Originally Posted: December 9, 2008
Last Updated: August 11, 2009
The PowerShot SX10 IS ($399) is the follow-up to the Canon's enormously popular PowerShot S5 ultra zoom digital camera. The SX10 retains a the basic features of the S5 (big zoom lens, rotating LCD, manual controls, nice movie mode), and expands on them (quite a bit in the case of the lens). The comparison table below gives you a good look at what's new and different on the SX10:
As the chart illustrates, the PowerShot SX10 is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every respect. It has way more zoom power, a better LCD and viewfinder, and dramatically improved battery life. The one real disappointment here is the lack of an HD movie mode. Outside of North America, Canon is selling a camera known as the PowerShot SX1 IS, which is quite similar to the SX10, with the main differences being a larger LCD, faster continuous shooting, a 1080p movie mode, and an HDMI port. Why this model wasn't brought over to the States is unclear.
The PowerShot S5 was easily one of the best cameras in the ultra zoom class. Will the super zoom PowerShot SX10 does just as well? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot SX10 IS has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 10.0 effective Megapixel PowerShot SX10 IS digital camera
- Four AA alkaline batteries
- Lens cap
- Lens hood
- Neck strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
- 289 page camera manual (printed)
The PowerShot SX10 is one of the very few cameras that has neither built-in memory, nor an included memory card. In other words, you're on your own. The camera supports SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus cards, though I recommend sticking with the first two. If you're going to be sticking to still photos, then a 2GB card is a good place to start. If you'll be taking a lot of videos as well, I'd spring for a 4GB card. Buying a high speed card is a good idea, though there's no need to go overboard with a Ultra VII 500X model.
Like its predecessors, the SX10 uses AA batteries for power. You'll find four alkaline batteries in the box with the camera, which will quickly end up in your recycling bin. To save money and the environment, I highly recommend picking up NiMH batteries (2500 mAh or better) plus a fast charger. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect when you're using those:
The PowerShot SX10 got a big bump in its battery life compared to its predecessor (33% to be exact), which gives it the best numbers in the super zoom class. And, since it uses AAs, you'll spend less on batteries on the SX10 than you would for the cameras above that use proprietary lithium-ion batteries. You can also use off-the-shelf alkaline batteries in an emergency -- something you can't do with those other cameras.
Canon includes a lens cap with the PowerShot SX10, but they seem to have forgotten to include a retaining strap! While the cap stays on securely, you can't just let it "dangle" when you take it off. You can clip it to the neck strap, or just stuff it in your pocket.
Something else you'll find in the box is a lens hood (which used to be optional). You may want to use this when shooting in bright outdoor light.
The accessory list for the PowerShot SX10 is a lot smaller than the one for the PowerShot S5. The main reason for the change is that the SX10 does not support conversion lenses. Here's what accessories are available:
That's all for accessories -- let's move on to the software bundle now.
CameraWindow in Mac OS X
Canon includes version 37.1 of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot SX10. The first part of the software suite 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.
Editing in ImageBrowser
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
The last part of the Canon software suite that I want to mention is PhotoStitch. As you can see, this allows you to combine multiple photos into a single panoramic image. It's very easy to use, and the results can be impressive. While using the SX10's Stitch Assist feature isn't required to make panoramas, it does help you line things up correctly, so there are no "seams" in the final product.
Canon includes a detailed, printed manual with the PowerShot SX10. While not as user-friendly as the manual on the PowerShot A2000 that I just reviewed, this book will answer any question that may come up about the camera. Just expect some confusing tables and fine print. There are additional manuals covering software basics and direct printing included, as well. The actual documentation for the software described above is installed on your hard drive.
Look and Feel
From a distance, it's hard to tell see any difference between the PowerShot SX10 and its predecessor (the S5). Get a little closer and you'll see that the controls have been rearranged on the back of the camera. Put the SX10 in your hands and I think you'll agree that it feels a lot more solid in terms of build quality. The camera is made of a mixture of metal and plastic, with the lens housing feeling especially rugged. The plastic doors over the memory card and battery compartments are of decent quality, as well.
Ergonomics are generally good. Canon cleaned up the button clutter a bit on the SX10, putting many of the camera's functions onto the new scroll wheel / four-way controller combo. The only buttons I don't care for are the ones at the top-right corner of the back of the camera (which you'll see later) -- they get progressively smaller, and aren't logically placed.
Now, here's a look at how the PowerShot SX10 IS compares to other super zoom cameras, in terms of size and weight:
As you can see, the PowerShot SX10 is the largest and heaviest camera in the group, by far (it's quite a big bigger than the S5 IS, as well). It's not a pocket camera -- probably not even a jacket pocket camera -- but it travels nicely over your shoulder or in a camera bag.
And with that, we can begin our tour of the camera, starting with the front!
The biggest new feature on the PowerShot SX10 IS is undoubtedly its monstrous 20X zoom lens -- quite a step up from the 12X lens on the PowerShot S5. This F2.8-5.7 lens features an ultrasonic motor, for silent (and responsive) focusing, plus optical image stabilization (more on that below). The focal range of the lens is 5 - 100 mm, equivalent to a whopping 28 - 560 mm. So, you get your wide-angle and super telephoto fix in one camera. While the lens is threaded, it appears to be a non-standard size, and (officially, at least) filters are not supported. That's too bad, since a wide-angle conversion lens would be a nice accessory to have.
As I mentioned, the PowerShot SX10 has an optical image stabilization system, a feature that is almost a requirement on a super zoom camera. Tiny movements of your hands can shake the camera enough to blur your photos, especially at the telephoto end of the lens. Sensors inside the camera detect this motion, and the camera shifts a lens element to compensate for it. Now, this won't freeze a moving subject (you'll need to select a faster shutter speed to do that) and it won't allow for multi-second handheld photos, but it will let you get sharp photos at shutter speeds that would be blurry otherwise. Want to see some proof? Have a look:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
Each of the photos above were taken at the very slow shutter speed of 1/4 second. The results couldn't be more clear: the photo taken with image stabilization is much sharper. You can use image stabilization in movie mode as well, as illustrated in this brief video clip.
Directly above the lens is the SX10's pop-up flash, which is released manually. This flash is fairly powerful, with a working range of 0.5 - 5.2 m at wide-angle, and 1.0 - 2.8 m at telephoto. Should you want more flash power and reduced risk of redeye, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe you'll see in a moment.
Between the flash and lens are the camera's stereo microphones. The SX10 is one of a very small group of cameras that can record stereo audio, which makes your movies that much nicer. At the far right of the photo is the camera's AF-assist lamp, used as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp is also used for redeye reduction, and it also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
Canon's ultra zoom cameras have had rotating LCDs going all the way back to the PowerShot Pro90, which was introduced in 2001 (the SX100 and SX110 being the only exceptions). The screen size has grown over the years, from 1.5" on the original PowerShot S1 to 2.5" here. As LCDs go, this one isn't terribly large, though it's hard to imagine how Canon could fit anything larger onto this camera.
A rotating LCD may seem a bit gimmicky at first, but once you've tried one, it's hard to go back. It makes it so much easier to shoot from unusual angles. It's great for product shots (like the ones you see in my reviews) where the camera is below you, and it makes shooting over the heads of the people in front of you a breeze. The LCD can rotate 270 degrees, from facing your subject all the way around to facing the floor. It can also sit in a the more traditional position (shown below), or be closed entirely.
Here's the back of the PowerShot SX10 IS, with the LCD in its traditional location. The screen has a resolution of 230,000 pixels, up from 207,000 on the PowerShot S5 IS. As you'd expect, everything on the screen is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility was decent, and in low light the screen brightens automatically, allowing you to see your subject (though it'll be on the grainy side).
Directly above the LCD is the camera's electronic viewfinder, or EVF. An EVF is essentially a tiny LCD display that takes the place of (but doesn't surpass) an optical viewfinder. It shares the same 100% field-of-view as the main LCD, and there's no parallax error to deal with. The EVF on the SX10 is about 33% larger than the one on the PowerShot S5, which is good news. The resolution of 235,000 pixels is twice that of the S5, and makes for a fairly good viewing experience. A diopter correction knob, located on the left side of the viewfinder, focuses the image on the screen. To switch between the LCD and EVF you can press the Display button, or just close the LCD panel.
You'll see this screen when the SX10 is connected to your computer
Just to the left of the electronic viewfinder is the Print/Share button, also known as the Shortcut button. In record mode, it can be used for the handy Auto ISO Shift feature, or you can remap it to an entirely different function (more on that later). The Auto ISO Shift feature will illuminate the Print/Share button if the camera thinks that a photo you're about to take will be blurry. Simply press the Print/Share button, and the camera will boost the ISO sensitivity high enough to ensure a sharp photo. If you're connected to a Mac or PC, you can use this button to select which photos are transferred over. When you're hooked into a PictBridge-enabled printer, a press of this button will print the current photo.
On the opposite side of the viewfinder is the SX10's dedicated movie recording button. Press it once to start recording, and again to stop. While there's a spot dedicated to movies on the mode dial, though you don't need to be in it to record a clip. I'll have a lot more on movies later in the review.
Continuing to the right, we find three buttons, which neither well placed nor well labeled. These buttons are for the following:
- Playback mode
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments) + Jump (through photos in playback mode)
- Focus point selection (more later) + Delete photo
Moving downward now, we find the SX10's combination scroll wheel and four-way controller. The dial is used for many things, including navigating menus, quickly skimming through photos you've taken, and adjusting manual exposure settings. I wish it had some tactile feedback -- you just kind of keep rotating it until something happens. The four-way controller can be used for many of the same things, and it also does the following:
- Up - Manual focus (on/off)
- Down - Drive (Single-shot, continuous, continuous AF, face self-timer, self-timer) - see below
- Left - Macro (Off, macro, super macro) - more on this later in the review
- Right - ISO (Auto, Hi Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- Center - Function menu (see below) + Set
Manual focus mode (center-frame enlargement not shown)
The manual focus feature lets you use the scroll wheel to set the focus distance yourself. A guide showing the focus distance is displayed on the right side of the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged, as well.
Now it's time to talk about the continuous shooting and self-timer options on the PowerShot SX10 IS. There are three continuous modes on the SX10: regular continuous mode locks the focus and exposure when the first shot is taken; continuous AF refocuses before each shot, allowing you to recompose if you wish; continuous LV (only available when using manual focus or fireworks mode) locks the focus at the first shot, but lets recompose as you're shooting. Here's how the SX10 performed:
If you're using a high speed memory card, then you can keep shooting at the burst rates above. The LCD keeps up with the action fairly well, so you should be able to track a moving subject.
Customizing drive settings
The SX10 has a pretty elaborate self-timer feature. You can select from the usual two or ten second delays, or you can jump into custom mode and select how long you want to wait, and how many photos are taken. But wait, there's more -- the new face self-timer feature will wait until a new face enters the scene, and then it will take anywhere from 1 to 10 photos. This allows the photographer to make it into the picture without having to run for it.
I want to make a quick mention of the ISO settings on the PowerShot SX10 -- more specifically, the two Auto options. The difference between Auto and Hi Auto is that the latter will use higher sensitivities. If you're using the latter, be warned that photos may be quite noisy, especially in low light situations. I'll have a lot more on the camera's ISO performance later in the review.
Pressing the center button on the four-way controller options up the Function menu, which has these options:
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, flash, 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
- Bracketing (Off, exposure, flash) - see below
- Flash compensation/output (-2EV to +2EV or 1/3, 2/3, Full) - choices depend on shooting mode
- Metering mode (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- Movie resolution (640 x 480, 320 x 240)
- Still resolution/quality (see chart later in review)
The PowerShot SX10's custom white balance option lets you use a white or gray card, for accurate color in any lighting. This will come in handy when you're shooting in unusual lighting conditions, like I do in many of the test shots later in the review.
Sharpness is one of the settings you can adjust with the Custom Color option
The My Colors feature should be self-explanatory, save for the custom option. This one lets you manually adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, as well as red/green/blue/skin tone levels.
The SX10 allows you to bracket for both exposure and focus. In both cases, the the camera takes three shots in a row, with each shot having a different exposure or focus distance. For exposure, the interval between each shot can be set in 1/3-stop increments. For focusing, the increment is a more generic "small, medium, or large".
The last two items on the back of the PowerShot SX10 are the DIsplay and Menu buttons. The former toggles what's shown on the LCD (and switches between the LCD and EVF), while the latter does exactly as it sounds.
Before I start talking about the buttons and dials on the top of the PowerShot SX10, I want to point out that the focal length is shown on the lens. The focal lengths listed on it are 28, 85, 135, 200, 300, 400, and 560, most of which are also common focal lengths for SLR lenses.
Now, onto the buttons. First let's look at the far left of the photo to see the flash setting + sound memo button. The flash options are simple: auto or fill flash (the other options are in the record menu). The sound memo button allows you to quickly add a "voice caption" to a photo you're reviewing in playback mode.
Some of the things you can control with the 430EX II Speedlite attached
In the center of the photo is the PowerShot SX10's hot shoe. For best results, you'll want to attach one of the Canon Speedlites I mentioned back in the accessory discussion, as they will sync up with the camera's metering system. You can also control the flashes settings using the SX10's menu system (see screenshot above). If you're using one of the higher end Canon Speedlites, they can be used to control other flashes wirelessly. For those of you using a non-Canon flash, you'll probably have to set flash exposure manually. The SX10 can sync as fast as 1/250 second with an external flash.
Next to the hot shoe is the mode dial, which has these options:
As you can see, the PowerShot SX10 IS offers a full set of manual controls, plus an ample supply of scene modes. I want to quickly mention some of those scene modes before we continue the tour. The ISO 3200 option does just as it sounds -- it boosts the sensitivity all the way to 3200, and it also lowers the resolution to 1600 x 1200 (you can't adjust things like white balance, either). I'd pass on that mode, as the photo quality leaves much to be desired. The color accent feature lets you select one color to "keep", while everything else in your photo is turned to black and white. Color swap does just as it sounds like: you swap one color for another.
The PowerShot SX10's manual exposure controls allow you to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or both. The only thing missing is a bulb mode. In Program mode you can use the program shift feature to select from various shutter speed/aperture combinations (see screenshot). If you have a set of favorite camera settings, you can save them to the "C" spot on the mode dial.
Just to the right of the mode dial is the power button, which has an orange light that illuminates when the camera is turned on. Above that is the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The zoom controller is two-speed. Press it a little bit to move the lens slowly, or all the way to go full-bore. At full speed, the lens moves from 28 - 560 mm in just 1.3 seconds. There are over thirty steps available in the 20X zoom range.
And that's it for the top of the PowerShot SX10 IS!
The only thing to see on this side of the SX10 is its speaker. The lens is at the full wide-angle position here.
On this side of the SX10 you'll find its I/O ports and memory card slot. It's nice to see the memory card slot in an accessible place on a Canon camera for a change -- even on the flagship PowerShot G10, the slot is in the battery compartment. The plastic door that covers this slot is of decent quality.
The I/O ports, protected by plastic covers, are for USB, DC-in (for the optional AC adapter), and stereo A/V output. As you'd expect, the SX10 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here. Yep, quite a snout!
On the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod mount, plus the battery compartment. The door over the battery compartment is fairly sturdy, and has a locking mechanism. As the photo illustrates, the PowerShot SX10 holds four AA batteries.
Using the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
It takes just 1.2 seconds for the PowerShot SX10 to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's very good for a camera with a big lens.
A live histogram is available in record mode
Focusing performance was very good. At wide-angle (and good light), the SX10 typically took between 0.2 - 0.4 seconds to lock focus. Telephoto focus times ranged from 0.6 - 1.0 seconds, and rarely a little bit longer. The SX10 turned in a mixed performance in terms of low light focusing. Sometimes it locked just fine, other times you'd get the dreaded "yellow box", which means that it couldn't focus (though at least it was quick in doing so). You also need to watch your left hand, as it's fairly easy to block the AF-assist lamp.
I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds at which it can often occur.
You'll wait roughly 1.5 seconds between shots if you're not using the flash, and between 2-3 seconds if you are. If you have the focus check feature turned on, the focus point or selected faces will be enlarged on the LCD or EVF.
You can delete a picture after you've taken it by pressing the delete photo (focus point) button on the back of the camera.
Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera:
Much to the dismay of many of you, the PowerShot SX10 does not support the RAW image format (though I'm sure you'll be able to add it via the CHDK hack at some point).
Unlike most of Canon's other models, the SX10 does not have the "postcard" resolution, which allowed you to print the date on your photos. Thus, if you want the date on your photos, you'll have to add it on your computer.
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 PowerShot SX10 has the standard Canon menu system, though the customizable My Menu is a new addition. It's attractive, responsive, and easy to navigate. The menu is divided into four tabs: Shooting, Setup, My Camera, and My Menu. Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of items in the first tab:
- AF Frame (FlexiZone, Face Detect, Center) - last option is only available in Auto or Scene mode; see below for more
- AF-point zoom (on/off) - enlarges the focus point or the selected faces
- Servo AF (on/off) - see below
- AF mode (Single, continuous) - see below
- Digital Zoom (Off, 1.4X, 2.3X, Standard) - see below
- Flash control
- Flash mode (Auto, manual) - the latter lets you adjust the flash strength; only available in the manual shooting modes
- Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- Flash output (Minimum, medium, maximum) - only available with flash mode set to manual
- Shutter sync (1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain)
- Slow synchro (on/off)
- Redeye correction (on/off) - digital redeye removal, as the photo is taken
- Redeye reduction lamp (on/off) - a little extra help
- Safety FE (on/off) - whether the camera adjusts the shutter speed or aperture to avoid overexposure when using the flash
- i-Contrast (Auto, off) - see below
- Drive settings
- Face self-timer (1 - 10 shots)
- Self-timer (2 or 10 secs, custom)
- Custom delay (0-10, 15, 20, 30 secs)
- Custom shots (1-10)
- Spot AE point (Center, AF point) - what area of the frame is metered when in spot metering mode
- Safety shift (on/off) - camera will adjust the shutter speed or aperture as needed to obtain a proper exposure when in the priority modes
- Auto ISO Shift (on/off) - discussed earlier
- MF-Point zoom (on/off) - enlarges the center of the frame in manual focus mode
- Safety MF (on/off) - allows you to press the focus point button to activate autofocus momentarily when using manual focus
- AF-assist beam (on/off)
- Review (Off, 2-10 seconds, hold) - post-shot review
- Review info (Off, detailed, focus check) - detailed shows you shooting data and a histogram; focus check enlarges the focus point or faces
- Save original (on/off) - for the My Colors feature
- Reverse display (on/off) - whether the image on the LCD is flipped when the screen is rotated
- Auto category (on/off) - photos are automatically categorized based on the scene mode they were taken in; more on this later
- IS mode (Continuous, shoot only, panning, off) - see below
- Custom display settings - you can have two sets of these for both the LCD and EVF:
- Shooting info (on/off)
- Grid lines (on/off)
- 3:2 guide (on/off)
- Histogram (on/off)
- Set Shortcut button (Off, metering, white balance, custom WB, redeye correction, digital teleconverter, i-Contrast, AE lock, AF lock, display off) - define what this button does
- Save settings - save your favorite camera settings to the "C" position on the mode dial
|FlexiZone AF lets you position the focus point anywhere in the frame (save for a margin around the edges)||You can also adjust the size of the focus point|
Lots to talk about before we move on. First up, the AF frame options. FlexiZone lets you use the four-way controller to select the area in the frame on which to focus -- which comes in handy when the camera is on a tripod. In the automatic shooting modes, a center-point focus mode is also available. For either of these two modes, you can set the size of the focus point(s) to "regular" or small.
Naturally, the PowerShot SX10 supports face detection. The camera can locate up to nine faces in the frame, making sure they are properly focused and exposed. Like on the PowerShot G10, the face detection system here seems a little "jumpy" -- I don't know if it's my test scene or what, but the detected faces would blink on and off. It does detect faces very well, however. The SX10 allows you to select a face and then track that person as they move around the frame, which works, as long as they keep looking toward the camera.
There are two AF modes to choose from on the camera. Single AF focuses only when you halfway press the shutter release button. In continuous AF mode, the camera is focusing constantly, which means less waiting when it's time to actually take a photo. The downside is that continuous AF puts an extra strain on your battery.
There's also a new Servo AF feature, normally found on digital SLRs. This will track a moving subject as they move around the frame -- perfect for action shots.
The PowerShot SX10's has Canon's recently updated digital zoom feature. Canon calls the 1.4X and 2.3X options a "digital teleconverter" -- it's basically just fixed digital zoom. The Standard option is what you'll find on every camera - you can select whatever amount of digital zoom that you want. The 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 more of it. At the M3 (1600 x 1200) picture size, you can achieve a whopping 46X total zoom using this feature!
Another new feature on the PowerShot SX10 is called i-Contrast This feature attempts to brighten dark areas of a photo, and it's turned off by default. You can also use after-the-fact in playback mode, if you wish. Here's a good example of this feature in action:
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As you can see, the shadow areas of the image are a lot brighter with i-Contrast turned on. It's almost a little too contrasty for my taste, and I noticed that some highlights that were okay in the original image were clipped in the i-Contrast photo. Noise levels will increase if this feature is used, as well. I'd recommend using it on a case-by-case basis.
The Auto Category feature assigns one of the standard photo categories (people, scenery, events) to a photo based on what scene mode you used to take the picture. You can edit these -- or manually assign a category -- in playback mode.
What are those three IS modes all about? Continuous mode activates the OIS system as soon as you halfway press the shutter release, which helps you compose the photo without camera shake. The "shoot only" option doesn't turn it on until the photo is actually taken, which improves the performance of the OIS system. The panning mode only stabilizes up and down motion, and you'll want to use this while tracking a moving subject horizontally. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if you're using a tripod.
There's also a setup menu, which is available in both the record and playback mode menus:
- Mute (on/off) - quickly turn off the camera's beeps and blips
- 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)
- Mic level (Auto, manual)
- Level (-40 to 0 dB) - if you selected manual above
- Wind filter (on/off)
- LCD/EVF brightness (Normal, bright) - each is adjustable separately
- Power saving
- Auto power down (on/off)
- Display off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min)
- Time zone (Home, world)
- Clock display (0-5, 10, 20, 30 secs, 1, 2, 3 mins) - hold down the Func/Set button while turning on the camera and the SX10 becomes an expensive clock
- Card format
- File numbering (Continuous, auto reset)
- Create folder
- Create new folder - on the memory card
- Auto create (Off, daily, weekly, monthly) - this new features will automatically create new folders on the memory card at set intervals
- Auto rotate (on/off) - camera will automatically rotate portrait photos on the LCD
- Distance units (m/cm, ft/in)
- Lens retract (1 min, 0 secs) - how quickly the lens retracts when you switch to playback mode
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Print Method (Auto, PictBridge)
- Reset all - back to defaults
The next tab in the menu system, My Camera, allows you to customize the startup screen, beeps, and phony shutter sounds that your camera makes.
The last tab in the menu is called My Menu, and it's been lifted straight from Canon's digital SLRs. You can select what items you want here, and whether the camera goes to this menu (instead of the record menu) when you press the Menu button.
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
I have no complaints about how the PowerShot SX10 handled our macro test subject. Colors are both accurate and saturated, and the camera has the smooth look that's a trademark of Canon's cameras (though plenty of detail is captured). I don't see any noise or noise reduction artifacting here, nor would I expect to.
There are two macro modes at your disposal on the SX10. The regular macro mode is limited to focal lengths between 28 and 85 mm, and you can get as close to your subject as 10 and 40 cm, respectively. If you need to get closer, switch on super macro mode, which reduces the distance to 0 cm -- that's right, zero. Do note that the lens is fixed at full wide-angle when using super macro mode.
The night shot also turned out pretty well. Bringing in enough light for a proper exposure is easy, as the camera offers full control over shutter speed. The buildings are nice and sharp here, though you will find some noise reduction artifacting here and there, though it won't keep you from making a large print. Purple fringing levels were low. Oh, and for those who are wondering, that's a plane in the sky in the full size image, not a UFO.
Let's use that same scene to see how the PowerShot SX10 performed at higher sensitivities in low light:
The ISO 100 shot is just a tad bit noisier than the one at ISO 80. Noise reduction becomes a lot more noticeable at ISO 200, reducing your max print size down to midsize. Details really start to disappear at ISO 400, and I wouldn't take the SX10 any higher in these situations. The ISO 800 and 1600 photos have too much detail loss to be usable.
Look for a "normal lighting" ISO test in a moment.
There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the PowerShot SX10's 20X zoom lens. As usual, this photo gives you a good illustrate of the effect of barrel distortion. I didn't find vignetting (dark corners) or corner blurriness to be a problem on this camera.
Canon has taken a two-pronged approach to redeye removal on the SX10. You can have it use the AF-assist lamp to shrink the size of your subject's pupils (which isn't new), and you can also have the camera digitally remove any redeye that it finds (this is new). The first time I took the test shot, the camera couldn't find any eyes in the photo, so there was redeye. I took it again, and this time the digital redeye removal did the job. Therefore, if this happens to you, either take the photo again, or just use the removal tool in playback mode.
Now it's time for our second ISO test, which is taken in the studio. Thus, it's comparable between cameras I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise performance at each sensitivity, I highly recommend viewing the full size images as well. Here we go:
The ISO 80 and 100 photos are both very clean, with the ISO 200 shot showing just a tiny bit of noise. You start to see a bit of detail loss at ISO 400, but you should be able to make a midsize or large print without a problem. Things continue to worsen at ISO 800, where details are soft and fuzzy. I wouldn't take things any higher than this in good lighting. The ISO 1600 shot is pretty noisy, and should be used in desperate circumstances only.
This seems to be a common refrain lately, but: if the lighting is good, then you'll get very nice photos out of the PowerShot SX10 IS. They're generally well-exposed, though there's some minor highlight clipping here and there. Colors are pleasing -- they're accurate and quite vivid as well. Sharpness is just how I like it: not too sharp, not too soft. Being a 10 Megapixel camera, it's not surprising that there's going to be some heavy noise reduction going on. You will find the negative effects of noise reduction in fine details, as well as in solid areas of color, such as the sky -- even at ISO 80. It doesn't really hold you back until ISO 400 in low light, and ISO 800 in good light, though. Purple fringing is a fairly common occurrence on ultra zoom cameras, and you'll see it in several of my sample photos, though it never got too bad.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our extensive photo gallery. Browse through the photos, and maybe print a few of them, if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the PowerShot SX10's image quality meets your expectations.
The PowerShot S5 had a great movie mode, and when the SX10 was announced, I was really hoping that it A) had a high definition mode and B) used a more efficient codec. Only half of my wishes came true. The SX10 uses the much more efficient H.264 codec, but the resolution remains unchanged at 640 x 480, 30 frames/second (the PowerShot SX1, mentioned at the start of the review, offers an HD movie mode). The new codec allows you to record 45 minutes of continuous video at the highest quality setting. Sound is recorded in stereo, and you can manually adjust the mic level and turn on a wind filter if needed.
For smaller file sizes and a longer recording time, you can drop the resolution down to 320 x 240 (the frame rate remains the same).
As with its predecessors, the PowerShot SX10 allows you to use the optical zoom while filming. The ultrasonic lens moves silently, so minimal motor noise is picked up by the microphones. The optical image stabilizer is also available.
The SX10 is capable of taking a still photo while recording a movie. Do note that the movie will pause briefly while the still photo is recorded to the memory card.
I produced two sample movies for this review. One is an action movie (with a little zoom action), the other more of a "still life", if you will. Enjoy:
Click to play movie (14.5 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Click to play movie (17.2 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The PowerShot SX10 IS has a very nice playback mode. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom & scroll. This last feature will enlarge the image by as much as ten times, and let you move around. You can use the scroll wheel on the back of the camera to move from image to image, while keeping the zoom and scroll setting intact. You can also use the Focus Check feature here, which enlarges the focus point or the faces that were detected in the photo.
Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. You can apply most of the My Colors feature to your photos, as well. If there's any redeye in your photos, you'll find a tool to remove it here. You can also use the i-Contrast feature to brighten up the dark areas of your photos, with a choice of Auto, Low, Medium, or High settings.
If you're viewing a movie, you can use the Edit tool to trim unwanted footage off of the beginning or end of the clip.
The camera automatically put this one in the events category, since it was taken in Sports mode
Photos that were taken in certain scene modes are automatically categorized, but if you want to do it manually, just use the My Category option. Your selection is transferred to your computer along with the photo.
|Moving through photos with the scroll wheel...||... and the Jump button|
There are several ways to move through photos on the camera. Naturally, you can just press left or right on the four-way controller. You can also turn the scroll wheel, which gives you the screen you see on the above-left. Another option is to use the Jump feature, which lets you move ahead by date, category, file type (still or movie), or in groups of 10 or 100 photos.
Even the camera's photo deletion feature is nice. You can remove photos one at a time or all at once (of course), or by date, category, folder, or range (e.g. photos 5-9).
Sound recording tool
You can also use the SX10 to record audio clips, and that tool is located in the playback menu. You can record up to two hours of continuous audio, with three quality settings to choose from.
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 SX10 moves through images at an decent clip, with a delay of around 1 second between each one (complete with fancy transitions). Like most of Canon's cameras, when you rotate the camera 90 degrees, the photo on the LCD rotates too.
How Does it Compare?
When a 12X or even 15X zoom lens just isn't enough, Canon offers their new PowerShot SX10 IS. It offers a whopping 20X zoom lens (with a really nice 28 - 560 mm range), along with a 10 Megapixel CCD, full manual controls, hot shoe, rotating LCD display, and VGA movie mode. Photo quality is generally very good, as long as you don't let the ISO wander too high (most notably in low light situations). Most of my complaints fit into the "well, it would be nice if it had..." category. I wish it had an HD movie mode, a larger LCD, and RAW support. But, taken as it comes, the PowerShot SX10 is a very good choice for those looking for a super zoom camera.
From a distance, the PowerShot SX10 IS doesn't look much different than its predecessor, the PowerShot S5. Get it in your hands and you'll find that the SX10 is a larger, heavier, and better built camera than the S5. It's made of a mix of plastic and metal, and feels pretty solid. It's easy to hold, though one must be careful not to block the AF-assist lamp with their left hand. At the heart of the SX10 is its F2.8-5.7, 28 - 560 mm zoom lens (that's 20X total zoom power). This lens lets you have your cake and eat it too: wide-angle and super telephoto. You'd have to buy several expensive D-SLR lenses to match what the SX10 is able to offer in a much smaller package. Inside the lens is Canon's effective optical image stabilization system, which reduces the risk of blurry photos, while also smoothing out your video recordings. On the back of the camera is a 2.5" LCD display that can flip out to the side and rotate 270 degrees. The screen is definitely on the small side these days, though it would be hard for Canon to shoehorn anything larger onto the camera (without making it even bigger than it already is). The LCD -- along with the SX10's electronic viewfinder -- is sharp, and has good outdoor and low light visibility. Like its predecessor, the PowerShot SX10 supports an external flash. However, it doesn't support conversion lenses or filters like the S5 that came before it.
The PowerShot SX10 IS offers features for the point-and-shooter as well as the enthusiast. If you just want to point the camera at your subject and press the shutter release, then the camera's auto and scene modes should suit you just fine (though I'd pass on the ISO 3200 mode). Naturally, the SX10 offers a face detection feature (which works fairly well), plus a unique face self-timer feature, which waits for one more face to enter the frame before the photo is taken. If you're seeking manual controls, the SX10 has pretty much everything, ranging from exposure to focus to white balance. You can also bracket for exposure and focus. About the only things missing are white balance fine-tuning / bracketing and support for the RAW image format. The SX10 continues to have one of the best movie modes on the market, but I really wish it was HD. You can record movies at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with stereo sound and use of both the optical zoom and image stabilizer. The microphone level is adjustable, and you can turn on a wind filter if need be. Since Canon now uses the efficient H.264 codec, you can now record around 45 minutes of continuous video, up from 32 minutes on the PowerShot S5.
Camera performance was very good in most respects. The SX10 starts up in 1.2 seconds -- remarkably quick for a camera with a pretty big lens to extend. Focus times range from 0.2 seconds in the best case scenarios to around a second in the worst. Low light focusing was hit-or-miss: it was usually pretty responsive, but the camera couldn't lock focus more often than I would've liked. Shutter lag was not a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal -- even when using the flash. The SX10 won't win any awards for its continuous shooting speed, but you can take an unlimited number of photos at 1.4 frames/second. The SX10 uses AA batteries (which I like), and when equipped with four 2500 mAh NiMH cells it lasts longer than all of the competition.
I've written something similar to this for the last few Canon reviews, and here it is again: keep the light levels up and the ISO sensitivity down, and you'll get very nice results from the PowerShot SX10. Photos are well exposed (though there is occasional highlight clipping), with vivid, accurate color. Sharpness is right in the middle of the spectrum -- not too sharp, not too soft. In good light, you'll see noise reduction artifacting right away (if you look hard enough), though it doesn't actually become a major problem until ISO 800. In low light things go downhill a lot quicker: I wouldn't plan on using anything above ISO 400 unless you're really desperate. Purple fringing levels were moderate on this super zoom camera, and the camera's digital redeye removal does a good job -- assuming that it finds your eyes in the first place.
All things considered, the PowerShot SX10 is a very good super zoom camera, and a worthy successor to the PowerShot S5. Sure, it could do a few things better, but even so, the PowerShot SX10 is one of the best big zoom cameras you can find.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (in good light)
- Whopping 20X optical zoom lens, with a 28 - 560 mm range
- Optical image stabilization
- Generally snappy performance
- Flip-out, rotating 2.5" LCD display; good low light visibility
- Full manual controls, with plenty of scene modes too
- Hot shoe for external flash
- Customizable menu, button, and spot on mode dial
- Great movie mode allows for up to 45 mins of continuous recording at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with stereo sound, optical zoom and image stabilizer use, and more
- Super macro mode lets you be 0 cm away from your subject
- Redeye (usually) not a problem thanks to automatic removal tool
- Good face detection (with subject tracking) and handy face self-timer features
- Elaborate playback mode
- Best-in-class battery life; uses AA batteries
What I didn't care for:
- Noise reduction visible at ISO 80; noticeable detail loss above ISO 200 in low light, ISO 400 in good light
- Occasional purple fringing
- Low light focusing could be better
- Doesn't support filters and conversion lenses like its predecessor
- Easy to block AF-assist lamp with fingers; scroll wheel movement seems inconsistent
- I wish it had: HD movie mode, RAW image support, larger LCD
- Petty stuff: No bundled memory card, no lens cap retaining strap
Some other super zoom cameras worth looking at include the Casio Exilim EX-FH20, Fuji FinePix S8100fd, Kodak EasyShare Z1015 IS, Nikon Coolpix P80, Olympus SP-570UZ, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SX10 IS and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our gallery!