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Canon PowerShot G15 Digital Camera Review$499.99
The G15's dynamic range performance is well above average in its class. At the base ISO 80, it records as much as 7.6 stops of "high-quality" dynamic range. Up through ISO 400 it keeps this number above 6 stops, but it falls to 4.34 stops at ISO 800 and 3.53 at ISO 1600. By ISO 3200, dynamic range is severely compromised by high noise levels, and above this sensitivity level it drops off to almost nil.
That being said, lab-based dynamic range numbers are influenced to some degree by noise reduction, since they depend heavily on signal to noise ratios. For instance, the lowly Canon ELPH 110 HS actually recorded a larger number of stops at base ISO than the G15 could manage, and both cameras score higher than the Sony RX100, which boasts a much larger sensor and visibly better dynamic range performance in the field. For this reason, we cross-reference our lab results with both our noise testing figures and our real-world observations of dynamic range performance.
We're happy to report that in the real world we observed excellent dynamic range from the G15, which is more than we could say for the ELPH 110 HS. Shooting high-contrast scenes, as can be seen in our sample images, resulted in the occasional blowing out of extremely bright areas, but this was a rare occurrence. Shadows generally retained a good amount of detail, except in truly dire circumstances. In general, the G15 isn't producing DSLR-level performance, but it's certainly an improvement on most point-and-shoot models.
In addition to its post-shot "i-Contrast" option, the G15 offers three levels of Dynamic Range Correction: Off, 200%, and 400%. Essentially, this feature applies different ISO sensitivities to different areas of the frame while shooting, brightening shadows and protecting highlights. In our experience, it works about as well as the similar modes from other manufacturers. In other words, don't expect miracles, but it just might save you from time to time. More on how we test dynamic range.