Canon Powershot SX200 IS Review
The Canon Powershot SX200 IS packs an impressive feature set that includes a stabilized 12X wide-angle optical zoom lens, full-manual controls, manual focus, custom white-balance, exposure lock, three metering patterns and 720p HD movie recording. Among, small ultra-zoom cameras, this is the only one with all these features.
This digital camera is one of the smallest ultra-zooms currently available with a sturdy 1.5" thick body. Other Canon SX-series cameras are also noticeably larger but are powered with standard AA batteries instead of the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the SX200.
|12 Megapixels sensor|
|12X Optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization equivalent to 28-336mm, F3.4-5.3|
|ISO Sensitivity from 80 to 1600|
|Shutter-speeds from 1/3200s to 15s|
|Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual exposure modes|
|Automatic white-balance, 5 white-balance presetsDaylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent High and custom white-balance|
|Evaluative, center-weighed and spot metering|
|Normal, Macro, Super-Macro and Manual focus|
|Exposure compensation, -2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV steps|
|Flash compensation, -2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV steps|
|Manual flash, 3 power levels|
|2s, 10s and Face-Detect self-timer|
|Customizable self-timer, 0-30s, 1-10 shots|
|1280x720 30 FPS (720p) HD Movie mode|
Suitability - What is it good for?
The combination of a compact body, a 12X optical zoom starting at a wide 28mm equivalent focal-length and full manual controls is key to this camera's versatility. Not only can the Canon Powershot SX200 IS shoot almost any subject, it can be carried inconspicuously, fitting in most jacket and cargo pockets.
Although both night and action photography are doable given the shutter-speed and ISO ranges available, the camera's ultimate performance is the limiting factor. As most compact cameras, the SX200's speed is limited. See further down in this review for more details.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Canon Powershot SX200 looks rather boxy, more so when compared to other compact ultra-zooms. The original SX-series, the SX100, was comparatively curvy. There is a small outward curve where a hand-grip is normally found to prevent it from slipping easily. Space is provided on the rear to rest the thumb without being bothered by buttons underneath.
A tiny recessed button above the lens turns the camera on and off. Next to it is a mode-dial which includes the P, A, S (Tv) and M exposure modes, as well as movie recording and various scene-modes. More to the right is a relatively flat shutter-button surrounded by a zoom controller. The zoom controller has two speeds with the fast one moving the lens across its range in about 3s. In slow speed, it takes quite a bit longer but the steps are very fine which is useful for precise framing.
The top plate also houses the built-in flash which pops up automatically when the camera is in shooting mode. The happens even if the flash is disabled. The flash is spring loaded, when held down the camera indicates the flash is off and does not attempt to use it.
The 4-way controller, which also rotates, gives direct access to exposure-compensation, flash modes, self-timers and focus modes. The rotating aspect is quite useful while in manual or semi-automatic modes, plus it also allows faster menu navigation. The smaller ring on the SX200, compared to the SX100, makes it much harder to accidentally rotate.
The center of the 4-way controller gives access to the redesigned Func menu. This menu controls common settings like ISO, WB, Flash-Compensation, Metering and drive mode, as well as a few uncommon ones.
Four buttons surround the controller, one of which is programmable in shooting mode, while it serves as the Direct-Print button in playback mode. The most useful options for this button are ISO, WB and Custom-WB. The other three buttons are: Play, Disp and Menu. Play and Menu function just as expected and Disp toggles the display of information on the LCD.
A nice touch is that when changing settings such as Flash-Mode, the Menu button directly goes to relevant settings such as Flash-Compensation and Red-Eye Correction (in the case of Flash-Mode).
The camera's 3 " LCD features 230K pixels which make it quite sharp. Visibility and refresh rate are good. The image shown is nearly always exposure-priority, which is something we see more and more digital cameras getting wrong these days. In Av and Tv modes though, a bright image is maintained regardless of exposure. The exposure-accurate image only shows up when the shutter-release is half-pressed. Not perfect, but close.
As most fixed-lens cameras, the Powershot SX200 can be turned on into playback mode by pressing the Play button. In this case, the LCD turns on but the lens and flash both remain closed.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
The type of camera that combines a powerful zoom and a compact body must compromise on image quality to a certain point. The image quality of the Canon SX200 represents this compromise with both strong and weak points. Overall, image quality is good but far from top-notch, specially compared to the Canon A-series of compact cameras which sport 3X to 6X zoom lenses.
Exposure is good and highly consistent. This digital camera produces bright results in most situations and requires less positive exposure compensation than most when faced with bright scenes. This is ideal for direct printing but occasionally clips highlights.
Colors from the Canon SX200 can be customized in 5 steps in terms of saturation, contrast, sharpness and even independent saturation of each primary color. The preset color options, including the default, show various degrees of over-saturation. The default color-mode is more saturated than reality but no terribly so.
White-balance is close to perfect, definitely far better than most. Canon clearly did a great job here. Indoor lighting which is normally problematic was handled quite well by the automatic white-balance system, leaving only the occasional color-cast in the presence of CFL lighting. Custom white-balance easily fixes this.
Image noise which is normally the most striking issue with small cameras is well hidden here under some rather aggressive noise-reduction. ISO 80 and 100 do show little noise and good sharpness but starting at ISO 200 images get noticeably softer. By ISO 800, fine details are gone but even ISO 1600 can produce small prints with a recognizable subject.
The selling point of the Canon Powershot SX200 IS, its compact 12X wide-angle zoom lens, is an achievement. Sharpness is mostly good with softness found towards the edge of the frame.
Optical distortion are very low for such a zoom range. At the normal focus range, slight barrel distortion is visible at wide-angle. The telephoto end show little distortion.
Chromatic aberrations are higher than average but nothing terrible. The built in stabilization seems quite effective. The macro focus range is excellent and the super-macro mode is even better! It can focus at 0cm from the lens, something that no such small camera can do.
The SX200 holds its own well when it comes to speed. All controls are responsive, with the camera reacting in a fraction of a second to most user actions. There are a few downsides such as slower than average shot-to-shot and focusing speeds. Playback mode is extremely fast with nearly instant zooming and image browsing (except when using the rotating dial which purposefully slows down browsing to shot a useless animation). Startup and shutdown are a little long.
The only truly slow aspects of the Canon SX200 are the continuous-drive and flash recycling time. This compact camera has a rather shot battery-life now than Canon moved away from using AA batteries, no doubt to make this ultra-zoom smaller than its predecessors.
The Canon Powershot SX200 IS provides a unique mix of useful features in a compact body which is certain to appeal photographers looking for a small but versatile digital camera.
Time has passed since Canon introduces their first ultra-zoom in a compact body. At the time, the SX100 IS was one among very few such models. Now there are a great number of competitors, yet Canon managed to stay ahead by making the camera smaller, packing a wider and longer zoom and adding an HD movie mode.
The main and perhaps only disadvantage of the SX200 compared to its peers is image softness introduced by noise-reduction. This is visible at ISO 200 and above, limiting print sizes as ISO increases. Certain aspects of the camera are also a little slow but not by much when compared to similar offerings.
With that out of the way, the remaining performance is quite good with reliable focus and exposure plus the best white-balance system from a compact camera we have seen in a long time. By default, colors are slightly more saturated than reality which, along with generally bright exposure, makes for punchy images.
The final choice is between having an ultra-zoom with full manual-controls and HD video recording or having a less feature-rich camera with higher image quality.
Canon SX200 IS Highlights
Sensor-Size: 6 x 5mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|12 Megapixels Travel Zoom||ISO 80-1600|
|12X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/3200-15s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|0.8 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Custom white-balance|
|1280x720 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|3" LCD 230K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital High Capacity|
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