Thursday, October 18, 2012

Canon PowerShot G15 12.1 MP Digital Camera - Hands on Review

Canon PowerShot G15 12.1 MP Digital - Hands on Review

Excellent Image Quality and Outstanding Build

By Dan at H and B Digital


I took Canon’s PowerShot G15 12.1 Megapixel camera out yesterday for some quick street shots and to get a feel for the camera.  The G15's image quality is excellent and it improves on its G series predecessors both in build and functionality, most notably with its fast and quick-focusing f/1.8 lens.  I love the G15 as a step-up from a point-and-shoot or a traveling alternative to a digital SLR (dSLR).

Right out of the box, the G15 has a solid, comfortable feel; the textured finish, balance, and weight exude quality and holding the camera literally makes one smile.  It’s slimmer than the G12 and about 10% lighter, but loses the articulating screen that was, to me, one of the draws of the G line--although in reality that was a feature I rarely relied on.  I prefer the smaller and lighter design and happily trade that for the articulating screen.

NYC Pretzels.

The familiar Canon layout makes using the G15 easy from the second you turn it on.  Most of the controls are similar if not the same as prior G's, with the big improvement moving the Exposure Compensation (EV) dial to the “user” (right) side of the camera, which allows for quick(er) EV changes on the fly.  I’d prefer an EOS-like EV wheel on the rear of the camera; the rear wheel on the G15 can be configured to control things like zoom and aspect ratio (?!?) but cannot override the EV wheel, which is unfortunate.  The ISO wheel was removed from the top of the camera, but this not only clears up some clutter but makes spinning through settings easier with the G15's rear wheel, particularly for anyone familiar with the S90 to S110 series.  I also wish the front trigger wheel that controls aperture or speed was a little bulkier, but I quickly got used to it.  (The front wheel is also programmable, but again not for ISO or EV.)

The real story with the G15, of course, is the ease with which it takes pictures and the beautiful results.  Autofocus is outstanding--fast, accurate and programmable, I couldn’t ask for much more in a camera of this size.  The new, faster lens focuses very quickly in lower light conditions, and doesn’t seem to track in and out, besting many dSLRs I’ve tested in this regard.  There is still a fair amount of shutter lag as compared to dSLRs, something to keep in mind for those thinking they’ll take lots of action shots (e.g., photos of kids, pets or sports).

Gentleman in Bryant Park.
Regarding images, I’ll preface my opinion by saying that I am not a pixel-peeper and will not get into super-technical analysis.  Also, as a longtime Canon shooter, I will not attempt to hide my Canon bias (in addition to consistently excellent image quality, I believe that Canons have the easiest user interfaces).

Taking the G15 out on an overcast October afternoon in New York City, I knew that whatever colors I could find weren’t going to really pop and that I wouldn’t have much time to edit the pics I took, so I shot in JPEG.  As with any camera that allows for user control over white balance, saturation and contrast, etc., the user can improve images before they come out of the camera, but you can also shoot in RAW and work on your photos later. 

The G15 takes crisp, detailed photos that are optically beautiful, with great color representation and very good contrast.  Results clearly lie somewhere between the Canon S series and Canon dSLRs with top of the line lenses, which is to say far above point-and-shoot quality. I love my S95 for convenience, and demand the best results from my high end EOS dSLRs, and the G15 hits the middle ground perfectly.  I’m really impressed with the results.  

Food Cart Colors.

The fast f/1.8 lens is great, although you can only really shoot at that speed at the widest angle of 28mm (when, arguably, it has the least impact).  But that also means that as you zoom out, you’ll be able to shoot faster than previously (e.g., f/2.2 at 50mm, f/2.5 at 85mm), and the sweet spot of the lens (f/2.8 to 4) can be used across the entire zoom range.
Two things to keep in mind:  

First, like their point-and-shoot brethren, shutter lag is still an issue.  While the G15 is faster than predecessors, it still suffers from some lag.  For example, trying to take pictures of a ping pong game in Bryant Park, I couldn't seem to time the photos exactly where I would have wanted as I might with a dSLR.  So while the G15 is fantastic for street shooting and as a lighter alternative to a dSLR, it won't replace a dSLR if you're trying to take pictures of kids running around.  I was able to take great portraits, and believe that landscapes, low light shots and travel pics would come out really well.

Taking a break near Bryant Park.

Second, the viewfinder is, well, a G series viewfinder, which is to say that it is unimpressive at best.  Embrace the fact that it actually is a viewfinder--as opposed to none--and you’ll be a lot happier with the camera.  It may be useful in low light conditions where you might otherwise have to hold the camera at arms length (holding a camera steady to you face reduces shake), but I don’t envision using it much otherwise.

CONCLUSION:  The G15 is a great camera for anyone, and perfectly suited for (1) those who are looking for more control than a point-and-shoot can offer but who do not want to commit to a larger dSLR system or even a bulky "bridge" camera, or (2) those with a dSLR who are looking for a smaller walk-around or travel camera without sacrificing image quality and control.

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