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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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