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Canon PowerShot G15 Digital Camera Review$499.99
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.