Canon PowerShot G15 review: Have Canon got the balance right?

By Kevin Carter - Thursday November 29 2012

Sensor Review
Introduction | Canon PowerShot G15 sensor performance | Canon PowerShot G15 versus competition | Conclusion

Canon Powershot G15 vs Canon Powershot S110

Canon PowerShot G15

With their larger sensors and generally better low light performance small Micro Four Thirds cameras are muscling in on territory once dominated by high-end compacts. We don’t know if the G12 exceeded Canon’s expectations in terms of sales, but with its compact dimensions and improved low light capabilities (courtesy of the new lens) the somewhat smaller PowerShot G15 is certainly promising/enticing. The doubling of the maximum ISO to ISO6400 may also justify the new model for some, however there is very little actual gain over its predecessor’s low-light performance.

The G15’s smaller size makes the decision to select it over a genuinely compact model such as the highly regarded PowerShot S100 even more tricky. As that model is becoming difficult to find it’s more relevant if we compare the sensor performance with the newer, recently reviewed S110 instead. Both the G15 and S110 share the same sensor but the G15 conceded 2 points less with overall DxOMark score, and it comes as little surprise that most of all ISO settings measurement are very close including the Low-Light ISO score of 168 (vs 165 for the G15). There are also only slight differences for low ISO settings including half-stop less in Color Depth and a third-stop more in Dynamic Range. Considering the S110 is smaller, lighter and cheaper with a 24-120mm f2.0-5.9 equivalent zoom, the G15 is facing stiff competition from its own sibling.

Canon PowerShot G15
The G15 and S110 sensors perform very similarly, so we can conclude Canon are using the same imaging unit

Canon Powershot G15 vs Canon PowerShot G1X

Canon PowerShot G15

As the G15 isn’t the only G-series model available now, for just $200 more you could indulge yourself and opt for the G1X. It has a much bigger sensor by area, slightly bigger than 4:3 at 18.7x14mm, a 28-112mm zoom, and 3-inch screen but the lens maximum aperture isn’t exactly fast at f/2.8-5.8 and it’s heavier while being nowhere near as compact.

But we’re all about sensor performance here and the G15 scores 14 points less for the overall DxO Mark score, which means the G1X sensor is superior than that of the smaller unit in the G15. When compared directly, the G15 has one stop less in Color Depth and two stops less in Low Light ISO performance, meaning the smaller sensor in the G15 is hindered by it’s modest surface area, which isn’t really a surprise.

Canon PowerShot G15
When it comes to low light performance the G1X is streets ahead of the G15..

Canon Powershot G15 vs Nikon Coolpix P7100

Canon PowerShot G15

With full-manual control, 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 stabilized zoom lens and 3-inch fold-out LCD, Nikon’s challenger to the G-series last year was the CoolPix P7100. Like the Canon it features a 1/1.7-inch type sensor (this time made by Sony) though bear in mind it has a slightly lower 10.1 MP resolution and it adopts CCD sensor technology (with the somewhat limited 720p spec video output). In our sensor tests, with 5 points more in the DxO Mark ratings the new CMOS chip in the Canon brings with it some qualitative gains over the CCD in the older P7100, however the two are still close. In summary then the G15 has one-third more in Color Depth, the same again in Dynamic Range and for all intents and purposes the same performance in our Low-Light ISO test.

Canon PowerShot G15
With the move from CCD to CMOS the signal-to-noise ratio for the G15 compared with the older Nikon P7100 shows a similar performance despite an increase in sensor resolution.