Canon PowerShot G15 vs G1 X Comparison – High End Compact Cameras

September 29, 2012

Canon Powershot G15 vs G1 x, nightscape background

In this article I will be comparing the Canon PowerShot G15 versus G1 X, both are high-end compact cameras in Canon’s PowerShot cameras lineup.  Both cameras have relatively large sensor, with the G1 X having a 1.5″ (18.7 x 14 mm) size sensor and the G15 having a 1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm) sensor. Both high-end compact cameras introduced in 2012 with the G1 X in January 9th and the G15 on September 17th. If you are debating between those two high-end compact cameras, this article will certainly help you sort things out and make a better buying decision.


High-End Compact Cameras – Overview

Before we dive into the comparison, let me first say a few words about large-sensor Compact cameras. Usually when you buy a compact camera you get a camera with a relatively small sensor, some thing like 1/2.3″ (6.16 x 4.55 mm). In recent years we can see a new trend of high-end compact cameras that carry larger sensors. The G15 like the G12 (previous model) both utilize a 1/1.7″ sensor, which is a bit larger than the ones that you find on other consumer level digital cameras. The G1 X on the other hand utilizes a much larger sensor and almost the size of an APS-C sensor.

I want blow up your mind with too many technical details, but what you should know is that in general, the larger the pixels on the sensor, the better the image quality is. With larger sensor, camera manufacturers can use fatter pixels that absorbs more light photons.  That’s why in almost all cases APS-C or Full Frame cameras beats any small-sensor compact camera in terms of image quality, especially in high ISO.

I am a kind of person who don’t like seeing noise in my images, one that don’t like the image quality that you get with today’s mobile phone cameras. In order to get image quality that I can be satisfied with I bought a DSLR camera. The thing is that DSLR cameras are pretty big and heavy, and let’s not forget that you need to buy lenses too. What if you can enjoy the benefits of a DSLR in some degree in a compact body? – That’s why Olympus and Panasonic have created the Micro Four Thirds System in the first place. Of course with high-end compact cameras you get a fixed lens, so you don’t have the option to change lenses and use special lenses like with Compact System Cameras.

High-end compact cameras are aimed for amateurs and enthusiasts photographer who seek a camera that can deliver high image quality, good high ISO performance, have lots of manual controls over the exposure and its compact and portable.  That’s where the Canon G15 and G1 X enters the story. Those two high-end compacts are designed to be among the best compact cameras out there, but not without a competition. On of the biggest rivals to the G1 X and G15 is the Sony RX100 large-sensor compact camera. This camera have gotten very high rating across many camera review’s websites. Although I won’t be comparing the RX100 against the G15 and G1 X, I highly recommend that you take a look at this camera too. The RX100 cost around the same as the Canon G1 X, maybe ~$20 more.  The G15 costs approx. $150 less than the G1 X and RX100. That puts the G15 one place lower and although it has a relatively larger sensor, I wouldn’t catalog this camera as a large-sensor compact, although many sites do that.

In fact, it really doesn’t matter. What you need to know is the price of the camera, features it has and how it performs. In this comparison I will give you interesting information that will help you make a decision whether it’s worth for you to pay more and get the Canon PowerShot G1 X or go with the more affordable model, the G15. Let’s begin.


Canon PowerShot G15

The Canon PowerShot G15 is the successor to the Canon G12, a high-end compact camera designed and aimed to the enthusiast photographer.  It’s equipped with a 12MP 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor, 18-140mm F1.8-2.8 lens and 920K dot display, which it a fixed one, not articulated as the G12 one.

Canon PowerShot G15 camera

Canon PowerShot G15 High-End Compact camera

With the G15 Canon wants to continue the success of the G12 with improved autofocus, faster High-Speed Burst, Full HD video recoding , Raw support and a broad ISO range up to ISO12800. This new baby is targeted for advanced photographers who are searching for a compact camera that can shoot raw, have lots of manual controls, optical viewfinder, shoots fast and one that can deliver excellent image quality. Talking about compactness, the G15 is 15% smaller than the G12, and I reallly liked that Canon made the camera even smaller, because after all, it’s supposed to be a compact camera.

The Canon G15 accepts external accessories like a tele converter lens, a flash attached to the hot-shoe and it also has a Canon WP-DC48 compatible waterproof case .

Of course one of the most interesting features of this camera is its fast f/1.8-2.8 lens. It’s a newly developed lens that was developed to make the G15 perform much better in low light, and also help you take shots at low ISO sensitivity and with low amount of noise of course. The combination of a bright lens, DIGIC 5 image processor and the 12.1MP High sensitivity CMOS sesnor, all suppose to take the Canon G15 to a new level over previous models.

So the Canon PowerShot G15 lose some but gains much more over the G12 and it’s certainly one of the most interesting cameras in Canon’s compact cameras’ lineup.

Canon PowerShot G15 Hands-on videos:


Canon PowerShot G1 X

The Canon PowerShot G1 X is a whole new beast, a large-sensor compact camera which costs around $170 over the G15. It’s sits above the G15 in Canon’s high-end compacts’ lineup. For those of you who still new to these type of cameras, you need to know that the big difference between the G1 X and other compact cameras is the sensor size. The G1 X sensor is approximately 6.3 times larger than that of the PowerShot G12 digital camera.

Canon PowerShot G1 X digital camera

Canon PowerShot G1 X, Large-sensor Compact

The G1 X is aimed for enthusiast photographers who understand the advantages of a large sensors, which include much better high ISO performance (better S/N), low light performance and dynamic range. The G15 features a 3.0″ Vari-angle LCD, 14-bit RAW, Optical Viewfinder, plenty of manual controls and Full HD movie recording. The G1 X is probably the closest thing you can get to an image quality of a Canon DSLR but without the option to change lenses as in Canon EOS M mirrorless camera. The G15 incorporates a 28-112 mm (equivalent) f/2.8 – f/5.8 lens, a 4x optical zoom lens at wide-angle.

EISA Canon PowerShot G1 X

EISA Canon PowerShot G1 X Award (click to visit the page)

Cameras like the Canon PowerShot G1 X have quite a tough competition from both other large-sensor compacts (like the Sony RX100) and also mirrorless cameras that are . People who buy this lens are probably after a highly-capable, large-sensor cameras with a fixed lens and plenty of manual controls. I won’t open a Mirrorless vs Fixed-lens cameras discussion here, but you should understand that interchangeable lens cameras have quite a few advantages, one of them is the option to use special lenses (e.g. Macro 1:1, Super telephoto, wide-angle, fast primes).


OK, now that you’ve got introduced to those two cameras, let’s talk about the more interesting stuff, how those two cameras compare against each other?


Sensor Size

One of the big difference between the Canon PowerShot G1 X and PowerShot G15 is the size of their sensors. The G1 X employs a 1.5-inch (18.7 x 14 mm) size sensor compare to 1/1.7-inch (7.44 x 5.58 mm) of the G15.

Sensor size comparison diagram

From left to right: Canon G15, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Canon G1 X and Canon EOS-M sensor sizes (via (

The above image will give you a good look at the size differences between various sensors. At the left side in red you can see the Canon PowerShot G15 sensor, second left you can see the Olympus Micro Four Thirds sensor, third from the left is the G1 X 1.5inch sensor and lats is the Canon EOS-M APS-C size sensor.

You can clearly see that the G1 X sensor is almost the same size as APS-C sensors found on many DSLR cameras today. Furthermore, you can see how small the G15 sensor is compare to the G1 X. You can compare more sensor sizes on camera image sensor website.

Some of the benefits of large sensors are: lower noise in high ISO (improved signal-to-noise ratio), higher dynamic range, color accuracy and better control over depth of field. Actually what really matters is the pixel size and image processing pipeline, but in general, cameras with large sensors have fatter pixels which leads to better image quality overall.  I personally always prefer getting a large-sensor camera (e.g. DSLR, Large-sensor compact) because the high ISO performance and the ability to take photos with more shallow depth of field (DOF depends on the focal length, aperture and distance from subject).

All in all, the PowerShot G1 X will be favorite among enthusiast and even professional photographers searching for a compact camera to take high quality photos, including 3-stop ND filter and 14-bit RAW capture.

So as you can see, the G1 X starts with a BIG advantage over the G15,

Canon G1 X vs G15

We’ve talked about the difference in sensor size but of course the difference are more than that. Let’s take a look at a side by side specs comparison table. This comparison will give you a good understanding how those two cameras differ.

Canon PowerShot G15 vs G1 X size comparison

Canon PowerShot G15 vs G1 X size comparison (via

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You can see that both the Canon PowerShot G15 and the G1 X has their cons and pros.

The G1 X already proven to be an amazing all-around high-end compact camera with its excellent high ISO performance, very tough and durable body with comfortable grip, very useful 3-stop ND filter (at least for some of us), in-camera CA and distortion correction, silent shooting and all in a more compact body than the G12. The G1 X has a slow burst which looks quite odd when comparing it to other cameras in the same price range. I also didn’t like the relatively low battery life, but all in all the PowerShot G1 X is a very impressive compact camera. I’m positive that you really enjoy looking at the photos taken with this camera. Some of you who are used to shoot with small-sensor compacts will be blown-away with the image quality that you get with the camera.

Some people even say that the image quality at high ISO is as good as the Canon EOS 60D. Of course I wanted to know if its true so I went to dpreview to check it out – and what indeed, the Canon PowerShot G1 X high ISO performance is second to none, very impressive indeed! – not as good as the 60D, but very very close.

PowerShot G15 level dial

PowerShot G15 ambient level dial

A few of the disadvantages of this camera is sluggish auto focus, poor quality view finder and of course it’s relatively high price.  Furthermore, the G1 X can shoot at 20cm in macro, which is pretty useless for you macro fans our there.  This minimum macro focusing distance really puts a big barrier for what you can achieve when shooting macro shots. Having said that, if you don’t mind leaving with those cons, the G1 X is one hell of a camera.

With the G15, I personally a bit disappointed that Canon ditched the vari-angle LCD on the G15. I’m pretty sure that was done to make the camera smaller in size, but many people will miss that feature, I’m pretty sure about that. I’ve spent a lot of time doing some intensive pixel-peeping and analyzing G15 high ISO sample images. The image quality is very impressive I have to say, considering its sensor size. Even at F1.8 there isn’t any distortion of loss of sharpness. The G15 AF speed has improved by 53% over the G12 (0.17 sec at 28mm to 0.25 sec at 140 mm). Other advantages of the G15 is the ability to add 1.4x Tele-converter (TC-DC58E), shoot super slow motion videos , EOS-like dial for fast access to popular camera settings.

The CanonPowerShot G15 went through a very long evolution (G1, G2, G3, G5, G6, G7, G9, G10, G11, G12..). The G1 was announced in September 2000!


Why to Buy the G1 X (Advantages):

  1. Large sensor
  2. Excellent High ISO performance with very low noise
  3. Very good ergonomics
  4. Intuitive user interface
  5. Versatile zoom range
  6. Effective In-camera CA and distortion corrections
  7. Very durable body construction, feels great in the hands
  8. full articulated high-resolution LCD
  9. Lots of manual controls
  10. Optical viewfinder
  11. 14-bit Raw


Why to Buy the G15 (Advantages):

  1. Compact size and lightweight
  2. Versatile zoom range
  3. Very fast and high quality lens with excellent image stabilization
  4. Great macro range (1cm)
  5. High-resolution LCD
  6. Lots of manual controls
  7. Fast burst at Speed-Burst HQ mode
  8. Super slow motion videos
  9. Good battery life
  10. Raw capture
  11. Ability to utilize various accessories (e.g. ambient light polarizing filter, macro ring light,  tele converter lens,, Speedlite flashes)




Both the Canon PowerShot G15 and PowerShot G1 X are very impressive compact cameras. I personally thing that those are two different cameras, and you can clearly see the differences between the two. If you are after image quality and very picky about noise, especially in high ISO, the G1X is probably the better choice here. The G15 has a much smaller sensor, but enjoys a very bright high quality lens which give you an advantage when shooting in low light. However this advantage is getting shrunk by the fact that the G1 X has a larger sensor, so you can shoot at high ISO sensitivity with minimal impact of image quality.

The lack of vari-angle LCD on the G15 will certainly make some people upset, especially if you love shooting videos. The fact is that the G15 viewfinder is of poor quality, tiny and very hard to know what you are focusing at. That means that the back LCD gains more importance. Luckily it’s a 3-inch 922K-dot LCD, which is larger and has higher resolution than the G12.

If you want my opinion, I would probably go with the G1 X, because I am an IQ fanatic 🙂 – I hate seeing noise in my images, and I love editing my photos in photo editing software, so the 14-bit Raw is also a very welcomed feature. The G1 X is just more of a pro camera, and aimed for enthusiast photographers who learn to appreciate the image quality of large-sensor compact cameras.

It’s worth mentioning that the G1 X has tough competition, mainly from the Sony RX100, with its 1-inch 20.2MP sensor,  1080p60 (progressive) video, 25 focus points, 28-100 mm (3.6x zoom) F1.8-4.9 lens and much more compact camera body – oh, and it costs a bit less than the G1 X too. So you also might take a look at this digital camera too.

Now it’s time to make a choice. It won’t be hard considering the differences between the two cameras – I think. If you have any question and things you would like to know, please comment below and I will be glad to answer your questions.

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