Canon Powershot SD1000 Review
Building on the success of the Digital ELPH series of Powershot models, Canon introduces the new SD1000 for 2007. With all of the features that we have come to love about these cameras, the SD1000 offers 7-megapixels of resolution, a 3x optical zoom lens, 2.5-inch "PureColor" Multi-level LCD display, VGA sized movie mode as well as Canon's new Face Detection AF/AE/FE technology. This simple point-n-shoot can be used by any member of your office or household, with Full Auto, 13 pre-programmed scene modes, and Manual mode for those who want to be a bit more creative.
The "ultra-compact" SD1000 measures just 3.38 x 2.11 x 0.76 inches, and fits in almost any size pocket or purse. However, I found it still offered a comfortable feel in my hands, with the various controls being placed with in reach of my fingertips. I especially like the zoom controls mounted around the shutter release, which allows for effortless zooming. The menu system is logically organized and easy to navigate. Although we have said it time and time again, we love the FUNCtion shortcut menu. It allows you to quickly bring up settings like white balance, my colors, metering, resolution, etc. The SD1000 features a new and improved 2.5-inch display. This is Canon's new PureColor LCD, which is constructed with a multi-level coating. They claim it helps reduces glare, scratches, smudges and also fingerprints. Overall, I found this is a very nice display that works well in many lighting conditions. However, it still suffers from smudges and fingerprints.
As usual with Canon models, the SD1000 offers speedy performance for a consumer digicam. Power up until the first image captured measured only 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 2/10 second including autofocus. In single frame drive mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without flash, and between 2.5 and 3.5 seconds with flash depending on subject distance. Using the continuous (burst) mode, I was able to capture 10 Large/SuperFine JPEG images in just 5 seconds, surpassing Canon's claim of 1.7fps. This was also with no full-buffer slowdown. When shooting in burst mode, the LCD only briefly displays the last image captured, making it difficult to follow moving subjects; this is where the optical viewfinder comes in handy. Our tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, Manual mode, Large SuperFine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The overall image quality was good for a 7-megapixel model. We used the highest quality setting available (Large SuperFine), and when doing so, the SD1000 captured nice images. I did see a bit of edge softness along the left hand side of the frame as well as a bit more CA (chromatic aberrations, aka purple fringing) than I expected. Its 3x optical zoom lens offers a typical range of 35 - 105mm (35mm equivalent), and helped the camera produce sharp images throughout the zoom range. I did observe moderate barrel distortion and pincushioning at the wide angle and telephoto extremes, respectively. Noise levels were also a bit higher than I would have expected from a Canon model, however still with in the "average" of consumer models. You can see traces of noise in low contrast "dark" subjects as low as ISO 80. As you increase the sensitivity, noise levels rise. Once you reach ISO 400, noise is easily seen, even when viewing an image at 25-27% on your PC screen. I locked the ISO at 80 (manual mode only), that way there's no wondering if the camera selected a low enough setting so that images don't display this.
The dedicated Portrait scene mode also produced nice photos. Canon's new Face Detection AF/AE/FE technology does an excellent job of detecting faces in the frame, and helped produce nice sharp portraits, that show pleasing facial detail and skin tones. The flash has an average range of about 11 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto). I found it produced good exposures when shooting close-up portraits from no further than 6 feet away, using the mid telephoto end of the zoom. If you need more power, look into a unit like the HF-DC1 external flash, which delivers proper illumination up to approximately 30 feet, at all zoom positions. Red-eye wasn't an issue during our testing, however we did see some issues with past models that use the AF-assist lamp as the "pre-flash". Luckily, it only takes a few seconds in any image editor to correct this common occurrence.
The SD1000 features a high-quality VGA 640x480 movie mode. Standard mode offers selectable resolution (640x480 or 320x240) and frame rates of 30fps or 15fps. You can also choose from Compact, Fast Frame rate, Color Accent and Color swap, and Time Lapse, which allow for more creative recording. Because audio is recorded, the optical zoom may not be used during recording. You can however, preset the desired focal length before recording starts. The digital zoom may be used, but this just degrades image quality. Our movie samples were pleasing, with minimal compression noise, even indoors. However, if you're one who likes taking alot of videos, be sure to purchase a large capacity (like a 1 or 2GB) SD card, as the camera consumes nearly 2MB per second when using the 640x480 30fps mode.
The SD1000 is powered by a tiny NB-4L 3.7v 760mAh proprietary Li-ion battery pack. Canon claims you can capture up to 210 shots with full-time use of the LCD. I was able to capture about 130 images and conduct other testing without any indication of low battery warning. Canon includes a very compact and portable AC charger that takes about 90 minutes to charge a fully depleted pack. The charger plugs directly into any 100-240V AC outlet and has fold- away prongs. As always, we recommend you purchase at least one extra pack and keep it charged and ready at all times; you wouldn't want to miss a spontaneous photo opt due to a dead battery, would you?
Bottom line - Canon has created yet another appealing Digital ELPH model. I was also glad to see the return of the "classic" ELPH look, with its squared off edges. With a retail price of US$299 or less, I feel the Canon Powershot SD1000 offers a good value for a durable, 7- megapixel "ultra-compact" model. The only issues I saw with this camera was that ISO levels were higher than past models. If you liked the features of this model, but want a "beefier" camera, then check out our review of the Powershot A560 .
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