The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS is labeled with the brand and model name on the left side of the camera, where the side shows its "Perpetual Curve." To the right is the Canon 3.8x zoom lens, which is labeled just that across the lens. Its other specs also line the rim: "4.6 - 17.3mm, 1:2.8 - 5.8." Surrounding the base of the lens is a wide chrome ring, interrupted above the left lens portion by the square-shaped optical viewfinder. The window is square-shaped, but the black outline around it makes it look like a circle. To the right of this is a smaller circle that lights up orange as an auto focus assist and self-timer lamp. In the top right corner is the rectangular flash, which is unfortunate because the left fingers wander in that area when gripping the camera.
The back of the camera has a 2.5-inch LCD screen on the left side with a frame that protrudes ever so slightly. Above the left side of the LCD is a Canon logo. Above the middle is the circular-looking optical viewfinder with two LED indicator lamps next to it. To the right of the LCD is a bit of space that measures just over an inch. A circular mode dial sits on top facing the photographer; it is set in the camera body and has only one tiny nub to rotate it on the right. The multi-selector is the largest feature below this, and it is surrounded by three buttons – one above and two below the multi-selector. The button to the top left transfers images to computers and printers and has an LED in its center. The display can be changed with the button to the bottom left, and the one on the right calls up the menu system.
The left side is featureless. There are two panels held together with a few screws.
**The wrist strap eyelet sits in the center and looks skinny and rectangular. At the top is a small door that opens to the multi-port.
**On the left side of the SD800 is a tagline "Image Stabilizer." Behind this are five holes for the microphone. On the right side is the shiny shutter release button, surrounded by a zoom ring. In the center of the top is a half-moon-shaped power button that is a large softly glowing LED.
**The underside of the PowerShot SD800 IS has a battery compartment below where the right hand grips the camera. On this plastic door is a smaller rubber door that opens so a power adaptor can fit into it. Directly beneath the lens is the quarter-inch tripod socket.
The 1/2.5-inch CCD has 7.4 total and 7.1 effective megapixels and is shacked up with a brand new Digic III processor. The new image processor is credited with speeding up startup and burst times, along with adding a whole new face recognition system. The technology recognizes faces that are looking at the camera straight on and tracks them if they move. The camera then assures that faces are in focus once the shutter release button is pushed halfway. The SD800 IS did everything its press materials said it would, which is a rarity. The camera actually recognized and tracked faces quickly and kept them in sharp focus. Besides the sensor and processor technology, the Canon PowerShot SD800 has an optical image stabilization system that is also very effective. Nothing has been changed in this system from the earlier SD700 IS; it still has several modes and works extremely well in keeping movies smooth and pictures nearly blur-free.
The SD800 has a real image optical viewfinder that zooms along with the lens. It is not entirely accurate, but it is one of the better optical viewfinders I’ve seen in terms of accuracy. The viewfinder does not see the entire recorded picture, but at least its view is almost centered with the final product. If you frame a subject, you will just end up with some extra space above the head and below the feet. The glass itself isn’t the most high-quality; it looks a little bit blurry. Overall, the optical viewfinder is not as bad as some other optical viewfinders found on Digital ELPH cameras.
The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has a 2.5-inch low temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD screen. Although the SD800 LCD monitor is same size as on the SD700, the new model has an upgrade in resolution of 207,000 pixels over the SD700’s 173,000 pixels. This isn’t the most fabulous resolution on the market, but it is quite decent. The LCD screen offers 15 brightness adjustments in the setup menu and a nice wide view from all four angles (not diagonal though). The SD800’s LCD has a 100 percent view of the recorded image. The view on the LCD screen allows users to see the full frame, face tracking and auto focus system brackets, and file information. There is a Disp. button to the bottom left of the multi-selector that changes the view on the screen to include basic or full shooting information as well as turning the screen off.
Placed in the top right corner of the front of the Canon SD800 is the built-in flash unit. The rectangular flash gets in the way of the left fingers when handling. When the fingers are not blocking the unit, the flash can light up subjects within 1.6 - 13ft. at the widest focal length and 1.6 - 6.6ft. at the most telephoto focal length in the lens. In the macro mode, the flash can light up subjects from 1 - 1.6ft., but none of the pictures I took in the macro mode with the flash turned out any good. The flash output can not be adjusted and it looked much too bright at that distance.
The right side of the multi-selector changes the flash modes: Auto, On and Off. This list sounds much too short, but that’s because the red-eye reduction and slow synchro modes are located in the recording menu and can be turned on and off there. When subjects are at an appropriate distance from the camera, skin tones are retained and the flash doesn’t make them look horribly unnatural. Canon listed its flash recharge time at 10 seconds or less, but it proved to lean toward the "or less" taking about 2-3 seconds between shots.
The older model, the SD700 IS, had a 4x optical zoom lens, so the SD800 IS’s 3.8x lens is a bit shorter. It is also wider. The focal lengths reach from 4.6 - 17.3mm, or an equivalent 28 - 105mm. This makes it easier to fit large groups into the frame without backing up and backing up and backing up. It also squeezes great landscape shots and such into one frame without requiring a stitch assist mode (although those are on the camera too). The Canon zoom lens is controlled by a tight zoom ring that surrounds the shutter release button. When the ring is tapped, there are 7 stops in the zoom range. The zoom range is not very good, as most cameras with a 3x range get 6 stops of focal lengths. The poor control is seen when zooming on the live preview. It is hard to frame a subject when the lens moves out and in quickly to its closest "stop." There is no on-screen indicator of where users are currently in the zoom range. The camera has maximum apertures of f/2.8 - 5.8. The aperture lets in plenty of light at the 28mm focal length, but it very limited otherwise, although it does not seem to affect the camera’s performance. The limited aperture is something to keep in mind should you push its low light capabilities while zoomed on a subject.
The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has an optical image stabilization system that operates a few different ways. It can be set in the recording menu to turn on when shooting only or to work continuously. The IS system can be optimized to stabilize horizontally only with the "Panning" mode or it can be turned off altogether. The system is so effective though that it really should not be. It keeps video looking smooth and reduces the number of blurry pictures from the camera.
Model Design / Appearance
The Canon PowerShot SD800 looks almost identical to the SD700 with its trendy design and "Perpetual Curve" frame. The slight curve in the side makes it comfortable for users to grip the right side of the camera while adding some visual interest to the camera. This PowerShot is constructed from stainless steel metal and comes in a traditional silver color. It isn’t an incredibly stylish camera, but it is small and classy.
Size / Portability
A wrist strap eyelet sits on the right side of the camera, and using it would not be such a bad idea. The camera weighs 5.29 oz without the card and battery, which is a good weight for the 3.52 x 2.28 x 0.99-inch body. It won’t bust a wrist, and it won’t fall off without users realizing it either.
The SD800 IS has a "Perpetual Curve" design that makes handling a bit more comfortable, but the curved right side is about all there is. There are no changes in thickness of the camera body, like some manufacturers are doing with their slim models now. When holding the camera, the left fingers get in the way of the flash causing a few partially dark images. The thumb rests on a mode dial on the back of the camera that curves up slightly toward the right side to keep the thumb in place. There are not many handling features besides those; the Canon SD800 IS surely will not be known for its incredibly comfy handling.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size
Most of the buttons are properly sized, spaced, and labeled. I have a few complaints though. The zoom ring surrounding the shutter release button does not move very much and has a tiny nub with which it rotates; it is not very comfortable. The curved mode dial on the back has a similar problem because of its small size. The mode dial is not big enough tab to be able to comfortably turn it. The multi-selector is also a slight challenge because it is flush with the camera body.
The menus are typical of a Canon PowerShot digital camera. There is a Function menu accessed with the key in the center of the multi-selector, while all other menus are found with the Menu button. The following is the Function menu.
The Function menu is an overlay of the preview so users can see their choices’ effects in real time. The items accessed by the Menu button are organized into colored tabs. The red tab on the left has a camera icon on it.
The second tab is yellow and has an icon of a wrench on it to represent the setup menu.
The third tab is purple and allows users to customize their SD800s with fancy images and sounds.
Overall, the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has a decently organized menu system, although some users may be confused by the separate Function and Recording menus. **Ease of Use The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has mostly automatic modes and an organized interface. The buttons are, for the most part, intuitively placed and labeled for simple handling. With high-quality components like the LCD screen, optical image stabilization, and face detection technology on the new Digic III processor, it is easy to take great pictures.
Auto Mode The SD800’s auto mode truncates the Func/Set menu to only the Image Size option. Still, all of the options in the regular recording menu can be accessed, including the face detection system. I snapped a few shots in the auto mode of the lovely scenery in the convention center. Pictures looked good, and the legs of people walking by were not even blurred. Movie Mode**The Canon PowerShot has plenty of size options and a decent amount of control over exposure too. The size options include 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels. The top resolution has selectable frame rate options of 30 and 15 fps. The QVGA size can record one very smooth minute at 60 fps or the usual 30 and 15 fps. The smallest size records 15 fps up to 3 minutes. The camera accepts SD or SDHC cards up to 4 GB, allowing for plenty of room for video recording. The optical zoom is not available while recording, but the digital zoom can be activated (this makes the video look awful though, so it should be avoided). The image stabilization system fortunately works in the movie mode, keeping the subjects from looking like they are on a rowboat on a stormy day. The movie mode records monaural audio and does it quite well for a compact camera. It picks up a lot of background noise, but the closest voice rings loud and clear. It reminds me of the audio on Antique Roadshow. The face detection technology does not work in the movie mode, but there are some other fun effects. Color Accent and Color Swap modes can be accessed in addition to the other My Colors modes, allowing users to record movies in many colors. The white balance option is accessible too. With it, users can make sure that their white picket fences actually look white in the video. The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has viewing and editing options in the playback mode for video clips. Movies can be played, fast forwarded, rewound, paused, and scrolled through frame by frame. The file can be split to cut the beginning or end. The camera can overwrite the existing file or save the truncated clip as a separate file. Overall, videos looked great with the many options and the steady image stabilization feature. **Drive / Burst Mode**The bottom of the multi-selector switches the SD800 into the burst mode and activates the self-timer. The burst mode is not amazingly fast at 1.7fps, but it goes for an amazingly long time. I snapped 25 full-resolution pictures and the camera was still ready for more. The self-timer can delay for 2 or 10 seconds, or can be set to Custom. The latter allows users to adjust the delay from 2-30 seconds for 1-10 shots. **Playback Mode The playback mode on the Canon SD800 IS is supplemented by plenty of viewing and editing options, along with a jump button that improves navigation. Pictures can be viewed one at a time or in index screens of 9. Navigating through the pictures is done with the multi-selector. Scrolling right and left moves through the pictures in the camera. Pushing the top of the multi-selector activated the "Jump" function; users can jump to the shot date, 100 images, 10 images, to movies, to the next folder, and to My Category. The Jump feature will be handy for those 4 GB SD cards that will store plenty of files. Pictures can be magnified 2 - 10x and can be rotated, protected, and erased. My Colors effects can be added too. Videos can be played back and edited to cut the beginning or end. File information and histograms can be viewed with images, and sound memos can be added up to 60 seconds. Files can be organized into "categories" that can be customized similar to Kodak’s Favorites mode that sorts pictures into albums for weddings, vacations, and such. The following is the full playback menu found on the PowerShot SD800. The Canon SD800 has a good slide show with interesting transitions, but don’t expect anything fancy like background music. While some other compact cameras are including melodies, this PowerShot is sticking to the basics. Custom Image Presets**To access the scene modes, users must select the "SCN" position on the mode dial. The following options then appear in the Func./Set menu: Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, ISO 3200, Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro, and Stitch Assist. Many of these scene modes sound familiar because they are included on other digital cameras. There are two unique to the Canon brand though, the Color Accent and the Color Swap options. Color Accent lets users choose a color to flaunt, then dulls the rest. The Color Accent function looks similar to black-and-white photos of children with selective brightly colored flowers and red lips. The Color Swap mode lets users choose two colors to swap with each other using a setup similar to setting the white balance with on-screen instructions. The Stitch Assist mode lets users snap pictures from right to left or from left to right. The live preview is supplemented with a small portion of the previously taken picture to help line things up. The image size, compression, and exposure compensation can be adjusted in the scene modes, and the face detection system can be activated as well.
**Manual Control Options The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS does not offer full manual control over the exposure but operates with a few controls. Users cannot adjust the shutter speed or aperture but can set the white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation, among other things. Focus***Auto Focus – A through-the-lens auto focus system provides a focal range from 1.5ft. to infinity normally. In the macro mode, the Canon lens can focus as close as 1.2 inches to 2ft. in wide and 1 - 2ft. in telephoto. The auto focus mode can be set to the default AiAF nine-point system or to the trendy new face detection auto focus mode. Both modes work very quickly and focus properly on subjects. The AiAF system shows brackets where the lens is focused when the shutter release button is pushed halfway. The face detection system superimposes white brackets around faces in the live preview; those brackets turn green when the focus is locked. Heads must be facing the camera for the SD800 to track them. The face detection system does not recognize profiles because it uses the composite of both eyes, nose, and mouth and the spaces between them to identify and track faces. In low light, the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has an orange auto focus assist lamp.* ***Manual Focus – This Canon is not equipped with a mode to manually focus. *ISO**In the past year, Canon has included more and more manual ISO options on its PowerShot digital cameras. The Canon SD800 IS model is one of only four PowerShot cameras on the market right now to have the new Digic III image processor. The new processor is important because it comes with noise reduction technology that was not previously included on the Digic II. With this noise reduction technology, the SD800 can offer manual ISO options of 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. There are also two automatic options: a standard Auto and a High ISO Auto for snapping shots in low light. The ISO options are found by pushing the top of the multi-selector. **White Balance The white balance options can be found in the Func./Set menu and come complete with a live preview. The options are not fully expansive, but the all-purpose and always accurate Custom white balance mode is offered on the SD800. Here’s the list: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom. Manually setting the white balance is not difficult, as there are on-screen directions and a small box to frame something plain and truly white. Exposure The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS does not allow its users to adjust the exposure by manually controlling the shutter speed and aperture. Instead, it provides a more basic exposure compensation mode that has the standard +/- 2 EV scale with 1/3 steps; this is available from the Func./Set menu and comes with a live view. There is no live histogram to monitor the exposure at all times, but there is a live histogram in playback. ****Metering The metering mode options are available from the Func./Set menu: Evaluative, Center weighted average, and Spot metering. The last option is fixed to the center, unlike some other cameras that link the spot metering to the auto focus point. There is a live view when scrolled through, but it is a bit delayed so it takes about a half-second to get an idea of what the metering option will produce. Shutter Speed The shutter speed cannot be manually selected, but the camera will favor longer exposures if the Long Shutter option is activated in the recording menu. The shutter can flip as fast as 1/1600th of a second and can open as long as 15 seconds. The Canon PowerShot SD800’s flagship image stabilizer feature claims to correct up to three shutter speed stops of blur. The IS capabilities could very hold true judging from the way it steadied the image in the movie mode; this should be tested in a full review though. Aperture The aperture cannot be manually adjusted on the Canon 3.8x zoom lens. At the widest focal length, an f/2.8 aperture is available. That wanes significantly to a maximum aperture of f/5.8 at the most telephoto focal length. The minimum aperture of the SD800 is not published.
Picture Quality****/ Size Options**The ever-important Func./Set menu contains the image size and compression items. The SD800 has a 7.1-megapixel image sensor that allows the following image sizes to be captured: 3072 x 2304, 3072 x 1728 (widescreen), 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480. While there is no 3:2 formatted image size, users can activate a "3:2 guide lines" feature in the recording menu that superimposes lines on the live preview. The compression can be set to SuperFine, Fine, or Normal. The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS records JPEG images. **Picture Effects Mode**Like its other PowerShot siblings, the Canon SD800 has a wide variety of picture effects particularly with its My Colors mode. These effects can be applied in both the recording or playback modes: Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, and Custom Color. Accessed with the Func./Set menu, the My Colors options are quite extensive. The Custom Color option allows a lot of flexibility that was previously only enjoyed in editing software. With it, users can adjust in five steps the contrast, sharpness, saturation, skin tones, and red, green, and blue channels. The adjustment function lets users who are in a rush or who are computer-phobic to steer clear of editing software and directly print pictures that are tailored to the photographer’s preferences.
**Connectivity***Software*The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS comes with ZoomBrowser EX, ImageBrowser, and Photostitch software to view, organize, and edit pictures.* **Jacks, ports, plugs*The SD800 has a small rubber door on the right side that opens to the single multi-port on the camera. The port accepts mini-B USB 2.0 hi-speed cables and AV-out cables. In the setup menu, the USB mode can be set to Auto or PictBridge and the AV mode can be set to NTSC or PAL viewing standards. These cables are supplied with the camera, but the optional power adaptor is not. The power adaptor hooks into a small cover within the battery compartment door. *Direct Print Options*The SD800 has a designated Print button that transfers print orders directly to PictBridge compatible printers. The print orders are actually prepared in the Print menu located in a tab with the playback menu. Users can scroll through the pictures by file number, date, category, and folder and select quantities from 0-99 images. Using the Canon Selphy CP or ES printers, passport-sized pictures can be printed and a "movie print" mode is functional. *Battery*This Digital ELPH comes packaged with the NB-5L rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger in the box. The battery is not very impressive. It can get about 270 shots per charge or can playback for 360 minutes, according to Canon’s spec sheet. At a time when the average compact camera’s battery can snap about 350 shots per charge, the SD800 is a bit behind the curve. The camera does have plenty of battery-sucking features though: 2.5-inch LCD screen, face detection auto focus, and optical image stabilization. *Memory*The Canon SD800 IS comes with a 16 MB SD card that will only fit four pictures at the finest resolution. Users will want to invest in some memory. The camera accepts SD, SDHC, and MMC cards and is suited for larger capacity cards too with its exceptional organization. Pictures can be filed into categories and navigated to quickly with the "jump" button.
**Value**The Canon SD800 comes with a lot of trendy new technologies and users are going to pay a premium for it. The camera costs $399, which is above average for a camera that does not include manual exposure control and can still fit in a pocket. Aside from that though, this PowerShot has optical image stabilization, face detection auto focus, and higher ISO sensitivities. Sure, this technology costs more to produce. But this technology also translates into better pictures – which is worth the $399, right? **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters* – This digital camera is geared toward this market with its compact frame, trendy technology, and overall ease of use. The abundance of picture effects, organizational features, and direct printing capability make the SD800 a perfect choice for casual shooters. *Budget Consumers* – The $399 price tag may stop these consumers from making the purchase; there are other cameras out there that provide the same level of control – or more – for a cheaper price. *Gadget Freaks* – At the Photokina convention center, the Canon booth attracted scores of these people. The SD800 was wired to a television screen that showed the live preview complete with the face detection and tracking brackets. Gadget freaks were hooked. *Manual Control Freaks* – These consumers weren’t as impressed. The white balance can be set and the ISO offerings are more extensive, but there is still no manual control over shutter speed and aperture. *Pros/ Serious Hobbyists* – The SD800 IS takes great pictures, but won’t replace anyone’s Hasselblads or Leafs.
The 7.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD800 IS has a solid set of components overshadowed by its newer and trendier technology. Its better features include an improved 2.5-inch LCD screen, a wide 3.8x optical zoom lens, and a built-in flash that does not create terribly unnatural lighting. Coming out ten years after the first Digital ELPH and one year after the first to include optical image stabilization, the SD800 is only the second model in the Canon lineup to provide the IS feature (the first model was the 6.2-megapixel SD700 IS). The stabilizing feature is most evident in the movie mode, where hand shake is virtually eliminated. While other manufacturers such as Sony and Casio include image stabilization on their ultra-compact cameras, the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS goes above and beyond by offering other trendy technologies.
Equipped a new Canon Digic III image processor, the Canon SD800 can reportedly reduce noise in exposures using higher ISO sensitivities (although this has yet to be proven; check back for a full review soon). This digital camera can detect, track, and focus on human faces. Canon is not the first to offer face detection technology since Nikon debuted the face detection system on last year’s Coolpix cameras and Fujifilm released a camera this year. While other manufacturers offer a similarity here or there, none match the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS’s full range of function, components, and technology. This camera combines it all into a package that takes great pictures and costs $399.
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