Canon Powershot SD790 IS Review

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Canon Powershot SD1000

Steve's Conclusion

Due to the continuing success of the Canon's Powershot Digital ELPH series, they have brought you a couple new models for 2008, one being the SD790 IS. Sporting a 10-megapixel imaging sensor, 3" PureColor II LCD screen, face detection and motion detection technologies as well as optical image stabilization, make this one of the most full-featured Digital ELPH's yet. All of this has been stuffed into a very compact and stylish case. And as always, the ease of use has not changed with full auto and pre-programmed scene modes, manual mode and a full VGA movie mode.

As with the previous ELPH models, the "ultra-compact" SD790 IS is very small but heavy, giving it a very sturdy and durable feel. The camera is very easily operated using the "pinch technique," and with the zoom controls mounted around the shutter release, operation is a breeze. The buttons on the back are flush with the back of the camera, separated only by a small rubber outlines of the buttons. They are very easy to push and it gives the camera a unique look. Canon has also has turned the 4-way controller into a dial, allowing you to press the button or turn the dial to make your selections. I found that this can be difficult to use when selecting a shooting mode until you get used to it.

The new 3" PureColor II LCD screen is an excellent addition to Canon's models this year. It has a better resolution, better color and contrast than the previous PureColor LCD screens, and is viewable from an angle instead of just straight on. They have also given the screen an anti-reflective and scratch resistant coating to make it more durable than ever.

Performance from the SD790 IS was very good. It was able to catch its first image in just 1.5 seconds after pressing the power button. The shutter lag, time it takes for the camera to capture the image after you press the shutter release, was less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is already focused and just 4/10 including autofocus. In single shot mode, the camera was able to capture 5 images in 7.6 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 12.1 seconds with it. The camera also features a burst mode for high speed shooting. In burst mode I was able to capture 10 images in just 6.3 seconds without the flash, almost 1.6 frames per second! It also works with the flash, capturing 10 images in 12.6 seconds, almost twice as fast as single shot mode. All of our tests were completed using a MyFlash Turbo MMC+ 200x 2GB memory card, manual mode, ISO 80, flash off and all other settings to the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Outdoor image quality was very pleasing for an ultra-compact model. The exposures were excellent, and the colors were very vibrant. The 3x optical zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent of 35-105mm, is great for landscape and group photography on the wide end and individual portraits on the telephoto end. This zoom offers typical coverage, not enough to help single out an object in the distance, but it can help in framing your shots. The camera did an well job at controlling chromatic aberrations, and there is only very slight edge softness. Although, I did see a bit of vignetting (darkness in the corners of the image) on some of our wide angle shots. There did appear to also be very slight noise in some of the shadow areas, even at lower ISO settings, but not enough that is going to show up in prints 8x10-inch or under.

Our indoor shots and portraits were also excellent. When shooting in portrait mode, the face detection worked very quickly and had no problem with very young kids. The advanced Face Detection Technology does an excellent job adjusting all of the camera settings based on the detected faces, including the white balance. This provided nice skin tones and exposures. The flash has a range of up to 11 feet at ISO Auto, which will raise the ISO as the subject gets further away. I noticed at mid-telephoto, the ISO stayed very low from about 6 feet away.

When shooting in movie mode, you are given the option of capturing video in standard mode at 640x480 30fps, 640x480 LP 30fps, and 320x240 at 30fps or in compact mode at 160x120. There are also several color modes that you can record in. When shooting in moderate lighting conditions, the video is clear and smooth with good sound. There is some compression artifacting but not enough to take away from a good home movie. The video files are a bit large, with our sample over 16 megabytes for just an 8 second clip. This means that if you plan on shooting a lot of video, you will need a large memory card, and it won't hurt to have and extra card in your bag.

Powering the SD790 IS, is a 3.7v 1120 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, that comes with a convenient and quick external battery charger. This makes it very easy (and a good idea) to keep a spare battery on hand at all times. While completing my tests, I took around 100 pictures and several videos and the camera has not warned me about a low battery yet. Most camera batteries can make it through this but then need charging, but so far this one is still ready to go.

Bottom Line - The Canon PowerShot SD790 IS is a powerful and easy to use camera wrapped up in an "ultra- compact" body. The combination of quality and performance is nicely complimented by the 10-megapixel imaging sensor and optical image stabilization. As with all Digital ELPH cameras, this camera is easy enough for anyone to use. With a MSRP of US$350, its a good deal for what comes in the box.

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