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Canon Powershot SD780 IS Review

12 Megapixels12 MegapixelsStabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.720p HD Video: 1280 x 720 resolution or more but less than 1920 x 1080.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringAccepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

Introduction

Canon SD780

The Canon Powershot SD780 IS is tiny metallic ultra-compact digital camera with a 12 megapixels sensor, a stabilized 3X optical zoom lens and HD movie-mode. This small and robust model features point-and-shoot operation along with a relatively well-rounded feature set.

The SD780 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.

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Key Features
12 Megapixels sensor
Stabilized 3X Optical zoom lens (33-100mm)
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
0.7 FPS continuous drive
Self-timer with custom delay and number of shots
1280x720 30 FPS HD Movie mode (720p)
2.5" LCD 230K Pixels
Optical-tunnel viewfinder
Powered by a Lithium-Ion battery
Secure Digital High Capacity memory

Suitability - What is it good for?

The Canon Powershot SD780 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 SD780 can be used for simple snapshots of close-by subjects. A macro mode helps with close focusing 3cm (1.2") from the lens.

Canon Powershot SD780 IS

The most notable control of the SD780 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 SD780 usable for social snaps in poorly lit conditions such as at restaurants and parties.

Unlike most ultra-compacts, its movie-mode captures HD resolution clips in AVI format., 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.

Canon Powershot SD780

Usability - How easy is it to use?

Almost unavoidably with an ultra-compact, the lack of grip and smooth body makes holding the SD780 firmly difficult. A sturdy wrist-strap is included to help with this problem. Aside from the difficulty to hold it, the SD780 is rather nice to handle with a few well-placed buttons to control important aspects of the camera.

Canon Powershot SD780 IS

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.

Canon Powershot SD780 IS

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.

Canon Powershot SD780The 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 SD780 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 on the weak side for a digital camera. In terms of noise and detail retention, which go together because of the destructive nature of noise-reduction, ISO 80 and 100 are quite clean and sharp, with a good amount of details. ISO 200 and up are relatively low in terms of image noise, but details start softening greatly. Large prints are noisy and rather soft at ISO 400, but medium prints, say 9"x12", are acceptable. ISO 800 and 1600 are borderline useless.

Noise reduction is very agressive on the Canon SD780 and any ISO above 80 shows softerning of details and reduced contrast. There is also severe softness around the edges of images.

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 SD780 does not often leave dark areas to preserve highlights. This problem is compounded by this digital camera's limited dynamic-range.

Canon Powershot SD780 ISColor 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.

The Canon Powershot SD780 IS does reasonably 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 not great though, just shy of 3s between shots without the flash.

Playback mode is reasonably fast too. This camera is shooting-priority and resumes fast from playback mode when the shutter-release is half-pressed. Continuous drive is rather slow at less than 1 FPS. Battery-life is quite poor, even for such a small digital camera.

Conclusion

The Canon Powershot SD780 IS compromises a bit too much for its svelt size and dense sensor, particularly if compared to the rather similar SD1200 IS. While it still keeps some characreristics of Canon ultra-compacts, like a sturdy metallic body and well-rounded feature set, the image quality is below average with too little detail retention due to noise-reduction and significant amount of edge-softness. Needless to say, when comapred to the current ultra-compact champion, the Fuji F 200 EXR, the SD780 does not look too good. It is much easier to use and a great deal more intuitive.

Average
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By Neocamera on 2009-05-18

Canon SD780 IS Highlights


Ultra-Compact digital camera

Sensor-Size: 6 x 5mm

1/2.3" Sensor

Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI

12 Megapixels Ultra CompactISO 80-1600
3X Optical ZoomShutter 1/1500-15s
Built-in StabilizationCustom white-balance
0.8 FPS Drive, Unlimited ImagesSpot-Metering
1280x720 @ 30 FPS Video RecordingLithium-Ion Battery
2.5" LCD 230K PixelsSecure Digital High Capacity
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