Canon Powershot SD1200 IS Review
The Canon Powershot SD1200 IS is a metallic ultra-compact digital camera with a 10 megapixels sensor and a stabilized 3X optical zoom lens. This small and robust model features point-and-shoot operation along with a relatively well-rounded feature set.
The SD1200 is one of Canon's most recent camera but retains the SD-series appeal with its clean design and intuitive user-interface. Add to that pocket friendly size, a bright 2.5" display, unlimited continuous drive and an optical tunnel viewfinder for emergencies to complete the offering.
|10 Megapixels sensor|
|Stabilized 3X Optical zoom lens (35-105mm)|
|ISO Sensitivity from 80 to 1600|
|Shutter-speeds from 1/1500s to 15s|
|Automatic white-balance, 5 white-balance presetsDaylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent High and custom white-balance|
|Evaluative, center-weighed and spot metering|
|Normal, Macro and Infinity focus|
|Exposure compensation, -2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV steps|
|Auto-Exposure Lock and Flash-Value Lock|
|Unlimited 1.4 FPS continuous drive|
|Self-timer with custom delay and number of shots|
|640x480 30 FPS Movie mode|
|2.5" LCD 230K Pixels|
|Powered by a Lithium-Ion battery|
|Secure Digital High Capacity memory|
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Canon Powershot SD1200 is a point-and-shoot digital camera with a minimal 3X optical zoom in a tiny metal body. Its main suitability point is its portability. It can be taken places as it fits easily in a pocket.
The interface is very straight forwards and intuitive. This makes it an ideal ultra-compact for beginners. Certain more advanced functions require reading the manual but all the basics can be easily guessed. Unpredictable functions such as scene-modes are kept to a minimum and that is good. Without much controls, the Powershot SD1200 can be used for simple snapshots of close-by subjects. A macro mode helps with close focusing 3cm (1.2") from the lens.
The most notable control of the SD1200 is its white-balance settings, including custom white-balance to deal with difficult lighting. Also included is a standard -2 to +2 EV exposure-compensation, to nail exposure. This digital camera also features 3 types of metering, spot-metering included, for greater exposure flexibility.
With a 10 megapixels sensor, large prints are possible when noise is low. The ISO range up 1600 makes the SD1200 usable for social snaps in poorly lit conditions such as at restaurants and parties.
Its movie-mode captures VGA resolution clips in AVI format. Unlike most ultra-compacts, zooming is allowed during movie-recording but that adds audible noises to the recorded clips.
The addition of an optical-tunnel viewfinder for use in very bright light rounds off this model.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
Almost unavoidably with an ultra-compact, the lack of grip and smooth body makes holding the SD1200 firmly difficult. A sturdy wrist-strap is included to help with this problem. Aside from the difficulty to hold it, the SD1200 is rather nice to handle with a few well-placed buttons to control important aspects of the camera.
The top of the camera holds the power-button, shutter-release and zoom-controller, wrapped around the latter. The shutter-release has a soft halfway point and is light to the touch. The zoom-controller is also rather smooth.
The large 2.5" LCD placement makes the camera back look cluttered with no free space to rest your thumb. The sliding 3-position mode switch is mounted full with the camera surface so that it is no accidentally moved while the thumb rests over it. Next to it is the Play button which is also flush with the body. The downside of this is that the buttons are all difficult to use with gloves on. Without gloves though, they all work well and resist accidental activation.
The remaining rear controls include a 4-way controller with central Func/Set button, a Disp button and a Menu button as well. The central button invokes the Function menu which accesses important camera functions like ISO, WB, Metering and Drive mode, plus a few lesser functions to fill-out the menu. The menu button invokes a menu system for less used features. As with many digital cameras, each direction on the 4-way controller activates a camera setting: up turns on EC, right sets the flash-mode, down activates a self-timer and left is for the focus-mode.
The camera's 2.5" LCD is composed of 230K pixels, as sharp as they get for this size. LCD Visibility is excellent, even in bright light thanks to an effective anti-reflective coating. The Canon Powershot SD1200 also includes an optical-tunnel viewfinder, a rare thing among ultra-compact digital cameras. It only shows part of the frame but is usable in case of emergencies. The Disp button can turn the LCD off to conserve power, in which case the optical-tunnel viewfinder is a must. It is also useful for tracking moving subjects in continuous drive mode when the LCD does not always keep up, despite having a decent refresh rate.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Image quality is generally good for such a small digital cameras. In terms of noise and detail retention, which go together because of the destructive nature of noise-reduction, ISO 80 to 200 are quite clean and sharp, with a good amount of details. ISO 400 and up are relatively low in terms of image noise, but details start softening gradually. Large prints are noisy and rather soft at ISO 400, but medium prints, say 9"x12", are acceptable. ISO 800 and 1600 can only be used for the smallest prints or for the web, due to their lack of details. Compared to most ultra-compacts, this is slightly above average.
Images are sharp throughout the frame except near the edges at the widest aperture setting, more so at wide-angle. At all other lens settings, the Canon keeps good sharpness with virtually no perceptible corner softness.
Exposure is bright, which is generally good for direct printing but causes a tendency to over-expose. Even in scenes of moderate dynamic range, the SD1200 does not often leave dark areas to preserve highlights. This problem is compounded by this digital camera's limited dynamic-range.
Color accuracy is very good with natural looking colors under most conditions. At high-ISO in low-light, there is a slight greenish cast but at that point images are not really usable anyway. The white-balance system is quite good, even under artificial light where it needs a few seconds to settle. By this, we mean that color starts off with a yellow-cast but turns more neutral after a few seconds.
Optically the Canon Powershot SD1200 IS does quite well with low distortion along the entire zoom range and good resistance to chromatic aberrations. The lens has only 6 steps through its zoom range but zooms in and out rapidly.
Speed is excellent for an ultra-compact. Power on and off times are first-class and so are focus-speed and shutter-lag when the flash is off. When the flash is on, shutter-lag increases significantly, so moving subjects and the flash do not mix well. Shot-to-shot speeds are best in class as well, about 1.5s between shots without the flash.
Playback mode is fast too. This camera is shooting-priority and resumes fast from playback mode when the shutter-release is half-pressed. A 1.4 FPS continuous drive mode with unlimited shooting keeps up well with action. Battery-life is good for such a small camera.
Canon SD1200 IS Highlights
Sensor-Size: 6 x 5mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|10 Megapixels Ultra Compact||ISO 80-1600|
|3X Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/1500-15s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Custom white-balance|
|1.4 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Spot-Metering|
|640x480 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.5" LCD 230K Pixels||Secure Digital High Capacity|
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