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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SD880 IS Digital ELPH
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 22, 2008
Last Updated: September 6, 2011

Front of the Canon PowerShot SD880 IS

The Canon PowerShot SD880 IS Digital ELPH ($299) is an ultra-compact camera packing a wide-angle 4X zoom lens, a large 3-inch LCD display, optical image stabilization, and a VGA movie mode. It replaces the PowerShot SD870 IS, with these notable new features:

Trying to figure out the differences between Canon's Digital ELPHs can be challenging. The model numbers make little-to-no sense, and comparing the ELPH to the IXUS (European) model names can give you a headache. That's why I put together this "family tree" of both the ELPH and IXUS lineup for you:


View ELPH names | View IXUS names

Make sense? I sure hope so.

I have another chart prepared, this one comparing the features and specs on all the current models (using their ELPH names):

Feature

PowerShot SD1100

PowerShot SD770 PowerShot SD790 PowerShot SD880 PowerShot SD890 PowerShot SD990
Street price
(at time of posting)
$171 $210 $222 $260 $283 $348
Resolution 8.0 MP 10.0 MP 10.0 MP 10.0 MP 10.0 MP 14.7 MP
Optical zoom 3X 3X 3X 4X 5X 3.7X
Lens max. aperture F2.8 - F4.9 F2.8 - F4.9 F2.8 - F4.9 F2.8 - F5.8 F3.2 - F5.7 F2.8 - F5.8
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 38 - 114 mm 35 - 105 mm 35 - 105 mm 28 - 112 mm 37 - 185 mm 36 - 133 mm
Image stabilization Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
LCD size 2.5" 2.5" 3.0" 3.0" 2.5" 2.5"
LCD resolution 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
Optical viewfinder Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
Flash range (Auto ISO) 0.3 - 3.5 m (W)
0.3 - 3.0 m (T)
0.3 - 3.5 m (W)
0.3 - 2.0 m (T)
0.3 - 3.5 m (W)
0.3 - 2.0 m (T)
0.3 - 4.2 m (W)
0.3 - 2.0 m (T)
0.3 - 3.5 m (W)
0.3 - 2.0 m (T)
0.5 - 4.6 m (W)
0.5 - 2.4 m (T)
Manual controls White balance White balance White balance White balance White balance White balance, shutter speed, aperture, focus
Auto ISO Shift No No No No Yes No
Movie codec used M-JPEG M-JPEG M-JPEG H.264 M-JPEG H.264
Max movie recording time (high quality) 32 mins 32 mins 32 mins 47 mins 32 mins 47 mins
Battery used NB-4L NB-6L NB-5L NB-5L NB-5L NB-5L
Battery life (CIPA standard) 240 shots 300 shots 330 shots 310 shots 320 shots 280 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.8 in 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 in 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.1 in
Weight 125 g 130 g 155 g 155 g 155 g 160 g
Available colors Blue, pink, silver, brown, gold Silver, black Silver Silver, gold Silver Silver, black, red

If you're still confused after all that, let me give you a quick bottom line: the PowerShot SD880 is the one with the wide-angle lens and 3-inch LCD. See, that was easy.

Okay, enough charts -- let's start our review of the PowerShot SD880 now!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SD880 IS Digital ELPH has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

Canon includes a 32MB Secure Digital memory card with the PowerShot SD880 IS. That holds a grand total of six photos at the highest quality setting, so you'll want to pick up a larger card right away, in the event that you don't have one already. The SD880 supports a plethora of memory card formats, including SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus -- I'd stick with the first two. I'd recommend starting out with a 2GB card, and it's worth spending a little bit more for a high speed card, though there's no need to go overboard.

The SD880 uses the same NB-5L lithium-ion rechargeable battery as most of the other cameras in the Digital ELPH lineup. This battery holds 4.1 Wh of energy, which is decent for an ultra-compact camera. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD880 IS */** 310 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z300 */** 300 shots
Fuji FinePix J150w */** 150 shots
GE E1050 ** 200 shots
Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS * 220 shots
Nikon Coolpix S610 */** 290 shots
Olympus FE-350 Wide ** 170 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 */** 310 shots
Samsung TL34 HD */** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 */** 390 shots

* Has image stabilization
** Has a wide-angle lens

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

If I was ignoring Sony cameras, the PowerShot SD880 would have the best battery life in its class. Unfortunately for the SD880, I'm not, so it will have to take second place instead. In the group as a whole, the SD880's numbers are above average.

I do want to mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries used by the SD880 and every camera on the above list. They're expensive (an extra will cost you at least $42), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery in an emergency. That's life, though, as you just can't fit AA batteries into a camera this size.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. This is my favorite kind of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall. Expect to wait just over two hours for the NB-5L to be fully charged.

Canon PowerShot SD880 in the hand

As with all ultra-compact cameras, the SD880 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap to deal with.

Being a compact point-and-shoot camera, you shouldn't be too surprised to hear that there aren't many accessories for the SD880. Here's all four of them:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Underwater case WP-DC26 From $165 Take your SD880 up to 40 meters under the sea
High power flash HF-DC1 From $94 Gives you more flash power and less redeye; attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does
AC adapter ACK-DC30 From $47 Power the camera without wasting your batteries
Deluxe soft case PSC-55 From $20 Protect your camera from the elements
* Prices were accurate when review was published

Let's move onto software now.


CameraWindow in Mac OS X

Canon includes version 37 of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot SD880. The first part of the Browser software that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (pictured above), which is used to download photos from your camera.


ImageBrowser in Mac OS X

Once that's done you'll find yourself in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, which are for Mac and Windows, respectively. The Browser software lets you view, organize, e-mail, and print your photos. If you categorized any photos on the camera (more on this later), then this information is transferred into the Browser software.


ImageBrowser edit window in Mac OS X

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. There's also an auto adjustment option for those who want a quick fix.


PhotoStitch in Mac OS X

A separate program called PhotoStitch can combine photos you've taken side-by-side into a single panorama. Using the camera's Stitch Assist feature helps line up photos properly, so you'll get the best results possible when you get into PhotoStitch.

The PowerShot SD880 includes one of the "newer" generations of Canon manuals. It's more user-friendly than those included with prior models, with a handy "what do you want to do?" section at the beginning, and fewer confusing tables and notes on each page. While the manual isn't perfect, it should answer almost any question that may come up about the SD880. Separate manuals covering software installation and direct printing are also included. Documentation for the software bundle is installed onto your Mac or PC.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD880 IS Digital ELPH is a compact (but not super-tiny) and very stylish camera. It's made mostly of metal (with some plastic thrown in for good measure), and feels very solid in your hands. The tripod mount is metal, and the various doors on the camera body feel fairly sturdy. While the camera is easy to hold, I found that my thumb sits right on the four-way controller / scroll wheel, which can lead to trouble. The buttons on the back of the SD880 are surprisingly large for a camera in this class.


Image courtesy of Canon USA

You can't sell an ultra-compact camera in ONE color these days. Canon still plays it safe, offering only two colors for the PowerShot SD880: silver and gold.

Now, here's how the PowerShot SD880 IS compares to other cameras in its class, in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD880 IS 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 155 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z300 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 131 g
Fujifilm FinePix J150w 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 146 g
GE E1050 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 145 g
Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 135 g
Nikon Coolpix S610 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 125 g
Olympus FE-350 Wide 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.4 cu in. 138 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 132 g
Samsung TL34HD 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 138 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 142 g