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Canon Powershot SX110 IS Digital Camera Review

Canon Powershot SX110 IS Digital Camera Review - Matt Grayson takes a look at the remake of the SX100 IS. Imaginatively entitled the SX110 IS.

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Canon Powershot SX110 IS in Compact Cameras

Canon update the SX100 IS with a slightly upgraded version offering features such as a higher resolution and larger screen.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Specification

  • Canon Powershot SX110 IS Zoom: 10x optical
  • Resolution: 9Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3in.
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Max. image size: 3456x2592
  • File type: JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO80-1600
  • Storage: SD/SDHC
  • Focus types: Face detection, 1-point AF (centre, face select or track)
  • Close focusing: 1cm
  • Metering types: Evaluative, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 15sec-1/2500sec
  • Flash: Built-in
  • Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: 2x AA batteries
  • Size: 110.6x70.4x44.7mm
  • Weight: 245g

At £170, you get 9Mp, 10x optical zoom and a 1cm macro feature. The Nikon Coolpix P60 also at £170 has 8Mp, 5x optical zoom and a rubbish 10cm close focusing. Alternatively, the Fujifilm FinePix S1000fd has 10Mp, larger 12x optical zoom and 2cm close focusing but is a much blockier camera and is slightly older.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Features
As the replacement to the SX100 IS, it looks like the design department were on holiday and only a junior was left in charge as the only main difference in styling is the larger screen on the back. The large lens still protrudes from the front as though it's still in the nineties with the small flash hanging over it and minor grip daring to give the front an extra curve.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
The top still bears the popular Best Shot dial. All buttons are on the right of the camera.

The top still bears the best shot dial as a testimonial to the phrase "if it's not broken don't fix it" and it's long term presence on all Canon cameras shows its popularity. It holds several preset modes for you to play with such as portrait, landscape, night shot, kids and party but also has the manual modes normally found on DSLRs and higher end compacts. The SX110 IS also has the additional benefit of the intelligent modes that all manufacturers appear to be bringing out at the moment.

It's an extension of the regular auto mode and has the capability of recognising the type of image you're taking and selecting the correct mode to take pictures in. For example if you're taking a picture of a person, the camera will detect the face, focus on it and switch to portrait mode to ensure you get the best possible result. It's certainly a canny idea and more manufacturers are implementing it onto their newer models.

A slightly smaller sensor has been used on the SX110 IS which is a little disturbing as the resolution has been raised by a million pixels. The same DiG!C III processor has been used in the new model despite the DiG!C IV now being available. Although it's currently only seen in the newest DSLRs and top end compacts such as the Canon Powershot G10.

Everything else is the same as the previous model bar the dimensions being slightly out by a few millimetres which ensures a new case is necessary.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
On the back and the same design follows the top plate with all buttons to the right. This is due to the screen hogging all the space though.
Canon Powershot SX110 IS
A closer shot of the dials shows the amount of stuff now available all in one place which might get confusing. You can also see the port flap covering the AC and USB ports.

On the back, some of the buttons and gadgets have been moved around to house the larger 3in LCD screen Instead, the menu, display, direct print and face detection have been moved onto four buttons surrounding the main navigation pad. Except the direct print which is relegated to a life of solitude in the top left corner of the camera.

The 10x optical zoom is useful for cropping into those areas that are usually difficult to get to such as concerts or the kids school play. In 35mm terms, it's equivalent to a 36-360mm zoom lens and luckily, if you are in a situation where you need to photograph over someone's head, the screen is easily viewable from near 90 degrees in all directions.

There are two menus available for shooting. One is the function menu for quick access to your most used options such as image quality and size, white balance, colours, flash compensation and metering. I'm surprised that the focus modes aren't in here as well, but it's a refreshing change that modes aren't being repeated in multiple areas.

Go into the main menu and the focus modes are the first ones you come to so they aren't elusive. In programmable modes such as aperture-priority or manual, there are only two tabs available for recording options and set up. You can quickly scroll through the menu using the wheel and while it may seem minimal, there are options such as flash settings and print direct assignation options as sub menus.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Build and handling
To the touch, it's quite pleasant with a smooth plastic covering the front. I'm able to move the lens which isn't normally a problem but it also moves when I shake the camera which doesn't feel very good.

The flash is a manual pop up type and doesn't even have a button to spring it up. You have to use your hands like you're some kind of caveman. It's not very powerful either reaching a maximum of 3m at wide angle and 2m at telephoto. Compared to the Panasonic FS20 another compact in the same price bracket and it has a wide coverage of over 5m with a telephoto coverage of 3m and even that is bordering on average.

As a lower priced model, money has been saved in certain areas and one such area is the tripod bush. One of the most used areas of the camera. Canon Powershot SX110 IS It's a plastic bush and more susceptible to wear so be careful when using it.

The Canon Powershot SX110 IS takes 2x AA batteries and there are two definite camps on the use of these batteries. One argument is that they run down quickly meaning more outlay or waiting for them to charge more whereas another argument is that if they do happen to run out on you, all you have to do is nip into a local post office and they'll sell AA batteries. The likelihood of them selling a freshly charged Li-Ion battery to you is slim.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Performance
Shutter lag is around the same speed as other compacts in this classification at 0.08sec once focus is locked. Locking focus can add a considerable amount of time to it. There are two continuous shooting modes on the Canon in the form of regular and AF. The difference being that the AF version also tracks the subject if it's moving to make sure that they stay in focus. The Canon managed 14 shots in the ten second burst test giving an average of just under 1.5fps.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Canon Powershot SX110 IS

Primary colours are boosted by the processor when converting to JPEG with the most emphasis being on primary blue. Surprisingly, yellow has had a decent boost and shows up a lot brighter than red or green. The skin tone tile is a good colour, not too pink and I also like the earthy colours of brown and the forest green. Looking at the pastel shades down the left side of brown, orange and primary blue and they're a little pale from real life but can still be determined. I like the result of the mono tiles as they've come out nicely balanced.

The landscape test image has come out quite well with good detail on the writing on the balance beam and the grass in the foreground. The shaded areas have detail showing while the sky and trees on the right aren't over exposed showing that the metering is working well.

One thing I noticed while using the SX110 IS was the amount of colour fringing I was getting on contrasting lines. Interestingly on the white bars of the lock where I normally measure from, there's not a great deal of it noticeable. It is there but appears to be controlled. Looking at the wide angle image of the canal and the edge of the canal that leads under the bridge has a thick purple band running the length of the highest contrast area.

So it seems that it's only really there on high contrast areas which is good for general use but could cause problems on beaches or in snow.

When I looked at the colour chart, I mentioned that I liked the skin tone tile and in the portrait test the camera has handled skin well. It's balanced and not too warm as can sometimes happen. The image is a little soft but is a general requirement for portraits to give nicer features.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Skin tones look good and plenty of detail is evident in the portrait. The image isn't too warm and manual white balance for a cloudy day has worked well.
Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Using flash adds decent catchlights and doesn't over expose the skin. Shadows are filled nicely but the forehead is in danger of bleaching out.

Using flash is a close shave as the catch lights are there which is great and the skin is illuminated nicely but doesn't look like it which is the best type of result. The forehead is in danger of bleaching though and I think the hair is the only thing that stopped it happening.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Kids move very quickly and the kids mode on the Best Shot dial works well in this scenario. It doesn't push the flash up though.

I got a couple of shots with the Canon at Christmas as this is the exact type of occasion that the camera would be used at. The kids mode has worked well on my son giving him a balanced skin tone and freezing him in a moment that will haunt him for the rest of his life as he gives me a cheesy grin. The flash has eradicated the background all but for minimal detail which still gives an indication of what's going on. The large file size also allowed me to crop in and get rid of any unwanted background that is sometimes included in candid shots.

I took the shot of the dog to see that amount of detail that the SX110 IS can pick up and by chance I got the one of him yawning. Although being one of the fastest dogs, they are also the most lazy and he spends his time either asleep, stretching or yawning. There's good detail on the hair and I can even make out some detail on the tongue.

As with most compacts these days, the SX110 IS has colour styles so you can add a little flavour to your images. Options such as sepia, vivid, neutral, mono and a custom function are all available. The custom option allows you to adjust the sharpness, contrast and saturation. I dropped the saturation to the bottom, increased sharpness and contrast and I think the result is really good. It's not too desaturated but I think the boost of contrast and sharpening works nicely.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Good detail in this shot of the dog. I can pick out individual hairs as well as some detail on the tongue. the flash hasn't over exposed him despite the close quarters.
Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Colour styles are available for adjusting the images such as boosting or dropping colour, changing to black & white or making your own custom adjustments.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Focus and metering
There are two focus modes available in the menu system called single and continuous. Single focusing simply focuses when the button is pressed halfway and locks there while continuous carries on focusing in case the subject moves.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Focus options are changed in the menu as well as the back of the camera.
Canon Powershot SX110 IS
Face detection works by recognising the mouth, eyes and ears in configuration. It can locate up to nine faces in one frame.

Pressing the macro button on the rear of the camera brings up three focus options of macro, landscape and manual. Manual mode will open up a smaller window which is a magnified look at the centre of the frame and helps with getting the focus sharp.

Face detection can detect up to nine people in the shot and they will be highlighted in white boxes. Pressing the shutter release halfway down will activate the focus and up to nine of the boxes will change to green depending on whether they focus or not. You can prioritise the person that gets focused on if the camera is having trouble but has locked onto the wrong person. This is done by pressing the face detect button on the back of the camera which will then scroll through all the faces until the one you wish to choose is highlighted.

There are three metering modes available which are evaluative, centre-weighted and spot. They are changed by pressing the function button on the back of the camera and choosing the metering option. In the old days, centre-weighted was the norm and all cameras used that mode until multi metering was invented. Centre-weighted takes a general reading from around 85% of the image giving more weight to the centre, hence the name. Multi metering or Pattern, Evaluative, Segment -depending on the company- works by splitting the frame into factions and takes a reading from each one. It then decides on the exposure from the correlated information. Spot metering takes a reading from the exact centre of the image using around 2-3% of the frame.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Noise test
Because of the slightly smaller number that has had a million extra pixels added, noise comes into play earlier than I'd like to see it. ISO80 isn't too bad but at 100% magnification does have problems showing through. There's plenty of detail though and it's not a problem at 25% until ISO800 where it starts to annoy me.

No particular setting jumps out with all increases in ISO pushing that bit extra detail out of the shot. ISO1600 is the maximum setting and does suffer from green and purple colour invasion and has haemorrhaged detail.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS
The ISO80 test.
Canon Powershot SX110 IS
The ISO1600 test.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Verdict
For the price it's not a bad piece of kit. I think it could be more attractive to look at but I prefer boxier, even more vintage looking cameras, so a smooth, curvy affair doesn't sit with me. Design is a personal choice and the camera won't be marked down on it.

Colour rendition is good and detail on images is plentiful. It suffers from noise a bit too much but that's due to a smaller sensor with more pixels added. Skin tones are great and this camera is aimed at families so it's good to see the kids mode working well. Fringing will be a problem when on holiday and there's a lot of contrast though.

It has a decent amount of features and is well built apart from a few misgivings such as a plastic tripod bush and having to manually flip up the flash. It is the 21st century after all.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Plus points
Good colours
Good build for price
Lots of features
Decent dynamic range

Canon Powershot SX110 IS: Minus points
Noise creeps in too early
Fringing on high contrast areas
Manual flash





The Canon Powershot SX110 IS costs around £170 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Canon Powershot SX110 IS


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