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DCRP Review: Canon PowerShot SX100 IS
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: January 16, 2008
Last Updated: September 6, 2011

Front of the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS ($299) is a compact, low-cost ultra zoom camera. It offers many of the features found on the PowerShot S5 IS (see our review), for $100 less. The main differences between the SX100 and the S5 are with regard to lens power (10X vs 12X), LCD style (fixed vs. rotating), and size (the SX100 is considerably smaller and lighter). Both of the cameras have 8 Megapixel CCDs, optical image stabilization, full manual controls, and a VGA movie mode.

The PowerShot S-series cameras have been some of my favorite ultra zoom cameras on the market. Will the SX100 fare just as well? Find out now, our review starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SX100 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

Canon includes a 16MB SD memory card with the SX100, which won't hold too many photos (three at the highest quality setting, to be exact). Thus, you'll want to buy a larger card right away, unless you have one laying around somewhere. The SX100 supports SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus memory cards, and whichever format you get (I'd stick to SD and SDHC myself), a 1GB card is a good size to start with. It's worth spending a little extra on a high speed card, though there's no need to go overboard.

The SX100 uses two AA batteries for power. Canon includes alkalines in the box, which will quickly end up in your trash can. I'd recommend picking up a four-pack of NiMH rechargeables (2500 mAh is good) plus a fast charger -- it'll save you money, and won't dump piles of batteries into landfills. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect out of the SX100:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot S5 IS * 450 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS * 400 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix S700 500 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NIMH
Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS * 275 shots KLIC-8000
Nikon Coolpix S10 * 300 shots EN-EL5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 * 380 shots CGR-S006
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 * 270 shots CGA-S007
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 180 shots DB-L40
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 * 330 shots NP-BG1

* Has image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

Despite using half the number of batteries, the SX100's battery life numbers are just 10% below those of its big brother, the PowerShot S5. In the group as a whole, the SX100's battery life is about 15% above average.

I'm a big fan of camera's that use AA batteries. Rechargeable AAs are cheaper than their proprietary counterparts, and you can use off-the-shelf batteries when your rechargeables die. As you can see from the chart above, there are several ultra zooms in this class that use AAs.

Canon PowerShot SX100 in the hand*

There's a built-in lens cover on the SX100, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.

Unlike its more expensive sibling, there are just a handful of accessories available for the PowerShot SX100. In the power department, Canon offers an AC adapter (priced from $32) and a NiMH battery kit (priced from $40). There's also an external slave flash available (priced from $95), which attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does. And that's about it -- no conversion lenses here!

CameraWindow in Mac OS X

Canon recently gave their bundled software a bit of a refresh, with the ImageBrowser (Mac) and ZoomBrowser (Windows) products now up to version 6. The Mac version is now Universal, so it runs at full speed on Intel-based Macs.

The first part of the Browser software that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (pictured above), and you'll use it to download photos from your camera.

ImageBrowser in Mac OS X

Once that's done you'll find yourself in either ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, depending on your computer. Here you can view, organize, e-mail, and print your photos. If you categorized any photos on the camera (more on this later) then that information is transferred over to the Browser software.

ImageBrowser edit window in Mac OS X

Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment option for those who want a quick fix.

RemoteCapture Task in Mac OS X

But wait, there's more. The SX100 can be controlled from your Mac or PC over a USB connection, using the RemoteCapture Task build into the Browser software. You can operate nearly all of the camera's features from your PC, and when you take a photo, the image is saved onto your hard drive. An interval (time lapse) mode is available here as well.

My only complaint about RemoteCapture is hidden it is. In older version of CameraWindow it was one click away -- now you have to dig for it on your hard drive.

PhotoStitch in Mac OS X

A totally separate program called PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the process takes minutes, and the results are impressive, as you can see. You can use the SX100's Stitch Assist feature to line up the photos side-by-side with just the right amount of overlap.

The documentation for the PowerShot SX100 comes in several parts. For camera operation, there's a detailed 225 page printed manual included. It may not be the most user friendly manual out there, but it'll certainly answer any question you may have. There are also separate manuals for Direct Printing as well as for the bundled software.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SX100 IS is a compact ultra zoom camera made of a mixture of plastic and metal. It's fairly well put together for its price, though I'm never a fan of plastic tripod mounts. The camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand, though it felt a lot more stable if I used both hands. Canon didn't go overboard with buttons on the SX100, so it's easy to figure out without having to read the manual first.

Now, here's a look at how the SX100 compares with the other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot S5 IS 4.6 x 3.2 x 3.1 in. 45.6 cu in. 450 g
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 in. 21.7 cu in. 265 g
Fujifilm FinePix S700 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.2 in. 40.3 cu in. 306 g
Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS 4.3 x 2.9 x 3.0 in. 37.4 cu in. 330 g
Nikon Coolpix S10 4.4 x 2.9 x 1.6 in. 20.4 cu in. 220 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 4.4 x 2.8 x 3.1 in. 38.2 cu in. 310 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 15.1 cu in. 232 g
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 3.1 x 4.7 x 1.4 in. 20.4 cu in. 210 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 4.2 x 2.7 x 1.9 in. 21.5 cu in. 264 g