Canon Powershot SD880 IS Review

Canon Powershot SD880

Steve's Conclusion

Building on the success of the SD870 IS, Canon has introduced yet another power-packed Digital ELPH to their "SD" series of ultra-compacts. While many features have been carried over from past models, Canon has added a 10-megapixel imaging sensor, 4x "Wide" optical zoom lens, several new scene modes, and increases burst mode speeds. Other important options are Canon's Optical Image Stabilization, Face detection and i-Contrast technologies, a 9-point AiAF autofocus system, 3.0-inch PureColor II LCD, USB 2.0 high-speed connectivity, and VGA movies at 30fps (up to 4GB).

The SD880 offers a wealth of exposure options for such a small camera. For those who want to simply point-n-shoot, there is a full Auto mode as well as 17 pre-programmed scene modes that will allow users to capture great shots in various shooting situations. There's also a Program mode, which is automatic, but now novice users will have a bit more control over the exposure process with options for White balance, Metering, Exposure compensation, ISO, Focus mode, My Colors, etc.

Like all of the Digital ELPH models, the SD880 is what we call an "ultra-compact". Measuring just 3.69 x 2.24 x 0.93 inches and weighting about 6 ounces, this is truly a go anywhere camera. With dimensions like this, you can tuck it away into a small purse or the front pocket of your jeans without a problem. While tiny, the SD880 offers a well built and durable feel, mainly due to the partially metal body. Ergonomics are great for a camera of this size. The right hand side of the camera features a curved edge that makes the side slightly "fatter". This adds a good amount of surface area for your right hand, offering a more comfortable hold. The various controls are also positioned in a comfortable manor, and as always, we especially like the zoom controls being mounted around the shutter release. Another feature that I felt is "cool", is the ability to set the Print/Share button as a dedicated Movie mode shutter release in record mode. This means you can capture video without having to flip the Mode switch to the Movie position. The menu system is the same as we have seen on several of Canon's past cameras, and is logically organized for easy menu navigation. The large 3.0-inch PureColor II LCD was a pleasure to use both indoors and out. While the display does have a reflective surface, I still had no problems framing images outdoors in bright sunlight, thanks in part to a nice bright live image. When shooting at night or in any other marginal lighting, the LCD gains up the live image, making it possible to see your subject for framing. This is something that was Never possible with 35mm film cameras. As with past models, we found the SD880's display was very prone to picking up fingerprints; you'll find yourself wiping it off regularly.

Our shooting performance results show the SD880 is a robust little camera. Power up until the first image captured measured just 1.3 seconds! Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing an image, was almost instantaneous (less than 1/10 of a second) when pre-focused, and only 1/10 of a second including autofocus. In single frame drive mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.8 seconds without flash, and between 3.5 and 4 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. Using the continuous (burst) mode, I was able to capture 10 Large/SuperFine images in 6.2 seconds (1.6fps), surpassing Canon's claim of 1.4fps. This was also with no full-buffer slowdown. When shooting in burst mode, the LCD briefly displays the last image captured, which will help when following moving subjects. However, this is one instance where an optical viewfinder would come in handy. Our tests were done using an SanDisk Ultra II 1GB SD card, Program mode, ISO Auto, Large/SuperFine quality, preview on, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Image quality from the SD880's 10-megapixel "Large/Superfine" images was excellent for a ultra-compact. Our sample images show a pleasing amount of sharpness, and I saw very little edge softness. The white balance and exposure systems did a good job of producing accurate exposures, and color saturation was nice an vibrant; something that will make your prints "Pop". Indoors, the camera also performed well as long as you are within the limited range of the flash (about 13 feet). I personally achieved the best results when shooting from about 5 feet away, using the telephoto end for nice close-up portraits. Red-eye in controlled well, however I did still have some traces when shooting small children. Luckily, the SD880 offers an effective in-camera Red-eye correction feature. As with almost all of Canon's models, the face detection system was fast and accurate, finding and locking onto faces within the first second that they enter the frame. The SD880 also controls the flash output well for macro photography, helping ensure you don't overexpose the subject.

Image noise was very well controlled for a camera in this class. Noise is scarce at ISO 200 and below, becoming noticeable at the 400 setting. You can see a small amount of detail loss from the Noise Reduction process, but these images will still be able to create nice large prints, especially if you have a well lit subject. ISO 800 and 1600 show a good amount of speckling across the frame as well as an overall softness of the image from heavy NR, however I still feel these settings have the ability to produce usable 4x6 or 5x7-inch prints. Be sure to examine our M&M man shots on the Sample Photos page to see how well the SD880 handles different sensitivity settings.

Unlike the SD870, the SD880 features a very nice Canon 4x "Wide view" optical zoom lens. With greater focal coverage, this lens will offer more versatility in composing your shots over most of the cameras in this class that have a 3x zoom. With a 35mm equivalent focal range of approx. 28mm - 112mm, you will be able to capture nice Wide landscapes at the 28mm wide angle extreme, while the telephoto capabilities will help you fill the frame with a subject; like close-up portraits and Macro shots. Just remember that this is a tiny camera with a decent zoom range, so you will not be able to bring those distant subjects up close. While there is also a 4x digital zoom option, we suggest using it sparingly (if at all), as image quality suffers. Overall, I saw that this lens helps the SD880 produce sharp images throughout the zoom range, with moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle as well as a few small traces of chromatic aberrations present in areas of extreme contrast.

You can choose from several Movie modes (Standard, Color Accent and Color swap), all of which are recorded at either 640x480 or 320x240 with a fixed frame rate of 30fps. The SD880's IS feature is active in movie mode, which will help you capture mode steady handheld movies. Because audio is recorded, the zoom may not be used while recording. Instead, you have to preset the desired focal length before recording starts. I was pleased with our movie mode results. The SD880 can capture smooth video that shows minimal compression artifacts. The AF and exposure systems seem to do well with moving subjects, and the position of the microphone should ensure you don't pic up slight wind noise.

Canon has continued the use of the tiny, but powerful, NB-5L 3.7v 1120mAh proprietary Li-ion battery pack. This pack is charged in the handy CB-2LX portable AC charger, which has fold-away prongs, perfect for traveling. They claim you can capture up to 310 shots on a fully charged battery. I found battery life was great, capturing about 120 images, several long movie clips, and conducting all of our other testing with some power to spare.

Bottom line - Canon's PowerShot SD880 IS continues the legacy of the Digital ELPH line with powerful features, amazing performance, and awesome image quality; all in a diminutive package. If you are one who is in the market for a pocket-sized digicam, the SD880 IS will surely please. Everyone who picked this little guy up enjoyed playing with it and snapping pictures, and the large 3.0-inch LCD makes it incredibly easy to share with friends and family. Overall, I feel the SD880 IS will be a VERY popular model this Christmas season (and beyond), and with a MSRP of US $299, it offers a great value for the features and performance you will receive.

Canon has announced an updated firmware for the PowerShot SD880 IS

Details - PowerShot SD880 IS Firmware Update Version

This firmware update corrects a phenomenon that when the following settings are used in combination, if the shutter button is pressed halfway to focus during shooting (AND the AF frame magnifies), but the shutter button is released without taking the picture, the camera will lose power.

Setting details

  1. The shooting mode switch is set to Special Scene Mode (SCN), Kids&Pets.
  2. AF Point-Zoom on the menu is set to On.
    (When the AF frame is in Face Detect or Center, and the Servo AF is OFF, the AF Point-Zoom can be set to On.)

Please note that, if the shutter button is pressed halfway, and the picture is then taken, this phenomenon will not occur.

If loss of power does occur, pressing the power switch will restore the camera to its normal operation.

Identifying Affected Cameras for the Update

Please check the serial number on the bottom of the camera.

serial Serial numbers

Products whose fifth digit from the left is 0 or 1 are affected.


If the fifth digit from the left of the serial number is 2 or above, the issue has already been corrected at the factory with a firmware update, and you may continue to use the camera "as is" with no further action required.

For instructions on how to download and install this new firmware update, please visit Canon Japan's Support Website.

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Sample Pictures

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