Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 12.1-Megapixel HS CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch, 922,000 dot LCD Screen
  • 5x Optical zoom lens: 28-140mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Intelligent IS
  • DIGIC 5
  • HS System
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • Smart Auto mode
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • f/1.8 - 2.8 lens
  • Real-image optical viewfinder
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • Smart Auto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • DIGIC 5 processor provides outstanding performance
  • Excellent overall image quality
  • Intelligent IS is ready for any situation
  • 922,000 dot, 3.0-inch LCD
  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Competitively priced for its class
  • HDMI Output
  • Hot Shoe
  • Flash must be manually raised to operate in all shooting modes, including Smart Auto
  • ISO 12,800 sounds great but is unacceptable
  • Optical viewfinder is way off from actual image captured
  • Movie audio features a lot of background noise
  • No audio input
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1/10 to 4/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.46 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.84 seconds
  • Sequential burst = 2.13fps
  • Sequential flash burst = 1.22fps
  • HQ Burst = 10fps Max 10 images
  • All tests were taken using an SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 (95MB/s) SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
Canon's PowerShot G15 is a high quality compact digicam sporting the best features, blazing performance and outstanding image quality. At just under $500, its not for everyone, but if you are looking for the best quality in a compact digicam, this is a candidate.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for exceptional image quality, performance and features in a compact camera. It is also a great compact alternative to a dSLR.
Canon's PowerShot G15 is an upgrade to the PowerShot G12, keeping in the same price range for anyone that does not want to upgrade to the much more expensive PowerShot G1X. With almost a complete overhaul to the inside of the camera, the G15 sports a 12.1-Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS imaging sensor, DIGIC 5 image processor, f/1.8 max aperture, 5x optical zoom lens, ISO 12,800, Intelligent IS and Canon's Smart Auto shooting mode. Of course, there's a full set of manual features as well, giving you the creativity and power of a dSLR, without the bulk and multiple lenses. The only major feature that did not carry over is the 2.8-inch Vari-Angle LCD, which was replaced with a larger, higher res. screen; but without the Vari-Angle feature. With the great new features comes a big improvement in performance as well. The DIGIC 5 processor gives the camera the ability to capture images faster and use much more sophisticated shooting modes than were available on the G12.

The combination of the HS CMOS image sensor, extreme low-light lens and the DIGIC 5 processor create Canon's HS system. This system uses the lens and sensor for exceptional low light performance, while the processor increases burst speeds, lowers image noise, makes the special shooting modes like handheld night shot possible, and a huge increase in ISO speeds. This makes the camera one of the most versatile compacts on the market. It can handle incredibly tough situations with ease, where most other compacts just wouldn't be able to perform.

Just like the other "G" series cameras, the body style and layout really hasn't changed with the G15. While they are not exact, these models still all feature the mode and exposure compensation dials on top of the body, optical viewfinders, front control dials, etc Like the G1X, Canon has hidden the flash inside the camera, so you will have to manually pop it up to use it. The back controls have stayed pretty close as well, including the back control wheel around the 4-way controller for easier menu operation and control. The menu style has stayed the same, which if you have used a Canon camera in the last few years, you will have no trouble with. The new high resolution 3.0-inch, 922,000 dot LCD screen is a big upgrade from the G12, giving you a much clearer, sharper image for viewing and framing your images.

Performance from the G15 is quite good. It is able to capture its first image just 2.1 seconds after you press the shutter release. Shutter lag is almost non-existent, as the camera responds in less than 1/10 of a second from the shutter release being pressed. While allowing the camera to autofocus, it took the camera between 1/10 and 4/10 of a second, depending on the amount of available light and zoom setting. The shot-to-shot delay was the only area where the camera was not exceptional. With a delay of 1.46 seconds between shots, 1.84 seconds while using the flash, it is not the fastest around, but it isn't slow either. Continuous shooting came in at 2.13fps and 1.22fps with the flash. Then there is the HQ burst mode that captures 10 full sized images in just 1 second. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 (95MB/s), 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO Auto, Flash Off and all other settings at the factory defaults, unless noted otherwise.

Our outdoor image samples were taken with the camera's Smart Auto shooting mode. With the ability to detect and choose between 58 shooting settings, it did an excellent job in each of our shots. All of our images show excellent exposures, vivid colors and are loaded with fine details. There is also a high level of contrast to all of these images, which is a little higher than we saw when shooting in program mode. We also see some slight aberrations in high contrast areas in a few of the images.

Framing and composing your images is assisted by the 5x wide optical zoom lens. With a 35mm equivalent of 28-140mm, you get a great wide end and a telephoto end that can bring distant objects a bit closer. It is also great for singling out an individual in a group or allowing you to get a large group without getting too far away. This lens is also amazing in low-light situations thanks to its f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture settings. It allows the camera to capture a great deal more light than most compacts, keeping your image quality higher. The maximum apertures also give you a very smooth, blurry background or bokeh, which is great for portraits.

With the camera in aperture priority mode at f/5.6, our indoor samples show sharp details throughout the entire image. The image's color and exposure are very good, matching what we see when we capture the images. These images stay clear and sharp well into the ISO range, giving us excellent results from ISO 100 through ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 we start to see some noise and lose some of the finer details, but we still have a useable and printable image. Any ISO settings higher should still be left alone unless you have no other choice. Unfortunately ISO 12,800, while it sounds great, isn't acceptable for most use.

Our portrait sample is just amazing. Thanks to the face detection, the focus and exposure are excellent, giving us a fantastic amount of detail in the eyes and skin textures. Shooting with the camera's pop-up flash did not cause any redness in or around the eyes thanks to the camera's red-eye reduction pre-flash. Canon's face detection and face recognition software lets the camera detect numerous faces within the frame to focus and adjust the settings for. The camera also has the ability to store faces, so when one of them is detected, the camera will give those faces priority over any others that are detected. This is the perfect feature to assure your favorite people are always the highlights of your images.

Thanks to the DIGIC 5, the G15 is able to feature the Handheld Night Shot mode, which allows you to capture a decent handheld image in very low-light situations. This is a great feature for when you find yourself without a tripod. The camera will capture several higher ISO images in a row and combine them into a single image with lower noise than just a single image. While this is a great improvement over the single high ISO image, it still has no comparison to capturing the image correctly with a tripod and long exposure.

Video quality from the G15 is very good for a compact digicam. Our full 1080p HD video sample is clear and well exposed with great color. It plays back smoothly everywhere, including on a computer, the camera's LCD or on an HDTV via an optional HDMI cable. The camera's full 5x optical zoom is available while recording, which is a big boost to your video creativity. It's built-in stereo microphone is very sensitive, and while we did pick up a lot of background noise, we were also able to hear some of the action that was going on. Unfortunately there is no audio input into the camera for an external mic.

Powering the G15 is a 7.4V, 920mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. During our tests it provided plenty of power and a very fast flash recharge, allowing us to capture over 100 images and videos on a single charge with no worries of it running low. During our tests we shot mostly with the LCD screen since the optical viewfinder did not give us a very accurate representation of what we were composing. If you were to use just the optical viewfinder, the camera is capable of capturing up to 770 images on a single charge, which is a good thought if you will be out for an extended trip without a place to recharge batteries. As always, we recommend having a second battery just in case.

Bottom Line - Canon's PowerShot G15 is a fantastic upgrade to the G12 and is perfect for anyone that doesn't want to fork over the additional $300 for the G1X. Fantastic image quality and performance compliment the fantastic set of features in this very easy to use compact camera. With a MSRP of US $499.99, it's not for everyone, but if you are interested in some of the best image quality and features you will find for under $500, this is definitely worth a look.

You can check out the price of this camera on Adorama by clicking here.

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