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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 11, 2006
Last Updated: September 6, 2011

The Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH ($399) is an upgrade to the popular SD700 IS, which was only seven months old when it was replaced. While the SD900 is the flagship of the ELPH lineup, the SD800 is arguably more interesting than that camera, which is basically a 10 Megapixel version of the SD550 built to satisfy Canon's marketing department.

So what's new on the SD800 compared to the SD700? Here's the short list:

That all sounds pretty nice to me. Other features on the SD800 include optical image stabilization, a 2.5" LCD display, point-and-shoot operation, and a VGA movie mode -- all in a compact and very stylish metal body.

How does the new SD800 IS perform? Find out now in our review!

The SD800 is known as the Digital IXUS 850 in some countries. Since the cameras share so much in common I will be reusing portions of the SD700 review here.

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SD800 IS has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

Canon bundles a 16MB memory card with the SD800, which holds just four photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll need to get your hands on a larger memory card right away. The SD800 can use Secure Digital (SD) and MultiMedia (MMC) cards, as well as the new SDHC format. I'd say that you should pick up a 1GB card at the very minimum. I'd also make sure that you get a "high speed card", 60X or above, as the SD800 will definitely take advantage of it.

The SD800 uses the same NB-5L lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. This fairly compact battery packs 4.1 Wh of energy, which is about average for a camera in this class. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS * 240 shots
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS * 270 shots
Canon PowerShot SD900 230 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z700 460 shots
Fuji FinePix V10 170 shots
HP Photosmart R827 240 shots
Kodak EasyShare V705 150 shots
Nikon Coolpix P4 * 200 shots
Nikon Coolpix S7c 200 shots
Olympus Stylus 750 * 190 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 * 320 shots
Pentax Optio A20 * 150 shots
Samsung NV3 200 shots **
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50 * 400 shots

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

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

As you can see, the SD800's battery life has gone up about 12% compared to the SD700, and that's due to the more power efficient DIGIC III image processor. In the ultra-compact group as a whole, the SD800's battery numbers are above average.

My usual complaints about proprietary batteries like the one used by the SD800 apply here. They're expensive (around $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 SD800 comes with a compact battery charger that plugs directly into the wall. It takes a little over two hours to fully charge the NB-5L.

Like all ultra-compact cameras, the SD800 has a built-in lens cover.

There are just a handful of accessories available for the SD800 IS. The most interesting is the WP-DC9 waterproof case (around $200), which lets you take the SD800 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 (priced from $82). This flash attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the on-board flash does. The last accessory of note is an AC adapter (priced from $50) , which lets you power the camera without draining your battery.

ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

Canon includes version 29.0 (wow) of their Digital Camera Solution software package with the PowerShot SD800. The main applications are the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser "twins" that come with all PowerShot models. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs. The Mac version is not Universal (Intel native), which means that it won't run as fast as it could.

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

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

ImageBrowser - MovieEdit Task (Mac OS X)

The MovieEdit task lets you take your movie clips, add effects and transitions, and then save the results as a single movie.

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, the process takes minutes, and the results are impressive, as you can see.

The SD800 does not support the Remote Capture function, which lets you control the camera from within the software.

While not pleasure reading, the manuals included with the SD800 are fairly decent. You get a short "Basic Manual" to get you started, plus a lengthy "Advanced Guide" for more complex camera functions. There's also a separate manual for the bundled software. All of these manuals could be a little easier to read, but they will answer all of your questions.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD800 looks quite a bit like its predecessor, though I think the SD700 is a better looking camera (but who buys a camera for its looks?). It's a very compact camera, but it wouldn't qualify as tiny, in my opinion. The body is made almost entirely of metal, and it feels very solid in your hands, save for the very flimsy plastic cover over the memory card / battery compartment.

While most of the controls are well-placed, the location of the mode dial makes it easy to accidentally switch modes with your right thumb. The camera's buttons, which were too small on the SD700, have been enlarged on the SD800.s

Okay, now let's take a look at how the SD800 compares with other ultra-compacts in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 7.9 cu in. 165 g
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu in. 150 g
Canon PowerShot SD900 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 9.5 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z700 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.2 cu in. 112 g
Fujifilm FinePix V10 3.3 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 7.4 cu in. 156 g
HP Photosmart R827 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8 cu in. 140 g
Kodak EasyShare V705 4.0 x 2.0 x 0.8 in. 6.4 cu in. 124 g
Nikon Coolpix P4 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 10.4 cu in. 170 g
Nikon Coolpix S7c 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 7.5 cu in. 140 g
Olympus Stylus 750 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 8 cu in. 120 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 132 g
Pentax Optio A20 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.6 cu in. 125 g
Samsung NV3 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.7 cu in. 142 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 130 g