Canon G15 vs. Nikon Coolpix P7700 Camera Review

The Canon G15, left, and the Nikon P7700, right, two high quality small form factor cameras. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The Canon G15, left, and the Nikon P7700, right, two high quality small form factor cameras. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The Canon G15 and Nikon Coolpix P7700 are both compact, non point-n-shoot  digital cameras that offer a lot to like for the serious photo enthusiast. Although these are small form factor machines, they both offer serious controls for the shooter who knows a bit about what he’s doing: fast, high quality zoom lenses, full manual controls as well as the usual array of Program and Auto modes, plus real HD video. My friends at Bennett’s Camera thought these two would make a good comparison review and at under $500 each, worth a close look.

Like all of my camera reviews, I’ll try to give you a sense of what it’s like to actually go out and shoot with these two cameras: how they feel in your hands, how I found the controls to work, etc. I won’t put them through any scientific bench tests—just a real-world test drive by someone who makes his living shooting photographs.  Then I’ll give you my recommendation for which one I think you should consider buying.

With that said, let’s get started!

Size Matters

First, let’s look at the size of these two machines. The Canon G15 follows in its own long ‘G’ tradition of small form factor cameras and has full manual controls, big 12 MP file size, an optical viewfinder that zooms with the lens and small enough to truly fit in your shirt pocket.

Front view comparison. The Nikon is substantially larger than the Canon. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Front view comparison. The Nikon is substantially larger than the Canon. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The Nikon has a 12.2 MP file size and is noticeably larger—a good 20% bigger—and won’t fit in your shirt pocket. It’s a bit beefier all round, and has no optical viewfinder—but the articulating screen is a feature I really like. Somehow, the feel of the Canon G15 reminds me more of an all-metal Leica M3 rangefinder film camera that I owned long ago, while the Nikon feels like a bulky point-n-shoot-which it definitely isn’t. Based upon how these cameras feel in my hands, the Canon is the winner.

Top view of both cameras, Canon on top, Nikon on the bottom. Both cameras have a small pop-up flash, left top, under the name plate. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Top view of both cameras, Canon on top, Nikon on the bottom. Both cameras have a small pop-up flash, left top, under the name plate. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

But feel isn’t everything, is it? How do these cameras perform? How are the controls laid out?  Are they easy to navigate? Easy to use?

Layout

Looking at the back of these two cameras you’re struck by how similar the layouts actually are—both use a combination of navigation wheels and dials to step you through their menu options. Both have standard blue triangle ‘review’ buttons. In fact, I found the cameras remarkably similar in how they’ve approached their basic navigation design.

Canon on the top, NIkon on the bottom. Both use a similar layout organized around scroll and navigation wheels. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Canon on the top, NIkon on the bottom. Both use a similar layout organized around scroll and navigation wheels. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Ease of use

The zooms of both cameras are easy to use and function as expected. The 200mm full zoom of the Nikon gets in a bit closer than the 140mm Canon zoom, but the difference didn’t seem big in practice. The Canon lens is a stop brighter (f1.8-2.8 vs f2-4 for the Nkon) and the Canon ISO range is much, much better on the low light end: top ISO speed of 12800 compared to only 1600 for the Nikon. (That’s 3 f-stops brighter for the Canon, a significant difference for low light shooting.)

Rear LCD display—is what-you-see-what-you-get?

I shoot a lot of my work using full manual control on my cameras. This allows me to fine-tune my exposure, shutter speed, etc., to get exactly what I’m after in each situation.

Both of these cameras display what looks like a ‘live view’ on the rear LCD screen, but in fact, this is not the case. With the Canon G15 in manual exposure, the screen gets brighter or darker as I make manual adjustments to the current exposure. This is exactly what you would expect to happen, right? But with the Nikon P7700, the rear LCD screen always displays what the camera deems to be a ‘correct’ exposure—even when you’ve manually changed that exposure, however dramatically! So the rear LCD is completely useless as a predicter of what your result will be! This is crazy bad, a huge irritant to me.

This is the type of thing that removes this camera from the ranks of a serious machine, in my opinion.

Motor Drive

A gripe I have about both cameras is where they’ve buried the motor drive burst capability. The Nikon advertises 8 frames-per-second burst speed and the Canon a whopping 10 frames-per-second, but to turn this feature on in either machine, you’re forced to pick your way deep down into the rear LCD menu settings. I’m sure that, with practice, you’d learn to do this fairly quickly, but it wasn’t obvious or easy with either camera.

Both of these cameras hide the motor drive function (continuous), burying deep within the menus, here on the Canon G15. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Both of these cameras hide the motor drive function (continuous), burying it deep within the menus, here on the Canon G15. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Video

I shot some video with each camera and both do a decent job of shooting full HD quality 1080p video. A big gripe I have with the Nikon camera was that, once you started shooting a video scene, you lost the ability to zoom the camera!  That’s right: once you were filming, you were stuck with that zoom position. This seems crazy, right? But it’s true, this camera does not zoom during filming. No such problem with the Canon. [Note: see Comments below. Apparently I’m in error on this feature of the Nikon, although I don’t have the camera handy to confirm.]

On the plus side for the Nikon, it has a dedicated accessory jack for an external microphone. Fantastic! This is a feature that I think all cameras should include. Those who’ve read any of my other camera reviews know what a big fan I am of external mics, since audio quality is so extremely important to your video projects. My personal external video mic is the Sennheiser MKE 400 , a great little device that delivers great results and jacks right into the hot shoe on the cameras.

Canon G15 vs. Nikon P7700 Video Test Comparison from Andrew Boyd on Vimeo.

Conclusion

These are both functional, pretty little cameras. I love the external mic jack and the articulating screen on the Nikon P7700, but in every other aspect, the Canon G15 wins out. The ergonomics in your hands, the ‘serious’ full manual controls, the ability to zoom during video shooting, the faster lens and the much better ISO capability all make it the better camera for any serious photographer. Like its predecessors in the G-series line of small digital cameras, I think the G15 will be a hit with many, many shooters.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

2 Comments on "Canon G15 vs. Nikon Coolpix P7700 Camera Review"

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  1. Paulson says:

    Yes, you can zoom the Nikon when shooting video. Use the regular video mode.

    If you use the CSM video mode (“manual” video) you cannot.

  2. Thanks for this Paulson! I’ve updated the post to note your comment, although I don’t have the camera available to check this out.

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