The compact ultrazoom marketplace has become more crowded. Last year you'd have to choose between Canon's SX110 IS or Panasonic's TZ series of compact ultrazooms. This year both Canon and Panasonic have upgraded their models while Samsung and Kodak have introduced new cameras in this space. Canon's previous entry, the SX110 IS, was a bit clunky, but Canon's improved matters with the SX200 IS. The body has a much more graceful design, and has shed some size and weight.
The front of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is dominated by the 12x optical zoom lens. Just above and to the left of the lens is the autofocus assist lamp. the flash is hidden beneath the compartment you see right above the Canon logo. It pops up when the camera is turned on.
On the back of the SX200 IS you'll see the 3-inch LCD display taking up most of the space. To the right of the display you'll find the 4-way control with a rotating dial surrounding it. Around this are four buttons for printing, play, menu and display. Above these is a thumb rest.
The left side of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS doesn't have any significant features. On the right side you'll see the wrist strap loop with a cover for the ports just above it. For some reason Canon has also decided to make the right side very shiny.
On the top of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS you'll find the obligitory shutter button with a zoom control surrounding it. To the left of that you'll find a standard mode dial, and an on/off button just to the left of that. At the far left you'll see the compartment from which the flash pops up when the camera is turned on.
On the bottom of the SX200 IS you see the plastic tripod mount on the right. On the left side is a compartment, beneath which hide the battery and memory card slots.
Like most compact cameras the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS lacks an optical viewfinder. This means you'll have to use the LCD display to compose all of your shots. Most of the time this won't be a problem, but LCD displays do have an unfortunate habit of washing out in direct sunlight.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS's sports a 3-inch LCD display, with a resolution of 230,000 dots. The size is good, but the resolution is just average as we're beginning to see a lot more 460,000 pixe displays on higher-end cameras.
The flash on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is conveniently hidden inside the top right of the body, and pops open when you turn the camera on. This both protects the flash and ensures that you get a bit more distance between it and the lens, potentially helping to alleviate red-eye issues. One annoyance was that once the camera is on you cannot lower the flash, even when you don't want to use it. Canon rates the flash for a range of 1.6 to 9.8 feet on Auto ISO. There's also support for flash compensation, with a range of +/- 2.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS's signature feature is, of course, the 28-336mm lens (35mm equivalent). The lens has seen a couple of significant upgrades from its predecessor, and one unfortunate downgrade. Let's start with the positive: the focal range has gone from 10x to 12x. In doing this Canon has also chosen to add true wide-angle capabilities with a 28mm at the wide end versus the 36mm of the SX110 IS.
These upgrades don't come for free, however. The SX200 IS has seen it's maximum aperture fall to f/3.4 compared to the SX110 IS's f/2.8 aperture. This is a full stop slower, and will mean you'll have to use a slower shutter speed or higher ISO in low light situations.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
The ports on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS are found on the right side of the camera underneath a cover towards the top. Here you'll find a mini USB port for data and a mini-HDMI port.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS battery is found in a compartment that opens up on the bottom of the camera. In a now familiar arrangement the battery sits right next to the slot for the memory card. Canon rates the battery for 280 shots, although if you take a lot of HD video you can expect that number to fall rapidly.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS supports SD cards, including high capacity SDHC cards, which are available up to 32GB in size. It also supports the MMC card standard, including MMC Plus and HC MMC Plus. SD cards are cheap andy easy to find, but if you plan on taking advantage of the SX200 IS HD video recording you'll probably want to invest in some larger cards as video takes up a lot of space. Canon estimates that a 2GB card will only hold about 11 minutes of HD video.
Design & Appearance
Canon has taken a big step forward in terms of design with the SX200 IS. Unlike it's predecessor, which could only be called blocky, this camera has some style with nice curves and a clean design. That's probably for the best. Almost all of its competitors are also relatively attractive cameras, so this is one area where Canon had to play catch up. The SX200 IS is available in three colors for those who like to accessorize; black, blue and red.
Size & Handling
Another step forward for the SX200 IS is smaller size. Canon has been able to shave off 0.27 inch (7mm) in width, 0.39 inch) 10mm in height and 0.27 inch (7mm) in depth compared to its predecessor. They've also dropped the weight down by almost a full ounce. This makes the SX200 IS much more pocketable than its competitor, which is the whole point of this category of cameras.The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS measures 4.06 x 2.38 x 1.48 inches (103.0 x 60.5 x 37.6 mm) and weighs in at 7.76 ounces (220g).
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS handles well, there's a nice curve to the body on the right side that gives your hand something to hold onto. Although it's relatively small compared to other ultrazooms, it's still larger than your teeny tiny compacts, so you should have enough room to hold the camera comfortably. Theres also a thumb rest on the back. Our one annoyance is that Canon did not include a bar or ridge on the front like Panasonic or Samsung have done with their compact ultra-zooms. All you have is smooth plastic, so make sure you put that loop around your wrist, or else the camera may slip out of your hand too easily.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS menu system is simple and straightforward. When launched you will see two tabs. The first gives you all the shooting or playback options, which change depending on your mode. The second tab gives you setup options like date and time. You can move up and down the lists using either the 4-way control or the rotating dial surrounding it.
In addition to the main menu the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS also sports a pared-down menu system for accessing commonly used features. This Function Set menu is accessed by pressing the center button on the 4-way control. Canon has changed the interface for this menu compared to previous models. Instead of a tabbed interface on the left with the options for each setting stretching out across the screen, they've moved the option to a vertical bar. You move up and down the bars using up/down on the 4-way controller or turning the rotating dial. You switch from the settings to the options for the selected setting using left/right on the 4-way control. This arrangement allows for more information about each setting to be displayed on the screen, which we think is an improvement.
The Function Set menu gives you access to ISO, white balance, My Colors, metering, flash intensity, drive mode, image size and quality.
Ease of Use
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is not a simple point and shoot. Canon has packed it full with just about any control you'd expect to find on a high-end point and shoot, including full manual controls. This means the SX200 IS has more of a learning curve than cheaper, less complicated cameras. Those who like to have a lot of control over photo capture, however, will likely appreciate all the features packed into this camera. If you're new to more advanced manual controls we recommend you peruse the manual to figure out what all of those buttons do. Although the learning curve is steeper than the typical camera, Canon has done a solid job making the interface clean and logical.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers several different automatic modes, each of which gives you more control over the camera. The easy mode is meant for beginners; here the camera will take care of just about every adjustment for you. Auto mode gives you a bit more control and works by trying to analyze the scene and pick a proper scene mode to match. Program mode is for more advanced users. Here the camera will take care of exposure for you, but you can still make all the adjustments you want to settings like ISO, white balance and exposure compensation.
One of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS's big upgrades over its predecessor is support for 720p HD video, with a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 at 30 frames per second. HD video has been taking off in the last year or so and we're glad to see Canon make this upgrade with the SX200 IS. We're also happy to see them using the H.264 codec, which is more efficient than the motion JPEG found on some other cameras. Even with this more efficient codec we recommend you invest in a larger SD card if you expect to use the SX200 IS's HD capabilities a lot though, 2GB of storage will only get you about 11 minutes of video capture. Video capture is also available at 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 as well.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers both continuous and continuous auto-focus burst shooting. Don't expect too much, however, as the burst mode tops out at only 0.8 frames per second.
You enter playback mode on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS by pressing the dedicated playback button just above and to the right of the 4-way control. Once in playback mode you can move between photos using left/right on the 4-way controller. You can change the information available on the display using the display button, which gives you several options, including the information-packed view you see below. You can use the zoom toggle to either zoom into the selected photo or zoom out into a thumbnail view. Your editing options include rotation, red-eye correction, trimming and resizing, as well as a variety of image effects you can apply.
Custom Image Presets
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers a nice variety of scene modes. Canon has made use of all the spots on the mode dial to provide access to some of the scene modes it thinks you will be more likely to use. These include Indoor, Kids & Pets and Night Snapshot. All the other scene modes are available by moving the mode dial to the special Scene setting. From here go into the Function Set menu to select from the available options. These are Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Night Scene, ISO 3200, Color Accent, Color Swap and Stitch Assist.
Like its predecessor and most of its competitors the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers full manual controls, including Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and full Manual modes. These allow you to manually adjust the aperture or shutter speed and give you a lot more control over exposure than automatic modes. Once in a manual mode you make adjustments to the shutter speed and aperture using the rotating dial around the 4-way control. In full manual mode you switch between the two by pressing up on the 4-way.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS has standard autofocus, but also offers the ability to focus manually. To access this feature just press left on the 4-way control and choose Manual Focus from the list of options. Once in manual focus mode you can adjust the focus using the rotating dial around the 4-way control. You can also select Macro as a focus option, with a range of 0.8 inches, and Super Macro can be selected on the mode dial to give you a focus range between 0 and 0.8 inches.
ISO can be adjusted from the Function Set menu, with a range from 80 to 1600. There's also an ISO 3200 mode available as a scene mode. Frankly on a point and shoot like the SX200 IS we wouldn't recommend pushing ISO much past 400; in practice the higher ISO options are of limited utility.
White balance can also be adjusted in the Function Set menu on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS. Your options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H and Custom. That last allows you to manually set the white balance using a white card, or a piece of paper if nothing better is available.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers three metering modes, which can be set using the now familiar Function Set menu. Your options are Evaluative, Center-Weighted Average, and Spot metering.
Shutter speeds on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS range from 15 seconds to 1/3200th of a second. This is a reasonable range for a point and shoot camera. Thanks to the manual controls you can adjust the shutter speed to your liking in shutter priority or full manual modes. We should note that at long exposure, over 1.3 seconds, the SX200 IS will use noise reduction. This doubles the amount of time takes to capture the photo, as the camera is actually taking two exposures, one with the shutter closed, and subtracting the noise from the non-image from the actual photo.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS's aperture ranges from a maximum of f/3.4 at the maximum end to f/5.3 at the tele end. This is a lower maximum aperture than its predecessor, which was able to open a full stop more. The practical impact of this change is that you will need to use a slower shutter speed or higher ISO to compensate in low light situations. The latter will lead to more noise in your photos. As with shutter speed, the SX200 IS offers full manual control over aperture in aperture priority and full manual modes.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers optical image stabilization. Image stabilization helps to counteract camera shake by moving the lens elements. This is especially important when you're zoomed in, and of course the SX200 IS offers an impressive zoom range so this is particularly important for this camera.
Picture Quality & Size Options
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers a maximum picture size of 4000 x 3000, which can be dropped down as low as 640 x 480 with three options in between. There are two quality options, Fine and Normal. At full resolution using Fine you can pack 626 photos into 2GB of storage.
You can assign various picture effects to your photos either beforehand using the My Color feature or after the fact in Playback mode. The available effects are Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone and Custom. That last will allow you to manually adjust colors.
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