Canon PowerShot SX100 IS
It’s not going to fit in your pocket, but if you can live with that limitation, the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS gives you a lot of camera — and a very useful 10x optical zoom lens — in a body that’s still reasonably compact. The lens is coupled to an 8.0-megapixel CCD image sensor, and although that’s not as high resolution as some of the latest digital cameras on the market, it’s plenty for most uses and should yield less noise than a higher-res sensor of equivalent size would. Fairly approachable for beginners with a range of automatic controls and scene-mode options, the Canon SX100IS also offers a wide range of functions including a fully manual mode that will please more experienced users.
The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS stores images on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCard media, including the newer (and higher capacity) SDHC types. Images are framed and reviewed on a 2.5-inch color LCD display with 172,000 pixels — not particularly high resolution, but not unreasonable given the price. The display is bright and colorful, but does tend to wash out a little in direct sunlight. To help combat this, Canon offers what it calls a “Quick Bright” function, which switches the LCD to its brightest setting (or back again) by holding in the display button for one second.
The Canon SX100IS’s 10x optical zoom lens covers a broad range equivalent to 36-360mm on a 35mm camera — a moderate wide angle to a useful telephoto. With a lens offering this kind of telephoto power, camera shake can become a real problem, and so Canon added a true optical image stabilizer, which works to correct camera shake by moving lens elements to counteract the motion. Three modes are available: one that operates continually while framing images, another that saves a little battery by only operating during exposure, and a final mode that optimizes the anti-shake algorithms to cope with stabilizing panning shots.
Canon’s implementation of face detection is included, and capable of detecting up to nine faces in a scene. The camera can automatically prioritize which face to focus on, and the face detection functionality is also linked to the exposure system to ensure correct metering of portraits as well; if you prefer, face detection can be turned off altogether and center AF used instead. When focusing in dim light, a very bright orange LED provides for AF-assist. For the more experienced photographer, there’s a wide range of adjustments and customizations on hand, including a range of ISO sensitivities (from 80 to 1,600 equivalent), metering modes, autoexposure and flash exposure locks, flash output control, white balance options, and adjustable image sharpness, contrast, and color options.
The Canon SX100IS offers eleven preset shooting modes, of which four have their own positions on the Mode dial, while the remainder are accessed through a special Scene position. These scene modes make it easier for beginners to tailor the camera’s settings to their intent without really needing to understand them, and the modes on offer include Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Night Scene, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Aquarium.
Retail pricing for the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS is set at US$300, and reputable retailers are currently offering 10-15% discounts on this…
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS User Report
by Michael R. Tomkins
Much of the Canon SX100 IS’s feature set, ergonomics, and menu design will be instantly familiar to anybody who’s used a Canon digital camera in the last few years, but this budget-friendly model has several standout features that differentiate it from the crowd. Pick it up, and the first thing you’ll notice is that whopping 10x zoom lens — something you’ll find far more useful than the 3x to 5x zooms on most digicams. Add in Canon’s choice of true optical image stabilization to help fight camera shake — the bugbear of long-zoom digicams — and you’ll find yourself getting good shots in conditions that would challenge many other digicams.
The Canon SX100IS also has a rather nice implementation of face detection, which includes a clever “Focus Check” function that lets you quickly check the faces of your subjects after taking a photo — great for confirming not only focus and exposure, but also ensuring that the one person who always blinks didn’t just wreck your shot. Beyond the scene modes you’ll find on just about any digicam these days, there’s also evidence that Canon puts a lot of thought into making its products easy to use, even for beginners who might not understand the minutiae of subtle details like shutter speeds and apertures. These range from the simple — like how the Canon SX100 replaces obscure icons with simple, clear directions like “Raise the flash” — to more complex features, such as the ability to automatically adjust ISO sensitivity to prevent camera shake. There’s also an unusually responsive and intuitive playback mode that lets you almost fly through your stored images and movies with the gentle spin of a dial.
Overall, the Canon SX100 IS is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a fairly compact, versatile, and affordable camera. It’s well built, handles well, is relatively easy to learn, and since it doesn’t skimp on basics like manual controls, it will offer plenty of room to grow along with its owners photographic skills.
Look and feel. Attractive and nicely made, the Canon SX100 IS isn’t exactly pocket friendly, but is not unreasonably large for a camera with a 10x optical zoom lens. The Canon SX100IS should still fit nicely in coat pockets or larger purses, with dimensions of 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches (109 x 71 x 47 millimeters). Body-only it’s reasonably light at 9.4 ounces (265 grams), but with a flash card and two AA batteries loaded, the PowerShot SX100 IS feels reassuringly weighty, with a nice balance to it. The camera fit my large hands reasonably well, although I personally found the sculpted grip rather uncomfortable. With only limited purchase for my fingers, I found I generally had to tuck a finger or two underneath the camera rather than around the grip, steadying it but making it somewhat more tiring to hold. With smaller hands than mine, this is likely a non-issue.
The Canon SX100IS is nicely designed for shooting one-handed, with no sensors, microphones or flash strobes to accidentally cover with a finger, and most important controls within easy reach. An included wrist strap offers peace of mind, and connects to an eyelet on the camera’s right side that protrudes just slightly from the surrounding body — nicely positioned to allow single-handed shooting with your wrist through the strap. Given its weight though, shooting double-handed generally makes for less camera shake, although I found that when I did so my fingers tended to cover the speaker grille on the top of the camera.
The Canon SX100’s control layout is simple and intuitive. The mode dial falls under your right thumb, adjacent to a nicely recessed power button and a zoom rocker with central shutter button. The mode dial has deep notches that make it easy to grip and turn, a reassuringly firm click as it moves to a new position, and has just enough resistance to ensure it won’t be accidentally bumped during a shoot. When the dial is turned, an intuitive animation on the camera’s LCD indicates the change, showing the available modes scrolling past with the current selection highlighted.
The scroll wheel has a hidden secret: it also acts as a four-way arrow pad, detecting presses at top, bottom, left, or right. The wheel itself clicks softly as it turns, and has a very smooth action – but I found it rather too easy to accidentally bump, given its position. This isn’t a problem in some modes where the wheel has no function, but in other modes it could lead to accidentally changed settings. The idea’s great, but it would perhaps be better if the scroll wheel didn’t function unless another button was being held down simultaneously.
Occupying much of the Canon SX100’s rear panel is a reasonably generous 2.5-inch LCD display. Fortunately, given that it is the sole method of framing images, the display is bright and colorful, and fairly easy to see in most lighting conditions. I did find that in direct sunlight it tended to wash out somewhat, however, and the extremely glossy plastic panel that offers protection for the LCD is prone to reflections. Both of these can be solved by shading the display with your left hand, though. Perhaps more of an issue is that the display has only a relatively narrow viewing angle, with the look of the image changing fairly radically when viewed from an angle.
The Canon SX100IS’s standout feature is undoubtedly its 36-360mm equivalent 10x optical zoom lens. The range of the zoom lets you get pictures that feel close to the action, even when you can’t be physically so. In much the same way as you feel somehow freer moving from a fixed focal length camera to a 3x zoom, stepping up to a 10x zoom unleashes your creative juices as you start finding new photo opportunities you might never have noticed otherwise. I did find myself wishing for a little more at wide angle however, particularly when shooting indoors.
Canon opted to include a true optical image stabilization system in the SX100 IS, helping to combat camera shake by moving lens elements to counteract camera motion. Usefully, you can opt to have the system function only when the shutter is tripped, helping extend the camera’s already noteworthy battery life. There’s also a panning mode that makes the stabilization function more useful for sports photography, where you often have to track a fast-moving subject at a significant distance.
The zoom was quick to respond, and generally quite accurate, although it does sometimes zoom back in a little when you let off the zoom lever while zooming out. Maximum aperture varies from a fairly bright f/2.8 at wide angle to f/4.3 at telephoto. The lens does display quite a bit of chromatic aberration at both ends of the zoom range, and this does extend fairly far into the image. However, this is true of most fixed lens long-zoom digicams, and the Canon SX100 IS is really no worse than its long-zoom rivals in this regard. Perhaps more importantly, distortion is quite well controlled and the lens is quite sharp across the zoom range. The Canon SX100’s lens has one more hidden surprise as well, in the form of very good macro performance. In fact, it lets you get so close that it can be a little challenging to get any light around the lens to your subject!