Canon G15 Review: Fast Lens, Small Sensor, What Gives?

Canon's "G" line of cameras have always appealed to point-and-shooters looking for more of a pro experience. The new G15 has some great details — is it a $649.95 camera worth considering?

What Is It?

A hefty $650 point-and-shoot camera with plenty of controls and a really fast lens.

Who's It For?

Shooters who want physical manual controls, but a cheaper price tag than mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses.

Design

Kudos on this one, Canon. Where looks are concerned, the G15 goes the distance. Everything is well-proportioned and well-placed, with an understated, sleek, yet classic look to it. It is small-ish and more compact than the camera it replaces, the G12. But it's still not too comfortable in a pants pocket.

Using It

It's like any other Canon point-and-shoot. Good, user-friendly controls, and no real surprises when operating the G15. It contains a familiar 12.1 MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 processor, with a 5x optical zoom lens that works out to the full-frame equivalent of 28-140mm. It has a tucked-away flash, and a hot-shoe if you need to mount a better one up top. The real story is the lens, which rocks a freaking crazy awesome f/1.8-2.8 aperture.

The images you will produce are quite nice. For a compact, it packs decent sharpness and solid high ISO performance, with an ISO range topping out at 12800. But you will find better quality in larger-sensor cameras like Canon's higher-priced $750 G1X.

The Best Part

That ultra-fast f/1.8-2.8 aperture makes for low-light goodness and a shallow depth of field. Even the terrific Sony RX100 can't match that at the long end.

Tragic Flaw

The real limitation here is sensor size. 1/1.7 inches just cannot compete with the likes of the Sony RX100, or Canon's higher-end G1X, which has a 1.5-inch sensor. Sure, these cameras are more expensive than the G15, but it still seems like the G15's wonderful lens — which is superior to both the RX100 and the G1X — is going to waste on a small sensor.

This Is Weird

The rough matte finish is nice but chalky, almost like sandpaper. It will get dirty fast.

Test Notes

  • Canon said goodbye to the articulating display of the G12. This is a controversial decision that some will sneer at, but we think that unless you shoot a lot of video, the trade-off in bulkiness is worth it.
  • While $650 isn't a bad price for this camera, it's $150 more than you'll be paying over exactly the same model in US stores. Good to see the Australia Tax alive and well, despite the government inquiry.
  • The optical viewfinder does not need to be there. It zooms with the lens, but at the long end of the zoom range, it is way off from the picture you are taking. Can't focus with it, can't do anything with it.
  • Video quality is good, with decent auto-focus, but you can only record at 24 fps in full 1080p. In 720p, you can record at 30 fps.
  • There is a lens ring that looks like it would be great for manual focus or aperture adjustment, but actually its only purpose is to house a mount for a telephoto conversion accessory. Total bummer.
  • You can record video in any mode, but there is a dedicated video setting on the mode dial. Weirdly, it doesn't seem to be any different than other modes except for access to one video-related setting in the function menu. You can record video in any mode.
  • The display is large and beautiful, but it would be great if it were a touch-screen. Canon knows how to do it right, as seen on the 650D, so why not include it on the G15?
  • Battery life is rated at 350 shots (the G12 was 390).
  • Our full size images can be seen here.

Should You Buy It?

As long as you are OK knowing that the the image quality is stuck a notch below larger-sensor cameras, most of the G15's other attributes are a pleasure. It costs $US50 more than the Panasonic LX-7, which we liked a lot. Then, for the same money, you can get the great Fuji X10, with a 2/3-inch sensor and better image quality.

At $650, the G15 is in the middle of a nice pack — and it's a truly satisfying camera to hold and use — but nothing pushes it above and beyond the competition. We hope that sweet lens makes its way to Canon's follow up to the Canon's G1X — then, a better sensor would do it justice.

Canon Powershot G15

• Sensor: 12.1 MP CMOS

• Lens: 28-104mm f/1.8-2/8 (35mm equivalent)

• ISO Range: 80-12800

• Display: 3" with 922,000 dots (non-articulating)

• Video Recording: 24 fps @ 1080p, 30 fps @ 720p

• Price: $650

• Gizrank: 3.5


Comments

    Cute camera.

    " The real limitation here is sensor size. 1/1.7 inches "
    Eh?
    What size is that?
    I'm usually ok at translating typos into something informative, but I have to admit, this one has me baffled.
    Or am I the one who's missing something here?
    I am, after all about the only person I know that is more interested in the lowest ISO setting rather than the highest.
    To me, lower gives better images and actually makes use of the sensor's resolution as it were.
    A higher ISO is only good for low light / high speed work, and you really ant to aim for using the lowest ISO you can get away with. That's why you need nice "big aperture" lenses.
    With a decent aperture like this one has (1.8) you can use a lower ISO setting than a lens with a smaller aperture.

    As for touchscreen display .. " so why not include it on the G15? "
    It would put the price up further and this thing is already far too pricey for it's specs.

      1/x inches is the standard way of measuring small sensors, yes it’s stupid as the larger x is a smaller sensor. Anyway you are right that a f/1.8 lens will allow you to user lower iso and therefore will produce better images an many scenarios than the slightly larger sensor cameras this articles radios on about without any real world comparison

    Lens adaptor mount and viewfinder have been trademarks of the G-Series for a long time, if you don't want them then buy an S110. Regarding video mode - it allows you to see the 16:9 crop before you start recording.

    If it can't easily fit in my pocket, then I'll take my DSLR.

    Hence the best camera I've ever had is my S100 canon. It's the best cause I always have it and it takes fantastic shots.

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