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Canon PowerShot G15 Digital Camera Review$499.99
Lens & Sensor
With an exceptionally bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, the 5x zoom lens is indisputably one of the G15's most exciting features. While the series had drifted away from large-aperture designs in recent models, the new G is a bold return to that proud tradition. The 28-140mm equivalent focal length is slightly disappointing—in that 24mm equivalent has increasingly become the standard on the wide end for advanced compacts—but the fact that the lens is still capable of f/2.8 at full telephoto is a major win. A larger aperture not only allows the sensor to gather more light, which is helpful in dim shooting situations, but it also creates greater separation between your chosen subject and the background. This is commonly referred to as background blur, or "bokeh."
When the camera is powered on, the lens extends out to just about double the body's depth. When it's retracted, the camera is actually quite slim for a camera in this class—just 41mm, or 1.6 inches. Unlike some other advanced compacts, the G15 doesn't have an on-lens control dial, so there's no manual control over zoom or focusing. We would have preferred to see this option included, but its absence isn't a deathblow by any means.
The G15 uses a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor capturing 12.1 effective megapixels. Physically, the sensor is larger than most compact camera sensors, but it's smaller than class leaders like the Fuji X10 and XF1 (2/3-inch), the groundbreaking Sony RX100 (1-inch), or the odd-duck Canon G1 X (1.5-inch).
The fixed 3-inch rear LCD is certain to be one of the most contentious features of the new G15. The G-series has, in part, been defined by an on again, off again love affair with articulating screens. Way back in 2000, the G1 kicked things off with a stunning-for-the-era 1.8-inch flip 'n' swivel screen. This remained the status quo up through the G6, which made the jump to a 2-inch unit. But then came the dark years. The G7 through G10 all had fixed screens, but public outcry was so great that Canon flip-flopped again and graced the G11 and G12 with beautiful 3-inch articulating panels.
So, is it any surprise that Canon's designers have changed their minds once more and opted for a fixed screen on the G15? The new panel bumps the resolution up to 922,000-dot resolution, which is certainly nice, but the PR department's suggestion that the fixed screen was chosen to reduce the camera's overall weight and bulk seems like a bit of misdirection to us. First off, articulating screens don't really add that much depth or weight, and second, the G15 is not exactly a pocketable camera anyway.
The G15 is equipped with a pop-up flash with a range of 1.6-23 feet (50cm-7m) at wide angle and 1.6-15 feet (50cm-4.5m) at full telephoto. Canon rates the flash recharge time at "10 seconds or less," but in our experience it never took anywhere near 10 seconds from flash to flash. It also sports a fully functional hot shoe, which makes it compatible with Canon's Speedlite external flashes and other accessories.
Like most compact cameras (even advanced ones), the PowerShot G15 is limited to just a few ports. All of these are found under the spring-loaded hard plastic flap on the right side of the body. Included are a mini HDMI port, USB mini (for either a direct data connection or A/V output to your TV), and a remote terminal.
Also present are a fully functional hot shoe and a little flap near the battery/memory card compartment that allows for use of the optional AC power adapter kit (part number ACK‐DC80).
The G15 uses Canon's NB-10L proprietary lithium-ion battery pack, which is the same battery used by the top-tier G1 X, as well as Canon's SX series of superzooms. According to CIPA testing, users should expect to see battery life of about 350 shots with the LCD turned on, or up to 770 when it's off. We can't see too many users relying on the G15's optical viewfinder, so that number will probably be on the low end of the scale in real-world usage.
As is par for the course these days, the G15 accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. There is no on-board storage, which should be no surprise to anyone who's used an advanced compact or interchangeable lens camera in the past decade.