Canon Powershot SD890 IS Review
Updating the SD850 IS from last year is the Canon Powershot SD890 IS Digital ELPH. It offers the longest focal range of any ELPH model so far, with a 5x optical zoom lens. Canon has also added Motion Detection Technology, a 10-megapixel imaging sensor and the new 2.5" PureColor II LCD screen to go along with previous features. As with all Digital ELPH's, the camera still includes a full VGA movie mode, Face Detection autofocus and is incredibly easy to operate.
The SD890 is slightly larger than previous ELPH models, but is still small enough to be considered an "ultra-compact" camera. One of the major changes that Canon has made on this model is that the body of the camera is now high impact plastic instead of metal. This allows for a slightly different shape to the body, but it does not feel like any other ELPH if you have handled one before. The back of the camera is well designed, allowing you to change settings and modes easily. There's a new 4-way controller that has a dial around it for easy searching through the menus and pictures. The new LCD screen is an excellent addition, providing excellent color and contrast. It is also very easy to see in any light (even direct sunlight) and can be seen easily from most angles as well. While Canon claims the PureColor II screen is resistant to scratches, smudges, etc. We found that it scratched quite easily when tossed in our pocket. The new plastic body is also less durable than any other Digital ELPH, and also scratches easily.
Performance from the SD890 was very good. It was able to capture its first image after being turned on in just 1.8 seconds. When the camera is pre-focused, there is virtually no shutter lag, and just 3/10 of a second when allowing the camera to focus. In single shot mode, I was able to capture an image roughly every second and a half without the flash and every 3.1 seconds with the flash. The camera also includes a burst shooting mode, that allows you to capture an image every 7/10 of a second and every 2.4 seconds with the flash. Our tests were completed using the included Canon 32MB SD memory card, Camera M shooting mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The outdoor quality from the SD890 was very good. The camera did an excellent job with the exposures and white balancing, allowing very vivid colors. The 5x optical zoom, with a 35mm equivalent of 37-185mm, is great for shooting landscapes and group or individual portraits. The full telephoto zoom will also allow you to get much closer to your subjects, but isn't powerful enough for anything that is way off in the distance. At the wide end you will see a little barrel distortion. You will also find very slight instances of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) in high contrast areas and some edge softness throughout the zoom range.
Our indoor portraits were also very good. The camera produced pleasing results with nice exposure and accurate white balance with and without the flash. The colors came out bright and the skin tones look very natural. The flash has a range between 6.6 and 11 feet (ISO Auto) depending on zoom. It also did an excellent job at adjusting when shooting in macro mode.
The movie mode from this model captured clear, smooth video and audio with just a little image noise in moderate lighting conditions. The camera did have a little trouble with the white balance, as the color changed throughout the video sample. While 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, which is great for sharing on the web or in an e-mail. There are also several color modes that you can record in to be a little more creative.
Powering the SD890 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. This battery holds enough power to capture up to 320 images with the LCD on or 800 images with the LCD off, according to Canon. These are excellent numbers, but we still recommend keeping a second battery on hand.
Bottom line - A plastic body gives the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS Digital ELPH a slightly different look and feel from any other ELPH model so far. On the inside, however, not much has changed. The camera is still incredibly easy to operate, and the quality is what you would expect from a high-end consumer model. The 5x optical zoom and the 10-megapixel imaging sensor are the largest you will find so far on an ELPH. With a price of US$400 or less, this is a good camera, but we feel it's a bit pricey. If you want a similar camera that's a bit smaller with a little less zoom power, check out the SD770 IS for about $100 less.
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