Canon G15, G16: Some thoughts on my new camera

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bakubo
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Canon G15, G16: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:12 am

For the last 1.5 years I have been using a Canon S95 with it's 28-105mm f2-4.9 lens and it has been pretty good as a carry everywhere camera, but I really missed not having a VF for use sometimes. Back when I bought the S95 I looked for digicams that had a VF, but there were very few. The G12 had one, but it was too big/heavy and the lens was slow. The S95 is small and has a faster lens, but no VF.

Last week in Osaka I had the chance to look at a Canon G15 several times and then on Friday I ordered one on Amazon Japan. It arrived on Saturday, less than 23 hours after I ordered it -- and this was with the free shipping option. Here are a few of the improvements of the G15 compared to the previous model, the G12, that caught my eye:

1. Smaller size and lower weight.
2. New 12.1mp sensor with better noise and better dynamic range than the G12's 10mp sensor.
3. A 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens replaces the G12's 28-140mm f2.8-4.5 lens.
4. A 3" 922,000 pixel LCD replaces the G12's 2.8" 461,000 pixel LCD.
5. The OVF is a bit better. I think Canon claims 85% coverage now and the G12 was a bit less.
6. Faster AF and faster operation.

The G15 noise and dynamic range is better than the G12 so that is a nice improvement and that along with the much faster lens helps the IQ a lot since lower ISOs are used.

The G12 had an articulating LCD, but the G15 does not. I am rather happy about this change because I rarely use the tilt/swivel LCD of my other cameras and for a carry everywhere camera I value the size/weight savings much more than the tilt/swivel convenience for the rare times I would use it on this sort of camera.

It is the better sensor mated with a much faster lens that really got my attention since I wondered how it would compare to a larger sensor camera mated with similar effective focal length zoom lenses. Before buying I investigated on DxO by comparing the G15 sensor to the Canon G12, Sony RX100, Sony A700, Sony A100, Canon 50D, Canon 40D, and Canon 5D. I discovered that the noise and dynamic range of the G15 is better than the G12 (as claimed). It is about 1 1/3 stops behind the RX100. About 1 1/2 stops behind the A100 for noise, but better than the A100 for dynamic range. About 2 stops behind the A700, 50D, and 40D. And about 3 stops behind the 5D.

Okay, with all of that info then consider the following cameras/lenses:

Sony RX100 + 28-100mm f1.8-4.9
Canon 50D/40D + Canon 17-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS
Sony A700/A100 + Sony 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 or Sigma 18-125mm f3.5-5.6
Canon 5D + Canon 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS

The G15's 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens at 100mm is probably about f2.5 or f2.8, so about 1 2/3 to 2 stops faster than the RX100 and the G15 noise and dynamic range is only about 1 1/3 stops worse.

The G15's 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens is 2 stops faster than the Canon 17-85mm, Sony 18-70mm, and Sigma 18-125mm lenses and the G15 noise and dynamic range is also about 2 stops worse than the A700/50D/40D.

The G15's 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens is 2 stops faster than the Canon 28-135mm lens and the G15 noise and dynamic range is about 3 stops worse than the 5D.

The point of all of this is that it is pretty impressive that the combination of the new 12.1mp sensor plus the new, fast lens tests similar to the A700/50D/40D with similar focal length lenses. Of course, I am not saying that the G15 will get exactly the same results as a A700/50D/40D. Also, the G15 is a very different type of camera. I just thought these comparisons were interesting. I also looked at the dpreview raw comparison with various cameras and it seemed to show pretty much what DxO shows.

For a carry everywhere camera when I am out and about going through normal life I want something that is all self-contained (lens, flash, lens cover) and that is small and flat enough that I can put it in a jacket pocket or cargo shorts pocket. The G15 is small enough, but it is rather heavy so I will have to see whether that heavy lump in a pocket works out okay. At the moment I have the neck strap on it and have been carrying it around that way hanging from my neck. I don't like that for normal life though.

By the way, a word about the OVF. This isn't a TTL viewfinder so it isn't possible to have a 100% or close to 100% view. For that you will need a high end DSLR or you can use the G15's LCD which does have a 100% view. The G15's OVF is sufficient for my purposes since it always shows a bit more than you will get rather than less than you will get. If they tried for something close to 100% then the parallax alone would cause the view to be a bit wrong much of the time and the cost of such an OVF would probably be very high.

Addendum on 2014/10/17: I bought a Canon G16 on 2014/10/9 to replace the G15 I have happily used for the last 1.5 years. I added posts to this thread about it recently.
Last edited by bakubo on Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby Birma » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:01 am

Interesting Henry, and I enjoyed reading your purchase decision workflow :) . The G series have always seemed to be good cameras so I'm sure you'll enjoy the results from the G15. How about some cherry blossom test shots :) ?
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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby Eiffel » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:36 pm

I have a Powershot S100, as well as two Alphas DSLRs (700 and 900).

Based on my understanding that S100 sensor is very similar to the G12's. The G12 should give pretty good results up to ISO 1600 in RAW mode and LR4 or equivalent, but won't quite match what an A700 can do.

This being said, I'm very happy with my S100 (best compact I've tried with pretty sharp lens, although it doesn't have the robustness of others small cameras such as the very cheap fuji EXR refurbs ;-) or some of Panasonic's offering). I only wish it had a proper viewfinder... and may investigate some of the foldable options.
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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:40 pm

G15 proved a great camera to use for me. Main difference between G15 and RX100 is an undefinable hyper-sharpness to the RX100 images at their best. Canon's lens has better corner to corner coverage at most settings but always looks a little softer overall. If you knock an RX100 image down to 12 megapixels, the difference is even more visible. The one big issue is the lack of a viewfinder but last week in Morocco I find I had over 100 final edit pix from the RX100 including many which would have been trouble, had I tried to use an eye-level finder.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:42 pm

Birma wrote:Interesting Henry, and I enjoyed reading your purchase decision workflow :) . The G series have always seemed to be good cameras so I'm sure you'll enjoy the results from the G15. How about some cherry blossom test shots :) ?


I think few people could complain about the build quality. Seems very good to me. Actually, I would prefer another model that used plastic like the Canon 6D and 60D to get the weight down some more, but I know that most people prefer heavy, metal cameras. Dials and buttons all seem very good too. I checked DxO for the Nikon D300/D300s and now I have summarized the results this way instead of in a dense paragraph:

Sony RX100: about 1 1/3 stops better than G15 for noise and dynamic range
Sony A100: about 1 1/2 stops better than G15 for noise and worse for dynamic range
Canon 50D/40D: about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and 1 stop for dynamic range
Sony A700: about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and 1 stop for dynamic range
Nikon D300/D300s: about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and 1 stop for dynamic range
Canon 5D: about 3 stops better than G15 for noise and dynamic range

It is a bit past the peak for the sakura (cherry blossoms). On Monday we drove from Matsuyama to Niihama and stopped at several places along the way. We finally arrived at Besshi Dozan) -- old copper mine that hasn't been used for over 100 years. Got back 8.5 hours after we started. A beautiful spring day with lots of sakura on the mountainsides. Unfortunately, most of the best views of the sakura were in places where we couldn't pull over to the side of the narrow mountain road or the view was obstructed by trees. I did manage to get 2-3 photos of sakura though (with E-M5).
Last edited by bakubo on Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:58 pm

Eiffel wrote:Based on my understanding that S100 sensor is very similar to the G12's. The G12 should give pretty good results up to ISO 1600 in RAW mode and LR4 or equivalent, but won't quite match what an A700 can do.


I don't know if it is the same sensor as in the S100, but it might be or more likely an updated version since the S100 is somewhat old at this point and was replaced by the S110 awhile back. The point of my original post is how the combination of the new sensor and the fast lens makes the G15 quite interesting. Your S100 has the same or an older version of the sensor, but it doesn't have the fast lens. The S100 has a 24-120mm f2-5.9 which is fast at the wide end like the S95, but is even slower than the S95 at the long end and throughout the range. That means that compared to the much faster G15 lens you will need to use higher ISOs all the time than the G15 can use.

Yes, the G15 at ISO 1600 does not match the A700 at ISO 1600. As I wrote, the A700 is about 2 stops better for noise than the G15. And it is about 1 stop better for dynamic range. The point is that in the comparable lens example I used when the A700 must use ISO 1600 the G15 can use ISO 400 (because of the 2 stop faster lens) so then the results are comparable.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby pakodominguez » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:42 am

bakubo wrote:
Birma wrote:Interesting Henry, and I enjoyed reading your purchase decision workflow :) . The G series have always seemed to be good cameras so I'm sure you'll enjoy the results from the G15. How about some cherry blossom test shots :) ?


I think few people could complain about the build quality...

I bought the G15 for a couple of Argentinian friends last October. They used for a trip to Peru (Lima, Cuzco, Macchu Picchu) and this winter, they went to China and the south east Asia. At the middle of this trip they realized the camera had dust on the sensor... They brought the camera to the service here in NYC, where they stopped a couple of days before the last leg of their trip to Buenos Aires.

This things happens (I read similar issues on the Sony RX1 on DPR) but is exactly what you do not expect at all from a camera like this.
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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:28 am

David Kilpatrick wrote:G15 proved a great camera to use for me. Main difference between G15 and RX100 is an undefinable hyper-sharpness to the RX100 images at their best. Canon's lens has better corner to corner coverage at most settings but always looks a little softer overall. If you knock an RX100 image down to 12 megapixels, the difference is even more visible. The one big issue is the lack of a viewfinder but last week in Morocco I find I had over 100 final edit pix from the RX100 including many which would have been trouble, had I tried to use an eye-level finder.


For me the OVF in these sorts of cameras is very useful sometimes. In light where the LCD is hard to use and also for quicker and less obtrusive operation. For other times the 100% view from the LCD and the histogram is useful. The less than 100% view of the OVF has never been much of a problem for me since I can crop a few pixels later to get the exact view I want, if necessary. Also, I know about how much I am not seeing through the OVF so I usually zoom tight and get a photo that needs little or no cropping. I have been doing this for a long with the Canon A590IS, A540, and A70 digicams that also had OVFs (but they had an even tighter view, probably more like 80%).

These sorts of non-TTL OVFs need to have some leeway because of parallax and also in order to be much closer to 100% they would also have to be very precisely aligned. All stuff that costs a lot more money and size. I think I read the Fuji X20 is also 85%. Showing 85% means that one will probably never have a case of the OVF showing something that won't be in the photo except for macro. For macro the LCD is definitely the way to go!

One disappointing thing about my S95 (which I had suspected when I bought it) is that the IS mostly just compensates for the shakier handholding while looking at the LCD. The IS in my A590IS when using the OVF actually provided additional benefit of lower shutter speeds, as IS does when used with an SLR. In other words, my gut feel after using both cameras for a long time is that the A590IS with IS turned off and using the OVF worked about as well as the S95 with IS turned on and holding the camera out in front of me to look at the LCD.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:47 am

pakodominguez wrote:I bought the G15 for a couple of Argentinian friends last October. They used for a trip to Peru (Lima, Cuzco, Macchu Picchu) and this winter, they went to China and the south east Asia. At the middle of this trip they realized the camera had dust on the sensor... They brought the camera to the service here in NYC, where they stopped a couple of days before the last leg of their trip to Buenos Aires.

This things happens (I read similar issues on the Sony RX1 on DPR) but is exactly what you do not expect at all from a camera like this.


That is unfortunate that your friends got dust on their sensor. I am not surprised though. These sorts of cameras have extending/collapsing lenses so over time dust may enter. Also, some people believe that a DSLR with a lens that is never removed is safe from dust, but they can allow dust to enter too. The zoom lenses which extend and contract are even more likely to allow dust inside. Probably the only cameras that would be pretty safe are the digicams that can be taken underwater. They are sealed very well and the lens is behind sealed glass.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby pakodominguez » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:17 pm

I suspect the point and shoot cameras with dust issues had the dust already inside the camera because negligence during manufacturing...
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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:01 pm

pakodominguez wrote:I suspect the point and shoot cameras with dust issues had the dust already inside the camera because negligence during manufacturing...


Yes, that is certainly a possibility. For my $385 G15 I would be disappointed if it showed up later. For the people who bought the $2800 RX1 they must be really fuming!

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby bakubo » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:00 am

I just checked on DxO comparing the G15 and Canon G1X (big sensor digicam):

G1X: about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and at higher ISOs about 1 2/3 stops better for dynamic range, but at lower ISOs the dynamic range is the same and at the lowest ISO the G15 is better

The G15 has a fast 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 and the G1X has a slow 28-112mm f2.8-5.8, so at the wide end the G15 is 1 1/3 stops faster and at the long end it is 2 1/6 stops faster. In other words, especially as you start using the longer end of the zoom range, the G15 will be using ISOs that are 2 stops lower than the G1X. So, compare G15 ISO 200 to G1X ISO 800, G15 ISO 400 to G1X ISO 1600, etc.

The G1X is much bigger and heavier so for my uses of the camera it was not in the running. It was interesting to take a look at the G15 vs. G1X results on DxO though. That G15 fast lens really makes a huge difference.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby Birma » Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:08 am

The speed of the lens is a really good point Henry, that doesn't always get considered in reviews I have seen for these high-end P&S cameras.
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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby harvey » Thu Apr 18, 2013 9:05 pm

I replaced my G9 with a G15 last year. For me the image quality, size, propoer controls (not menus), flash, flash shoe and OVF add up to an ideal take-anywhere camera.
And you can even stick a polarizer on the front with a filter adaptor...
With smaller cameras you loose things, particularly the controls, and any larger is not so practical when you are chock full on hand luggage where every cm counts.

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Re: Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

Unread postby Argonaut » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:30 pm

Maybe I missed it, but I would be more interested in comparing the cameras set to the lens' sweet spot. F1.8 is nice, but if 5.6 is the sweet spot, that's where I use it. That's why it doesn't really bother me that the RX100 is on its way to f4.9 so quickly. It's easier to deal with noise in post than it is with non-sharp focus.
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