screen. If you were a fan of the G12's articulating LCD, you'll need to look at the pricier G1X now as a natural upgrade path.
The main benefits of the new fixed screen are a smaller and lighter body. The G15 still has a solid feel, tank-like construction, feeling very well made, with a control layout that while busy avoids looking cluttered, and controls that both offer just the right amount of stiffness and resistance. Unlike some, they're also large enough to be easily and quickly accessed in the heat of the action. With its beefy design, as with its predecessors the G15 still won't fit into a trouser or shirt pocket like the latest IXUS, though if you have a deep-pocketed coat you'll be all right.
The unassuming-looking front plate is dominated by the lens with a filter thread for the attachment of supplementary extras, the optical viewfinder directly above and a bulbs for the self-timer/AF assist lamp flanking them on the right. An optional lens filter adapter which extends with the lens when using the zoom to offer full coverage throughout the zoom range allows the attachment of 58mm filters. The G15 has a very useful front control dial, as featured on EOS DSLR cameras, which makes changing the aperture and consequently the full Manual shooting mode very easy. There's a gently sloped padded ridge by way of a handgrip to the left hand side of the G15 - if viewed lens on - and a small pad at the back for the thumb to grip.
Those who love getting hands-on will relish as we did being able to turn the G15's top plate rangefinder-like dials to adjust exposure as well as select capture options from a more standard-issue shooting mode dial, although we did miss the G12's ISO dial which has been moved to a button on the rear to make way for the pop-up flash. If we've a grumble, it's that annoyingly for a creatively rich camera, the full manual is provided on CD only. In what comes across as a cursory gesture, a very slim quick start guide is included.
Still, given its target audience what's here will be relatively self-evident. The top plate houses a half-penny sized wheel for adjusting the exposure (+/- 3EV), which is overlapped by the smaller shooting mode dial. There's a hotshoe for an accessory flash, plus the built in pop-up unit which is activated by a dedicated switch.
The shooting mode dial features settings for auto capture, program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual, along with two user customisable settings, a smattering of scene modes, plus movie digest, video and Creative Filter modes. The Creative Filters shooting mode contains 10 different options to help spice up your images. The High Dynamic Range mode is probably the most useful, automatically taking three exposures of the same scene at different settings, then combining them in-camera to create a single image with greater dynamic range. Note that you need to mount the G15 on a tripod or stable surface to avoid camera-shake.
The upgrade to 1080p HD video quality at 1920x1080 pixels at 24fps is a big improvement on the G12's 720p quality and is more than adequate for most users and situations. The G15 also boasts stereo sound courtesy of microphones positioned either side of the flash hotshoe and you can use the Miniature creative filter during recording to spice up your footage. You can also now use the full range of the 5x optical zoom when filming, and a digital version can additionally be deployed.
Continuing our hands-on tour of the Canon PowerShot G15's top plate, just to right of these dials we find a springy raised nipple-style shutter release button surrounded by a rocker switch for operating the optically stabilised 5x zoom (28-140mm equivalent on a 35mm camera), and behind this again the on/off button. The fact that the lens is image stabilised, says Canon, provides a four-stop advantage when shooting handheld, while the Hybrid IS system makes shooting macros easier than before by counteracting both shift and angular movements.
The G15 is quick to power up in a second or so, the rear LCD blinking into life with PowerShot visual and audio 'sting' and the 5x optical zoom lens simultaneously extending from storage within the body to maximum wide-angle setting. Here, as with the G12, it's the equivalent of 28mm, making it very useful for those landscapes group portraits or getting the required shot in confined spaces. The G15 has brighter apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.8 at either end of the zoom range, which makes the camera much more versatile in low-light and also able to more easily throw the background creatively out of focus. As a further aid to landscape fans, a neutral density filter option is provided among the function menu options, to be turned on or off as required, and the horizontal Electronic Level and RGB histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure.
The slightly larger 3-inch screen takes up the largest part of the back plate's real estate, above which is a porthole for the alternative of an optical viewfinder. Although larger than you'll find on most compacts these days, it's no match at all for that typically found on even an entry level DSLR, which, with a UK asking price of £539 at the time of writing, the G15 is directly competing with. Still, in being targeted at enthusiasts first and foremost, the best way to view this camera is as a more portable back-up to existing DSLR ownership.
Top left of the LCD is a direct print button that will be familiar to users of the Canon PowerShot range. This more helpfully doubles up in shooting mode as a user assignable shortcut key to the likes of red-eye reduction or auto exposure lock. On the right is a self-explanatory playback button. Falling naturally under the thumb at the Canon PowerShot G15's rear is the handy one-touch movie record button.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Beneath this again is a pair of dual-purpose buttons. In playback these are the delete button, plus, alongside it, a means of jumping through batches of captured images, variously 10 or 100 at a time. In auto capture mode the left hand button acts as a way of activating face detection, while in program mode it allows the focus point to be shifted from its default central position to one of the user's choosing. The Tracking AF mode allows you to select objects from the centre of the frame and track them if they move or if the frame is recomposed. The second button is marked with an asterix. Press this when in program or any of the other creative modes and sliding scale of apertures and corresponding shutter speeds appears along the bottom of the screen, scrolled through with the aid of - aptly enough - the scroll wheel surrounding the familiar four-way control pad to the right of the G15's screen.
Underneath this pair of controls is the four-way selection or control pad, with, at points north, east, south and west a means of adjusting ISO speed, choosing from the on-board flash settings, selecting display options (while pressing this in shooting mode brings up a nine zone compositional grid on screen, pressing it in program mode adds a live histogram, though as this feature is highlighted in grey rather than white it's slightly hard to read against the background of the shot itself at times) and activating macro or manual focus mode, here down to as close as 1cm from your subject - what we'd expect for the G15's class. The Auto ISO feature allows the maximum ISO speed to be set, therefore specifying what ISO range the G15 will use if you leave it up to its own devices. At its centre is the function/set button that is again consistent with this Canon series. Press this button at its centre when in any of the capture modes, and an L-shaped toolbar that will be familiar to Canon users appears on the screen, offering pull out toolbars with further options from the range when you come to rest on a particular setting.
At the bottom right hand corner of the backplate are a further pairing of buttons - metering and menu. The metering button allows for the adjustment of metering options in tandem with the scroll wheel, the choice here evaluative metering, centre-weighted average or spot. A press of the menu button meanwhile brings up a trio of folders on screen, the first the shooting menu where the likes of the AF assist beam and blink detection modes can be turned on or off, the second the set up menu where sound options and LCD brightness can be tweaked, and the third being a 'My Menu' option for commonly used functions.
On the right hand flank of the camera - viewed from the back - we find covered ports for HDMI out, an optional remote shutter release cable plus combined USB 2.0/AV out connection. On the bottom is a familiar metal screw thread for a tripod, and a sliding cover for the compartment that houses the lithium-ion battery needed for power and the SD, SDHC or SDXC cards needed for image storage. Curiously, battery life is less impressive than its G11 forebear, at around 350 shots from a full charge rather than 370.