Canon PowerShot SX220 HS Review

In addition to the megapixel race that has dominated the conversation around digital photography over the course of the past few years, manufacturers have also been competing with one another in the lens arena.

Once upon a time, Ricoh and Panasonic were the only companies that offered highly regarded superzoom compacts as part of their product lines. These days, however, nearly every manufacturer offers a small-format, high-zoom alternative, and they typically sweeten the deal by including HD video, GPS functionality, and a variety of manual control options.

Canon’s response to all of this has been the release of its PowerShot SX series of cameras. These cameras started out as an extension of Canon’s already-existing budget PowerShot models, but eventually shifted their focus to target a more discerning audience with bridge-camera models that featured larger zooms and more impressive feature sets.

Since then, the lineup has been expanded to include a more budget-friendly option that falls between the two, and the Canon SX220 HS is one of two new members to join the family (the other being the SX230 HS, which is identical in specification to the SX220 HS save for the addition of GPS functionality).

In addition to having a 14x optical zoom that has a respectable range of 28-392mm and image stabilization courtesy of Canon’s Optical IS system, the SX 220HS is also one of the most recent compacts to offer Canon’s High Sensitivity technology, making it one of the most cutting-edge cameras in its class.

This is centered around a 12.1 Megapixel Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) sensor, whose backlit architecture shifts the wire from the front of the substrate to the opposite side of the substrate, where it does not provide an impediment for light to pass through. This, in turn, increases its sensitivity, which, in theory, broadens its tolerance for shooting in lower light, when, normally, the use of a tripod or flash would be necessary to get the desired effect.

Canon also emphasizes the benefit of employing “just” 12 megapixels so that each photosite may be larger, and the company believes that its DIGIC 4 processing technology helps users get the most out of the technology when it comes to working with still photographs and moving images.

When it comes to the latter, capturing in full high definition (1080p) is only feasible at a frame rate of 24 frames per second, while the option to record at 30 frames per second does so at the lesser 720p standard. Stereo sound recording is available owing to a pair of microphones that are hidden under a grill on the top plate of the camera. Super Slow Motion options are also featured, with a setting of 120 frames per second at the 640×480 VGA resolution and 240 frames per second at 320×240.

Aside from that, the camera has a wide variety of exposure controls to accommodate users of all skill levels. These controls range from the Smart Auto capability, which is stated to immediately recognize the situation and match it to one of 32 presets, all the way up to a completely manual setting. The sensitivity may be changed anywhere from 100 to 3200 ISO, and the metering can be switched between evaluative, center-weighted average, and spot patterns.

A 3-inch widescreen LCD can be found on the back of the device. It has an aspect ratio that has been optimized for recording movies in the 16:9 aspect ratio, and all still photographs and films may be recorded to SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory. In addition, as is customary for such a camera, Canon has equipped it with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which, once completely charged, is reported to be capable of powering about 210 photographs.

The build quality as well as the handling

The SX220HS deviates from the standard practice of designing superzoom cameras with the intention of accommodating their vast focal ranges. These cameras normally provide a satisfactory grip and adequate room for the thumb, but the SX220HS does not.

The metal front plate of the camera has a simple design that is complemented by a gray finish around the top plate and sides. The widescreen LCD on the back of the camera not only requires a relatively wide body for such a model but also leaves very little space for the controls and does not have a designated area for the thumb to rest.

Because of this, the thumb needs to be positioned between the edge of the LCD and the mode dial; however, considering that images in their default aspect ratio only fill around three-quarters of the display, this is not a very difficult task.

However, Canon has gone to the bother of addressing some of the problems that plagued the previous iteration of the SX 210IS in order to improve upon it. The cumbersome lever that was located on the top plate of the lens and was used to adjust the zoom has been replaced with a far more comfortable collar that encircles the shutter release button. Additionally, the power control has been moved from its previous position on the slightly concave top plate, which made it equally annoying to operate, to a more sensible position on the rear of the lens. Both of these changes have been made in order to improve the user experience.

Aside from that, the fundamental design has not been altered; it still features four big buttons on the rear for video recording, playback, menu, and display choices, as well as a tiny, freely-rotating menu pad dial around a central Func button that is used for the bulk of the picture settings.

Once you get the hang of the menu system, changing options becomes second nature. You may use the menu-pad dial to go between a succession of photos, videos, or menu selections with lightning speed.


The activation of the camera takes somewhat less than a second, and as was the case before, it activates the pop-up flash at the same time. It does not appear that there is a method to turn this feature off, and if you happen to have your finger in the way – which is quite likely considering the location of the flash – the light will be directed into your finger. It is an annoyance that it maintains its upright position even after the flash has been turned off.

The zoom moves across its focus range at a consistent clip and with only a slight amount of background noise while it does so. At the telephoto end of the optic, there is a tiny reduction in the speed at which the camera can focus, but taking into account the typically quick focusing speed of the camera, even here it is still rather rapid.

The LCD also has a viewing angle that is completely reasonable, and it functions adequately in brighter environments up until the point when the illumination becomes especially harsh. Those who are less inclined to capture video may, however, find the camera’s wide aspect ratio to be frustrating because it can only be used to its maximum capacity when recording in the 16:9 aspect ratio, which results in a resolution drop to 9MP.

Given the constraints of smaller sensors, this does imply that although shadows show wonderful detail, highlights often lose theirs, particularly in high-contrast circumstances. However, most of the time, the camera’s metering algorithm does a fine job of producing print-ready exposures.

Scenes are rendered with reasonable accuracy when the default My Colors option is combined with the auto white balance system. Scenes rendered with this combination do not appear to be either too lifeless or too vibrant, with only a slight shift toward either warmth or coldness depending on the content of the scene.

Detail is present throughout the images, which is more than respectable; however, it is difficult to sharpen images in order to squeeze out any more without also sharpening the fine grain of noise, which is present at all sensitivities but controlled at the lowest few. This makes it difficult to sharpen the images.

At the highest sensitivities, there is practically no chroma noise, but the processing that ensures this is the case also means that such images captured at night have very little detail. The amount of noise increases steadily as the sensitivity range is increased, and at the highest sensitivities, there is practically no chroma noise. Because of this, it also becomes difficult to regulate the details in the highlights of the image without needing to underexpose the picture as a whole.

At the wide end of the camera’s optic, there is a touch of barrel distortion, and at the telephoto extreme, the camera has a tendency to require the maximum aperture of f/5.9, which results in a little vignetting at the corners of the frame. Additionally, there is a touch of barrel distortion at the wide end of the camera’s optic. This is most obvious when photographing flat regions with minimal detail (such as the sky), yet it is not nearly as significant of an issue when photographing things with greater detail.

Unfortunately, chromatic aberrations like as purple fringing are visible across the whole range of the lens. These aberrations are most noticeable at the telephoto end of the zoom range and anytime shooting contrasty scenes. Those who wish to use photographs at their full size should bear this in mind and look into proper processing methods, as its visibility borders on being disagreeable. If you want to utilize images at their full size, click here.

Finally, the camera’s video mode records movies that are crisp and detailed. The sound is clear, there is very little ambient noise (although the sound is still a bit tinny), and there is only a very little whirring coming from the lens if the zoom is employed while the recording is taking place.

In the event that there is a quick shift in the picture, the camera does not adjust the exposure in a fluid manner. Instead, it works in stages that are more obviously incremental. However, this should only be an issue in exceptional situations, such as when panning a scene.

Quality of the Image

The Canon PowerShot SX220 HS is capable of producing photographs of exceptionally high quality. At ISO 100, 200, and 400, it captured photographs with no noise; however, at ISO 800, it captured images with considerable noise and a minor loss of color saturation. Even while ISO 1600 exhibits more noticeable noise and a loss of color, the setting is still completely acceptable, and even the highest possible level of ISO 3200 does not suffer too severely from the effect.

Chromatic aberrations were handled competently by the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS, with modest purple fringing effects occurring only in high contrast circumstances and typically at the borders of the frame. [Camera manufacturer] The built-in flash did a fantastic job indoors, producing images free of red-eye and with enough exposure overall. The night snapshot turned out wonderfully, and the maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds was more than adequate for the majority of the shots taken after dark.

When shooting in low-light settings with the camera held by hand or when utilizing the telephoto end of the zoom range, anti-shake performs really well. The macro performance is rather strong, letting you focus on the topic from a distance as near as 5 centimeters. The photographs were a touch soft right out of the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS when the default sharpening level was used. For the best results, you should do further sharpening in an application such as Adobe Photoshop; alternatively, you may modify the setting directly inside the camera.


Body typeCompact
Max resolution4000 x 3000
Other resolutions4000 x 3000, 4000 x 2248, 4000 x 2664, 2992 x 2992, 2816 x 2112, 2816 x 1880, 2816 x 1584, 2112 x 2112, 1920 x 1080, 1600 x 1200, 1600 x 1064, 1200 x 1200, 640 x 480, 640 x 424, 640 x 360, 480 x 480
Image ratio w:h1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels12 megapixels
Sensor size1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
Sensor typeBSI-CMOS
ProcessorDIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology
ISOAuto 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance presets6
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationOptical
Uncompressed formatNo
JPEG quality levelsFine, Normal
Focal length (equiv.)28–392 mm
Optical zoom14×
Maximum apertureF3.1–5.9
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterTrackingSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View
Digital zoomYes (4x)
Manual focusYes
Macro focus range5 cm (1.97″)
Number of focus points9
Articulated LCDFixed
Screen size3″
Screen dots461,000
Touch screenNo
Screen typePureColor II TG TFT LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeNone
Minimum shutter speed15 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/3200 sec
Aperture priorityYes
Shutter priorityYes
Manual exposure modeYes
Subject / scene modesYes
Built-in flashYes
Flash range3.50 m
External flashNo
Flash modesAuto, On, Off, Red-Eye, Slow Sync
Continuous drive3.2 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec, Custom)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpot
Exposure compensation±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)
WB BracketingNo
Resolutions1920 x 1080 (24fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30,120 fps), 320 x 240 (30, 240 fps)
Storage typesSD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC/ MMCplus/HC MMCplus
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (Mini Connector)
Remote controlNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionLithium-Ion NB-5L rechargeable battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA)210
Dimensions106 x 59 x 33 mm (4.17 x 2.32 x 1.3″)
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingNo

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • A wide range of focus
  • Slim body
  • Large liquid crystal display
  • Performance
Need Improvement
  • At the maximum optical zoom, there is some vignetting.
  • Minor concerns regarding the image’s quality
  • Minor difficulties with the handling
  • There are some fuzzy edges in the photographs.

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