Canon’s PowerShot G-series of compact digital cameras has everything it takes to bring smiles to enthusiasts. Tough build, brilliant optics, lots of external controls and stellar performance are only a few of the many great things about the cameras belonging to the series. Previous addition to the G-series was the G1 X, which was the first of its kind—a compact digital camera with a 1.5-inch type sensor (almost as large as ones found in entry-level DSLRs). The latest addition to the series is the G15, which is an upgrade to the G12 that was launched in 2010. Let’s find out what it packs in its compact shell and how much better it is than the G12 and its competitors.
An enthusiast-class digital camera with brilliant optics
Features and design
If you already own a G12, the list of upgrades will tempt you to go in for the G15. At 11.7-inch, the size of the sensor used in both the models is larger than the usual 12.3-inch type sensors used in mainstream digital cameras. However, the resolution has been bumped from 10 to 12.1 megapixels and the sensor used is of the CMOS type instead of CCD. The optics used in the G15 is to die for! The lens used in the G12 was 28 mm at the wide end and extended to 140 mm, thus translating to 5x optical zoom. G15 too uses a 5x zoom lens with the same focal length, but it’s way brighter. At the wide end, G12 had a fairly large f2.8 aperture, which narrowed to a pedestrian f4.5 at the telephoto end—quite respectable. The G15 has a large f1.8 aperture at the wide end, and you can stick to f2.8 throughout the zoom range. This allows handheld shooting in low light without having to use flash. Also, the shallow depth of field or background blur is very well pronounced when you shoot using the largest aperture, especially in macro mode wherein you can shoot from as close as 1 cm from the subject.
Well laid out buttons and a 922k dot LCD display
Next in the list of upgrades is the display. A bump from a mediocre 461k dot to 922k (twice as dense) is a welcome change. It has been noted that while Canon upgrades or adds new features, it takes away some useful features. For instance, the G12 had a fully articulating display that allowed capturing creative shots from odd angles. The G15 does away with this feature and uses a fixed display, which seems to have been done to make the camera slimmer. This has helped making the G15 slimmer than the G12 by 8 millimetres. The width too has shrunk by 5 millimetres. However, at 107 x 76 x 40 mm, the G15 is just about pocketable—you’d feel more comfortable having it hanging around your neck than carrying it in your trouser pocket. This shrink in size has helped Canon bring down the weight of the camera by around 50 grams; the G15 weighs 352 grams with the li-ion battery loaded. Other minor upgrades include full HD video recording from 720p in the G12, a slightly improved EV range (±2 to ±3) and an increased ISO range. If you’re in extremely low light, you can set the ISO to as high as 12800 for steady handheld shots.
Design-wise, the G15 looks very similar to the G12, except for the subtle changes when you view it from the front. The rubberised grip is slightly larger because the horizontal dial now uses less space. Also, the top right corner is now empty because Canon has chosen to go in with pop-up type flash—there’s a tiny lever behind the flash that releases it. The top panel of the G15 looks empty when compared to that of the G12. The latter had a dial for EV in place of which there’s now the pop-up flash. This has now been shifted to the right, below the mode dial. The G12 had a third dial to select ISO speeds in one-third steps, on which the mode dial was stacked. The G15 has a shortcut for ISO on the D-pad instead, which isn’t as handy as a dedicated dial.
Dials for mode selection and EV
The rear of the camera is dominated by the 3-inch LCD display. To the right lies the control panel that comprises a 5-way D-pad with a jog dial and buttons for metering modes, focus area and menu. The button with the asterisk icon, when pressed, automatically sets the optimal aperture and shutter speed. The portion above the LCD is home to an optical viewfinder (with dioptric adjustment) and playback button. A dedicated button for video recording is placed at the top right corner, next to the rubberised thumb grip.
Build quality and ergonomics
The build quality of the G15 is impeccable—right from the buttons and flaps to the shell. The front of the shell is made of aluminium and has a rough, grainy finish that lends a rugged feel. The rubberised grip on the front coupled with the thumb grip lends a firm grip even while using the camera single-handed. Plenty of external controls and their ergonomic placement contribute to fatigue-free shooting. What we found most useful was the second dial on the front—it comes in very handy when you want to adjust the aperture and shutter speed. In playback mode, it skips a bunch of pictures at a time when rotated one notch at a time.
The intuitive user interface makes the G15 easy to use. The mode dial lets you select from Auto, PASM, Scene, Creative filters and Movie modes. You use the Menu button to bring up the stack of parameters on the left side of the screen and then navigate/select values using the D-pad and jog dials—very straightforward, without having to delve into menus and sub-menus.
The Scene mode has limited but the most useful presets including portrait, smooth skin, hand-held night scene, snow and fireworks. The Creative Filter mode lets you shoot photos using effects such as HDR, Nostalgic, Fish eye, Miniature, Toy camera, Monochrome and Color accent—again the most common ones that you’d want to use. Many of the effects are configurable, for instance, Nostalgic and Toy camera modes that allow changing the colour tones. The G15 can record videos at full HD and even shoot super slow-motion videos.
We first tested the G15 in low light—we took it out for a spin at night and took shots with flash disabled and ISO set between 400 and 1600. We thought it would be challenging for the camera to handle noise and deliver well-exposed shots. But the results amazed us. Most digital cameras struggle to keep the noise low at ISO speeds above 400.
In the case of G15, we say it’s safe to use ISO speeds up to 1600 without worrying about excessive noise ruining the shots. Thanks to the bright, large-aperture lens and the optical image stabiliser, the camera shoots seamlessly in low light without flash. We managed to capture crisp hand-held shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 sec, which is very commendable. Like most digital cameras, the G15 does best when it comes to macro and close-ups. The details in distant objects also appeared very clear. After having tested the camera thoroughly, we were hooked on to the Creative Filters. The effects look very cool and it doesn’t require any post-processing. The ones that yield great-looking shots are Nostalgic, Toy camera and Monochrome.
Shot hand-held at ISO 800 and without flash
Excellent close-ups with pleasing background blur
Good reproduction of colours and details even in low light
Good details in distant objects
The wonder of large aperture!
Hand-held night shot at ISO 1600—large aperture yields well-exposed shots
Verdict and price in India
At an MRP of Rs 34,995, the PowerShot G15 may come across as being highly over-priced to you, but we don’t feel so. You get performance close to that of an entry-level DSLR in a pocketable form. In fact, the optics of the G15 is far better than the bundled 18-55 mm lens you get with entry-level DSLRs. Plus, you get macro shooting capability, which calls for a macro lens in the case of DSLRs. We say, if you’re considering a DSLR and won’t invest in additional lenses, the G15 is a more practical solution.
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