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Canon Powershot SX100 IS Digital Camera Review

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Digital Camera Review - The SX100 sounds like a hot list for people in South East England, but is in fact a new bridge style camera from Canon. Matt "Sharon" Grayson puts on his white stilettos and affects a comedy John Wayne walk. Well, it is the weekend.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Canon Powershot SX100 IS
Price : £299
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The Canon SX100 IS offers an 8Mp sensor, 10x optical zoom for the peeping tom in you and fully manual controls like on one of them there SLRs.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Specification

  • 10x optical zoom with optical Image Stabilizer
  • 8.0 Mp
  • DIGIC III and iSAPS
  • Face Detection Technology with Face Selector button
  • 2.5in wide-view LCD screen
  • 18 shooting modes and My Colors
  • User-friendly control dial
  • ISO 1600 and optional high-power flash
  • Smooth VGA movies

With the resolution and zoom, the SX100 is very similar to the Canon Powershot S5 IS but is £50 less. Other manufacturers that are comparable are the Sony DSC H3 at £209 with 8Mp, 10x optical zoom and Carl Zeiss lens. Alternatively, at £250 the Panasonic DMC FZ8 has a lower 7Mp, a larger 12x optical zoom and Leica lens. Sony and Panasonic have better lenses, but the Canon is smaller and less ugly.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Modes and features
Looking at the camera, it is a smooth, fluid like construction with curves instead of angles. The front has a wave like grip and features the only blocky part of the camera which is the lens and this seems to stick out a bit too much by today's standards. The back has a flush screen and an indented navigational wheel.

The top of the camera has the pop up flash, power button, shutter release with the zoom wrapped around it and the mode dial. On a futuristic looking camera like this, it is a bit disappointing to see the Mode dial in Canons Gunmetal Grey standard colour. I would have liked to see a new design to the dial for this camera. Maybe a digital one?

The dial holds the Auto feature as well as the PASM modes and the preset Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, Kids & pets, Scene mode, Stitch assist and Video mode.

The Scene option allows you to access any of the seven presets that are stored in there. This is a relatively small amount of options available as the usual number is nearer 20, but then, thinking about it, do you need them all? I have always thought that all those presets were unnecessary anyway, so this could be a good thing as it's less confusing for a start.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS The back of the camera has a 2.5in screen and four buttons underneath for direct printing, face detection, Display options and the main Menu. The menu will allow you to change the characteristics of the camera. Two tabs of options are presented to you at the beginning for Recording and Set up.

The Recording tab allows changes to the Digital zoom, Self timer, Review options for seeing the picture on screen after it is taken, Review information which includes a Focus check feature that could prove very handy. There is also the options of a Display overlay to put up the rule of thirds grid or a 3:2 guide which will grey out the areas of the image that will be clipped for easier composition. The image will still be recorded in 4:3 ratio, though.

Remaining options are to set the IS mode and to set the Print direct button so that it has a dedicated meaning as it is only print direct when in Playback. Think of it as your very own Custom button. Options available are White balance, Custom white balance, Digital Tele-converter which uses the digital zoom to give the effect of using a Tele-converter, Display overlay and Display off.

The recording options are only available in any mode that is a pre-programmed mode like Auto or Scene mode. Switching the camera to a mode that is programmable like Program or Aperture priority will open up more options as the camera thinks that you, quite rightly, want totake more control. The extra options it gives are AF Frame, AF Frame size, Slow synchro, Red-eye options for flash, Safety FE which a personal annoyance of mine as it is a system that, despite being in a mode like manual where you have preset everything, if this is switched on and you use the flash, it will automatically change the aperture and shutter speed values to ensure an image that is exposed correctly. A nice thing, you might say, but that is OK in the programmed modes where you want the camera to do everything for you. This is in a mode where you might want to see what the settings you've chosen does for you and this is taking away a bit more of the fun away from us. Luckily, it is optional, but I see it as a pointless feature and it is worth noting that all the features like this are switched on as default.

Other options include the Auto ISO shift, MF, Safety MF, AF mode and AF assist beam which can be switched on or off.

The Set up tab allows changes to Mute, Volume, Start up image, Screen brightness, Power saving mode, Date & time set, Formatting the card, File numbering, Create a folder on the card, Auto rotate images that have been taken in portrait, Distance units between m & cm or ft & in, Lens retract for when the lens will automatically go in after not doing anything, Language, Video system, Print method and a Reset option to take the camera back to its factory settings. One thing I have noticed about this menu is that in the old days, the same options would be shown, but greyed out to if not accessible, but now if you are in Auto mode, the options available in Manual will be taken away.

The top button on the back of the camera is to access the Playback area of the camera and below that is the navigation pad which has up, down,Canon Powershot SX100 IS left and right options as well as being a wheel so the menus can now be scrolled through quicker. The wheel doubles up as quick access to the ISO ratings, MF & Macro, Flash options and Drive options.

The Function button in the centre of the wheel allows changes to be made to the AWB, Colours, Flash compensation, Metering modes, Image quality and Image size. Interestingly, the wheel will scroll through the sub menu available on the highlighted option instead of scrolling up and down the main page when in Function. In the Menu, however, it will scroll up and down the main options of the Menu and not the sub menu.

The final button available just below the wheel is the Exposure compensation button and also doubles up as the erase button if anything goes drastically wrong.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Build and handling
The build quality feels very good and the plastic casing has not been hidden behind a metallic paint. The grip is snug, but makes the index finger instinctively move further toward the middle of the camera overshooting the shutter button and I think that it should rest comfortably there.

The camera would be a slimmer sexier SX100 if it wasn't for the lens and the Panasonic TZ3 is testament to the technology being available, so I'm unsure with the direction Canon are taking.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS The wheel scrolls nicely along and if I overshot an option I wanted to use it was because I wasn't used to using it. Like with any new thing, though, you soon master it and zooming around the menus is a lot easier and faster in the long run.

I am surprised at Canons choice of batteries, opting for AA instead of a dedicated Lithium Ion, but the debate still rages over what is best. However, with recent strides in AA technology, they are lasting as long as Lithium Ion and they cost a lot less.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Flash options
The flash has to be flipped up to access the Flash options which is done by pressing right on the navigation pad then the amount of options available is incredible. Auto and On. That's it.

Obviously, Off is chosen by merely flipping the flash back down and the Red eye options have been previously mentioned in the Modes and features if you were paying attention.

The distance range of the flash is 50cm -3m at wide angle and 50cm - 2m at telephoto.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Canon Powershot SX100 IS Performance
In the 10 second test, the Canon Powershot SX100 IS managed to fire off 15 images. The final image was taken in the 10 seconds, it downloaded outside of the test time. This means that the camera has a burst rate of approximately 1.5fps.

To test the Canons prowess in the portrait department, I took three images. One in portrait mode which gave an image with a slight boost to the skin tones using yellow in a bid to warm them up. Anyone who has a tan like our model Becky "Boots own Brand" Bradley has could distort the skin tone. The other two images have been shot in Program mode and were both taken with flash. I took the opportunity to try the Safety FE feature to see if it would correct the exposure despite being in a mode that doesn't allow things like that to happen. However, despite Canons claim that the Safety FE feature will work whatever the setting of the camera, it is surprising to know that the feature is absent from the Menu when in Manual mode.

I took a picture of the church in wide angle zoomed in to highlight the 10x optical zoom and what it can do for you and it is easily able to pick the church out of the crowd of trees that have swarmed around it.

I hate sunny days because they are simply a photographers nightmare. The metering has started crying on the lock image and overcooked the sky to get the land exposed properly. Fringing in the form of lovely green and purple edges on the building roof are apparent and show more because of the high contrast, so at least one benefit can be retrieved from the result by illustrating this. All other areas are good with detail being shown in the winch and the grass is a nice colour if not a little on the paler side.

I am interested to know whether the Safety FE feature works, so I decided to test it. The image I took using the flash was set to f/3.5 in Aperture priority and therefore, the shutter speed and ISO, which I set to Auto, would be amended by the camera to expose correctly. A nice shot was produced with a little overexposure on the highlights where the flash has caught, but not too blown out. The Safety FE feature decided that f/5 was the best bet and changed it. The bleaching evident at f/3.5 is reduced and the image has a little more contrast so is a better result.

So the debate is this: Is is right that Canon are saying that our own decision on how to take photographs is not good enough, so here is a feature that will do it for you? Or is getting the end result all that matters? Well, in this scenario, I am in Aperture priority which means I want to set the Value to my own decision. That decision was flawed as the overexposure has shown, but how do Canon know what result I want? They cannot read my mind and I may have wanted it overexposed. In that case turn the feature off, but it is the principle that is in argument.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS
The warmer tones starting at Yellow are very saturated with good range through the Black &white tones and a good skin result.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS
As with all the other Canons like this one, the macro is down to 1cm. Which is close enough to tell me I need to clean my pocket watch.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS
The portrait mode shows a boost in yellow to warm skin tones, but other colours are balanced.
Canon Powershot SX100 IS
The program mode has given a different cast, but the cloud had come over by that stage dulling things down.
Canon Powershot SX100 IS
The Flash shot was taken in Aperture priority at f/3.5 which is what I wanted.
Canon Powershot SX100 IS
Safety FE changed the aperture to f/5 despite being in Aperture priority.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS
The wide angle is nothing special at only 37mm.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS
But it does mean the 10x optical can get to 370mm.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS
The metering has bleached the sky but has shown the extent of fringing that can appear.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Noise test
As the images flashed up onto the preview screen after taking them, their looked to be very good results and I am very pleased with the result from ISO80 as the image has fabulous detail with no noise or degradation to it at all and the same goes for ISO100. ISO200 is starting to show slight sharpness of noise in the low key area, but detail in the petal is still precise and I am viewing these images at full size.

ISO400 shows definite sharpening of noise and is also starting to filter through to the grey card and the edges of the petals are starting to show a faint sign of degradation. ISO800 is running along a similar vein by showing more noise and decay over the whole image. It is necessary to stress at this point that the results are still much better than normal and the loss of quality is minimal compared to close competitors.

Finally, ISO1600 bravely brings up the rear with an excellent result as only now, definite purple and green blobs are starting to appear in the black area. If the high ISO is used on this camera, I don't think you'll have any problems with it.

The ISO80 test
The ISO80 test.
The ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.

The ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.

The ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.

The ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.

The ISO1600 test.
The ISO1600 test.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Verdict
Aesthetically, the camera is pleasing and even the lens sticking out doesn't bother me now. They have made it look very futuristic and, as I said earlier, the only thing that brings it back to the 21st century with a bump is the mode dial which hasn't changed style in years.

The introduction of the navigation wheel is something being seen in more and more models and appears to be the way forward.

The performance of the noise is the most pleasant surprise and is great news for those of you who want a good looking camera with some creative control and one that will work in a bar when you go out at night.

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Plus points
Excellent ISO results.
Decent fps performance.
Snazzy design.
Better Menu systems

Canon Powershot SX100 IS Minus points
Mixing old with new doesn't always work - update the mode dial.
I still don't like the Safety FE feature.

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL

The Canon Powershot SX100 IS costs around £299 and will be available soon.

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