Canon PowerShot SX200 IS digital camera
Canon's PowerShot SX200 IS makes taking photos easy, and it comes with a big zoom and effective image stabilisation
- Comfortable to use, 28-336mm zoom lens, accurate face recognition and motion tracking, effective image stabilisation
- Flash pops up even when it's not needed, images were slightly noisy, images look soft at their maximum resolution, some chromatic aberration
Canon's PowerShot SX200 IS is a very good camera with plenty of features for everyone: novices will make good use of the easy mode, while experienced photographers will appreciate the manual features. It's a comfortable camera to hold and it has the ability to take some good looking shots — even in dim light.
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A mid-range digital camera is often the best choice for a user who wants an easy to use device but one that will also let them change settings when they want to get creative. Canon's PowerShot SX200 IS is exactly that type of camera. It's the middle child in Canon's PowerShot range, so it won't produce stunning image quality, but it still does an admirable job of capturing reasonably clear and vibrant images. Best of all, it can also take good quality high-definition video (1280x720) and it has a lot of useful features to play with.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS has a 12-megapixel CCD sensor and uses Canon's DIG!C 4 image processor (which can also be found in Canon's higher-end cameras such as the 500D). It comes with a useful zoom lens that has a wide angle of 28mm and can zoom up to 336mm, and it has built-in optical image stabilisation, which does a good job of stabilising the image on the LCD monitor when you are fully zoomed in (but only if you set the camera to use the 'continuous' IS mode). The aperture range is f/3.4-f/8.0 at its widest angle and f/5.3-f/8.0 when in zoomed in, and this can be changed manually, along with the shutter and ISO speeds, when the camera is in manual mode.
The zoom lens itself lies dormant in the body of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS, and emerges once you press the power button (it extends about 5cm when it's at the maximum zoom point). At the same time the built-in flash pops up, even if you don't plan on using it. That's one of the most frustrating things about this camera. Another slight irritation is the plastic cover for the USB and video out ports, which sits on the right side of the body. It's near where you put your thumb and shutter finger, and it sometimes feels loose; this can be unnerving if you hold the camera with one hand. Overall, though, the PowerShot SX200 IS is a comfortable digital camera to use, and it has a menu system that is logical and full of features.
Like many (if not all) compact cameras, the PowerShot SX200 IS has face detection, and it also includes motion detection and blink detection. Its face detection feature is one of the most responsive we've seen and the motion detection works well to keep the focus on an object that's moving within the frame. Blink detection lets you know if anyone in your photo has blinked just as the flash has gone off, so it's not really a useful feature — you can just look at the photo after you've taken it to see if anyone blinked.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS has two auto modes: auto mode and easy mode. Both modes can select the best exposure settings and the appropriate scene mode automatically. In easy mode you won't be able to go into the camera's menu, but in auto mode you can adjust some of the focus and flash settings. In addition to the auto modes you get aperture priority, shutter priority, a full manual mode and 12 scene modes.
Exposure was handled well in both the shutter and priority modes and the camera did well not to blow any highlights in our images. The overall picture quality was very good, but we found most images to be noisy, even at ISO 200. Colours were accurate in all our test shots and not overly rich, but we did notice some chromatic aberration in high-contrast areas (it was particularly evident around black areas).
When viewed at their full size, images also looked a little blotchy. You won't be able to crop photos closely without losing some definition, and that's where the big zoom comes in handy. The zoom lets you get nice and close to your subject so that you use the entire resolution of the camera's sensor to capture it, eliminating the need to crop in close. The PowerShot SX200 IS suitable for macro and super-macro images, too.
One of the strongest aspects of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is its image stabilisation. Not only does it come in handy when holding the camera while you take photos at maximum zoom, it also does a great job with slow shutter speeds. We were able shoot macro photos with a shutter speed of 0.8sec while holding the camera and still have the image come out with acceptable clarity. It was very soft around the edges, but the picture was still very much usable. You'll have no problems taking good quality shots in dim lighting with a slow shutter speed, but it's still best to use a tripod where possible, especially for night shots.
Intelligent contrast is also available for images that are slightly dark and it works by making the darker areas of a picture a little lighter. The effect was noticeable in our tests, and it didn't ruin the overall balance of images. It works best in shots that are slightly backlit, but it won't work wonders if the sun is directly behind your subject. You also get a few different colour modes to choose from, giving you a little more creative control over your photos. It's not as obvious as Olympus' art modes, but if you look in the main menu of the SX200 IS, it does have sepia, black and white, and vivid colour modes for you to play with. It doesn't have anything as creative as grain mode or built-in vignetting, but hopefully this is something that Canon can include in future cameras. This would make them even more fun to use.
As it stands, the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a very good camera with plenty of features for everyone: novices will make good use of the easy mode, while experienced photographers will appreciate the manual features. It's a comfortable camera to hold and it has the ability to take some very good shots — even in dim light.
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