Originally Posted: March 14, 2009
Last Updated: August 10, 2009
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS ($349) is a compact ultra zoom camera with a 12X wide-angle zoom lens, image stabilization, full manual controls, HD video recording, and a 3-inch LCD display. That sounds an awful lot like Panasonic's ultra-popular Lumix DMC-TZ5 -- easily the best camera in this class in 2008 -- though that camera is soon to be replaced with the even more impressive DMC-ZS3 (also known as the TZ7). Regardless, the SX200 is a pretty nice step-up from the SX110 that came before it.
Some other features of note include a "Smart Auto" (scene detection) mode, face and blink detection, automatic redeye removal, and an HDMI port.
Is the PowerShot SX200 a good choice for a go-anywhere ultra zoom camera? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot SX200 IS has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot SX200 IS digital camera
- NB-5L rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
- 168 page camera manual (printed)
Canon was one of the last camera companies to still include a memory card with their cameras. That changed in 2009: now you don't get a bundled card, or even any built-in memory. That means that you'll need to buy a memory card right away, unless you happen to have one sitting around already. The SX200 supports a plethora of memory card types, including SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus -- I'd stick with the first two, though. I'd recommend a 2GB or 4GB card as a good place to start, and it's worth spending a bit more for a high speed model.
The SX200 IS uses Canon's familiar NB-5L lithium-ion battery. This battery packs 4.1 Wh of energy, which is about average. Here's how that translates into battery life:
The table above is a bit smaller than I would've liked but, unfortunately, I have no battery life numbers for the Kodak EasyShare Z915 or Samsung HZ15W. For the cameras that did make it into the table above, the SX200 is about 15% below the group average. It's also worth noting that its battery life is nearly 40% lower than its predecessor.
The old SX110 also used AA batteries, instead of the proprietary battery found on the SX200. Proprietary batteries cost more than NiMH rechargeable AAs (a spare NB-5L will set you back at least $37), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries in an emergency.
When it's time to charge the NB-5L, just pop it into the included charger. This is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall. It takes just over two hours to fully charge the battery.
The PowerShot SX200 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera, especially considering the fact that it packs a 12X zoom lens.
The accessory list for the PowerShot SX200 is a lot smaller than the one for the PowerShot S5. The main reason for the change is that the SX200 does not support conversion lenses. Here's what accessories are available:
That was easy... let's move onto software now.
CameraWindow in Mac OS X
Canon includes version 46.0 (!!) of their Digital Camera Solution software suite with the camera. 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 SX200'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 manual with the PowerShot SX200 IS. It's not the most user-friendly manual out there (though it seems better than previous Canon manuals), with more fine print than I'd like, but it gets the job done. Documentation for the software bundle and for printing functions are included on the CD-ROM that comes with the camera.
Look and Feel
The PowerShot SX200 is a more "upscale" version of the SX100 and SX110 that came before it. It has a compact (by ultra zoom standards) body made almost entirely of metal, and it feels very solid. The only weak spot is the somewhat flimsy door over the battery/memory card compartment. The camera is easy to hold, with a nice spot for your right thumb, and easy access to the most commonly used controls. The SX200's flash pops up automatically when you turn the camera on (and stays there), but Canon thoughtfully left room for your fingers right behind it.
Image courtesy of Canon USA
The SX200 is available in three colors: blue, red, and good ol' black.
Now, here's how the PowerShot SX200 IS compares to other compact ultra zooms in terms of size and weight:
First things first: the SX200 is considerably smaller than its predecessor. In the group as a whole, the SX200 is right in the middle of the pack. The Fuji FinePix S1500 is the largest of the bunch, due to its more traditional SLR-style design.
Alright, enough numbers, let's start our tour of the PowerShot SX200 now!
The lens on the PowerShot SX200 is both wider and more powerful than the one on the SX110 that came before it. This F3.4-5.3, 12X zoom lens has a focal range of 5 - 60 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 336 mm. The maximum aperture range is a bit slower than on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, but not by too much. The SX200's lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses and filters are not supported.
Inside the lens is Canon's optical image stabilization system. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands (known as "camera shake") that can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. The camera shifts one of the lens elements to compensate for this movement, allowing for a higher likelihood of a sharp photo. Image stabilization can't freeze a moving subject, and it won't allow for multi-second handheld exposures (the laws of physics still apply), but it will give you sharp photos at shutter speeds that would be otherwise unusable. Want proof? Have a look at these:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
I took both of the photos you see above at a shutter speed of 1/8th of a second, from about two feet away. As you can see, the image stabilization system did its job! You can also use image stabilization in movie mode, as you can see in this brief video clip.
To the upper-right of the lens is the PowerShot SX200's flash, which pops up when the camera is turned on, and retracts when it's turned off. While I'd prefer to pop it up manually, at least the flash stays out of the way of your fingers. You can tell that the flash isn't going to be very powerful just be looking at it, and sure enough, the numbers back up that assumption. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 3.0 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 2.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). Should you require more flash power, you can pick up the external slave flash that I mentioned back in the accessory section of the review.
To the upper-left of the lens is the AF-assist lamp, which the camera uses as a focusing aid in low light situations. This same lamp is also used for redeye reduction, and it blinks as the self-timer counts down, as well.
Just below the AF-assist lamp is a pinhole-sized speaker -- no stereo sound recording here!
The main event on the back of the SX200 is its 3-inch LCD display. Unlike on the Panasonic TZ5 and ZS3 -- which have 460,000 pixel LCDs -- the screen on the SX200 has a "standard" resolution of 230,000 pixels. Even so, I didn't find sharpness to be an issue, at all. The screen has very good outdoor visibility, and in low light, the screen brightens automatically, so you can still see what you're trying to take a picture of.
As you can probably tell, there's no optical or electronic viewfinder on the PowerShot SX200. Most people these days don't seem to miss having a viewfinder, but if you require one, you'll have to buy a larger ultra zoom camera.
Now let's move onto the controls located to the right of the LCD. Thankfully, there aren't too many.
The top-most buttons are the customizable Direct Print and playback mode buttons. In record mode, you can customize the function of the Direct Print button (I'll list the options later in the review) -- by default, it does nothing. If you're connected to a photo printer, you can press the button to print the photo that's displayed on the LCD.
Below those buttons is the camera's combination four-way controller and scroll wheel. The wheel portion can be used for menu navigation, adjusting manual settings, and quickly moving through photos in playback mode. The four-way controller can do many of the same things, and it also lets you adjust the following:
- Up - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- Down - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec, face timer, custom timer) + Delete photo
- Left - Focus (Auto, macro, super macro, manual)
- Right - Flash (Auto, flash on, slow synchro, flash off)
- Center - Function menu + Set
There's much to talk about before we can continue the tour. First up are those two unique self-timer options. The face self-timer option lets you be included in a photo, without having to run while the self-timer counts down. The camera will simply wait until another face is detected, and it will take a series of three photos two seconds later. The custom self-timer option lets you select both the delay and the number of photos taken -- a very uncommon feature.
Manual focus (center-frame enlargement not shown)
While I'll cover the SX200's macro abilities later in the review, I do want to touch on manual focus here. In this mode, you'll use the camera's scroll wheel to set the focus distance. A guide showing this distance is displayed on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged, as well.
The newly remodeled Function Menu
Pressing the center button on the four-way controller options up the Function menu, which has a totally new design on the SX200. The options here include:
- Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
- 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
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom) - see below
- ISO speed (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- Drive mode (Single-shot, continuous, AF continuous) - see below
- Image quality (see chart later in review)
- Image size (see chart later in review)
Sharpness is one of the settings you can adjust with the Custom Color option
The My Colors feature hasn't changed recently. The only option that needs some explanation is the custom color setting. This lets you manually adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, as well as red/green/blue/skin tone levels.
The PowerShot SX200'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.
There are three continuous shooting modes to choose from on the PowerShot SX200 IS. Regular continuous locks the focus and exposure after the first shot, continuous AF reevaluates both between every photo, and continuous LV does the same, except in manual focus mode.
In regular continuous mode, the camera can keep shooting at 1 frame/second until your memory card is full. That's pretty slow, and there's a bit of a blackout on the LCD between each shot, as well. If you use the continuous AF or LV mode, expect a frame rate of around 0.6 fps.
The last two buttons on the back of the PowerShot SX200 toggle the information shown on the LCD, and enter the menu system.
The top view of the SX200 shows how Canon thoughtfully left some room for your fingers behind the flash. On other cameras with a flash in this location, you're usually out of luck. Near the center of the photo you'll find the power button, with the mode dial to its right. The mode dial is packed with options, which include:
The PowerShot SX200 IS has plenty of automatic shooting options, plus a full set of manual exposure controls.
If you want a totally brainless shooting experience, you can use the "easy mode", which only lets you adjust one thing: whether the flash is on or off. Regular auto mode gives you limited access the camera's menu system, and it also features Canon's brand new Smart Auto mode. Smart Auto mode will pick one of of the following scene modes for you: portrait, portrait w/backlight, night portrait, night scene, sunset, and macro.
If you want to set a scene mode yourself, you can do that too. Some of the notable scene modes include color accent (you select a color to "keep", all the others turn to black and white), color swap (swap one color for another), and Stitch Assist (which helps you line up panoramic photos). One scene mode I'd avoid is ISO 3200, which will produce images that are too small and low quality to do anything with.
The only thing to mention about the manual controls is what's missing: there's no Program Shift feature, nor is there a bulb mode.
To the right of the mode dial is the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The controller is variable speed, so the more you press it, the faster the lens moves. At full speed, you can move from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.5 seconds. I counted over forty steps in the 12X zoom range -- very nice.
The only thing to see on this side of the camera is the speaker. The lens is at the wide-angle position here.
The other side of the SX200 is pretty hard to photograph, due to its mirrored surface. Here you'll find the camera's I/O ports, which are kept behind a plastic cover. Let's peel it back and see what we can find. (The lens is at full telephoto here, by the way).
The port on the top is for both USB and A/V output. The one on the bottom is for HDMI, which is what you'll want to use to connect to an HDTV (cable not included).
As you'd expect, the PowerShot SX200 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.
On the bottom of the camera we find a metal tripod mount, as well as the battery and memory card compartment. Whether you'll be able to get at the memory card slot while you're using a tripod depends on what kind you're using (it worked for me). The door over the battery/memory compartment is of average quality.
The included NB-5L lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
Using the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
It takes just 1.2 seconds for the PowerShot SX200 to extend its lens, pop up its flash, and prepare for shooting. That's pretty darn quick.
There's no histogram to be found on the SX200
Autofocus performance is good, but not spectacular. Focus times at wide-angle range from 0.2 - 0.4 seconds, with telephoto delays ranging from 0.6 - 1.0 seconds. Low light focusing was fairly quick and accurate, with focus times staying under a second most of the time. Do note that the camera does not support multi-point autofocus: it's face detection or center-point only.
Shutter lag wasn't an issue, even at the slow shutter speeds were it sometimes occurs.
After you take a photo, you'll wait 1.5 seconds before you can take another. If you're using the flash, the wait goes up to four seconds, which is on the slow side. The SX200 offers a "focus check" feature, which enlarges the face of focus point in the photo that you just took.
You can delete a picture after you've taken it by pressing down on the four-way controller.
Now, here's a look at the image quality options on the PowerShot SX200. Long-time Canon users will notice that there are now only two image quality settings to choose from at each resolution!
The PowerShot SX200 doesn't support the RAW or TIFF image formats. There's no more "postcard" resolution to deal with, either -- you can now print the date on photos taken at any resolution.
Images are named IMG_xxxx.JPG, where x = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you erase your memory card.
Now, onto the menus!
Like the Function Menu I told you about earlier, the SX200's main menu has also been redesigned, and it looks quite nice. Keeping in mind that not all of these will be available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of options in the shooting menu:
- AF frame (Face detect, center) - see below
- AF frame size (Normal, small) - for use with center-point AF
- Servo AF (on/off) - see below
- AF mode (Single, continuous) - see below
- Digital zoom (Off, 1.5X, 2.0X, Standard) - see below
- AF-point zoom (on/off) - enlarges the focus point or the selected faces when you halfway-press the shutter release
- AF-assist beam (on/off)
- MF-point zoom (on/off) - enlarges the center of the frame in manual focus mode
- Safety MF (on/off) - allows you to press the shutter release halfway to activate autofocus momentarily when using manual focus
- 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
- Redeye correction (on/off) - digital redeye removal, as the photo is taken
- Redeye reduction lamp (on/off) - attempts to shrink your subject's pupils to reduce redeye
- Safety FE (on/off) - whether the camera adjusts the shutter speed or aperture to avoid overexposure when using the flash
- i-Contrast (Off, auto) - see below
- Safety shift (on/off) - camera will adjust the shutter speed or aperture as needed to obtain a proper exposure when in the priority modes
- 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
- Blink detection (on/off) - see below
- Display overlay (Off, grid lines, 3:2 guide, both)
- IS mode (Continuous, shoot only, panning, off) - see below
- Date stamp (Off, date, date & time)
- Set Direct Print button (Off, face select, ISO, white balance, custom WB, redeye correction, digital teleconverter, i-Contrast, grid lines, display off) - define what this button does
The PowerShot SX200 IS has two focus modes: Face Detection and Center AF. Strangely, the usual Canon AiAF option is not available. The center-point AF option should be obvious; you can select between normal and small-sized focus points in that mode. Face detection will find up to nine faces in the frame, making sure they're properly focused and exposed. You can use the "face select" feature to choose a face in the frame to track as they move around the frame. While the camera had little trouble finding faces in our test scene, it seemed very "jumpy", constantly selecting and deselecting faces. It typically locked onto two or three faces in this test scene, though I have a feeling it could do a better job in the real world.
What the blink detection screen looks like; simulated image courtesy of Canon USA
Tied into the face detection system is Canon's new blink detection feature. If you have this feature on and you take a picture of a person whose eyes are closed, the camera will display a warning screen. There's no digital effect to open their eyes -- at least not yet.
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 Servo AF feature here, which will track a moving subject as they move around the frame -- perfect for action shots.
A quick note about the digital zoom feature on the SX200: Canon calls the 1.5X and 2.0X 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, at the expense of image quality. 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 1600 x 1200 (good enough for a 4 x 6 inch print), you can achieve a whopping 30X total zoom using this feature!
Another new feature on the PowerShot SX200 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
The best way I found to illustrate this feature is to meter the sky, which underexposes the foreground. Here you can see that i-Contrast brightens up the trees and ground quite nicely. If you meter on the darker areas of the frame, don't expect i-Contrast to do much with the clipped highlights in the sky.
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.
The other tab in the menu is for setup options, which include:
- 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)
- Sound options
- Startup sound (1, 2)
- Operation sound (1, 2)
- Self-timer sound (1, 20)
- Shutter sound (1, 2)
- LCD brightness (1 - 5)
- Start-up image (None, 1, 2)
- Hints & Tips (on/off) - describes the options in the Function menu
- Format (memory card)
- 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
- Lens retract (1 min, 0 secs) - how quickly the lens retracts when you switch to playback mode
- Power saving
- Auto power down (on/off)
- Display off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min)
- Time zone (Home, world)
- Date/time (set)
- Distance units (m/cm, ft/in)
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Reset all - back to defaults
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
The PowerShot SX200 IS did a fine job with our macro test subject. The colors look great: they're nice and vivid. The subject has the "smooth" look that is a familiar sight on a Canon digital camera. I don't see any signs of noise here, nor would I expect to.
There are two macro modes on the SX200. In regular macro mode, the minimum focus distance is 2 - 50 cm, though you can only use that range between the 1X and 4X positions. If you want to get even closer, you can use the super macro mode. This option reduces the minimum distance to 0 cm, though the lens will be locked at the wide-angle position.
The night scene turned out pretty well also. Seeing how you have full control over the shutter speed, bringing in enough light isn't a problem. The buildings are fairly sharp, though you will see the effects of noise reduction here. In the real world, you probably won't notice this noise unless you're making large-sized prints, at least at this sensitivity. There's a bit of highlight clipping and some cyan-colored fringing as well, but not enough to concern me.
Now, let's use that same night scene to see how the SX200 performed at high ISOs in low light:
There isn't much of a difference between the first two crops, as you'd expect. There's more noise visible at ISO 200, which reduces your maximum print sizes a bit, though a large print isn't out of the question. I'd probably stop at ISO 400 myself, as there's a fair amount of detail loss here. While you could use ISO 800 in emergencies, I wouldn't bother with ISO 1600, as there's just too much detail loss for the photo to be usable.
We'll see how the camera performed in normal lighting in a bit.
There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the end of the SX200's 28 - 336 mm lens. You can get an idea as to what this distortion does in the real world by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. While corner blurring wasn't a problem, I did spot some vignetting (dark corners) in one of my sample photos.
Canon has taken a two-pronged approach to redeye removal on the SX200. You can have it use the redeye reduction lamp to shrink your subject's pupils, have it digitally remove any redeye that the camera finds, or both. As you can see, there's no redeye to be found here. If you have any redeye that slips by the camera's countermeasures, you can also get rid of it using the tool in playback mode.
Now it's time for our second ISO test, which is taken in our studio. Since the lighting is consistent, you can compare this test shot with others I've taken over the years (click here to open the Panasonic DMC-TZ5 review). 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:
There's very little difference between the first three crops, with just a bit more noise visible in the ISO 200 image. You can make full size prints of any of these without issue. At ISO 400 there's a bit more "grainy" noise, bringing your print sizes to small or midsize. Things soften up considerably at ISO 800, again making it for desperate circumstances only. I wouldn't touch ISO 1600 with a ten foot pole.
The same things that I've written over the last year about Canon's compact cameras can basically be repeated here. The PowerShot SX200 produces very good quality photos, given that there's enough light. Exposure is generally good, though like most point-and-shoot cameras, it's prone to highlight clipping. Colors looked great -- I have no complaints there. Photos have that trademark Canon smooth look, which I always find quite appealing. Canon seems to use more noise reduction on their DIGIC 4 cameras than they used to, so details are a bit more smudged that PowerShots of years past. Even so, the SX200 still does better than most ultra zoom cameras when it comes to detail retention. Purple fringing levels were low to moderate.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our SX200 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 SX200's photo quality meets your expectations.
While it's not best-in-class, the PowerShot SX200's movie mode is still a vast improvement over what Canon has offered in the past. The camera can record HD video at 1280 x 720 (720p) at 30 frames/second, with mono sound. Since Canon now uses the efficient H.264 codec, you can record longer movies than you could on PowerShots from a year ago. The maximum recording time at the HD setting is 30 minutes.
If you want smaller movies, you can select from VGA (640 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240) resolutions. Both retain the 30 frame/second frame rate, and can record continuous video for up to an hour.
One thing that made the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5's movie mode so great was that you could use the optical zoom while you were recording a movie. Unfortunately, that's one feature you won't find on the PowerShot SX200 IS. If you want that on a Canon camera, you'll have to step up to the PowerShot SX1 or SX10 models. You can use the digital zoom, if you want, and the image stabilizer is always available.
While this isn't the most exciting sample movie, it'll have to do for now. If I come up with something better, I'll post it here. Be warned, it's a big download!
Click to play movie (31.9 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The PowerShot SX200's playback mode has received a few new bells and whistles compared to the old SX100 and SX110. The basic features are more-or-less the same. You get slideshows (with transitions), image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view (with many sizes to choose from), and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the image by up to 10X, and then move around the image. You can also view faces or the focus point by pressing the Display button a few times.
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 have a movie open, you can trim unwanted footage off of the beginning or end of the clip.
The new playback function menu
Playback options aren't just in the regular menu anymore -- there's now a playback function menu as well. Many of these options are repeats from the main menu, though there's also a "filtered playback" selection, which lets you show photos by date, category, folder, and file type.
Speaking of categories, you can assign a category of your choosing to photos. If you took a photo in certain scene modes, it may already have a category assigned.
Naturally, you can move through photos by pressing left or right on the four-way controller. By rotating the scroll wheel, you can move through them at a much faster clip, and here you can also jump forward or backward by date.
The camera lets you delete photos one at a time, in a group, or all at once.
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 SX200 moves through images at a good clip, with a delay of around half a second 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?
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a very capable and compact ultra zoom camera. It offers very good photo quality, a 28 - 336 mm lens, a nice combination of automatic and manual controls, a large LCD, and a HD movie mode. It's not perfect though; it has a weak, slow-to-charge flash, battery life is below average, and you can't zoom while recording a movie mode. Despite that, the PowerShot SX200 is a good choice for a travel camera, and it earns my recommendation.
It's pretty obvious from the design of the PowerShot SX200 what camera it's going after: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5. The SX200 has a compact body (by ultra zoom standards, at least), made almost entirely of metal. The camera is a bit unusual in that its flash pops up automatically when the camera is turned on, not closing until it's powered off. Thankfully, Canon designed the SX200 in such a way that the flash doesn't block your fingers, so it's easy to hold the camera. The flash is quite weak, however. Canon didn't go overboard with controls, either -- you can figure out the SX200 without having to read the manual first. The highlight of the camera is probably its F3.4-5.3, 12X optical zoom lens. The range of the lens is 28 - 336 mm, which should cover nearly any shooting situation that may come up in your travels. The SX200 has Canon's optical image stabilization system, which effectively reduces blur in still photos, and "shake" in your videos. On the back of the camera is a sharp 3-inch LCD display, with very good outdoor and low light visibility. Like all of the compact ultra zooms, the SX200 does not have an optical or electronic viewfinder.
The PowerShot SX200 IS offers a nice combination of features, for both beginners and more advanced users. If you just want to point and shoot, then flip the mode dial to Auto mode. The camera will automatically select a scene mode for you and detect and focus on any faces in the scene. Too complex? Then there's an "easy" mode that lets you control whether the flash is on or off, and that's it. The camera's menu system is all new, with a more attractive, animated design, and helpful descriptions of the items in the Function menus. Other handy point-and-shoot features include automatic redeye removal, panoramic shooting assistance, and blink detection that seems to work pretty well. The SX200's playback mode is quite nice, as well. For the enthusiast, you'll find a full set of manual controls, covering exposure, white balance, and focus. The only things missing are Program Shift, bulb mode, and support for the RAW image format. Something else that's not on the camera that I found a bit odd was a multi-point autofocus mode: it's face detection or center-point, and that's it. While it's doesn't have the best movie mode in its class, the SX200 can certainly hold its own. You can record up to thirty minutes of continuous 720p video (that's 1280 x 720 at 30 fps) with sound. While the image stabilizer is available during recording, the optical zoom is not.
Camera performance is good overall, though there's room for improvement in some areas. The PowerShot SX200 is super-quick at startup time, taking just 1.2 seconds to extend the lens and raise its flash. Focus times are average, ranging from 0.2 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle to 0.6 - 1.0 seconds at telephoto. In low light, the camera focused accurately and fairly quickly. I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, and shot-to-shot delays are brief, if you're not using the flash. If you are using the flash, expect a four second wait between shots, which is a little longer than I'd like. The SX200 won't win any awards for its continuous shooting mode: you can take an unlimited number of photos at a sluggish 1 frame/second. Battery life was below average for the group, and quite a bit worse than its predecessor (the PowerShot SX110).
Photo quality was very good in most respects. The SX200 took photos that were well-exposed, though (like most of its peers) it is prone to highlight clipping. Colors were accurate and vibrant, and subjects have the "smooth" appearance that is a Canon trademark. While Canon cameras got a bit noisier when the DIGIC 4 processor arrived, you can still get very nice results when light levels are good. In good light, you can make mid-to-large-sized prints through ISO 400. In low light, you'll want to keep the ISO at 200 or below for best results. Purple fringing will pop up here and there, though it's never horrible. While I spotted some occasional vignetting, it wasn't nearly frequent enough to be considered a problem. The SX200's two-pronged redeye removal system proved effective in my tests.
Overall, the PowerShot SX200 is a good choice for those who want a lot of zoom power in a portable (not to mention stylish) package. I haven't reviewed the SX200's main competitor (the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3) just yet, so I can't tell you which one is better. The ZS3 has a nicer movie mode and slightly better battery life, but it lacks the manual controls of the SX200. It also has two million fewer pixels, though I don't think anyone will notice. Regardless of how well the ZS3 performs, the PowerShot SX200 is still a solid camera, and one that i can recommend.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (in good light)
- 12X optical zoom with a nice 28 - 336 mm range
- Compact body for an ultra zoom; stylish and well-designed
- Optical image stabilization
- Sharp 3-inch LCD display with very good outdoor and light light visibility
- Full manual controls
- Auto mode will pick a scene mode for you; plenty of other scenes can be selected manually
- Can record HD movies at 1280 x 720 at 30 fps using H.264 codec
- Fast startup, menu operation, and playback speeds
- Face detection (with subject tracking), face self-timer, blink detection, and redeye removal features all work well
- i-Contrast feature brightens shadows effectively, in record and playback mode
- Elaborate playback mode
- HDMI output
What I didn't care for:
- Noise reduction causes detail loss above ISO 200 in low light, ISO 400 in good light
- Tends to clip highlights; some purple fringing, as well
- Anemic, slow-to-charge flash
- Optical zoom not usable in movie mode
- No multi-point autofocus or live histogram available
- Below average battery life
- Continuous shooting mode on the slow side
- No optical or electronic viewfinder
- No memory card or built-in memory included
Some other compact ultra zooms to consider include the Fuji FinePix S1500 (larger than the others, due to its SLR design, but still relatively small), Kodak EasyShare Z915, Olympus Stylus 9000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, Samsung HZ15W, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SX200 IS and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our gallery!