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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 22, 2006
Last Updated: January 3, 2012

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The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH ($499) isn't just another ultra-compact camera: it also features a 4X zoom lens (versus the 3X models usually found on such cameras) and an optical image stabilization system (which will give you sharper photos). Neither of these features were on the PowerShot SD550 which the SD700 replaces. Other changes include improved battery life, a higher resolution LCD, and (unfortunately) a weaker flash.

Just about everything else on the SD700 is the same as before: there's still a 2.5" LCD display, VGA movie mode, point-and-shoot operation, and super fast performance.

If you're a bit confused by all the SD-series cameras these days, you're not alone. With that in mind, this chart compares the various 2006 models:

Feature PowerShot SD430 PowerShot SD550 PowerShot SD600 PowerShot SD630 PowerShot SD700 IS
Street price
(at time of posting)
$458 $324 $319 $366 $477
Resolution 5.0 MP 7.1 MP 6.0 MP 6.0 MP 6.0 MP
Optical zoom 3X 3X 3X 3X 4X
Lens 35mm equivalent 35 - 105 mm 37 - 111 mm 35 - 105 mm 35 - 105 mm 35 - 140 mm
Image stabilization No No No No Yes
LCD size 2.0" 2.5" 2.5" 3.0" 2.5"
LCD resolution 118,000 pixels 115,000 pixels 173,000 pixels 173,000 pixels 173,000 pixels
Optical viewfinder Yes Yes Yes No Yes
ISO range 50 - 400 50 - 400 80 - 800 80 - 800 80 - 800
Wi-Fi support Yes No No No No
Battery used NB-4L NB-3L NB-4L NB-4L NB-5L
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
150 shots 150 shots 160 shots 160 shots 240 shots
(W x H x D)
3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 3.5 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
Weight 130 g 170 g 140 g 145 g 165 g

Ready to learn about the SD700 now? Our review starts right now!

The PowerShot SD700 is known as the Digital IXUS 800 IS in some countries. Since the cameras have much in common I'll be reusing portions of the PowerShot SD630 review here.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SD700 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 6.0 effective Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH camera
  • 16MB Secure Digital card
  • NB-5L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions, ArcSoft PhotoStudio, and drivers
  • 24 page basic manual + 137 page advanced manual (both printed)

Canon includes a 16MB memory card along with the SD700, which is pretty small for a 6MP camera (holding just four photos at the highest quality setting). That means that you'll need to buy a memory card, which drives up the initial purchase price of the camera a bit. Like the other cameras in the SD series, the SD700 uses Secure Digital memory cards, and I'd suggest a 512MB card as a good starter size. The camera takes advantage of high speed memory cards, so it's worth spending the extra bucks for one of those.

While the "old" SD550 had decent battery life compared to the other Digital ELPHs, it was a bit lacking compared to the competition, so Canon came up with a new, more powerful battery. This new battery, known as the NB-5L, packs 4.1 Wh of energy, up about 40% from the SD550's NB-3L battery. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD550 150 shots
Canon PowerShot SD600 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD630 160 shots
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS * 240 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z600 550 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z850 440 shots
Fuji FinePix V10 170 shots
Fuji FinePix Z3 200 shots
HP Photosmart R727 270 shots
Kodak EasyShare V603 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix S5 200 shots
Olympus Stylus 710 180 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 * 320 shots
Pentax Optio T10 130 shots
Samsung Digimax i6 210 shots **
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 300 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 * 420 shots

* Has image stabilization
** Not calculated using the CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The SD700's battery life numbers are improved over its predecessor, but they're still about average for the ultra-compact class. Casio and Sony really have a big advantage in this area.

My usual complaints about proprietary batteries like the one used by the SD700 apply here. They're expensive ($45 a pop), and you can't put in a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the day like you could with an AA-based camera. Then again, you'd be hard pressed to find an ultra-thin camera that uses AAs.

The SD700 comes with the usual compact battery charger. Just pop in the NB-5L, plug the charger directly into the wall, and two hours later you're in business.

As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the SD700, so there's no clunky lens cap to worry about.

There are just a few accessories available for the SD700 IS. The most interesting is the WP-DC5 waterproof case ($170), which lets you take the SD700 up to 40 meters underwater. If you want more flash power and less redeye then you'll want to consider the HF-DC1 external slave flash ($100). This flash attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the on-board flash does. The last accessory of note is an AC adapter ($50) , which lets you power the camera without draining your battery.

ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

Canon includes version 28.2 of their Digital Camera Solution software with the PowerShot SD700. The main program is the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser applications that come with all PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs.

The "Browser twins" can be used for downloading images from a camera, and then viewing, editing, and printing them. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. You can also edit the movies produced by the camera, adding text, audio, transitions, and more.

The SD700 does not support the RemoteCapture feature.

PhotoStitch (Mac OS X)

A separate program known as PhotoStitch is used to put the photos you took in the Stitch Assist mode into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, and the results are impressive, even in automatic mode. If you need to tweak things manually, you can do that too.

ArcSoft PhotoStudio 4.3 for Mac OS X

Also included is ArcSoft PhotoStudio (v 4.3 for Mac, v5.5 for Windows), which is kind of like a "light" version of Adobe Photoshop. It's not bad, though I miss all the bells and whistles of the newer PhotoImpression software that's available these days.

Canon reworked their manuals a bit last year. There's a basic manual which will get you up and shooting quickly. For more details you can open up the advanced manual, which should answer any question you might have. There are also separate manuals for the software package as well as for direct printing. While the manuals are complete (every detail is covered), they could be a little more user friendly.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD700 IS is a very stylish ultra-compact camera. The sleek metal body has three different colors, which Canon calls ice metal silver, moonlight silver, and ebony black (no, I'm not making this up). The camera is well put together and feels solid in your hands. While the important controls are easy to reach, I'm not a fan of some of the "micro buttons" on the back of the camera.

Now, here's a look at how the SD700 compares with some of the competition in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD550 3.5 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.5 cu in. 170 g
Canon PowerShot SD600 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.4 cu in. 140 g
Canon PowerShot SD630 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 145 g
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS * 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 7.9 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z600 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.2 cu in. 112 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z850 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 130 g
Fuji FinePix V10 3.3 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 7.4 cu in. 156 g
Fuji FinePix Z3 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.2 cu in. 130 g
HP Photosmart R727 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.0 cu in. 136 g
Kodak EasyShare V603 3.6 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.5 cu in. 120 g
Nikon Coolpix S5 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 135 g
Olympus Stylus 710 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 103 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 * 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 132 g
Pentax Optio T10 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 135 g
Samsung Digimax i6 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.4 cu in. 130 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 151 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 * 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 134 g
* Has image stabilization

As you can see, the SD700 has lost some weight compared to its slightly chunkier predecessor. As ultra-compacts go it's one of the larger models out there, but it's still small enough to fit into any pocket with ease.

Okay, it's time to start our review of the SD700 IS now!

The PowerShot SD700 IS is the first Digital ELPH to have a 4X optical zoom lens and image stabilization. The F2.8-5.5 lens gives you a bit more zoom power than most ultra-compacts, with a working range of 5.8 - 23.2 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 140 mm. The lens is not threaded, nor would I expect it to be.

Deep inside the lens is Canon's optical image stabilization system. If you've ever been annoyed by blurry photos when shooting under less than ideal light then you'll like OIS. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands ("camera shake"), and a lens element is shifted to compensate for this motion. This allows you to use slower shutter speeds than you could on an unstabilized camera, resulting in sharper photos. The OIS system won't stop a moving subject, nor will it allow you to take night photos like the one later in this review without a tripod.

Want to see how well the OIS system works? Check these out:

Image stabilization off

Image stabilization on, shoot only mode

Both of these photos were taken with a shutter speed of 1/13 second. The photo on the top didn't use OIS, so it's on the blurry side. The photo on the bottom did, and it looks a whole lot sharper. If you want another example about how the OIS system dampens camera shake, then check out this sample movie.

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's built-in flash. While the SD500 and SD550 were known for having a powerful flash, the SD700 doesn't carry on that tradition. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO), compared to 0.5 - 5.0 and 0.5 - 3.0 m, respectively, on the SD550. If you want more flash power then you can add the external slave flash that I mentioned in the previous section.

Above the lens is the AF-assist lamp, which is also used as the self-timer countdown light. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

To the left of the AF-assist lamp is the optical viewfinder. To its lower-left is the microphone.

On the back of the SD700 you'll find a large 2.5" LCD display. Canon bumped up the screen resolution on the SD700, with this LCD having a total of 173,000 pixels. As you'd expect from an LCD with those specs, everything is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility was about average, while in low light conditions it was excellent, as the screen brightens automatically in those situations.

Above the LCD is an optical viewfinder, a feature which is becoming increasingly rare on ultra-compact cameras. While the one here is small (and lacks a diopter correction knob), it's better than not having one at all. To the right of the viewfinder is the power button.

Jumping to the far right of the photo now, we find the camera's mode dial, which has been redesigned since the SD500/550. The options here include:

Option Function
Playback mode More on this later
Auto record Point-and-shoot, some menu options locked up
Manual record Same as above, but with full menu access
Scene mode You pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from portrait, night snapshot, kids & pets, indoor, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, underwater, color accent, and color swap. See below for more.
Movie mode I'll have much more on this later

Since the PowerShot SD700 is a point-and-shoot camera, choosing the manual record option doesn't actually give you any manual exposure controls. In fact, the only manual control on the entire camera is for white balance.

Color accent: left only the purple color of the flowers Color swap: turned green into red

Most of the scene modes should be self explanatory, but I do want to talk about color accent and color swap. These two options used to be found in the My Colors menu on the SD550, but for some reason they were moved on Canon's newer models. Color accent lets you choose a color to highlight, and everything else in the image becomes black and white. Color swap does just as it sounds -- you swap one color for another. For either mode you can keep the original image in case the modified one isn't very inspiring. Both of these features are gimmicky, but fun nonetheless.

Back to the tour now. Directly to the right of the LCD is the Print/Share button which, like the other buttons on the back of the camera, is on the small side. When connected to a computer, you can transfer your photos by pressing this button, and you can even choose your desktop background right from the camera. If you're hooked into a PictBridge-enabled photo printer then you can print photos from the camera.

Below the Print/Share button you'll find the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation and also:

  • Up - ISO (Auto, Hi Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800) + Jump (Quickly moves 10 or 100 photos at a time in playback mode)
  • Down - Drive (Single shot, continuous, self-timer) + Delete photo
  • Left - Focus (AF, macro, infinity)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow synchro)
  • Center - Function Menu (see below) + Set

Canon's 2006 models have a new ISO range: 80 to 800, instead of 50 to 400. There's also a new Hi Auto mode, which will boost the sensitivity higher than in the regular Auto ISO mode. This allows for sharper pictures in low light, though noise levels will be higher. I'll have more on this subject later.

The SD700 IS has the same excellent continuous shooting mode as Canon's other DIGIC II-equipped cameras. With a high speed SD card you can keep shooting at 2 frames/second until you run out of memory. The LCD does a good job keeping up with the action, so you shouldn't have any trouble following a moving subject.

Function menu

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

  • Shooting mode (Manual, digital macro, Stitch Assist) - see below
  • Special Scene mode (listed earlier) - only available in scene mode
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Long shutter mode (Off, 1 - 15 sec)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom)
  • My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, custom color) - see below
  • Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
  • Compression (see chart later in review)
  • Resolution (see chart later in review)

What are those two shooting modes? Digital macro locks the lens at wide-angle and lets you get as close to your subject as 2 cm a]nd then use the digital zoom to get closer. Since image quality is reduced when the digital zoom is used, I don't know why you'd want to use this. Stitch Assist helps you line up photos side-by-side so they can later be combined into a single panoramic image on your Mac or PC.

The long shutter mode is a pseudo-manual control, allowing you to take exposures as long as 15 seconds.

Most of the My Colors options should be self-explanatory, but I do want to mention the Custom Color option. This lets you adjust the contrast, sharpness, saturation, reds, greens, blues, and skin tones in your photos. Each of those options can be adjusted from -2 to +2 in 1-step increments.

Getting back to the tour now: the last two buttons on the back of the PowerShot SD700 are Display and Menu. The former does just as it sounds, while the latter toggles the information shown on the LCD.

On top of the SD700 you'll find the microphone (hard to see here), the shutter release button, and the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.6 seconds. I counted nine steps in the 4X zoom range.

One thing I don't like about the SD700 is that the current zoom setting is not shown on the LCD.

Nothing to see here.

On the other side of the SD700 you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under a plastic cover. The ports include USB and A/V out. The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

It's worth mentioning that the lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount and the battery / memory card compartment. The latter is protected by a plastic door of decent quality. You won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod, though.

The included NB-5L battery is shown at right.

Using the Canon PowerShot SD700 Digital ELPH

Record Mode

It takes just one second for the PowerShot SD700 IS to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.wh

No live histogram to be found

While it won't win any awards, the SD700 focuses very quickly in most situations. Typically it takes 0.2 to 0.4 seconds to lock focus at wide-angle, with slightly longer delays at the telephoto end of the lens. Low light focusing was very good thanks to the SD700's AF-assist lamp.

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

As with Canon's other DIGIC II-based cameras, shot-to-shot delays are minimal on the SD700. You'll wait a little over a second before you can take another shot.

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

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

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # Images on 16MB card
# images on 512MB card (optional)
2816 x 2112
Superfine 2.7 MB 4 176
Fine 1.6 MB 8 292
Normal 780 KB 17 603
Wide (16:9)
2816 x 1584
Superfine 2.0 MB 6 235
Fine 1.2 MB 11 392
Normal 585 KB 23 794
Medium 1
2272 x 1704
Superfine 2.0 MB 6 237
Fine 1.1 MB 12 425
Normal 556 KB 24 839
Medium 2
1600 x 1200
Superfine 1002 KB 13 471
Fine 558 KB 24 839
Normal 278 KB 46 1590
640 x 480
Superfine 249 KB 52 1777
Fine 150 KB 80 2747
Normal 84 KB 127 4317

As you can see, a larger memory card is a very wise investment if you buy the SD700. There are two "special" image sizes available as well. There's a widescreen mode available, which records with a 16:9 aspect ratio. There's also a postcard size (1600 x 1200), which is the only resolution that allows you to print the date on your photos.

Not surprisingly, there's no RAW or TIFF support on this camera.

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 SD700 has the same menu system as the other cameras in the SD series. Note that some menu options are not available while in the automatic and scene modes. With that in mind, here's what's in the record menu:

  • AiAF (on/off) - turns the 9-point autofocus system on and off; if turned off, camera focuses on whatever is in the center of the frame (which is faster)
  • Self-timer (2, 10 secs, custom timer) - see below
  • AF-assist beam (on/off)
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best to keep this turned off
  • Review (Off, 2 - 10 secs, hold) - post-shot review; the hold feature will keep the image on the LCD until you press a button
  • Save original (on/off) - whether an unaltered image is also saved while using the My Colors feature
  • Grid lines (on/off) - puts a 3 x 3 grid on the LCD to help you compose your photos
  • IS mode (Off, continuous, shoot only, panning) - see below
  • Date stamp (Off, date, date & time) - print the date and/or time on your photos; only works with the image size set to postcard (1600 x 1200)
  • Long shutter (on/off) - I described this feature earlier

The custom self-timer option is new. Instead of just 2 or 10 seconds, now you can have the camera take up to 10 shots automatically, with a delay ranging from 1 to 30 seconds before the photo is taken.

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.

The setup tab in the menu has the following items:

  • Mute (on/off) - turns off all the beeps
  • Volume
    • Startup volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Operation volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Self-timer volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Shutter volume (Off, 1-5)
    • Playback volume (Off, 1-5)
  • LCD brightness (-7 to +7 in 1 step increments)
  • Power saving
    • Auto power down (on/off)
    • Display off (10, 20, 30 sec, 1-3 min)
  • Time Zone (Home, world)
  • Date/time (set)
  • Clock display (0-10 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 1-3 mins) - yes, the camera doubles as a clock
  • Card format
  • File number reset (on/off) - maintain file numbering
  • 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
  • Language (way too many to list)
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Print Method (Auto, PictBridge)
  • Reset all - back to defaults

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

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

The PowerShot SD700 did a very nice job with our standard macro test subject. The colors look good, and the subject has Canon's trademark "smooth" look to it. The camera's custom white balance feature handled my apparently tricky studio lamps with ease.

In macro mode the minimum distance to the subject is 2 cm at wide-angle and 40 cm at telephoto. There's also a separate digital macro feature that locks the lens at wide-angle and lets you use the digital zoom to get closer. I'm not sure why you'd want to use that feature.

The night shot turned out beautifully. The camera took in plenty of light thanks to its "long shutter" feature. Noise levels are reasonable considering the resolution of the camera, and purple fringing was well controlled. The buildings look nice and sharp to me.

There are two ISO tests in this review. The first one uses the night scene so you can see how noise levels look at high ISOs in low light. I wasn't able to test the ISO 800 setting since I could not manually select a shutter speed that would obtain a proper exposure at that setting. I don't think you'd want to see it anyway. Here we go:

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

The ISO 100 image is just a little grainier than the ISO 80 one. At either of those settings you should be able to squeeze out an 8 x 10 inch print. Noise levels rise and details go down the tubes at ISO 200, but you can still make a smaller print at that sensitivity, especially if you use noise reduction software. Once you get to ISO 400 the details are really look bad, and I don't think you'll be able to do much with that one.

There's mild barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the SD700's 4X zoom lens. I spotted some mild vignetting in the test chart and also in several real world photos as well (example). As is often the case with ultra-compact cameras, there is a bit of blurriness in the corners of the photos taken with the SD700.

As you'd expect, the ultra-compact PowerShot SD700 is a redeye machine -- we're talking full-on demon eyes here. While your results may vary, I'd expect that most people will have a problem with this annoyance.

Here's the other ISO test that I promised. This one is taken in my studio, and is comparable between cameras. While the crops below give you a quick idea about the noise levels at each ISO setting, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. Enjoy:

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

The ISO 80 and 100 shots look almost identical, with only a slight increase in grain at ISO 200. While noise picks up at ISO 400, the shot is still very usable for midsize prints, and maybe larger if you use noise reduction software. While the ISO 800 shot doesn't look great when printed at 4 x 6, I ran it through NeatImage and got a much nicer looking print.

Aside from the couple of issues I raised in the previous paragraph, the PowerShot SD700 IS took very good quality pictures. They were well-exposed, with pleasing color, low noise (as shown above), and minimal purple fringing. Canon cameras tend to have a "smooth" look to the photos, which some folks may consider soft. If you agree, you can turn up the sharpness a notch by using the custom color My Colors feature.

As always, I recommend having a look at our photo gallery to see how the SD700's photos look with your own eyes. It's also a good idea to print the photos as if they were your own.

Movie Mode

The SD700 has the same very nice movie mode as the other SD-series cameras. You can record VGA video (with sound) at 30 frames/second until either the memory card fills up, or the movie file size reaches 1GB (which takes just eight minutes). A high speed memory card is required for the high quality movie mode.

For longer movies you can either lower the resolution or the frame rate. Two other resolution choices are available: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. For the 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 sizes you can choose from 30 or 15 frames/second, while the 160 x 120 size is fixed at 15 fps (with a 3 minute recording limit as well).

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

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

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

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

I have a different sample movie for a change (Amtrak is probably going to have me arrested for taking all those train videos). Enjoy!

Click to play movie (14 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime

Playback Mode

The playback mode is very good, and just like the one found on the other SD-series models. You've got slideshows, image protection, image rotation, voice captions, thumbnail view (which is nicer than on most cameras since it enlarges the photo you're looking at), and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the picture up to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. When you're zoomed in you can press the Func/Set button and then move from photo to photo at the same magnification setting. The SD700 also has a separate print menu lets you tag photos for printing to a PictBridge-enabled photo printer.

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

By default you won't get much information about your photo while in playback mode. But press the Display button and you'll get the screen on the right, which includes a histogram.

The SD700 moves between images almost instantly, with your choice of two cool transitions. Like the SD550 before it, when you rotate the camera 90 degrees the photo on the LCD rotates too.

How Does it Compare?

I was a big fan of the PowerShot SD550 (and the SD500 before it), and the new SD700 IS adds some useful (instead of superficial) improvements. While its resolution has actually gone down compared to the SD550, the SD700 gives you a 4X zoom lens and an optical image stabilizer in exchange. Now that's a tradeoff I can live with!

The PowerShot SD700 is a compact and very stylish camera. It's made almost entirely of metal, and it feels nice and solid. The camera is easy to hold and operate, though some of the buttons on the back of the camera could be larger. The SD700 gives you a little more zoom than your typical ultra-compact, with a 4X lens instead of the usual 3X. This is Canon's first ultra-compact with optical image stabilization, and it works well during my time with the camera. While it won't work miracles, the OIS system will make your photos sharper and movies steadier. The SD700 also features a large and sharp 2.5" LCD display that's easily visible in low light. Thankfully Canon didn't dump the optical viewfinder on this camera -- that feature seems to be going the way of the dinosaur in the ultra-compact class.

The SD700 is a point-and-shoot camera, with the only manual controls being for white balance (itself a very useful feature) and for slow shutter speeds. The camera is action-packed with scene modes, including one that goes along with the optional underwater case. The SD700 carries over the unique My Colors features from the SD550, which are fun to tinker with. Another carryover is the movie mode: you can record VGA quality video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) until a 1GB file size is reached, which unfortunately takes about eight minutes.

Camera performance is very good. The camera starts up in about a second, it focuses quickly, and shutter lag was not a problem. Shot-to-shot times were impressive, as was the SD700's low light focusing abilities. The continuous shooting mode is superb. Like on Canon's other DIGIC II-based cameras you can keep shooting at 2 frames/second until you run out of memory -- assuming you're using a high speed SD card. While an improvement over its predecessor, the SD700's battery life numbers are average.

The SD700 produced very good photos with just a few annoyances. Photos were well-exposed, with nice color, low noise through ISO 200 (and reasonable noise at ISO 400), and minimal purple fringing. Downsides include major redeye, mild vignetting (dark corners), and the usual corner blurriness that most ultra-compact cameras seem to have.

There are a few other downsides worth mentioning. I don't like how the camera does not show the current zoom position on the LCD display. The SD700's flash isn't as powerful as on the SD500 and SD550 - which was a selling point for those cameras. You can't swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod, which can be annoying at times. And finally, the bundled memory card is pretty tiny (in terms of capacity) for a 6 Megapixel camera.

I always enjoyed using the PowerShot SD500 and SD550, and with the SD700 Canon has given me even more to love. It's not quite perfect (but what camera is?), but the SD700 is an easy recommendation to anyone who wants great photos and performance from a compact and stylish camera.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, low noise through ISO 200 (but see issues below)
  • Optical image stabilization
  • More zoom power than your typical ultra-compact (4X vs 3X)
  • Compact, super stylish metal body
  • Large, sharp 2.5" LCD display; good low light visibility
  • Has an optical viewfinder (a rarity in this class)
  • Very good performance
  • AF-assist lamp, good low light focusing
  • Very good movie and continuous shooting modes (though see issue below)
  • Fun (but gimmicky) My Colors features
  • Optional underwater case
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Some corner softness and vignetting; redeye is a big problem
  • Current zoom setting not shown on LCD; no live histogram either
  • Flash is less powerful than on SD550
  • Can only record about 8 minutes of VGA video due to 1GB file size limit
  • More manual controls would be nice
  • Can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
  • Included 16MB memory card is too small

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD600 (thinner, 3X zoom, no OIS) and SD630 (thinner, 3X zoom, 3" LCD), Casio Exilim EX-Z600, Fuji FinePix V10 and Z3, HP Photosmart R727, Kodak EasyShare V603, Nikon Coolpix S5, Olympus Stylus 710, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 (has OIS), Pentax Optio T10, Samsung Digimax i6, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 (has a large LCD and OIS).

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SD700 IS and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Want another opinion?

Read more reviews at Steve's Digicams and CNET.

Feedback & Discussion

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

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