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Canon PowerShot G15 Digital Camera Review$499.99
The PowerShot G15 is devoted about half and half to automatic and more hands-on shooting modes. Its main mode dial is pretty crowded for a compact camera, offering traditional PASM modes as well as Auto, Scene, Effects, and user-defined Custom modes.
The automatic shooting features are all-encompassing, and range from standard full-auto point-and-shoot operation to more creative options like HDR, toy camera effects, and monochrome options. In full Auto mode, you can only change image size, quality, drive mode, self-timer, and exposure compensation settings. Aside from exposure compensation, none of these options is likely to cause a novice user much grief, and it's set using a dedicated physical dial that should be pretty hard to forget or overlook when you've changed it.
Buttons & Dials
A wealth of direct control options sets the G15 apart from many of its peers. The rear panel has a familiar control scheme, with Canon's standard four-way controller, rotating command dial, and central FUNC/SET button. Each of the four directional controls also offers direct access to a vital shooting function; from the top and going counterclockwise, these are ISO, focusing distance, display options, and flash settings. There are four more buttons surrounding this cluster, including focus point selection, AE/FE lock, metering mode, and main menu access.
Toward the top edge of the rear panel you'll also find a dedicated movie recording button, the playback mode toggle, a viewfinder diopter dial, and a user-customizable Shortcut key. This last can be set to access one of 14 different shooting settings: i-Contrast, White Balance, Custom White Balance 1 & 2, My Colors, Drive Mode, Self-Timer, Neutral Density Filter, Aspect Ratio, File Format, Servo AF, AF Lock, Digital Tele-converter, and Display Off.
Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes
Like all of Canon's other PowerShot models, the G15 includes a fairly impressive array of scene modes and creative filters. The former category includes traditional options like Portrait and Snow, while the latter ranges from options like HDR shooting and Monochrome to crazier effects like Fisheye and Miniature Effect. In total, there are seven scene modes and 11 creative filters, along with some oddballs like Smart Shutter (which uses the camera's face detection abilities to take photos automatically) and High-speed Burst HQ (which takes 10 shots in rapid succession at full resolution). Generally speaking, Canon's filters are pretty cool, but they don't match the dizzying variety that we've seen from some recent Sony and Olympus models.
Canon's traditional PowerShot menu system is in full effect on the G15. As usual, it's divided into three tabs. When shooting, these are Shooting, Setup, and My Menu; when in playback, the first of these changes to show Playback settings. The options in each tab are presented as a long list. Each option has either an on / off option that can be set directly from the main menu, or a sub-menu that's accessed by pressing the FUNC/SET button. Generally speaking, it's pretty easy to figure out what's what, and you rarely have to go hunting too long to find the option you're looking for.
Luckily, though, most vital shooting settings can be changed via the Function menu, which is accessed by pressing the FUNC/SET button while shooting. Doing so brings up an overlay on the LCD live view, letting the user change everything from picture quality and size to more esoteric options like flash exposure compensation and bracketing. Many of the more technical options are unavailable in the automatic modes, but all of them are available when shooting in the standard PASM modes.
The G15 ships with a brief 33-page "Getting Started" guide, but the full manual is available only in PDF form. You can get it either from the included CD-ROM or by downloading it from the G15 product page on Canon's website.