Canon Powershot SD970 IS Review
By Mike Flacy
Leading the way for Canon's PowerShot SD line is the new SD970. This compact digicam sports a 5x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, Digic 4 image processor, 3-inch PureColor II LCD screen, 720p HD movie mode with HDMI output, i-Contrast technology, Face detection software with a face detection self timer and a whole slew of other built-in features to assist you while shooting. Canon has also given this camera a new menu style, which works the same as the old one, but is more informative when the 'hints and tips' option is turned on in the setup menu.
Although it isn't the smallest or lightest camera in the ELPH lineup, it easily fits into a small bag or large pocket. Using one or two hands, this camera can be easily held or operated by anyone. The new button design on the back of the camera is not only stylish but very easy to use as well. With the informative menu system and rotary dial around the 4-way controller, it is simple to navigate and adjust the camera settings. Framing and viewing your images is done on the new 3-inch PureColor II LCD screen. With 461,000 dots, this is the highest resolution LCD that you will find on a PowerShot model. Featuring an anti-glare coating and 5 levels of brightness, you will have no trouble viewing this screen in any lighting conditions, including direct sunlight.
Performance from the SD970 is good for a standard compact digicam. When you turn on the camera, it is able to capture its first image in just 1.6 seconds. The shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and just 3/10 to 5/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus to work, depending on light and distance. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 5 images in 15.3 seconds while using the flash and 5 images in 7.4 seconds without. The SD970 also features a continuous or burst shooting mode, allowing the camera to capture 10 images in just 8 seconds without the flash. Unlike with some cameras, this mode also works with the flash, allowing for capture of 10 images in 13.6 seconds. All of our tests were completed using a Sandisk Ultra II 1GB SD memory card, Program mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Our outdoor image quality shows excellent exposure with bright, vivid colors. Wielding the 5x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 37-185mm, this is the most versatile of the Digital ELPH series. With the assistance of the Optical Image Stabilization (IS), you will be able to shoot at lower shutter speeds without noticing the camera shake found on a camera without this feature. At the wide end of the zoom you will notice a little barrel distortion, and some very slight aberrations that can be seen on the left side of the museum shot. The telephoto end will allow you to get much closer to distant subjects and is very useful for framing images.
The quality of our indoor samples is also excellent, producing crisp, well exposed images; with or without the flash. With a range of up to 11-feet at ISO auto, you can't expect this small flash to light up a medium to large room. By staying inside the range, you will be happy with your results. The flash is also well controlled when shooting in macro mode. Whether indoors or out, the face detection does an excellent job of finding and tracking not only adult, but kids faces as well. Helping to remove red-eye from your images, the AF assist beam will stay on instead of a pre-flash, which can cause missed portrait shots. The new face detection timer feature allows the photographer to set up the camera and take his or her time getting into the picture. The camera will wait until it detects the addition of one more face before the timer starts and the image is captured.
An outstanding addition to the SD970 IS is a 720p HD movie mode, to accompany the 640x480 and 320x240 modes. All 3 modes have a frame rate of 30fps and record audio as well. Video playback is very smooth whether from the camera itself or when playing it from a computer. With the included A/V cable, your images can be displayed on a TV directly from the camera, or with the addition of the HDMI port and an optional HDMI cable, you can also show your HD movies on a HDTV. If you plan on recording in HD often, we recommend having several large memory cards, as the HD movies take up approx. 3MB per second.
Supplying power to the SD970 IS is a 3.7V, 1120mAh, rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Canon claims that this battery is capable of taking 270 shots on a single charge. While conducting our tests, I was able to capture over 120 images and around 30 videos with plenty of battery power to spare. This should be more than enough for a long day trip, and the included external battery charger makes it possible to keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - This year's top of the line Digital ELPH, the PowerShot SD970 IS, is easy enough for anyone in the family to use while providing enough power and creative features to keep the novice photographer satisfied. Features like the 5x optical zoom, 12-Megapixel imaging sensor, Optical Image Stabilization and HD movie mode make the MSRP of US$379.99 worth the money if you are looking for a little extra power in your pocket.
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