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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SD1000 Digital ELPH  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 27, 2007
Last Updated: December 31, 2011

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The Canon PowerShot SD1000 Digital ELPH ($299) is an ultra-compact camera with a throwback design resembling the original film-based ELPH. Despite its high model number, the SD1000 isn't the top-of-the-line ELPH: the SD900 still holds that title (though some SD800 owners may disagree with that).

The SD1000 is the replacement for the PowerShot SD600, which was introduced in February 2006. New features on the SD1000 include:

  • 7.1 Megapixel CCD (versus 6.0 on the SD700
  • Uses new DIGIC III image processor (instead of DIGIC II) promises superior photo quality, battery life, and performance
  • Improved 2.5" PureColor LCD offers more resolution, plus better outdoor viewing, color reproduction, and fingerprint resistance
  • ISO now goes as high as 1600 (versus 800)
  • Auto ISO Boost feature lets you increase ISO on the fly in order to get a sharp photo
  • Face detection autofocus and exposure
  • In-camera redeye reduction
  • Movie recording file size limit now 4GB (versus 1GB)
  • 31% improvement in battery life
  • Support for SDHC memory cards

Those are some nice improvements! Other features on the SD1000 include a 3X optical zoom lens, an AF-assist lamp, a VGA movie mode, and point-and-shoot operation. If you're looking for a larger LCD then you may be interested in the SD1000's sibling, the PowerShot SD750. It gives you a 3-inch display, though you'll lose the optical viewfinder.

I've long been a fan of Canon's Digital ELPHs. Does the SD1000 continue the tradition? Find out now in our review!

The PowerShot SD1000 is known as the Digital IXUS 70 in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SD1000 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 7.1 effective Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD1000 Digital ELPH camera
  • 32MB MultiMedia card
  • NB-4L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions
  • 31 page basic manual + 161 page advanced manual (both printed)

Canon includes a 32MB memory card with the PowerShot SD1000. That holds just nine photos at the highest quality setting, so you'll want to pick up a larger memory card right away, if you don't have one already. The camera supports Secure Digital and MultiMedia cards, as well as the new high capacity SDHC format. I'd recommend a 1GB card for this 7 Megapixel camera. A high speed card (60X or above) is worth the extra bucks.

While the SD1000 uses the same NB-4L lithium-ion battery as the SD600 before it. Canon's engineers have managed to squeeze more juice out of this 2.8 Wh battery -- 31% more to be exact. Here's how the SD1000 compares to other ultra compact cameras out there in terms of battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD600 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD750 210 shots
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 270 shots
Canon PowerShot SD1000 210 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z75 230 shots
Fuji FinePix Z5fd 200 shots
GE G1 200 shots
HP Photosmart R837 250 shots
Kodak EasyShare V603 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix S200 230 shots
Olympus Stylus 760 220 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 350 shots
Pentax Optio M30 230 shots
Samsung Digimax NV3 200 shots *
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 380 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 340 shots

* Not officially calculated using the CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

While the improvement in battery life is welcome, the SD1000's numbers are still 15% below average. Thus, it may not be a bad idea to pick up a spare one. As with all proprietary batteries, the NB-4L is on the pricey side (they start at about $34), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day as you could with a camera that uses AAs. You'd be hard pressed to find an ultra compact that uses those, though.

When it's time to charge up the NB-4L, just snap it into the included charger. This is my favorite type of charger: it plugs directly into the wall. It takes around ninety minutes for the battery to fully charge.

Like all ultra-compact cameras, the SD1000 has a built-in lens cover. As you can see, it's pretty tiny.

There are just a few accessories available for the PowerShot SD1000. The most interesting is probably the WP-DC13 underwater case ($170), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters below sea level. More useful is the AC adapter (priced from $47), which lets you power the camera without draining your battery. Last, but certainly not least, is the HF-DC1 external slave flash (priced from $91). This attaches to the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does, giving you more flash range and less redeye.


ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

Canon includes version 30 of their Digital Camera Solution software package with the SD1000. The main applications are the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser "twins" that come with all PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs. The Mac version is not Universal, so it doesn't run as fast as it could on Intel-based Macs.

After you download photos via the CameraWindow application, you'll end up with the screen above, which has a standard-issue thumbnail view. Photos can be organized, printed, and e-mailed from this screen.

Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve.


ImageBrowser - MovieEdit Task (Mac OS X)

The MovieEdit part of Image/ZoomBrowser lets you edit videos, complete with transitions, effects, text overlays, and much more.You can also downsize the videos, which makes them easier to share with friends via e-mail or your website.


PhotoStitch (Mac OS X)

A separate program called PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the process takes minutes, and the results are impressive, as you can see. You can use the SD1000's Stitch Assist feature to line up the photos side-by-side with just the right amount of overlap.

The SD1000's documentation comes in several parts. There's a basic manual to get you up and running, plus an advanced manual for understanding more complex camera features. There are also separate manuals for the bundled software and for direct printing (via PictBridge). While the manuals aren't what I'd call pleasure reading, they will answer any question that may come up about the camera.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD1000 is a boxy, ultra-compact camera made of a mixture of metal and plastic. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the original film-based ELPH, too:

Old...
Image courtesy of Amazon.com
... and new
Image courtesy of Canon

Now that's what I call retro! Build quality on the SD1000 is a mixed bag. While most of it is well put together (read: the metal parts), some of the plastic parts are especially flimsy. I've noticed that newer ELPHs have a lot more plastic than the older ones, and that's not a good trend. Ergonomics are generally good, though I'm not a fan of the "flush" buttons on the back of the camera. The camera is easy to hold and operate with just one hand.

Images courtesy of Canon

While most cameras these days come in more than one color, Canon has done something a bit different with the SD1000. The body of the camera is always silver, but the trim can be silver or black. I like the retro black look, myself.

Now let's see how the SD1000 compares to other ultra-compacts in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD1000 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.8 in. 5.7 cu in. 125 g
Canon PowerShot SD600 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.4 cu in. 140 g
Canon PowerShot SD750 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 130 g
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu in. 150 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z75 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.3 cu in. 122 g
Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 148 g
GE G1 3.6 x 2.5 x 0.8 in. 7.2 cu in. 115 g
HP Photosmart R837 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.1 in. 10.7 cu in. 180 g
Kodak EasyShare V603 3.6 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.5 cu in. 120 g
Nikon Coolpix S200 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.5 cu in. 125 g
Olympus Stylus 760 3.9 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 8.2 cu in. 120 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 125 g
Pentax Optio M30 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.7 cu in. 119 g
Samsung NV3 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.7 cu in. 142 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 127 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 124 g

The SD1000 is a bit smaller and lighter than the SD600 that came before it. In the group as a whole, the camera is smaller than average. It's small enough to fit into any size pocket.

Ready to tour the camera now? Me too -- let's start with the front.

The PowerShot SD1000 has the same F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom lens as the SD600 before it. This same lens can also be found on the new SD750, the SD1000's "big screened" sibling. The focal range of the lens is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, equivalent to a pretty run-of-the-mill 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported (nor would I expect them to be).

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's built-in flash. The flash strength is unchanged since the SD600 -- it's still 0.5 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto. If you want more flash power, you can either buy the external slave flash I mentioned in the previous section, or pony up for the PowerShot SD900.

To the left of the flash is the optical viewfinder. Next to that is the AF-assist lamp, which also serves as the visual countdown for the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

The camera's microphone can be found to the lower-left of the lens.

At first glance, the LCD on the SD1000 doesn't look much different than the one on the SD600, but that's not the case. This "PureColor" screen has a higher resolution (207,000 vs 173,000 pixels), improved color reproduction, and protection from glare, fingerprints, and scratches. Outdoors, the screen is bright and easy to see -- much better than most of the competition. Low light visibility is just as good as it's always been, with the LCD automatically brightening in those situations.

Directly above the LCD is something that I'm glad to see -- an optical viewfinder. While most camera manufacturers have removed this useful tool from their ultra-compacts, Canon has not (except for on the SD750, which has no room for one. The viewfinder isn't terribly large, and there's no diopter correction, but hey -- I'll take what I can get.

To the right of the LCD are a bunch of buttons, the mode switch, and the speaker. As I mentioned earlier, the buttons are flush with the back of the camera, which I don't particularly care for, as it's hard to separate one button from another.

That switch at the top-right of the photo selects the camera mode. You can choose from still, movie, and playback mode.

To the left of that is the Print/Share button, found on all Canon cameras. When connected to a computer, you can transfer your photos by pressing this button, and you can even choose your desktop background right from the camera. If you're hooked into a PictBridge-enabled photo printer, this is how you'll make prints. In playback mode, the Print/Share button opens up the My Category feature that I'll describe later. Finally, it can be used to activate the Auto ISO Boost feature that I'll tell you about later in the review.

Below the Print/Share button you'll find the four-way controller, used for menu navigation as well as:

  • Up - ISO (Auto, Hi Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) + Jump (Quickly moves 10 or 100 photos at a time in playback mode)
  • Down - Drive (Single shot, continuous, self-timer [2 or 10 sec, custom]) + Delete photo
  • Left - Focus (Normal, macro, infinity)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, flash on, flash off)
  • Center - Function Menu (see below) + Set

There are two Auto ISO modes on the SD1000. The difference is that the "Hi" mode uses higher sensitivities than the regular one. I'd use the Hi Auto mode only if you know that your prints will be small.

The SD1000's continuous shooting mode is pretty impressive. The camera lets you keep shooting at 1.6 frames/second until your high speed memory card is full. The LCD keeps up with the action, so tracking a moving subject should not be a problem.


Function menu

By pressing the center button on the four-way controller, you'll open up the Function menu. This menu has the following options:

  • Shooting mode (Auto, manual, digital macro, portrait, night snapshot, color accent, color swap, special scene modes) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Long shutter mode (Off, 1 - 15 sec)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom) - see below
  • My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, custom color) - see below
  • Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
  • Compression (see chart later in review)
  • Resolution (see chart later in review)

Looks like I have some explaining to do before we can continue the tour. I'll start with those shooting mode options. The manual mode isn't really all that manual -- it just unlocks all the menu options on the camera. The digital macro option locks the lens at wide-angle and lets you be just 3 cm from your subject. To get closer you can use the digital zoom, but that reduces image quality if you're shooting at the highest resolution. To really take advantage of this feature you'll want to lower the resolution, which allows you to use a bit of digital zoom without reducing the quality of the photo. The color accent and color swap options are part of the larger My Colors feature. The former turns a photo to black & white, keeping only the color you selected. Color swap does just as it sounds -- you swap one color for another. They're fun, but not terribly useful features. There are two scene modes right in the shooting mode menu, with more buried under that special scene mode option. These extra scenes include kids & pets, indoor, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, aquarium, and underwater.

The long shutter mode is one of two manual controls on the camera. It lets you select a slow shutter speed, which is needed for night shots like the ones in my reviews. The other manual control is custom white balance, which lets you get accurate color, even under the most unusual lighting conditions.

The other My Colors features are in a separate menu, and they should be self-explanatory. Buried in there you'll find the custom color option, which allows you to adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, plus red/green/blue and skin tone levels.

Back to the tour now. Below the four-way controller you'll find the Display and Menu buttons. The former toggles the LCD on and off, as well as what's shown on it. The Menu button does exactly as it sounds.

On the top of the camera you'll find the power and shutter release buttons, plus the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. The current zoom setting is not shown on the LCD -- a major omission in my opinion. There are seven steps in the SD1000's 3X zoom range.

Nothing to see here.

On the other side of the camera you'll find its I/O ports, which are kept under a plastic cover. These ports include USB and A/V out. Like all of Canon's cameras, the SD1000 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast photo transfer to your computer.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a plastic tripod (remember when these used to be metal?) and the battery/memory card compartment. The latter is protected by a very flimsy plastic door. As you can probably tell, you won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The included NB-4L battery is shown at right.

Using the Canon PowerShot SD1000 Digital ELPH

Record Mode

The SD1000 is ready to start shooting in just 0.8 seconds -- one of the fastest startup times you'll find.


No live histogram to be found

Focus speeds were very quick. At the wide end of the lens you'll typically wait between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds for the camera to lock focus. Telephoto speeds weren't much worse. Low light focusing was fairly quick and accurate thanks to the SD1000's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds at which it can occur.

Shot-to-shot delays are minimal. You'll wait about 1 second before you can take a shot without the flash, or 3-4 seconds with it.

You can delete a picture as it's been saved to the memory card by pressing the delete photo button (the "down" key on the four-way controller).

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # Images on 32MB card
(included)
# images on 1GB card (optional)
Large
3072 x 2304
Superfine 3.0 MB 9 312
Fine 1.9 MB 15 502
Normal 902 KB 32 1040
Wide (16:9)
3072 x 1728
Superfine 2.3 MB 12 414
Fine 1.4 MB 20 670
Normal 678 KB 42 1372
Medium 1
2592 x 1944
Superfine 2.4 MB 11 380
Fine 1.4 MB 20 678
Normal 695 KB 41 1342
Medium 2
2048 x 1536
Superfine 1.6 MB 18 590
Fine 893 KB 32 1058
Normal 445 KB 64 2082
Medium 3
1600 x 1200
Superfine 1002 KB 29 942
Fine 558 KB 52 1678
Normal 278 KB 99 3180
Small
640 x 480
Superfine 249 KB 111 3554
Fine 150 KB 171 5494
Normal 84 KB 270 8634

And now you see why buying a larger memory card is such a good idea.

The SD1000 also has a "postcard" size that you can select, which is the same resolution as Medium 3. This is the only setting that lets you print the date on your photos.

There's no RAW or TIFF image support on the SD1000, nor would I expect there to be.

Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

The SD1000 has the same menu system as the other cameras in the SD series. Note that some menu options are not available while in the automatic and scene modes. With that in mind, here's what's in the record menu:

  • AiAF (Face detect, on, off)
  • Digital Zoom (Off, 1.5X, 1.9X, Standard) - see below
  • Slow synchro (on/off)
  • Redeye reduction (on/off) - uses the redeye reduction lamp to reduce this annoyance
  • Custom self-timer - a very handy feature
    • Delay (0-10, 15, 20, 30 secs)
    • Number of shots (1 - 10
  • Auto ISO shift (on/off) - see below
  • AF-assist beam (on/off)
  • Review (Off, 2-10 seconds, hold) - post-shot review
  • Save original (on/off) - whether an unretouched copy of a photo taken in My Colors mode is saved
  • Auto category (on/off) - puts photos into categories based on your shooting mode; more on this later
  • Display overlay (Off, gridlines, 3:2 guide, both)
  • Date stamp (Off, date, date & time) - only works when using postcard resolution!!
  • Set Print/Share button (Off, exposure compensation, white balance, custom WB, digital tele-converter, display overlay, record movie, LCD off, play sound effect [huh?]) - redefine what this button does
  • Stitch Assist (Left to right, right to left) - helps you compose panoramic photos
The camera has detected three faces When I pressed the shutter release halfway, it locked focus on four of them

There are three focus modes on the PowerShot SD1000. The first one is Face Detect, which is one of the gimmicky features of 2007 (seriously, did anyone have problems focusing on faces before?). This will lock the focus and exposure on up to nine different faces in the frame. If it doesn't see any faces you'll get regular 9-point autofocus. If you don't want it to look for faces, just select the "on" AiAF option. If you choose "off", the camera will focus on the center of the frame.

The SD1000 supports Canon's new digital zoom feature. Canon calls the 1.5X and 1.9X options a "digital tele-converter" -- it's basically just fixed digital zoom. The Standard option is what you'll find on every camera -- it just enlarges the center of the frame digitally. The camera's Safety Zoom feature warns you when you pass the point where image quality is degraded. When you're shooting at the highest resolution that starts as soon as digital zoom kicks in, but if you're using a lower resolution you can use it for a little while before that happens (e.g. you can go up to 5.8X total zoom at the M3 resolution). This feature can be found on other cameras (Sony calls it Smart Zoom; Panasonic, Extended Optical Zoom), and you can do the same thing in your favorite photo editor, as well.

Auto ISO shift is a rather interesting feature. If you halfway press the shutter release button and get the flashing red "shake warning" that you can see in the right face detection sample, you can press the blinking Print/Share button, and the camera will choose an ISO that will result in a sharp (but noisier) photo.

The setup tab in the menu has the following items:

  • Mute (on/off) - turns off all the beeps
  • Volume
    • Startup volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Operation volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Self-timer volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Playback volume (Off, 1-5)
  • LCD brightness (-7 to +7 in 1 step increments)
  • Power saving
    • Auto power down (on/off)
    • Display off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min)
  • Time Zone (Home, world)
  • Date/time (set)
  • Clock display (0-10 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 1-3 mins) - yes, the camera doubles as a clock
  • Card format
  • File numbering (Continuous, auto reset)
  • Create folder
    • Create new folder - on the memory card
    • Auto create (Off, daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Auto rotate (on/off) - camera will automatically rotate portrait photos on the LCD
  • Lens retract (1 min, 0 secs) - how quickly the lens retracts when you switch to playback mode
  • Language
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Print Method (Auto, PictBridge)
  • Reset all - back to defaults

An additional "My Camera'" menu allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps, and phony shutter sounds that your camera makes. The software included with the camera lets you use your own photos and sounds as well. You can also turn off all the screens and sounds as well, which might not be a bad idea.

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The PowerShot SD1000 turned in a solid performance in our macro test. Thanks to the custom white balance feature, the camera captured accurate (not to mention saturated) color. The subject has the "smooth" look that has become a trademark of Canon cameras in recent years, with no visible noise or grain.

There's really only one macro mode on the PowerShot SD1000 (I don't think that the digital macro mode counts). In this "regular" macro mode you can be as close to your subject as 3 cm at wide-angle and a rather distant 30 cm at telephoto.

Our standard night scene looks pretty nice as well. For long exposures like this you'll need to use either a scene mode or the long shutter speed feature, since the camera lacks a shutter priority or full manual mode. There is a bit of noise in the shot, though it's similar to what you'd get with any compact camera these days. There is some purple fringing here as well, but it's not bad.

There are two ISO tests in this review. The first one uses the night scene above, so you can see how noise levels look at high ISOs in low light situations. Since I can't select shutter speeds faster than 1 second, the test stops at ISO 400. The studio ISO test later in the review will show the whole range.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400

The ISO 100 shot doesn't look a whole lot different from the one at ISO 80. At ISO 200 we start to see noticeable detail loss, and it only gets worse at ISO 400. Thus, I'd try to keep the ISO at 200 or below for low light shooting. We'll see how the camera fared in better lighting in a moment.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the SD1000's lens. This often makes straight lines appear to be curved, as you can see in this photo. The test chart also shows mild vignetting (dark corners), though this didn't pop up much in my real world photos. Something that did occur fairly often was corner blurring (see example) -- a tradeoff that comes with owning an ultra-compact camera.

Compact cameras almost always have redeye problems, and the PowerShot SD1000 is no exception. The shot above was taken with the redeye reduction feature turned on, which blasts your eyes with the AF-assist lamp right before the photo is taken. As you can see, that didn't help.

Thankfully, on some of their 2007 cameras, Canon has added a redeye removal tool in playback mode. Here's what it did to the above crop:

While it didn't completely remove the red, I'd still call this a considerable improvement over the original. It would be nice if this feature was automatically activated right after you take a flash photo, instead of having to do it manually later.

Here's that second ISO test I promised you. This one is taken in the studio, and the results can be compared to those from other cameras I've reviewed. While the crops give you a hint about the noise levels at each ISO setting, I highly recommend viewing the full size images to get the most out of this test. And with that, here are the crops of the above scene:


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

There is very little difference between the first three crops, though you can see just a tiny bit of noise reduction artifacting pop up at ISO 200. Regardless, you can make large size prints at any of those settings. There's more noise and noise reduction artifacting at ISO 400, which reduces your print sizes a bit -- down to midsize I'd say. Noise becomes quite apparent at ISO 800, but a small print still looks decent. I would avoid ISO 1600 unless you're absolutely desperate.

Overall, the PowerShot SD1000's photo quality is very good. The photos taken with the camera have accurate, saturated colors, pleasing sharpness, and minimal purple fringing. It did seem like my photos were overexposed by a 1/3 stop, and if you agree you may want to fool around with the exposure compensation on your own camera. There's also the corner blurring that I mentioned earlier, though this won't show up unless you're making very large prints, or viewing the image at 100% on your computer screen.

As always, don't just take my word for all this. I've got eleven photos in the gallery for your perusal. Have a look, print them if you can, and then decide if the SD1000's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

One of the big complaints about the movie mode on Canon's previous-generation ELPHs was the 1GB file size limit. When recording at the highest quality setting you'd hit that limit in a little over eight minutes. With its DIGIC III processor, the PowerShot SD1000 now allows for file sizes up to 4GB. Thus, now you can record over 32 minutes of 640 x 480, 30 frame/second video with sound. A high speed memory card is required in order to record long movies at this setting.

A way you can increase recording time is to lower the resolution and/or frame rate. There are two other resolution choices are available: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. For the 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 sizes you can choose from 30 or 15 frames/second, while the 160 x 120 size is fixed at 15 fps (though there's a 3 minute recording limit for this option).

But wait -- there's more. New to the SD1000 is a time-lapse mode, which will capture a frame every 1 or 2 seconds (your choice) for up to two hours. These frames are then converted into a movie and played back at high speed, so you can make your own Planet Earth style movies of flowers opening or grass growing.

There's also a "Fast Frame Rate" mode available, which lets you record up to 1 minute of 320 x 240 video at a whopping 60 frames/second. This is great for videos of fast moving subjects.

You can use all of the My Colors features in movie mode. An editing feature lets you trim unwanted footage off the beginning or end of a clip.

You cannot use the zoom lens during filming (it will be locked when you start filming). You can, however, use the digital zoom.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (18.3 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The PowerShot SD1000 has a very nice playback mode. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, image rotation, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the picture up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. When you're zoomed in you can press the Func/Set button and then move from photo to photo at the same magnification setting.

There's also the redeye removal tool, which I told you about in the previous section. It's easy to use, and you can choose to save your original image if you want. It can even remove redeye from multiple people in a photo.

Most of the My Colors features can be used in playback mode, save for Color Accent, Color Swap, and Custom Color.


Assigning a category to a photo

The My Category feature lets you assign photos to any of seven possible categories. If you have Auto Category turned on in the recording menu then this will be done automatically, depending on what scene mode you used to record them. There are three custom categories, though I don't see a way to give them a name instead of the generic "My Category 1". You can select images by their category and display slide shows of them, or delete/protect them.

The Jump feature lets you move forward or back 10 or 100 photos at a time, and you can also go to the first photo in a category or folder. As the screenshot above shows, you can also jump ahead by date using this feature.

In addition to recording stills and videos, the PowerShot SD1000 can also be used for recording audio clips. You can record up to two hours of continuous audio at the sampling rate of your choosing, as long as its 11 kHz, 22 kHz, or 44 kHz. Sound is recorded in stereo.

By default you won't get much information about your photo while in playback mode. But press the Display button and you'll get more info, including a histogram.

The PowerShot SD1000 moves between images almost instantly, with your choice of two snazzy transitions. Like most of Canon's other cameras, when you rotate the camera 90 degrees, the photo on the LCD rotates too.

How Does it Compare?

As long-time readers of this site may know, I've been a fan of Canon's Digital ELPH series of cameras since their inception back in the year 2000. This latest model -- the PowerShot SD1000 -- is a stylish, easy-to-use, and responsive ultra-compact camera that takes good quality photos. While not perfect (but what is?), the SD1000 easily earns my recommendation.

The PowerShot SD1000 is an ultra-compact camera with retro styling reminiscent of the original film-based ELPH. It's made of a mix of metal and plastic, and well built for the most part, with a few exceptions. I've noticed that the ELPH series cameras are getting more and more plastic these days, which I don't consider a good thing. The cheap plastic door over the battery/memory card compartment feels especially flimsy. That said, the camera is easy to hold with one hand, and there aren't too many buttons to confuse you, though I wish they weren't all flush with the back of the camera. You can get the SD1000 in two different "trims": silver or black. The camera has a run-of-the-mill 3X zoom lens, equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The LCD has been dramatically improved compared to previous ELPHs, with vibrant color, fingerprint resistance, and very little glare. Kudos to Canon for continuing to include an optical viewfinder -- most of the competition ditched them long ago.

Like all the cameras in the ELPH series, the SD1000 is a point-and-shoot camera, with just two manual controls. Those two manual features are useful though, providing control over white balance and slow shutter speeds. The point-and-shoot feature list is long. You've got a regular auto mode, plus numerous scene modes. You've got a redeye removal tool, auto photo categorization, and a dedicated audio recorder. There's also the requisite VGA movie mode, now with a much longer recording time limit (32 minutes instead of 8). There's also a new time-lapse movie mode, perfect for watching the grass grow.

Camera performance was superb. The SD1000 starts up in under a second, despite having a lens to extend. Focusing times are noticeably quicker than on older ELPHs, and low light focusing was accurate. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. Like all of Canon's cameras, the SD1000's burst mode is quite good, allowing you to keep shooting at 1.6 frames/second until your high speed memory card fills up. The SD1000 also offers support for the USB 2.0 High Speed standard. Battery life was the only weak spot here, being about 15% below average in the ultra-compact group.

Photo quality was very good overall, though there are the usual tradeoffs that come from having a tiny lens and sensor. On the positive side, photos had pleasing color and sharpness, minimal purple fringing, and well-controlled noise through ISO 400. The negatives include corner blurriness (which most ultra-compacts have) and a slight tendency to overexpose (in my opinion). Redeye is certainly a big problem on the camera, though you can remove this annoyance fairly well using the tool in playback mode.

I pretty much hit on all my complaints about the SD1000 in the preceding paragraphs, but here are a few more. The camera doesn't show the current zoom setting on the LCD, which Canon should really add via a firmware update (hint, hint). You won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod. And finally, you can only print the date on your photos if you take the picture in postcard mode, which just seems silly to me.

Despite a few flaws, the PowerShot SD1000 Digital ELPH is a nice improvement over its predecessor, and a great choice for those looking for an ultra-compact camera. Its combination of style, photo quality, and performance make it one of the most compelling cameras in its class.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, low noise through ISO 400 (but see issues below)
  • Ultra-compact, retro-styled body; available in two "trims"
  • Gorgeous 2.5" LCD display
  • Has an optical viewfinder (a rarity in this class)
  • Robust performance: fast startup time, focusing, and continuous shooting
  • AF-assist lamp, good low light focusing
  • Handy Auto ISO Boost feature is a good substitute for an always-on high sensitivity mode
  • Effective redeye removal tool (and you'll need it)
  • Very good movie mode
  • Can record up to two hours of audio
  • Optional underwater case
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Nice software package

What I didn't care for:

  • Some corner softness; slight overexposure in test photos
  • Redeye a big problem (though the tool in playback mode gets rid of most of it)
  • Current zoom setting not shown on LCD
  • More manual controls would be nice
  • Battery life still a bit below average
  • Date/time printing only at 1600 x 1200 resolution
  • Very flimsy plastic door over memory card / battery compartment
  • Plastic tripod mount; can't swap memory cards while using a tripod

Some other ultra-compact cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot SD750 (bigger LCD, no viewfinder) and SD800 IS (image stabilization, wide-angle lens, chunkier body), Casio Exilim EX-Z75, Fuji FinePix Z5fd, HP Photosmart R837, Kodak EasyShare V603, Nikon Coolpix S200, Olympus Stylus 760, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12, Pentax Optio M30, Samsung Digimax NV3, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20 and DSC-W80.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SD1000 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want another opinion?

You can read more reviews of the SD1000 at Steve's Digicams, CNET, and PC Magazine.