Canon PowerShot SD600 Review

The Canon SD600 has adjustable ISO settings that go up to 800, which is an exceptionally high sensitivity rating that was previously only available on higher-end and professional cameras. This allows photographers to take pictures without using a flash even in low light.

There is a new High ISO Auto setting, in addition to the usual ISO Auto setting, which allows the camera to automatically determine exposure using the higher (400 and 800) ISO levels. This is helpful if you are less inclined to fiddle around with the ISO settings when shooting images.

On the rear of the camera, next to the multi-controller, there is a separate button labeled “ISO” that allows for direct access to these settings. Although enhancing low-light performance has the potential to usher in a new era for customers, the SD600 takes a more conservative approach in other aspects.

The SD 600 may not impress you with its looks (it’s pretty much the same basic Digital ELPH design that we’ve seen for a number of years) or with its firepower (its top-line specifications are about average for this camera class), but underneath its exterior lies the beating heart of a reliable imaging machine.

And it has become the rallying cry for Canon’s still-popular digital ELPH series ever since it was introduced. In the past, the most desirable phones to have were Digital ELPHs because of their elegant designs and cutting-edge capabilities. In these modern times, however, with so much research and development being made into the design by other manufacturers, the basic Digital ELPH has (dare I say it?) become a little bit “old in the tooth.”

If you want more flash, you should choose the SD700 IS or even the SD630 (which is a $50 improvement from the SD600). Both of these models have more curves and a gorgeous two-tone finish that consists of brushed silver and lacquered black.

In addition, despite the fact that the SD600 has a 2.5-inch LCD, this size does not differentiate it from other cameras in its class, which have almost universally shifted toward adopting bigger screens. Spend the additional $50 to obtain the SD630, which has a display that is 3 inches in size and is perfect for you if you find that large displays are necessary.

You will, however, be required to forego the use of the SD600’s teeny-tiny optical viewfinder, which is a conventional carryover that a great number of customers continue to like. Both the SD600 and the SD630 have 6-megapixel image sensors, 3x optical zoom lenses, Canon’s DIGIC II image processors, and all of the high ISO capabilities that make it possible to take pictures without using a flash even in low-light situations. However, the only difference between the two models is their resolution.

In this review, I’ll examine the relevance of these features and explore why being able to take reasonably low-noise photographs at higher ISOs is such a significant benefit. I’ll also look at some sample images.

Design of the Canon SD600

The Canon SD600 is not the most stylish model in the Digital ELPH line — that honor would probably go to the SD630 or the SD700 IS but it definitely carries on the classic ELPH style which has enduring appeal. Although the Canon SD600 is not the most stylish model in the Digital ELPH line, it definitely carries on the classic ELPH style.

With its lens retracted, the camera has dimensions of 3.39 inches wide by 2.11 inches high by 0.85 inches deep. Although it is compact enough to fit in most pockets, the camera still has sufficient weight — 5.5 ounces (156 grams) with the battery and a card provided by its metal chassis to let you know that you are taking pictures with a reliable digital camera and not a toy.

Even if it may not be as impressive as it previously was, this just demonstrates how much the rest of the digital camera market has progressed to catch up to Canon’s pioneering design ideas.

The front of the Canon SD600 has a very ELPH-like appearance, with the viewfinder and flash located just above the lens, which is somewhat off-center to the right of the center of the camera. Next to the optical viewfinder is a light emitter that serves various purposes. These include helping with focusing, reducing the appearance of red eyes, and providing a countdown for the self-timer.

When the camera is turned on, the telescopic lens swiftly comes into position, sticking out approximately 1 cm from the front of the device. When the power is turned off, the lens retracts completely within the device, keeping the device’s profile as flat as possible. A little cutout for the microphone may be found to the left of the lens of the camera.

The PowerShot SD600 does not have a finger grip, but the mode switch on the back of the camera has been repositioned such that it is now on the right, which makes for a comfortable spot to rest your thumb.

The Power button, the Shutter button, and the Zoom ring are all situated to the right of the top of the Canon SD600. The first two of these controls are raised above the surface, while the Power button is recessed and contains an LED in its center to signal that the camera is turned on.

The AV Out and USB ports are located on the right side of the PowerShot SD600 (when viewed from the rear of the camera), and they are hidden behind a plastic door that hinges on the top and rises upward to show the ports. The door has a metallic finish and can be pressed back into place quite securely. All it takes is a little bit of pressure. The eyelet for attaching the wrist strap is located below the door.

On the reverse side of the Canon SD600, there is nothing but a pair of screws and four tiny protrusions in the corners that allow the camera to stand upright on its own. The opposite side of the camera is completely blank.

The remaining controls for the camera are located on the back panel of the PowerShot SD600, which also houses both the optical and LCD viewfinders. The LCD monitor has a diagonal measurement of 2.5 inches, which, a year ago, would have been regarded as enormous for a subcompact camera but, now, is only considered ordinary for such a device. Because of the limitations imposed by the screen, every control is situated to the right.

As was discussed before, the speaker and mode switch that are located on the back of the camera have been flipped over from the SD450. This makes it much simpler to access the switch with your thumb. The switch allows you to decide between Still Record, Movie, and Playback mode in addition to serving as a decent thumb rest and ensuring a stronger grip on the camera. In addition, the switch performs the primary job of the camera, which is to enable you choose between those three modes.

As a result of the relocation of the speaker, it is no longer possible to cover it up with your thumb, as was the case with the SD450. The Print / Share button can be found directly below the speaker. The blue LED that is located in the button’s center will light up when the camera is ready to print or transfer photographs, and it will blink while either function is being performed.

The majority of the camera’s fast settings are included into a Four-Way Arrow pad, while the buttons on the camera’s exterior are responsible for navigation as well as functions such as Macro, ISO, and Flash modes. The Set button, which is also known as the Function button, can be found in the center of the Four-way Arrow pad. This button is used to make selections from the menu.

The buttons for displaying and accessing the menu are located below this layout. Lastly, the PowerShot SD600 has two LED lamps located next to the viewfinder that report the camera status. These lamps light up to signify when the focus has been set or when the flash has been completely charged.

The Canon SD600 has a sturdy bottom panel that is lovely and flat. This panel houses the metal tripod mount as well as the compartment for the battery and memory card. Because it is placed under the lens, the tripod socket is convenient for taking panoramas.

The slots for the battery and the SD memory card are aligned next to one another inside the compartment for the memory card and the battery. When the cover of the compartment is opened, there is a tiny clasp that is loaded with a spring that prevents the battery from slipping out by accident.

Unfortunately, the tripod mount is also right alongside the door to the battery compartment and the card compartment, which means that you have to remove the camera from a tripod if the battery life is exhausted or if there is no more space on the flash card (although, to be fair, this is not a camera that you are likely to use in a studio anyway).

How to Operate a Canon SD600

The menu system and fundamental control philosophy of the Canon PowerShot SD600 are comparable to those of the rest of the current ELPH line of digital cameras. This makes the user interface of the Canon PowerShot SD600 simple and easy to understand.

The majority of the camera’s operations are handled via buttons located on the top and back panels, while the LCD-based Record menu is used for controlling a select few of the camera’s settings. Without requiring the user to navigate through the many menu screens, a Function menu allows for more expedient access to fundamental parameters such as picture size, quality, and exposure correction.

Because the menu items are shown in tabs on the LCD screen rather than sequentially on a series of pages, the LCD menu system in and of itself is highly efficient. In addition, the Setup and My Camera menus may be accessed at any time, whatever the mode in which the camera is operating. If you have the user manual on available, becoming familiar with the camera shouldn’t take more than half an hour to an hour of your time.

Display for Record Mode In any recording mode, the LCD display of the PowerShot SD600 shows either the image area with no information, the picture with a restricted information display, or nothing at all. When you press the Display button, the various display modes will cycle through one by one.

When the information display is activated, it will report the current resolution and image quality settings, as well as the number of photographs that are currently accessible, the orientation, the Record mode, and a few exposure parameters (although not aperture or shutter speed). Both of these modes allow for the activation and display of a grid.

Display in Playback Mode The playback mode offers three display options: the picture only, the image with information, and the image with extended information and a histogram. These modes may be accessed by clicking the corresponding buttons.

You may zoom in on taken photographs to check for fine details, focus, or framing, and the index display mode allows you to view as many as nine thumbnail images at once on the screen simultaneously. By entering the JUMP mode on the Canon SD600, you will also have the ability to skip through nine photographs at once. After entering the nine-frame preview mode, you may access this mode by toggling the zoom control to the wide angle setting on the right side of the control.

Timing for the Canon PowerShot SD600

The speed is respectable for a consumer camera.

There is typically a lag time or delay that occurs when you click the shutter release button on a camera before the shutter really fires. This is the amount of time that must pass in order for the autofocus and autoexposure systems to complete their tasks, which might result in a delay that is rather lengthy in some circumstances.

Because this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and because it can significantly affect the experience of taking pictures, we routinely measure both the shutter delay and the shot-to-shot cycle times for all of the cameras that Dave tests. Dave designed and built a test system specifically for this purpose. (Controlled by a crystal, with a resolution of 0.001 seconds.)

Battery

The battery life is poor while the LCD is turned on but is excellent when it is turned off.

Operating ModeNumber of Shots
LiIon Battery Pack
LCD on
160
LiIon Battery Pack
LCD off
600

The Canon PowerShot SD600 gets its power from a specialized rechargeable LiIon battery that has 4.8 volts and 1600 milliampere hours. According to our power tests and the rated performance of its battery as measured by the CIPA battery standard, the maximum run periods are detailed in the table that can be seen above. Given the limited battery life when the LCD is active, you really ought to give some serious thought to acquiring a second battery so that you may bring it along on longer excursions.

Storage

The Canon SD600 is compatible with SD and MMC memory cards, and it comes with a beginning card that has 16 megabytes of storage space.

Image Capacity with
16MB Memory Card
FineNormalEconomy
2,816 x 2,112Images5919
File Size4.1 MB2.4 MB1.2 MB
2,272 x 1,704Images71326
File Size2.1 MB1.2 MB600 KB
1,600 x 1,200Images152650
File Size1.1 MB600 KB316 KB
640 x 480Images5687137
File Size283 KB183 KB117 KB

It is highly recommended that you get a memory card of at least 128 megabytes, and preferably 256 megabytes, so that you have additional room for longer trips.

Quality of the Image

Accuracy with regard to Saturation and Hue

The vast majority of consumer digital cameras create colors that are more highly saturated (that is, more strong) than those seen in the things they photograph. This is due to the fact that the majority of people want their colors to be more vibrant than life. Although the strong tones of red, blue, and green are somewhat oversaturated as a result of the Canon SD600, the overall results are really pleasant.

When applied to Caucasian skin tones, oversaturation presents the greatest challenge since it is quite simple for certain “memory colors” to be interpreted as being excessively vivid, excessively pink, excessively yellow, and so on. In this regard, the SD600 behaved fairly admirably and created skin tones that are accurate and aesthetically pleasant. In comparison to what we are used to seeing with Canon cameras, the toning of red hues in this camera is far more subdued.

Hue accuracy is another essential component of color rendering to keep in mind. The “what color” a color is refers to its hue. Again, the SD600 was highly successful in its performance. The cyan colors were shifted toward blue, as is typical with digital cameras, but the rest of the hues came out very accurately. This was done so that the bluer sky colors would look better.

A Perfect White Balance

Despite an overall hue that was somewhat more yellow, the Manual white balance option on the Canon SD600 delivered the best results in this scenario. The Auto setting gave results with a significant amount of reddish cast, while the Incandescent option generated results with a strong warm cast. Despite the fact that the highlights on Marti’s shirt are extremely overexposed, I was able to get the best exposure with an exposure compensation adjustment of +1.0 EV.

Despite this, the picture at +0.7 EV had an overall brightness that was insufficient. The color is very impressive here, while the blue blossoms are a little on the dull side. (This is a relatively typical result for this type of photo.) The test lighting that we used for this photo was a combination of 60 and 100-watt household incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs provide a lovely yellow light, but they are a relatively prevalent light source in regular residential settings in the United States.

Resolution

The resolution chart that we had in our laboratory showed that there were clear line patterns down to around 1,300 lines per image height, with extinction occurring at approximately 1,800. (However, the camera did exhibit very tiny color abnormalities at lower line frequencies, which were observable in the full-sized high-resolution photos of the subject.) You may use these values to compare other cameras that have a resolution that is comparable to this one, or you can use them to evaluate what a greater resolution can mean in terms of the possible level of detail.

Clarity and attention to detail

The photographs captured by the Canon SD600 have an overall mushy quality, and the clarity of fine details is passable but not very crisp. There isn’t really any major over-sharpening or edge enhancement coming from the camera itself, but there is either significantly increased noise suppression or a loss of quality owing to the smaller sensor and different optics in the SD600.

Digital cameras typically have noise-suppression technologies that have a tendency to smooth out information in regions with delicate contrast. The effects are frequently visible in photographs of human hair, when the individual strands of hair are obscured and the image takes on an appearance that is reminiscent of watercolor.

Dim lighting

The exposure mechanism of the Canon SD600 performed admirably in low light, producing photographs that were clear and useable even in the dimmest conditions we tested in, which required an ISO setting of 200 or above. At the lower ISO settings (80 and 100), photos were useable down to around 1/8 foot-candle, which is approximately 1/8 as bright as the typical street lighting found in cities at night.

The color appeared to be accurate when the white balance was set to Auto. When examining the SD600’s exposure capabilities, the focusing mechanism of the camera performed effectively down to around 1/4 foot-candle, which is a rather minor constraint. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the extremely lengthy shutter speeds that are accessible definitely necessitate the use of a tripod or some other form of camera support in order to get clear images.

(One tip that might be helpful is to just place the camera on a flat, stable surface and utilize the self-timer function to trigger the shutter release. This prevents any jiggling that may occur as a result of your finger touching the shutter button, and it is an approach that is useful in situations when a tripod is not immediately available.

Specifications

Body typeUltracompact
Max resolution2816 x 2112
Other resolutions2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480
Image ratio w:h4:3
Effective pixels6 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors6 megapixels
Sensor size1/2.5″ (5.744 x 4.308 mm)
Sensor typeCCD
ISOAuto, 80 ,100, 200, 400, 800
White balance presets5
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationNo
Uncompressed formatNo
JPEG quality levelsSuper-Fine, Fine, Normal
Focal length (equiv.)35–105 mm
Optical zoom
Maximum apertureF2.8–4.9
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterSingleLive View
Digital zoomYes (4 x)
Manual focusNo
Normal focus range30 cm (11.81″)
Macro focus range3 cm (1.18″)
Number of focus points9
Screen size2.5″
Screen dots173,000
Touch screenNo
Live viewNo
Viewfinder typeOptical (tunnel)
Minimum shutter speed15 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/1500 sec
Aperture priorityNo
Shutter priorityNo
Built-in flashYes
Flash range3.50 m
External flashNo
Flash modesAuto, On, Off, Slow, Manual (Red Eye On/Off)
Continuous drive2.1 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec)
Exposure compensation±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)
Resolutions640 x 480 @ 30/15 fps, 320 x 240 @ 60/30/15 fps
Storage typesSD/MMC card
Storage included16 MB SD card
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMINo
Remote controlNo
Environmentally sealedNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLithium-Ion NB-4L battery & charger
Weight (inc. batteries)170 g (0.37 lb / 6.00 oz)
Dimensions86 x 54 x 22 mm (3.39 x 2.13 x 0.87″)
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingNo

Conclusion

If Canon’s traditional Digital ELPH design isn’t as impressive as it once was, it’s mostly because Canon’s rivals are finally beginning to close the gap between them and Canon. However, despite the fact that this silver metallic 6MP camera probably won’t turn heads as much as it might have done in the past, there is more going on below the hood today that should delight actual digital camera fans, not just those who are style concerned.

The SD600 integrates several of Canon’s technological advancements for shooting with high ISOs, and in addition to producing strong image quality in ordinary lighting settings with good color and correct skin tones, it is also capable of capturing a wide dynamic range. It’s one thing to brag about having an ISO 800 setting—a number of Canon’s competitors have begun providing the same ISO levels and even higher—but another thing entirely for Canon to back up this ISO sensitivity rating with actual, useable images.

Many of the pictures that I took with the SD600 without using the flash and with the ISO set to 800 were leaps and bounds better than the pictures that I produced with rival cameras that were set to ISO 400. Even at an ISO setting of 800, the SD600 produced very little noise, which let me to print low-light photographs in sizes as large as 8 by 10 inches without any concerns.

Although, aside from upgrading the resolution to 6MP, this camera is quite similar to the SD450, which we gave an excellent rating to the previous year, and the fact that there are not many differences between the two is really a positive thing.

The DIGIC II processors that are used in Canon cameras continue to achieve excellent results in a variety of categories, most notably by almost eliminating shutter latency while pre-focusing the camera. If you want a Digital ELPH that looks a little bit more snazzy and has a larger screen than the SD600 does, you should spend the extra $50 and get the SD630, which has a 3-inch screen rather than the SD600’s 2.5-inch display. I’ve mentioned similar things before in this review.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Low noise even with high ISO settings, including 400 and 800
  • The auto white balance feature is effective across a diverse range of lighting conditions.
  • Quick to start up, and if you pre-focus, there is almost no shutter lag at all.
  • Good skin tones
  • Vibrant, attractive color
Need Improvement
  • The shape of the case is comfortable for users with both large and small hands.
  • a poor optical viewfinder with only an 80 percent coverage area.
  • Difficult to rapidly access specific scene modes
  • When connected to a computer, a good download speed is achieved.

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