Canon Powershot SX110 IS Review

Canon Powershot SX110 IS

Steve's Conclusion

The Canon Powershot SX110 IS is the first "SX" series model we have worked with. What we consider a compact super-zoom, the SX110 offers users 9-megapixels of resolution, a 10x optical zoom lens, optical Image Stabilization (IS) system, a large 3.0-inch LCD, USB 2.0 High-speed connectivity, VGA sized (640x480) movies at 30fps, ISO speeds from 80-1600, DIGIC III image processor, Macro coverage as close as 0.39-inches, etc. While the SX110 can be used as a simple point-n-shoot with full Auto, Easy, and 14 scene modes, there's plenty of manual control for experienced users with Aperture/Shutter speed priority, and full Manual modes.

Measuring 4.35x2.77x1.76 inches (110.6x70.4x44.7mm) and weighing in at about 9 ounces, the SX110 is compact enough to be tucked into a small bag, yet large enough to fit securely in your hands. Ergonomics are great, with the various camera controls arranged well over the body. The right hand side is slightly "fatter", offering a nice comfortable grip. One feature that I wasn't 100% happy with was the manual pop-up flash. There were several times where I would forget to pop it up indoors, and ended up taking a blurry photo, which would later have to be deleted. It would have been nice if Canon could have designed it to be an auto pop-up unit. If you've owned a Canon model in the past, you'll feel right at home with the menu system on this camera. All of the options are logically organized, and as usual, we love the Function shortcut menu. The SX110 offers a generous view of your subject with a large 3.0-inch LCD that features 230K pixels and 100% frame coverage. I had very few problems using the LCD both indoors and out. The only issues I had were outdoors there are a few angles that reflect the sun, and in marginal lighting the live image can get a bit grainy.

Shooting performance was great for a camera in this class. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 2.4 seconds, which includes the time it takes to extend the 10x zoom lens. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing an image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and about 3/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting a sequence of still images, the shot to shot delay averaged 2 seconds without the flash and 4 - 6 seconds with the flash, depending on the distance from the subject. The slower flash recharge time is due to the use of AA batteries to power the camera. The SX110 offers two continuous or burst mode settings (Continuous, Continuous Shooting AF.) Continuous mode allowed me to capture 10 photos in 6.6 seconds (about 1.5fps) with no buffer slow down, surpassing Canon's claim of 1.2fps. Continuous Shooting AF mode acquires focus for each shot, and allowed me to captured 10 frames in about 12 seconds; about 0.8fps. In both burst modes, the LCD breifly displays the last shot, making it possible to follow a moving subject. Switching from record mode to playback or vice versa takes about a second. All of our tests were done using a Ultra 150x 4GB SDHC card, with the image size/quality set at Large SuperFine, Program mode, ISO Auto, preview on, flash off, with all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.

One of the most prominent features on the SX110 is the 10x optical zoom, which covers a 35mm equivalent range of approx. 36mm - 360mm. This lens offers a great deal of versatility in composing your shots over your typical 3x-5x zoom. The 36mm wide angle end will afford nice group portraits and landscape shots, while the 360mm telephoto end will help bring those distant subjects up in your face. The lens mechanism is very smooth and precise, but not continuous. I counted over 20 steps from wide angle to telephoto, more than enough to suit most composition needs. This high-quality lens also features Canon's legendary Optical Image Stabilization (IS) system, which is a very useful feature that will help improve the quality of your handheld images and movies. I found that this lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at wide angle and slight pincushioning at the telephoto extreme. I also saw a few traces of purple fringing (aka Chromatic aberrations) in our samples, which is common among super-zoom models.

The overall image quality when using the 9-megapixel Large/Superfine mode was good for a camera in this price range. The majority of our outdoor images show pleasing exposure and rich color saturation. Image were also nice and sharp, with only a slight degree of edge softness. Image noise on the other hand, was a bit higher than I would have liked to see from this camera. I found using ISO 200 and below produced the best results. At 400, speckling is present throughout the frame, and can be seen by the trained eye at full screen. ISO 800 and 1600 look pretty bad, and it's likely that even the untrained eye would be able to notice imager noise, even on smaller 4x6-inch prints.

Indoors, the SX110 performed well. The flash offers a typical range for compact consumer model. Canon claims it can reach up to 9.8 ft. at wide angle. I found shooting from 5-6 feet away offered the best flash coverage/exposure when using the zoom to frame your subject. While attending a wedding reception, I was able to capture a usable image from about 10-12 feet away, using ISO 200 and boosting the flash output +1EV. Like most all of Canon's models, the SX110's Face Detection system works extremely well. It found and locked onto faces almost the instant they enter the frame, and even did well with small children.

Movie mode allows you to record VGA (640x480 30fps) or QVGA (320x240 30fps) video with audio. Like most digicams that record sound with movies, the zoom can not be used while recording, however you can preset the desired focal length before recording starts. Thankfully, the IS system is also present in movie mode, helping you capture better handheld videos. However, we still recommend the use of a camera support, like a mono pod, when using the telephoto capabilities of the lens. The SX110's move mode results were good for a consumer model. Our movies played back smoothly with almost no traces of compression noise, and the exposure system seems to do well in various lighting conditions.

The SX110 is powered by a two standard AA type batteries. While Canon supplies two Alkaline cells, we high recommend the use of high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries. They provide longer battery life, are reusable, and will save you money in the long run. Canon claims you can capture up to 220 shots or 300 minutes of continuous playback with Alkalines or up to 450 shots and 480 minutes of continuous playback with NiMH cells. Using a set of Ansmann energy 2850mAh cells, I was able to capture about 100 photos and several short movie clips as well as conclude all of our other tests with plenty of power to spare.

Bottom line - Canon has created yet another appealing super-zoom model, with an affordable price tag. While I did have an issue with the amount of noise at higher ISO settings, the camera does have the ability to capture beautiful images; just keep the ISO at 200 and below. That said, with great shooting performance, plenty of exposure options, and a street price of US$279 or less, the Canon Powershot SX110 IS will make a great choice for anyone who wants an easy to use point-n-shoot with a "big" zoom.

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