The Canon PowerShot G15 is the only camera on test to offer a viewfinder of any kind (here, an optical type), and it also manages to offer a bright f/1.8 aperture at the wideangle end of its image-stabilised 28-140mm lens, which drops to a still-respectable f/2.8 at the telephoto extreme.
Behind the optic sits a 12.1MP backlit CMOS sensor, which can have its sensitivity adjusted between a broad ISO 80-12,800 range, and it also captures full HD movies at 24fps, or standard HD videos at 30fps, as well as reduced-resolution slow-motion videos at 120fps and 240fps.
In order to prolong exposures Canon has also integrated a physical neutral density filter inside the lens, which reduces exposure times by three EV stops, while around the back a 3in LCD presents its details with 922k dots. Images are captured in Raw (Canon's .CR2 type) and JPEG formats, either on their own or simultaneously.
Thanks to a fixed LCD screen the Canon PowerShot G15 boasts a more slender body than its G12 predecessor. The body itself feels well constructed, and the rubbered grip - while not as substantial as some of the others here - does improve handling.
In terms of physical controls the camera scores many points: most of the controls are well positioned and large enough to be comfortably operated by larger-handed users, and they're all clearly labelled too. The only exceptions here are the play button which is awkwardly shoehorned into a small gap between the viewfinder and mode dial, and the menu pad dial on the rear which is too close to the side of the LCD for comfort.
The inclusion of a viewfinder is likely to win some over, although the lack of parallax markings makes it near useless for accurate framing.
The Canon PowerShot G15's metering system is generally reliable, and scenes containing many highlight areas don't force it to underexpose the main subject. Indeed, the tendency is for the camera to occasionally overexpose, something confirmed by the accompanying histograms.
The AWB system isn't faultless, but in natural light it performs very well, and in many situations which combine artificial sources it also does a decent job. Noise is well controlled and even at higher sensitivities the noise reduction system isn't too destructive, and while Raw files are soft, once sharpened they show very good detail.
Distortion is also pleasingly low, as is chromatic aberration.
The Canon PowerShot G15 powers up and down marginally faster than the average speed set by the cameras here, and in good light the camera wastes no time in acquiring focus, although even with the AF assist light activated the camera is a touch behind the others for AF speed when shooting in sub-optimum conditions.
One area where it does do well is with shot-to-shot times, which may not be quite as fast as the LX7 or RX100 but aren't that far behind either. The LCD is a touch darker and noisier than some of the others here, but it presents a stable view of the scene. Furthermore, the lens travels through its range at a pleasingly steady pace.