The PowerShot SX100 IS is the first model in Canon’s new SX series of cheap super zoom compact cameras. It places itself in the PowerShot line-up halfway between the tried and trusted A-Series and the more upscale S5 IS.
In order to create a completely new camera that is competitive with Panasonic’s successful TZ series, the engineers at Canon blended the materials and build the quality of the former with the long lens, some features, and design of the latter. This resulted in the camera having a merged design (and the new Sony H3). The tiny silver or black plastic chassis of the SX100 IS conceals a sensor with 8.0 megapixels, a 10x optical zoom, optical image stabilization, and a broad range of manual photography settings. All of these features come neatly packaged in the camera.
Canon claims that the SX series is capable of delivering great performance whether operated by any member of the family. Since this claim is backed up by evidence, let’s check out how the SX series fared when operated by our skilled hands.
When designing their first affordable superzoom compact camera, Canon took more of a “form follows function” approach. If the SX100 IS were competing in a beauty pageant, it is highly unlikely that it would make it into the top 12 finalists. Build quality and materials have been adopted from Canon’s popular A series, which has established itself as a reliable user-friendly range of cameras. This is not necessarily a negative thing; build quality and materials have been adopted from Canon’s popular A series.
On the outside of the SX100 IS, curves predominate as the dominating form, and the body contains no harsh edges in any location. Because of its size and weight, it is a camera that would be better off being carried around in a backpack as opposed to being tucked away in a shirt pocket. Having said that, it is surprisingly portable for having a 10x zoom.
The control arrangement is typically very constant over the entirety of Canon’s product line, and the designers haven’t made any significant changes to their methods for this particular model. This is not a negative aspect, as the interface that Canon utilizes is one of the most user-friendly that we have experienced; however, in this particular model, the number of controls that are found on the camera’s exterior is surprisingly limited when compared to the camera’s extensive feature set.
The fantastic FUNC menu provides access to all of the typical shooting features, and Canon has even managed to incorporate a button that is solely devoted to adjusting the ISO (something still missing from the A-series cameras). You can now adjust the purpose of the print button, which is fortunate because it was previously quite useless. The choices available for customization include White Balance, Digital Zoom, and a few more.
The rotating controller and jog dial combo seen on the G9 has been passed down to the SX100 IS in a scaled-down version. Once you become accustomed to its function, you will discover that it is incredibly handy for viewing menus and photos; it really speeds up the process. Even though it has a great deal more plastic than the more premium Powershots, the SX100 IS has the impression of being solidly crafted and sturdy.
Within your grasp
The SX100 IS is noticeably larger and heavier than the normal trendy super-slim compact camera, yet despite this fact (or more accurately, because of this fact), it manages to handle quite well. Because of the grip, which also conceals the camera’s battery compartment, the device never feels unstable while held in the hands of the user. Because both the shutter button and the zoom lever are located in the ideal spots, operating the camera with one hand is not in the least bit difficult.
There are no game-changing improvements to be found here; rather, Canon has remained faithful to the tried-and-true method established by the A-series and has just made a few minor adjustments here and there. When picking up the SX100 IS, those who have previous experience with a more modern Canon small camera won’t discover any unexpected features or functions.
The primary button for turning the camera on and off, the mode dial, and the shutter release are all located on the top of the camera (in the middle of the circular zoom rocker). The shutter release has a great positive feel to it and a clear ‘half press’ point in the same way as the A-series models do.
According to the description, the design of the 10x zoom is “based on the proven lens arrangement of the Powershot S5 IS’ 12x lens” (according to Canon). It has a focal length range of 36-360 millimeters, which is similar to 35mm film. We wish it began with a bigger aperture, but you can’t have everything. The wide-angle setting has an aperture of f/2.8, while the telephoto setting has an aperture of f/4.3. When shooting at longer focal lengths, having image stabilization built into the lens might assist keep the photo steady. The built-in flash is of the flip-up variety and has a range of either 3.0 meters (W) or 2.0 meters (T).
The memory card and two AA batteries are housed within the camera’s base, behind a door that opens on a hinge. The SX100 IS is compatible with the SDHC standard and has a 16MB card as standard equipment. Approximately 140 shots can be powered by a single set of alkaline batteries. When utilizing NiMH cells, this figure jumps up to 400. (CIPA standard). On the right-hand side of the camera is a plastic flap that, when opened, reveals the connections for the USB 2.0 port, the optional AC adaptor, and the A/V interface. Anyone who has used a Powershot in the past should be familiar with the controls on the back; the four-way controller, which now rotates, is positioned in the center of the device. It provides instant access to the focus, flashes, ISO, drives mode, self-timer, and Func menus through dedicated buttons.
In-play mode, the exposure compensation button also functions as a delete button, and it is located below the play button. The play button is located above the exposure compensation button. In a departure from the typical design of a Canon Powershot, the camera also features a row of buttons located just below the LCD screen.
From left to right: the print button, the face selector button, the display button (which regulates the quantity of information shown on-screen), and the Menu button. Thankfully, the purpose of the print button can be changed. The screen of the SX100 IS is 2.5 inches in size, very bright, and has a broad viewing angle.
It has a resolution of 172,000 pixels, which is considered to be rather typical for a screen of this size (this is a definite sign that the camera is priced on the lower end). The display has a lot of brightness and contrast (and has a good refresh rate). LCD brightness can be changed in the settings; nonetheless, when shooting in strong sunshine, you may find yourself wishing the SX100 had an optical viewfinder in addition to the LCD.
The workings and the controls
When it comes to the development of user interfaces for tiny cameras, Canon has adopted an approach that prioritizes evolution over revolution. If you’ve used a Canon Powershot within the past several years, you’ll be familiar with the majority of the control components. Having said that, the human-machine-interface designers at Canon have given the control arrangement of the SX100 IS a couple of new twists in order to differentiate it from other cameras in its class.
The row of buttons underneath the screen is something that has never been seen on a Powershot in this form before (there is also a brand new dedicated face selector button for picking the “main face” in an image when using face detection), and the SX100 IS has inherited a simplified version of the combined jog-dial and four-way controller combination from Canon’s flagship compact camera, the G9.
The user interfaces on more modern Canon small cameras have always been among the most user-friendly and intuitive in their class, and the SX100 IS is not an exception to this rule. The external controls on the SX100 IS are relatively few in number when compared to the large number of features that are included on the camera; however, due to the excellent design of the FUNC menu, a number of crucial settings, such as White Balance or Flash compensation, are never more than a couple of button presses away. ISO, drive mode, and exposure correction even receive their very own dedicated buttons, and the purpose of the normally fairly worthless print button may be customized by the user.
The back of the camera
There are no revolutionary new features visible from the back of the SX100 IS. The vast majority of Canon customers will discover that they are in quite a well-known area. The switch that toggles between the play and record modes may be found at the very top. If you push this button, the camera will also begin operating in play mode.
The jog-dial/four-way controller acts as the means by which the user navigates the menus and grants access to the ISO, focus, flash, drive, and self-timer settings, respectively. Just below the wheel is where you’ll find the button for exposure correction (also used to switch between aperture and shutter speed settings in manual mode and as a delete button in playback mode). Under the 2.5-inch screen are the buttons for direct printing (which may be customized), the new face selection button (which is used for picking and monitoring faces when face recognition mode is activated), the display buttons, and the menu buttons.
The top of the camera
The top plate of the SX100 IS has been crafted in a fashion that is quite understated. The only controls that are located on the top of the camera are the primary power switch, the mode dial, and the zoom control/shutter release unit.
Controls & Menus
The on-screen display and menu layout of Canon cameras have, with a few small exceptions here and there, stayed quite constant throughout all camera ranges and generations. As a result, they are incredibly user-friendly and easy to comprehend. Even those who have never used a Canon product before will have no trouble navigating the various options.
In addition, the SX100 IS features a sufficient number of exterior buttons, which enables users to have access to the camera’s most important settings in a more expedient manner (ISO, focus, drive mode; white balance can be programmed onto the print direct button).
Quality of the Image
A Perfect White Balance
In addition to the standard Auto mode and a user-defined (measured) mode, the Canon SX100 IS features a total of five different white balance presets. These include Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H. When we were photographing our outdoor galleries, we did not have any issues with the Auto White Balance feature, and the SX100 IS performed admirably under the majority of different lighting conditions. However, it had trouble correcting the color cast that occurred since the footage was shot under artificial illumination.
Although the performance under fluorescent light is approximately average, Auto White Balance had a lot of trouble working properly with incandescent light sources, resulting in results that were excessively warm. According to Canon, this is done on purpose in order to maintain the “warm” ambiance that is produced by incandescent light bulbs. Switching to the incandescent preset, which generates considerably better results, but ones that are still not ideal is the best thing to do if you wish your colors to be more muted.
Performance in a Flash
When using auto ISO, the built-in flash has a range of up to about 3 meters (9.8 feet) at the broad end of the zoom and drops to 2 meters (6.6 feet) when used at the long end of the zoom. We noticed that the color fidelity was rather consistent, with the flash generating results that were ever-so-slightly on the warm side. This is something that should be desired in most circumstances because it results in natural skin tones in flash photographs. The flash recycles periods may be rather lengthy, which is to be anticipated from a camera powered by AA batteries. When the power of the flash’s battery is running low, you may as well go away and make some tea for yourself and the people you are photographing while you wait for it to recharge.
The SX100 IS, much like a number of other cameras in the superzoom league, has a macro setting that enables you to focus down to a very close distance at a wide-angle: 1 centimeter in this particular instance. However, the applications of this characteristic in everyday life are not very extensive. Because you are that close to the subject, there is a good chance that you will cast shadows on it with the camera itself.
On top of that, any subject that can move will have gotten away from you long before you reach that close. Having said that, playing about with the macro mode is entertaining, and the effects it produces may be very intriguing.
When it is zoomed all the way out to its widest setting (1 cm minimum focus distance), it can record an area that is 27 mm (1.1 inches) broad. The lowest distance required to focus at the long end of the lens is around 100 centimeters, with the region it covers is 115 millimeters (4.5 inches) wide. There is quite a bit of distortion at the wide end, which should not come as much of a surprise given that the lens is covering such an extreme wide-angle when it is set to this position.
Problems specific to the image’s quality
It should not come as a surprise that the image output of the SX100 IS is quite similar to that of Canon’s trusted A-Series cameras because the SX100 IS is a very near relative of those cameras. Both the quality and the ‘character’ of the images are very comparable. As long as you don’t anticipate miracles and don’t spend too much time staring at 100 percent crops, the SX100 IS will give images that are excellently polished at lower ISO settings and will match the image quality of cameras that are far more costly.
The colors are true to life, and the auto white balance feature delivers reliable results throughout daytime hours (although sometimes slightly on the warm side). The exposure is perfect in virtually every shooting condition, as is the focus, with the exception of when you are attempting to follow a fast-moving subject. The in-camera sharpening that Canon employs takes a somewhat mild technique.
If you want your photographs to be somewhat sharper, that’s your decision, and you can simply apply an unsharp mask in post-processing, so at least you have the option (which you don’t have if the images are straight out of the camera are already over-sharpened).
There is a small amount of highlight clipping in really bright and high-contrast environments, which is almost to be expected from a camera with a 1/2.5-inch sensor. This is something that almost all tiny cameras with small sensors and high pixel counts have in common. When photographing scenes with a wide dynamic range, these cameras have trouble capturing the entire spectrum of tonalities (high contrast, very bright days).
This is typically due to a combination of factors, the most common of which is a steep tone curve and a restricted dynamic range provided by the tiny sensors. Applying for some negative exposure compensation and/or lowering the contrast in the My Colors menu are also potential solutions to the problem that has to be addressed.
Noise and natural noise reduction at low ISO settings.
When shooting in anything less than ideal light, several undesirable qualities of the small sensors employed in compact cameras are brought to the forefront, and the SX100 IS is not an exception to this rule. Even when using the lowest possible ISO, there is discernible noise in the shadows and blurring of tiny textures such as foliage due to the use of noise reduction.
This is something that is typical of most cameras with a tiny sensor and is by no means worse on the SX100 IS than it is on the similar competition’s cameras; nonetheless, this does not make it any less annoying, and it reduces the output’s use for producing big prints.
Color fringing around highlights is not something that is exclusive to the SX100 IS; however, other manufacturers, like Panasonic, have been successful in eliminating it via the use of in-camera processing. Sadly, Canon has not moved in this direction as of yet. Having said that, red fringing on the SX100 IS is only noticeable in the normal high contrast circumstances and falls well within the permissible limits. Having said that, we have definitely seen far worse in the past. Just a heads up on something to keep an eye out for.
The movie mode found on the majority of Canon’s Powershot compact cameras is quite comparable to one another, with only a few minor differences here and there. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised by anything when you flip the SX100 IS over to movie mode.
The largest movie size that the SX100 IS is capable of recording is 640 by 480 pixels, which is sufficient to fit the majority of television screens when played back at 30 frames per second. This feature is now standard on most small cameras. In addition to this, it affords the possibility of shooting at a reduced frame rate and scale (useful if you want to send videos by email).
The image quality is excellent, and the videos are extremely smooth and have very few compression artifacts. This is consistent with the image quality of other Canon Powershots that we have previously examined. While recording, you won’t be able to utilize the optical zoom feature. The digital zoom feature, on the other hand, does operate, albeit at the expense of some quality.
The AVI files are rather huge; in order to watch a one-second clip at the highest quality option (640×480 at 30 frames per second), you need more than 2 megabytes of storage space. Therefore, if you film a lot of videos, you should give some thought to purchasing some large and fast SD cards as well.
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS Specifications
|Sensor||• 1/2.5 ” Type CCD|
• 8.0 million effective pixels
|Image processor||DIGIC III|
|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|
• 320 x 240 @ 30fps
• 160 x 120 @ 15fps
|Lens||• 36-360mm (35mm equiv)|
• 10x optical zoom
|Optical Stabilization||Yes (lens-shift)|
• Center-weighted average
|Shooting modes||• Auto|
• Program AE
• Shutter Priority AE
• Aperture Priority AE
• Night Snapshot
• Kids & Pets
• Special Scene
• Stitch Assist
|Scenes modes||• Portrait|
• Night Snapshot
• Kids & Pets
• Night Scene
|Shutter speeds||15-1/2500 sec|
|Exposure compensation||+/-2EV in 1/3EV stop increments|
|ISO Sensitivity||• Auto|
• High ISO Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
|White Balance||• Auto|
• Fluorescent H
|Image parameters||My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Custom Color)|
|Continuous||• Approx 0.8fps until card is full (AF / LiveView)|
• Approx 1.3fps until card is full (LCD monitor off)
|Flash||• Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye reduction|
• +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
• Face Detection FE compensation
• Safety FE
• Flash exposure lock
• Manual Power Adjustment (3 levels)
• Range (Auto ISO): 50cm – 3.0m (wide) / 2.0m (tele)
|Storage||• SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus , HC MMCplus compatible|
• 16 MB card supplied
|LCD monitor||• 2.5-inch P-Si TFT|
• 172,000 pixels
• 100% coverage
• 15 levels of brightness adjustment
|Connectivity||• USB 2.0 Hi-Speed|
• AV out (PAL / NTSC switchable)
|Power||• 2x AA Alkaline or NiMH batteries|
• Optional AC adapter ACK800
|In the box*||• PowerShot SX100 IS Body|
• AA-size Alkaline Battery (x2)
• 16MB SD Memory Card
• Wrist Strap
• AV cable
• USB interface cable
• Software CD-ROM
|Other features||• Histogram|
• 2,10 sec or custom self timer
• Face Detection
• Optional High Power Flash (HF-DC1)
|Weight (no batts)||266g (9.4 oz)|
|Dimensions||108.7 x 71.4 x 46.7 mm (4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 in)|
In terms of both its appearance and its capabilities, the SX100 IS is a bit of an underachiever.
It is not unattractive, but it surely won’t turn any heads either, and although it has a reasonably excellent spec and feature set, there is nothing in there that we haven’t seen someplace else before. The performance of this most recent addition to Canon’s Powershot lineup may best be described as “solid,” which is perhaps the best word to use. The SX100 IS works well in (nearly) all categories, but there is very little about it that stands out as particularly remarkable.
Even though this is some of the most overused marketing blurbs you could possibly come across, there is some truth in it. Canon describes the SX100 IS as a camera that all members of the family can use, and while this is certainly some of the most overused marketing blurbs you could possibly come across, there is also some truth in it. The intuitive user interface of the SX100 IS makes it possible to become familiar with all of the features of the camera in a comparatively short amount of time.
Instead of being a specialized piece of equipment that specializes in only one area of photography, the SX100 IS may be used as a viable option for a variety of photographic applications because of the lens’ wide zoom range. With relatively little distortion at its widest setting, the SX100 IS works well for landscape photography (although the lens could be a little wider). Additionally, with a 360mm equivalent focal length at the long end of the zoom, you can get quite close to your children while they are playing soccer (although the autofocus may have trouble keeping up with them if they are running quickly).
There is no requirement to go into excessive detail on the visual quality. To reiterate, it is quite “solid” but does not stand out in any way. In the typical settings (high contrast, high brightness), there is some evidence of fringing, and in lighting situations other than bright sunshine, noise reduction artifacts are obvious in dark sections of the image even at the base ISO.
This is the case even when the image is not overexposed. It is unavoidable that users of the SX100 IS may see some highlight clipping, which is characteristic of tiny cameras with small sensors and is common in such cameras. However, none of these problems are insurmountable, and it is quite unlikely that they would have a detrimental effect on your prints unless you print at sizes higher than A4 paper.
Within the scope of this review, we have not spent a great lot of time discussing the Face Detection function. The explanation for that is really straightforward. Face Detection may be the must-have accessory of the season, but I’m still not really sure what it’s useful for.
It works effectively on the SX100 IS when it comes to detecting faces (in record and review mode), provided that the subject is looking directly into the lens of the camera and is not sporting any caps or other types of headgear. The ‘Face Selector’ button gives you the ability to choose between different faces and make one of them the main face’ of the character. However, as compared to focusing on a face while using Center AF, the change in the output of the image is rather little.
The only two aspects of the SX100 IS that are deserving of serious criticism are those that have been passed down from Canon’s A-Series, to which it is closely connected. To tell you the truth, flash recycle times are a bother. Considerably when the batteries are brand new, it takes an excessive amount of time for the flash to recharge, and this problem becomes even more severe when the battery power is low.
It may be rather embarrassing, not to mention annoying, to have to wait the better part of ten seconds for the flash to be ready while your subjects are standing about waiting for you to take their picture in a normal “social” photography setting. Overall, we were underwhelmed with the length of time the battery lasted. Always be sure to have a sufficient amount of additional batteries with you; otherwise, you run the risk of becoming ‘powerless’ and missing out on all of those potential photo possibilities.
The SX100 IS is Canon’s first attempt to compete in the “cheap” huge zoom market, and it is obvious that the company’s engineers have done their research. The camera is small and sturdy, however, it produces images of high quality despite its modest size.
The performance of the SX100 IS is agile in all shooting situations, thanks to the latest generation of the Canon DIGIC III imaging processor. The inclusion of comprehensive manual controls as well as the very efficient image stabilization, in addition to the large clear screen, make the SX100 IS a fine photographic tool not only for beginners but also for the more advanced photographer who is on a budget.
The most apparent comparison is with the similarly priced Panasonic TZ3, which is smaller, has a considerably more versatile 28-280mm zoom range, and a larger LCD. However, the TZ3 is unable to fully match the image quality of the SX100, particularly at higher ISO settings. Another option is Sony’s brand-new H3, which has a design that may, to put it delicately, be described as having a “interesting” aesthetic; but, because we have not yet completed our assessment of it, we will withhold judgment until then.
Pros & Cons
- A satisfying conclusion
- A sharp and dependable focal speed (except in low light at longer focal lengths)
- Very efficient image stabilization
- The creation of an image that is clean and detailed at any zoom level
- a few hints of violet fringe
There is not a true wide-angle perspective.
- The life of the battery is not particularly impressive (it would be helpful to always carry an extra pair of batteries).
- Occasional snipping of selected highlights