Canon G15 with Fantasea Housing – Underwater Review
The Canon G15 was announced in Sep 2012. This was a long awaited announcement since the G12 conquered this market segment back in late 2010.
Canon was the first to release cameras from this category when the G1 was announced 13 years ago and today they are still considered market leaders as far as high end compacts go.
The Canon G series, same as the Nikon Pxxxx series are high end compacts featuring a 1/1.8” (1/1.7” for some) sensor and full manual DSLR-like controls. They have been a popular choice for users that take special interest in photography and want to take “point and shoot” up a notch.
I will jump right in to the underwater business, you can read more about the cameras in their Wikipedia page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_PowerShot_G
The Canon G12 was a huge seller for underwater photography and the G15 is one as well. The main reason is that to get good results underwater one needs to shoot manual and it is only these type of cameras that allow comfortable manual controls, just like a DSLR but at a fraction of the cost.
Of course there is a big difference between the G15 to a DSLR but image quality has improved tremendously along the years and the quality is quite sufficient for any user that is not aiming at professional photography.
Combining these features with a decent price and a high quality inexpensive housing, buying this camera is simply a no-brainer. The best bang for the buck under $1,000 (camera + housing).
I will try to put some emphasis in this review as to how the G15 compares to its competition. I consider its leading competition the Canon S series (S95, S100, S110), the Nikon P series (P7000, P7100, P7700) and the Sony RX100.
What makes the Canon G15 the best P&S underwater camera:
|Feature||Canon G15||Canon S110||Nikon P7700||Sony RX100|
|Sensor||1/1.8″ 7.4×5.6mm||1/1.8″ 7.4×5.6mm||1/1.8″ 7.4×5.6mm||Nikon CX 13.2×8.8mm|
|LCD||3” 922K dots||3” 922K dots||3” 922K dots||3” 1229K dots|
|Manual controls||3 Dials||2 Dials||3 Dials||2 Dials|
|Housing Choice||Fantasea – $499.95, Ikelite – $649.95, Nauticam – $950||Ikelite – $325 (No back dial Control), Nauticam – $900||Ikelite – $649.95||Ikelite – $399.95, Nauticam – $950|
|Bundle Price||$959.95 / $1049.95 / $1,449||$675 / $1,225||$1039.95||$1050, $1600|
|Video||1080p @ 24fps||1080p @ 24fps||1080p @ 24fps||1080p @ 60fps|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||1cm||3cm||2cm||5cm|
|Image Quality (my personal opinion)||8.5/10||8/10||7.5/10||10/10|
|White Balance (my personal opinion)||9/10||9/10||7/10||8.5/10|
The choice between these 4 cameras is not easy. The Canon S110 has a true wide angle lens at 24mm which is huge for underwater. The RX100 has amazing image quality, but bad macro capabilities.
What makes the G15 stand out (aside from is spotless reputation) is the Fantasea housing. This is the only bundle that give you a true ergonomic, high end housing, highly compatible and easy to use for under $1,000.
I would have gladly recommend the S110 over the G15, being ~30% cheaper but the Ikelite housing simply does not cut it. The stiff buttons and lack of a back dial controller simply hurts the experience of using that camera underwater.
Where does the Canon G15 fall short?
- The small sensor is limiting in terms of low light capabilities.
- Video can only be shot at 24fps.
- Slow continuous shooting ( 2.1 fps vs 10 fps on the rx100 or 8fps on the P7700)
- A bit bulky compared to the S110 and RX100 which are super compact.
- No Auto flash exposure (TTL) when shooting in M – Manual mode.
Where is the G15 a clear winner?
- Close focusing distance – 1cm, much less than all others.
- High end Fantasea housing for only $499.95, see detailed review below.
- 3 Dials for full DSLR like manual controls.
- Great white balance capabilities, same as the S110, unlike the P7700.
The Fantasea FG15 Housing
Ok, so back to our G15, let’s talk about the Fantasea housing, here is what makes it special:
- Molded to fit the exact design of the G15 camera, thus very small and feels almost like you have the camera in your hands.
- Full control of all the cameras dials and buttons.
- Depth rated to 60 mts / 200ft
- Soft and reliable buttons with drawings on them to make life simpler underwater. Half Shutter is easily felt. Buttons function exactly the same at any depth (I tried up to 110 feet).
- 2 Fiber optic connections (Sea and Sea style)
- Top cold shoe mount for focus light.
- Perfectly designed grip for your fingers at the front and thumb in the back.
- Flash pop out/push in lever (never forget the flash in anymore…).
- Moisture alarm
- Sun shade
- Line of low cost accessories such as a wide angle dome, red filter, macro lens.
As you can see, there is nothing missing in the Fantasea FG15 and that’s quite a remarkable achievement considering its retail value of $499.95. It’s now easier for you to understand why I consider the G15 to be a winner, this housing simply makes it feel like this camera was developed for underwater shots.
The FG15 housing is the successor of the FP7000 and FP7100 housings. I reviewed this thoroughly a while back , see my P7100 underwater review.
Fantasea FG15 Accessories
Shooting Underwater with the G15
This setup is the same for Canon G12, S95, S100, S110 and other similar Canon models.
I now have quite the experience diving with Canon cameras and have developed a setup that I believe makes shooting with the camera a breeze in many different situations.
As you may know the camera has a few custom modes. I use 3 different modes:
C1 – Set to A mode, with flash off and underwater color balance. EV+/- on -2/3 , RAW ( I found this to provide nice shots with a deeper blue color). I use this mode for shooting sharks, large reef rocks and other big animals or objects I can’t get close too and my strobe will not be effective.
M – Flash on force – low power, white balance auto, JPG. This is my most common setup for standard strobe shots. Note, strobe is set to manual here.
A – Flash on Auto – white balance auto, JPG, EV+/- on 0. – I use this mode for TTL shots (strobe is set to TTL). I use this when I don’t have time to prepare a shot and I need to take multiple shots at the right exposure quickly. For example, when a turtle swims towards me.
The combination of these 3 modes allows me to shoot almost anything without playing too much with the controls and settings on the camera.
The G15 is a great camera and bundled with the Fantasea housing it becomes and incredible underwater package.
With great image quality, full manual controls, perfectly ergonomic housing and all under $1000 you cannot go wrong.
This bundle is often sold as a package with a strobe / video light or both and with the common optics as an option. For getting truly great results, adding at least some of these accessories is well recommended.
You can check out the G15 Underwater Bundle
Or check out our G15 Underwater packages
Underwater Photos taken with the Canon G15 (with a Sea and Sea YS-D1 strobe)
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