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Canon PowerShot SD900 Review

The SD900, introduced along with a few other PowerShots just before Photokina, is positioned at the top of Canon’s highly successful ELPH / IXUS range. It features the highest resolution available to date, 10 megapixels (on a 1/1.8″ CCD), and was announced alongside those other PowerShots. It also has Canon’s brand-new DIGIC III processor and another first: a body made of solid titanium, which, in addition to lending an air of sophistication, allows for a camera that is both more lightweight and more resistant to wear and tear.

Canon PowerShot SD900 Design and Handling

Aside from the body material (which is replete with a ‘TITANIUM’ logo), the SD900 is externally quite similar to the SD550 (IXUS 750). It also has a strong familial resemblance to all of the other models in the current line. Externally, it oozes quality, as one would expect from a small point-and-shoot camera priced at $450, and it is well made, with an exceptional fit and finish, much like its predecessor. There isn’t much in the way of a grip, there aren’t any anti-slip surface textures, and the approach to the external controls is pretty minimalistic. All ELPH and IXUS cameras are designed according to the principle of “form first, function second,” with few concessions made to operational or ergonomic concerns.

Canon’s finely-tuned user interface (which has been honed over many generations of compacts) is one of the best. The simple, straightforward FUNC menu and dedicated buttons for ISO, flash, drive, and focus mean that – for the average user – all of the commonly needed controls can be used quickly and easily. In all honesty, this is a “point and shoot” camera, but one that has a few nifty tricks under its sleeve. However, it does have a few ingenious features up its sleeve.

The pebble-smooth exterior, combined with the lack of any discernible ‘grip,’ means that it can feel a little precarious held in one hand but is perfectly usable. The SD900 weighs approximately 194 grams when it is fully loaded, which is just heavy enough to feel solid and stable in the hand. The placement of the shutter release and the zoom rocker makes operation with one hand simple; nevertheless, you should still ensure that the strap is wrapped around your wrist if the camera escapes your grasp and begins to move in the wrong direction.

Canon PowerShot SD900 Image Quality

In addition to the automatic white balance setting, the SD900 has five different white balance presets, including daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, and fluorescent H. You can also set the white balance manually by pointing the camera at a white or gray object and using the ‘custom’ white balance setting. This setting is available as an additional white balance option.

Even if you turn the camera off, it will remember the custom white balance setting you had previously set. When shooting normally outside, the auto white balance serves its purpose admirably (as confirmed by our studio tests). Indoors, the results are a bit more hit-or-miss, as we’ve found that incandescent (tungsten) lighting causes a fairly strong orange color cast with the majority of Canon PowerShots (though switching to manual gives a pretty neutral result)

The working range of the built-in flash on the SD900 is stated to be 0.5 meters to 5.1 meters (1.6 feet to 17 feet) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.5 meters to 3.1 meters (1.6 feet to 10 feet) at the tele end. This is a little on the underpowered side, but it is better than other recent ELPH models.

Exposure is generally excellent (a little on the underexposed and warm side, which is no bad thing). Flash recycling is quite speedy (particularly if you turn the red-eye reduction off). Up to approximately 2 meters in the distance, the AF illuminator performs exceptionally well.

The macro mode of the SD900 is most effective at the wide end of the zoom, as is typical for most compact digital cameras. At this end of the zoom, you can get as close as 5 centimeters, which is not bad for an “ultra-compact,” which captures an area 52 millimeters across. There are cameras that have better macro performance than the SD900 (even in the range of SD/ELPH cameras), but the capabilities of the SD900 are sufficient for the typical user of a compact “point and shoot” model.

Even though the performance is less impressive at the long end of the zoom (a subject distance of 30 centimeters captures an area just over 10 centimeters wide), it is still quite helpful. When filming significantly closes up at the wide end, there is unavoidably going to be some degree of distortion. Still, it is not overly severe, and it is certainly less powerful than with many of its competitors.

Canon PowerShot SD900 Performance

The SD900, like other contemporary DIGIC II or III IXUS/SD devices, has a highly responsive feel to it, and its performance is essentially comparable to that of the other models in the line, with the exception that playing is little slower due to the bigger 10MP files (not that you’d notice). Although the focus speed is outstanding when there is sufficient light, it does unavoidably slow down significantly in settings with less light, when using the macro mode, and when using the extended range of the zoom. The shutter lag is reduced while using the viewfinder, but using the screen results in video lag; nonetheless, this is not a significant difference for most shooting situations.

It takes the SD900 around 1.7 seconds to process and save a 4.7MB 10MP/Super Fine JPEG file, which is not terrible going at all for a camera of this sort; however, the SD900 will most likely benefit from utilizing faster cards. Playback is also quite quick, taking less than half a second for full-sized photographs to appear after being loaded (if you use the fancy transition options, it takes a little longer to scroll through images, but it sure looks nice). If you hold down the left or right arrow key, the SD800 will cycle through low-resolution previews of the photographs stored on your card at a rate of roughly 10 per second. This is useful if you want to look through hundreds of shots that have been recorded quickly.

Canon PowerShot SD900 Battery capacity

The battery life, like that of most models in the SD line, is nothing spectacular; nonetheless, with around 230 shots (according to CIPA standards) per charge, it is comparable to that of many of its competitors and is not much poorer. If you turn off the screen and look through the optical viewfinder instead, you may prolong the battery life to as many as 700 shots on a single charge. This is because the beautiful big screen consumes most of the power.

Canon PowerShot SD900 Specifications

NamingUS name: Canon PowerShot SD900 Digital ELPH
European name: Canon Digital IXUS 900 Ti
Asian name: IXY Digital 1000
Body MaterialMetal and plastic
Sensor• 1/1.8 ” Type CCD
• 10.0 million effective pixels
Image sizes• 3648 x 2736
• 3648 x 2048
• 2816 x 2112
• 2272 x 1704
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480
Movie clips• 1024 x 768 @ 15fps
• 640 x 480 @ 30 / 15fps
• 320 x 240 @ 30 / 15fps
• 160 x 120 @ 15fps
File formats• JPEG Exif 2.2
• AVI Motion JPEG with WAVE monaural
Lens• 37-111mm (35mm equiv)
• F2.8-4.9
• 3x optical zoom
Image stabilizationNo
Conversion lensesNo
Digital zoomup to 4x
AF area modes• AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point)
• 1-point AF (fixed center)
AF assist lampYes
Focus distanceClosest 5cm
Metering• Evaluative
• Center-weighted average
• Spot
ISO sensitivity• Auto
• Hi-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
• ISO 3200
White balance• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Custom
Self timer• 2 or 10secs
• Custom
Continuous shootingapprox 2.1fps 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-5.1m (wide) / 3.1m (tele)
ViewfinderReal-image zoom optical viewfinder
LCD monitor• 2.5-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-DC
• Optional Waterproof Case (WP-DC9)
Weight (No batt)165g (5.8 oz)
Dimensions91.2 x 59.6 x 28.2 mm (3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 inch)

Canon PowerShot SD900 Conclusion

Titanium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal, so the combination of its durability, strength, and lightness (titanium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal) offers some real benefits for large, heavy-use professional cameras. Camera manufacturers have been producing expensive special-edition titanium-bodied SLRs for years.

When it comes to compacts, the choice of an exotic material is not nearly as much about reducing weight or increasing resistance to corrosion as it is about achieving a higher level of elegance and exclusivity. There will always be a market for over-engineered, premium-priced products, and the SD900 does have a certain ‘feel’ that distinguishes it from its numerous steel, plastic, and alloy competitors. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just that there will always be a market for such products.

Canon PowerShot SD900 Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Excellent resolution, nice color
  • The focus that is both quick and precise
  • Reliable exposure system
  • Results that are clean and detailed at lower ISO levels (usable up to ISO 400), with just moderate amounts of noise reduction applied.
Need Improvement
  • There is hardly much room for manual adjustment.
  • AiAF focus can be a little bit erratic; you should turn it off.
  • Some smearing of tiny details with poor contrast at ISO settings higher than the default ISO
  • There is just a little need for ISO 800 and 1600.

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