Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Review

The Canon SD870 IS Digital ELPH has a retractable lens and a casing that is both beautiful and small. The horizontal sides of the case are rounded off, and the case itself has rounded corners. The Canon SD870 has a usable wide angle all the way up to a modest telephoto, covering a range that is similar to 28-105mm thanks to its 8-megapixel imager that is 1/2.5″ in size and its 3.8x optical zoom lens.

The camera has a fully automatic exposure mode, but the user has the ability to adjust it with 2.0EV of exposure compensation and four different metering modes to handle challenging lighting conditions. Additionally, there are a generous twelve Scene modes that make the camera user-friendly for novices.

Since the Canon 870 IS does not have an optical viewfinder, the only way to frame and examine photographs is by using the huge 3-inch LCD on the back of the camera. A long-exposure mode is included in the Canon SD870 IS ELPH, and it allows you to manually set exposure periods of up to 15 seconds.

The Canon ELPH SD870 features a relatively large ISO sensitivity range, ranging from 80 to 1,600, which allows it to operate more effectively in low-light conditions. Canon not only produces cameras but also a line of photo printers, and the company takes great pleasure in the high degree of synergy that exists between its cameras and printers.

Because it is a PictBridge-capable camera, the Digital ELPH SD870 is able to print straight to any printer that also supports PictBridge, eliminating the need for a computer to act as a middleman in the process. When connected to a Canon printer, on the other hand, you have the ability to specify paper size, print quality, and a number of other characteristics, but standard PictBridge connections do not provide this functionality.


Because of its wide-angle lens that is equivalent to 28 millimeters, the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS is the most appealing camera in Canon’s line of high-end Digital ELPH cameras. Canon’s most recent product strategy for the Digital ELPH is a three-tiered one: there is an entry-level model (in this case, the PowerShot SD850), a middle-range model (the PowerShot SD870), and a high-end model (in this case, the PowerShot SD880) (the PowerShot SD950). Wide-angle photography is the SD870’s area of expertise; other models’ strengths may lie in other areas.

The Canon SD870 is an improvement on the Canon SD800, which was the previous wide-angle model in the ELPH line. This improvement comes in the form of an increase in the number of megapixels from 7.1 to 8.0, as well as an increase in the size of the LCD from 2.5 inches to 3.0 inches. In addition to that, they increased the screen resolution from 207,000 to 230,000 pixels.

Both cameras make use of the same fundamental lens design, which is a 28-105mm (35mm equivalent) lens with a minimum aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end and f/5.8 at the telephoto end of the zoom range. In addition, Canon revised the design of the SD870, resulting in a camera that is both heavier and smaller than before. The SD870 does not have an optical viewfinder since the huge LCD made it impossible to include one in the design. This is the most noticeable difference in the design.

Look and Feel

The Canon PowerShot SD870 is, in all honesty, almost the same size as a deck of playing cards. The camera has a respectable heaviness to it, measuring in at 180 grams (6.3 ounces), which gives it enough weight to keep it steady while you are shooting. It has the sense of something sturdy and, when it’s not being used, it can be effortlessly tucked away in your hand or pocket for quick access. Having said that, you shouldn’t treat this item like a toy or play around with it carelessly.

The housing is made of strong plastic with a matte surface; the area surrounding the lens on our testing model has a gorgeous chrome finish, which will cruelly show off fingerprints and scratches. Another option is a model that has a ring that completely surrounds the lens and has a matte black finish. Despite the fact that Canon has assured me that the LCD screen has a coating that prevents scratches and glares, it is still probably not a smart idea to keep this camera in the same pocket as your vehicle keys for the foreseeable future.

Investing in a little travel case will go a long way toward protecting this purchase, and I don’t believe it would be excessively neurotic of me to recommend that you keep the wrist strap on at all times. While the lens is being used, it protrudes forward from the front of the camera by about an inch; when it is not in use, it is protected by a sliding lens cover.

The camera has a straightforward appearance in terms of its design. The controls are organized in a sensible manner, even though they are only accessible to right-handed players. The camera does not have an obviously placed grip on it. There is not a curved part for your hand or fingers to go in anywhere on this object.

When I shoot with cameras that have this slab design, I typically use both my thumbs and forefingers to hold the four corners of the camera for maximum stability. Other people, on the other hand, wrap their curled middle finger around the front of the camera, while their index finger rests on the shutter button, and their thumb grips the camera from the back.

The top and the back of the body of the camera are where the controls for the camera are located. The power button, the operation mode selector, the shutter button, and the zoom dial are all located on the top of the device. On the back, next to the dominant LCD screen, there are four buttons for playback, direct print, menu, and LCD display modes. These four buttons are separated into two groups of two by a circular four-way selector wheel and a selector button.

There is a mount for a tripod on the bottom of the device, which is aligned with the lens. There is also a single door on the bottom that provides access to the SD memory card and the battery. The right side of the device has an attachment for a wrist strap, while the left side is empty. If the camera were set on a tripod, it would be impossible to swap out memory cards or replace the battery due to the design of the Canon SD870 as well as the camera’s diminutive size.


You have two options for turning on the Canon SD870 IS: either press the main on/off button on the top, which activates the shooting mode and extends the lens, or press the playback button, which activates the playback mode without expanding the lens. Both of these options bring the camera into shooting mode.

When it comes to handling the many choices and settings that are accessible in the camera, the Canon SD870 employs a menu-driven approach that is quite standard. Because the typical user of this camera will not need access to advanced settings and will not wish to use the camera in a fully manual mode, the options that are offered are rather straightforward.

There are two different kinds of menus available, as is the case with the majority of Canon digital cameras. Simply pressing the Menu button will give you access to a variety of options, including those for the date and time, the brightness of the LCD, and the language. The function key that is included in the four-way selector allows you to access the shooting settings. These settings include the ability to change the exposure control or the shooting mode.

It takes a little bit of effort to remember where the important options are located, but considering how few buttons there are and how well they are labeled, you will quickly get the hang of it. The addition of a “help” system that operates within the camera is something that is high on my wish list. In an ideal world, when you make a change to any configuration, you hit a button, and a screen full of text appears, explaining what changes you may make using this choice. There are a lot of options on the menu, but not many individuals carry their handbooks with them.

The PowerShot SD870 has a touch-sensitive mechanism on the four-way selector, which is a feature that has previously been seen on other high-end ELPH models. This makes for an unusual control that can be found on the camera. The selector may be used to either change the shooting mode by spinning your finger around the wheel or to show an icon representing the many options that are available on the selector button itself. These two functions are the selector’s primary uses.

When I tried to change the shooting mode on my camera by rotating my finger, I never managed to find the “speed” at which to rotate my finger in order to activate the camera’s mode-switching capability. When I did manage to do so, the mode would sometimes switch, and other times nothing would happen. It would appear that you need to become accustomed to the manner of input that the camera’s touch system anticipates.

In actual shooting situations, I found that switching shooting modes by just pressing the function button that is located in the center of the four-way selector to be a far more efficient method. In a similar vein, the visual depiction of the possibilities that may be selected using the four-way picker may have seemed intriguing at first, but it rapidly turned into an annoyance.

When you operate the device with one hand, your thumb rests on the four-way selector for support. As a result, the icons are constantly visible, which makes it difficult to frame the image. The “touch icons” feature, which displays a depiction of the selector wheel’s operations, can be disabled; however, the spinning selection function will continue to operate even if the “touch icons” feature is turned off.

People with poor eyesight, who are unable to see the small text labels on the selector wheel, may find it helpful to have a graphic representation of the selector wheel, as the graphic that is presented is much larger than the wheel itself. I suppose it is possible to argue that having a graphic representation of the selector wheel may be useful. But I was never able to get the dumb thing to function in a consistent manner, so I didn’t find it to be that useful.

Good news & Bad news

The good news is that Canon has at long last come to the conclusion that the direct print button is not going to be utilized by more than a marginal portion of the general population. The rest of the world has a button on their camera that they never use, but for us, it’s always been there. However, Canon now allows you to assign a custom function to the button while you are in Record mode. This function is essentially a shortcut to one of the camera’s operational settings.

The exposure control, the white balance, the setting of a custom white balance, the activation of the digital teleconverter, the turning on or off of gridlines, the activation of the movie mode, turning off the display, or playing a sound effect are all options that are available to you. To my surprise, I’ve found that turning on the movie mode is probably the most helpful thing you can do with the button out of all of the options listed above (I thought for sure it would be exposure control or white balance).

To tell the truth, however, all of the other functions can be quickly accessed by using the standard menu buttons, whereas switching to movie mode requires toggling a switch on the top of the device. You can begin recording immediately after turning on the movie mode with the simple push of a button located on the direct print custom function.

The optical viewfinder of the SD870 is the source of the unfortunate report. It does not possess one at all. It has been eliminated from this model in order, presumably, to create place for the huge LCD screen that is 3.0 inches in size and has 230,000 pixels. There are at least two situations in which an optical viewfinder might be helpful: one is when you want to save battery, and the other is when lighting circumstances make it difficult to frame a photo using the LCD.

The larger the LCD screen, the more power it uses, therefore shutting off the LCD and utilizing an optical viewfinder instead will often allow the user a significantly longer amount of time before the battery has to be charged again. Therefore, the designer of the camera has the difficulty of creating an LCD that is not only resistant to the sun but also efficient in its use of electricity. Because the PowerShot 870 IS does not have a backup system, a significant amount of reliance is placed on the LCD screen. Because of this, Canon has invested a significant amount of time and resources into improving the LCD screen.

The battery is rated to provide 270 photos, which is a fair quantity for a camera of this size. In fact, I found that the screen was pretty clearly readable in all lighting settings other than the most severe ones. When you consider that the optical viewfinder on the SD800 IS wasn’t all that amazing (it only displayed approximately 80 percent of the frame and had a minor distortion), doing rid of it completely isn’t really that big of a loss.

If the use of, or the availability to use, an optical viewfinder is something that is very essential to you in your photography, then this is undoubtedly a consideration that you will want to give some thought to. Because an optical viewfinder does such a poor job of displaying what the SD870 IS’s 28mm lens is capable of doing, Canon is taking a gamble that the majority of people would desire a 3-inch screen on a tiny camera rather than an incorrect optical viewfinder.

Files may be transferred from the Canon SD870 using the USB cable that is supplied in the package. This cable has a good transfer rate of 1,053 KBytes per second. You can also view pictures and videos on a television that is equipped with an RCA jack by using the A/V cable that is included in the package.


Movie mode, Scene mode, and Record mode are the three fundamental shooting modes that come standard with the Canon PowerShot SD870. You may select any of these modes using the lever located on the top of the camera.

Beginning in movie mode is not overly complicated.

To begin recording motion pictures, you only need to move the switch located on the top of the camera to the left. When working in movie mode, you have access to a few different choices, such as those that allow you to change the color profile, the white balance, and some software-related options that enable you to switch colors or accentuate certain colors in the scene that you are capturing.

Due to the Canon SD870, IS’s compact size and lightweight, optical image stabilization works really well, and I strongly suggest that you keep it on whenever you make movies with the camera.

The 640×480 resolution and 30 frames per second setting of Movie mode is its most straightforward use. You may also utilize “LP” mode, which has a greater compression rating, to enhance the amount of time you have available for filming a video by reducing the resolution to 320×240. Another option is to lower the resolution in half. While a video is being filmed in this main mode, optical zooming will not be available; however, you will still have the ability to zoom in and out digitally.

In addition, there is a mode for shooting movies that are optimized for e-mail transmission; in this mode, movies are captured at one-quarter the normal resolution (160×120). The last mode is called Time-lapse video mode, and it allows you to create a movie from still images that are taken one or two seconds apart.

In general, I found that shooting movies with the SD870 IS was a quick and easy process, and the playback quality was much higher than I had anticipated for such a compact device that is primarily designed for taking photographs.

If you slide the Mode switch all the way to the right, you will have access to a number of other sub-modes, such as Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Color Accent, Color Swap, Stitch Assist (Left to Right), and Stitch Assist (Right to Left).

You may change the exposure control, the white balance, your color preferences, the metering mode selection, the shot size, and the degree of photo quality while using the Manual mode. However, there is no memory of the selections used in manual mode; if you like shooting with center-weighted metering and switch to another mode where you can’t alter the metering mode, the camera will change it back to evaluative metering and won’t remember that you wanted center-weighted in manual mode. Similarly, if you like shooting with spot metering and switch to another mode where you can’t alter the white balance, the camera will change it back to spot

Digital Macro

In Digital Macro mode, the flash settings are deactivated, which is excellent because the flash doesn’t perform very well with macro photography to begin with. When the camera is set to any other mode, the macro function can be activated, and the flash will fire, but it does not perform very well when used on any subject that is viewed up-close. This is not surprising given that the light is concentrated on the upper-left corner of the frame because that is where it is physically located on the camera.


The camera’s “Auto” mode appears to be an all-purpose scene mode that makes an effort to adjust to any given circumstance and create a picture that is properly exposed. The vast majority of the photographs that the camera is designed to take come out extremely well: group shots, birthday celebrations, and outdoor picnics are all situations in which the camera has no trouble capturing high-quality images.

Scene mode and camera mode are similar in function. You have ten different scene kinds to select from when you use the Scene mode, which is located in the middle of the top switch. These scene categories are Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, Indoor, Kids & Pets, and Night Snapshot. Scene modes are an interesting concept, but in my opinion, they will only be beneficial to a small subset of players who fully get how they operate and the rationale for their design. The novice user is likely to have a lot of fun with this camera when it is fully engaged in auto mode and when they have the mindset of “setting it and forgetting it.” A more experienced amateur photographer would most likely switch to the manual mode so that they may make adjustments depending on their own personal tastes. Again, you really have to put your faith in the camera to get the scene mode settings correct. Scene modes are essentially pre-programmed combinations of choices that are designed to work for specific scenarios.


The picture playback mode may be activated by pushing the button located in the upper-right corner of the camera’s rear panel. Once activated, the model displays either the most recently captured image or the image that was most recently displayed the last time the user entered playback mode. The zoom rocker allows you to zoom in on the currently selected image and zoom out to reveal a grid of thumbnails for other images. You may quickly switch between photos by either using the left and right sides of the four-way selection button or by spinning your finger around the touch dial. Both of these options are located at the bottom of the screen.

Moving between photographs is reasonably quick, and images of lesser quality and smaller size are instantaneously available. However, images of higher quality and greater size could have a momentary wait while they are created. When you cycle through the photographs, there is a little cross-fade transition effect that occurs between each one, which I found to be really aesthetically attractive.

The Canon SD870 makes a helpful method for the user to keep their photographs sorted and ready to see. The user has the option of saving photographs under one of seven different categories, which may be accessed at a later time. These categories consist of People, Scenery, Sports, and To Do in addition to three numbered categories.

You may give categories to an image by placing a tick next to each category to which the image in question is suitable. For instance, if your image had both people and scenery, you could check both of those categories. It is helpful to be able to filter all of the photographs on the memory card with specific categories since this makes it easier to discover images at a later time.

The Canon SD870 is equipped with an excellent slideshow function that makes excellent use of the screen real estate. You have the option of selecting every photograph stored on the memory card or limiting the selection to a certain group of pictures.

After you have picked the photographs that you want to use, you will have the option to choose the length of time that each slide is displayed for as well as whether or not the slideshow should continue after it has concluded. The list of available alternatives does not, regrettably, include my nice rapid cross-fade; in its place, you have a choice between several fairly clumsy movement transitions, or you may choose not to utilize any of them at all.

Playback mode may be entered and exited using the Playback button, however the user can change the behavior of this button on the Canon SD870 so that it performs a different function. It is possible to change the configuration so that it begins a slideshow or activates the sound recorder; however, doing so makes it less evident how to return to the shooting mode.

When you half-press the shutter release button on the camera, you will always be taken to shooting mode. This is because the camera was created with the priority of shooting in mind.

Special Features

Image Stabilization is a feature that has been included in the Digital Elph PowerShot series of cameras ever since the SD800 and is denoted by the “IS” designation on the PowerShot SD870 IS. Canon was the first company to design an optical image stabilization system. This technology makes use of a number of gyroscopic sensors to detect when the user is moving and then counteracts that movement by moving the lens in the opposite direction.

It is incredibly efficient in eliminating the blur that is caused by camera shake. I consider it to be an absolute must since it enables me to shoot photographs in more difficult conditions for the camera while still producing significantly improved outcomes. I was able to shoot shots with shutter speeds as low as 1/15 of a second and still obtain pretty sharp results, therefore I believe that it works quite well in actual use.

Face detection is another function offered by Canon on the SD870, which has the capacity to recognize up to nine people who are gazing ahead. The way that face detection works in practice is by displaying a box around the face of the person whose image you wish to capture on camera.

Face recognition works well whenever the camera is able to view both of the person’s eyes; but, once the subject turns their face away from the camera, even to the slightest degree, face detection is unable to lock onto the face. When it functions well, face detection is highly helpful since it ensures that the subject’s face, rather than the backdrop, will be in sharp focus.

The flash settings are also changed automatically, including red-eye mitigation, to produce photographs that are more aesthetically attractive. When it fails to lock on, on the other hand, you are forced to use the standard focusing method, which may result in an outcome that is not what you intended. The face detection box will activate and lock on once you have just instructed your subject to look at the camera. At this point, you are through with the process.

During testing, it required a good deal of effort to trick the face identification system, but it had no trouble recognizing people wearing eyeglasses or even sunglasses. It would almost never identify something that was “face-like” but wasn’t actually a face.

Both the Storage and the Battery The PowerShot SD870 comes with an SD card that has a storage capacity of 32 megabytes. Considering that the camera has an eight-megapixel sensor, the highest-resolution picture that it is capable of taking will result in an image that is 3,264 pixels high and 2,448 pixels wide, and it will need an average of 3,436 kilobytes of storage space (almost three-and-a-half megabytes).

The manufacturer claims that this will allow you to save a grand total of eight images on the card that was provided. Therefore, it makes a great lot of sense to go out and purchase a brand new SD card, ideally one that has between 2 and 4 gigabytes of storage space on it. Since October 2007, secure digital (SD) cards have been among the most cost-effective forms of memory you can purchase.

The lithium-ion battery that comes with the SD870 has a capacity of 1,120 mAh and operates at 3.7 volts. According to Canon, you should be able to get 270 photos out of this, and in actuality, I was able to use it intermittently for a couple of days before the “low battery” warning indicator appeared on the screen.

It is impossible to argue against the portability of the recharger that is included with the SD870. It has a plug that folds in on itself in a manner that is pretty innovative, at least for users located in the Americas. Unfortunately, the recharger takes up an excessive amount of space on power bars, but it works much better when plugged into wall outlets. The amount of time needed to recharge was less than an hour.


As I mentioned before, it took some practice for me to become used to shooting with with one hand while I was using the SD870 IS. The design of the SD870 is a compromise between the capabilities of a shooting camera and those of a camera that is easy to carry. It’s possible that the Canon SD870 IS wasn’t created with ergonomics in mind for optimal photography, but I can’t deny that it’s really convenient to carry around and can produce fantastic photographs no matter where or when you use it.

The adage that “the camera that gets taken is the one that shoots images” is one that I frequently share with others, particularly when they are contemplating whether or not to purchase an SLR or a point-and-shoot camera rather than a lens system. In spite of how much I adore my SLR camera, there are certain locations where I just won’t bother to bring it, even if a camera such as the SD870 would make a fantastic travel companion.

In actual shooting situations, I discovered that using the SD870 was uncomplicated and got right to the point. Because turning on the power takes around one second, I was able to capture images of my nephews at a family gathering without any trouble and in a very timely manner. It has always seemed to make more sense to me to have the zoom rocker tied to the shutter button rather than having it as a separate control. This is because it makes using the camera feel more natural to me.

It took around one and a half seconds to go from 28mm to 105mm, and the zoom was snappy and sensitive to my touch during the entire process. The loss in image quality that occurred during standard digital zooming made the feature less helpful for me because it was intolerable to me. However, Canon has implemented a useful system in which the camera can use the sensor to zoom rather than having to interpolate the image if the user selects an image size that is smaller than Large (i.e., it uses less than the camera’s eight megapixels). This system is only available on Canon cameras.

If you choose the tiny mode (640×480), for instance, you may zoom out as far as 15 times (which is over four times the optical zoom of 3.8x), and the image that is created will not be pixelated in the slightest. This occurs as a direct consequence of the fact that the camera is only utilizing a 640×480 portion of the sensor in order to take the picture.

Whether the camera is configured to record large-size, superfine compression photos or the lowest size of the image, the SD870 has a mode that allows for continuous shooting at the stated rate of 1.3 frames per second. This is true regardless of the settings that were used to configure the camera.

When compared to the SD800, which was capable of filming at a rate of 1.7 frames per second, this represents a little slowdown. When shooting in continuous mode, you will most certainly notice an improvement in shooting speed; when shooting in single-shot mode, you will be able to capture one picture around once every two seconds.

You also have the option of setting a self-timer for a duration of 2, 10, or a number of seconds of your choosing.

To change the ISO setting on the SD870, you need to press the four-way selector in the upward position. This setting is only accessible while the camera is in its usual mode. You have access to the whole spectrum of ISO settings, from 80 all the way up to 1,600 when you shoot in Manual and Digital Macro modes. You only have the option of choosing between Auto ISO shift and HI Auto ISO shift when using the other camera modes.

Auto-ISO shifting is a new function that has been included to the SD870. This feature is a logical progression that has found its way down from the world of professional and prosumer SLR cameras. To put it simply, the camera is able to analyze the existing lighting conditions and choose not only an aperture and shutter speed but also an ISO speed that is suitable for achieving the desired level of exposure for the photograph.

The Auto ISO shift option will also choose ISO speeds that fall outside the range that the user has selected, and it will do so in 1/3 EV increments. Because increasing the ISO speed is similar to turning up the volume on a radio station with poor reception; you might be able to make out the program a little better, but you also hear more of the static as well. If you leave this setting unchecked, it could lead to some images that have a lot of noise in them.

As a result, the maximum ISO that may be used in the standard Auto ISO shift mode is set at 200. If you want to take things to the next level, you may choose the High Auto-ISO shift option, which provides automated ISO selection up to 800. If you want to take the ISO all the way up to 1600, you will have to make a particular selection from the ISO menu to do so, and it will only be available in the manual and digital macro shooting modes.


The majority of the modes on the Canon SD870 IS allow for exposure control to be adjusted. The user has the ability to override the camera’s metered exposure selection by up to two stops in each direction, with the ability to adjust the exposure in 1/3-stop increments.

This is helpful in situations where the lighting is not typical, such as when you are taking a picture of a sunset. Normally, the camera will want to overexpose the sky in order to get a brighter image in the foreground, but because there is not as much light available, you end up having the sky completely blown out.

You can obtain a better photo by underexposing the image. By pushing the DISP button while adjusting the exposure settings, the Canon SD870 also provides immediate access to a long shutter mode that may be used in the camera. If you do so, you will have direct control over the shutter speed, which can range anywhere from one to fifteen seconds.

When you switch on the long shutter mode, a noise reduction mode is immediately activated, however it appears to deactivate the auto-ISO shift feature. When using a long shutter speed, the Canon SD870 will automatically select the largest aperture possible; as a result, it is quite simple to overexpose photographs outside of the context of night photography.

On the Canon SD870, AE locking may also be selected as an option. When you want to utilize it, you first give the shutter a half-push to pick the focus points and exposure settings, and then, while keeping the shutter pressed, you give the four-way selector a press to the up position (ISO selection). This causes the AE lock to become active.

Forget about performing it with only one hand; you’ll need two hands to do this task successfully. If the flash is in always-on mode, you may also lock the exposure level by performing an action that is quite similar to the one described above.


The Canon SD870 had results with regard to autofocusing that were quite inconsistent. In photographs in which the subject was staged, I discovered that the camera had no issue determining the obvious areas of focus; nevertheless, in photographs taken more “in the moment,” the camera occasionally failed to focus on the subject.

When I used face detection on a subject that was facing me, I never had any issues with the camera’s ability to get excellent focus on the subject. However, face detection would fail to “lock on” to the target in conditions where there was insufficient light, particularly if the subject’s face was even slightly turned away from being directly in front of the camera.

The camera was able to correctly focus in an environment with as low as 1/16 of a foot candle of light, as indicated by the laboratory setup. There is always a focus-assist lamp, which you have the option to turn off, and it does an excellent job of helping you get the focus where it needs to be.

When using a digital camera with a built-in point-and-shoot function, there is typically a little lag between pushing the shutter release button and the camera actually snapping the picture. In our research facility, this equated to a time of 0.38 seconds (at 28mm), and 0.42 seconds overall (at 105mm). Only 0.088 seconds passed before the image was captured by the camera, and this was despite the fact that the lens had been pre-focused.

The Canon SD870 IS features a very unusual display option in Playback that can be used to verify the focus. This mode will first show you what part of the image the camera focused on, and then it will provide you with a little zoomed rendition of the image in the lower right corner. If you press the toggle for the zoom, the image will gradually get more magnified. If the photograph was taken using the Face Detect mode, or if there was more than one AF area chosen, you may use the Set button to toggle between the active areas to check the focus in each of those areas. This is also possible if there was more than one AF area set.

Quality of the Image

Photos taken with the Canon SD870 have excellent exposure and a pleasing level of saturation. When looking at the photographs taken at our testing facility, the colors appear to be slightly oversaturated, with the red and blue tones being pushed to their limits.

Naturally, these are just the settings that are set by default; you can adjust the way colors are presented by going through no less than eleven different color presets. Some of these color presets include Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black and White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, and Vivid Red, as well as Custom.

The user is able to modify the amount of color and the quality of the color in the photographs that they will take thanks to all of these choices. To make matters even better, you are not required to settle on these color settings before you begin shooting. Instead, you may go into playback mode and pick a different color profile.

Then, you can either overwrite the existing one or make a new copy with the updated color settings. The route there is a little bit confusing to take. You do this by selecting the menu button while the track is playing, and then selecting the My Colors option. This will offer you the options described above, with the noticeable exclusion of the custom profile.

When assessing the picture quality of the photographs that were taken with the SD870, I will take a number of factors into consideration, including sharpness, ISO noise, noise reduction, image characteristics that are inherently associated with the lens, and flash performance.

Sharpening is applied automatically in each of the color settings of the Canon SD870, but the camera does not oversharpen the images in any way. During the process, fine picture detail is kept somewhat intact, and there are just a few instances when edge enhancement artifacts may be seen. If you wish to have greater control over the sharpness of the image, you may fine-tune the impact by using custom color settings, as was mentioned before.

The Canon SD870 has a very high image quality at an ISO setting of 80; however, when the ISO rating is increased, the images get noisier. The issue that has to be answered is at what point it starts to become unacceptable. When we took pictures in the lab, we saw that noise became noticeable at an ISO setting of roughly 200; at an ISO setting of 400, it began to obscure fine detail, and by an ISO setting of 800, it eliminated fine detail entirely.

Despite this, we were able to print photographs of fair quality at ISO 800 at 8×10, and images of 80 to 400 looked wonderful when printed at 11×14 inches. Even the ISO 1,600 image that appears to be so grainy when viewed at 100 percent onscreen appears to be fairly excellent when printed at 4×6. Long-shutter photos get noise reduction processing, which often yields good results and very little alteration to the portions of the image with subtle contrast.

When the ISO is raised to higher settings, noise reduction comes in as well, which smoothes out color abnormalities while at the same time hiding fine detail. More information on the picture’s quality may be found in the Exposure tab.

The Canon SD870 appears to have a lens structure that has been tuned to create a nice image when the lens is zoomed all the way out to its telephoto setting. When the lens is set to that focal length (105mm), there is almost no discernible picture distortion, chromatic aberration, or corner softness.

In contrast, when the lens is set to its widest setting (28mm), the images show significant levels of all three: chromatic aberration of 10+ pixels on either side of target lines, barrel distortion of 1.1 percent (which is to be expected on a lens with a focal length of 28mm), and images that are very soft in the corners.

However, corner softness was only noticeable in the most extreme corners; otherwise, the plane of focus remained amazingly flat throughout the majority of the image. For a more in-depth study, please go to the Optics tab.

The Canon SD870 has a performance that is typical for a flash. When working with the lens set to its wide-angle position, the flash will not be able to illuminate the full-frame (this is not unusual, especially with small cameras like this). When the lens is zoomed all the way into the telephoto setting, coverage is improved.

Because the light created by the flash underexposes the whole frame considerably, you will need to increase the exposure compensation by one stop in either scenario. At least in the laboratory, this is the case. In actual fact, the vast majority of the time, you will be tasked with lighting a subject in relation to the background.

According to the technical specifications provided by Canon, the flash is effective up to a distance of thirteen feet (four meters) when used at wide-angle and up to two feet (six feet) when used at telephoto. In actual shooting, our lab shots more or less back up these numbers; however, our findings at telephoto indicate that you should be prepared to see images that are slightly underexposed as you get closer to the flash’s maximum range (six feet).

Images that were printed in our laboratory were of great quality and had sufficient resolution to allow for photo printing at 11×14 inches. If you go any higher, the prints will start to show some image softness, but they should be fine if you stand back and look at them.

If you print photographs at ISO 400 and above, you will detect image noise unless you print at reduced image sizes; this starts to become noticeable at ISO 200 and above when you start to see some chroma noise around the edges of the subject (for example, 5×7 prints seem to hide any noise problems due to high ISO, up to ISO 800).


The Canon PowerShot SD870 IS is a camera that has a lot of positive qualities going for it. The huge and gorgeous 3-inch LCD screen, which functions as an amazing playback device, is likely the feature that will be most appealing to potential buyers. Although I found the presentation possibilities to be a bit lacking, this is a wonderful solution for mothers who wish to carry about their own “brag book” of weddings and births.

There are no in-camera help settings, the button text is succinct, and it uses terms and iconography that, while standard in the industry, could be confusing to new users. This is not a camera for someone who is just getting started with digital photography; rather, it is a camera for someone who is already familiar with how to use a digital camera.

However, those who are accustomed to using digital cameras will immediately feel at ease while using the Canon SD870 because of its user-friendly design. The organization of the camera’s buttons and menus is straightforward, and the device’s performance is brisk and sensitive to user input. Simply pushing the shutter-release button will always allow you to capture a picture with a camera set to the shooting priority mode (although the lack of an optical viewfinder may make quick framing difficult).

When left in automatic mode, the camera is capable of producing photographs that are satisfactory. When taking pictures of individuals, if the camera is able to view both of the subject’s eyes, there should be no trouble whatsoever in obtaining an image that is attractive to the eye.


Naming• US name: Canon PowerShot SD870 IS Digital ELPH
• European name: Canon Digital IXUS 860 IS
• Japanese name: IXY Digital 910 IS
Body MaterialMetal and plastic
Sensor• 1/2.5 ” Type CCD
• 8.0 million effective pixels
Image sizes• 3264 x 2448
• 2592 x 1944
• 2048 x 1536
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480
• 3264 x 1832
Movie clips• 640 x 480 @ 30fps
• 640 x 480 @ 30fps (Long play)
• 320 x 240 @ 30fps
• 160 x 120 @ 15fps (Compact mode)
File formats• JPEG Exif 2.2
• DPOF 1.1
• AVI Motion JPEG with WAVE monaural
Lens• 4.6-17.3mm (28-105mm equiv)
• F2.8-5.8
• 3.8x optical zoom
Image stabilizationYes (lens shift-type)
Conversion lensesNone
Digital zoomup to 4x
AF area modes• AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point)
• 1-point AF (fixed center)
AF assist lampYes
Focus distanceClosest 3cm
Metering• Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame)
• Center-weighted average
• Spot
ISO sensitivity• Auto
• High ISO Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
Exposure compensation• +/- 2EV
• in 1/3 stop increments
Shutter speed15-1/1600 sec
Modes• Auto
• Manual
• Digital Macro
• Color Accent
• Color Swap
• Stitch Assist
• Movie
• Special Scene
Scene modes• Portrait
• Night Snapshot
• Kids & Pets
• Indoor
• Foliage
• Snow
• Beach
• Fireworks
• Aquarium
• Underwater
White balance• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Custom
Self timer• 2 or 10secs
• Custom
Continuous shootingapprox 1.3fps until card is full
Image parametersMy Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, B&W, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Flash• Auto
• Manual Flash on / off
• Slow sync
• Red-eye reduction
• Range: 30cm-4.0m (wide) / 2.0m (tele)
LCD monitor• 3.0-inch P-Si TFT
• 230,000 pixels
Connectivity• USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• AV out
Print compliance• PictBridge
• Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and PIXMA Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP printers only)
Storage• SD / SDHC / MMC card compatible
• 32 MB card supplied
Power• Rechargeable Li-ion battery NB-5L
• Charger included
• Optional AC adapter kit
Other features• Optional High Power Flash HF-DC1
• Optional Waterproof Case (WP-DC17)
Weight (No batt)155 g (5.5 oz)
Dimensions92.6 x 58.8 x 25.9 mm (3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 inch)

Final Verdict

The Canon SD870 maintains the characteristics that contributed to the PowerShot SD800’s status as an excellent camera. These characteristics include a high-quality wide-angle lens with a focal length of 28 millimeters, face-detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, an abundance of scene modes, and a few key improvements to the overall operation of the camera. Even while in movie mode, you can make use of the wide-angle vision, which makes taking up-close and intimate films with your family very simple and enjoyable.

An outstanding accomplishment certainly is the fact that the 8-megapixel sensor of the SD870 is able to offer a resolution that is capable of providing high-quality 11×14-inch prints up to ISO 400. The size of the LCD has been expanded, but the optical viewfinder has been eliminated. Since optical viewfinders are somewhat of a joke on most digital cameras with exceptional optics, most users won’t miss having one. The absence of a viewfinder is more than compensated for by the 3-inch LCD, which also performs admirably in direct sunlight.

The Canon SD870 IS weighs only 180 grams (6.3 ounces), making it possible to carry it in virtually any pocket, and its battery allows it to shoot a sufficient number of photographs. It’s a lot of cameras packed into a little box, and I think it’s a fantastic match for the experienced digital camera user who wants a reliable, take-anywhere shooter that does its photographs justice. I think it’s a terrific fit since it’s a compact package with a lot of cameras packed into it.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • LCD screen that is three inches large and quite wonderful
  • Decent digital zoom that maintains detail better than most
  • Automatic adjustment of ISO
Need Improvement
  • The Touch Icons system is not particularly useful; fortunately, using it is not required.
  • Included in the package is a very little 32MB SD card.
  • Typical speed when operating in the continuous mode
  • Battery that is privately owned

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