Canon PowerShot SX210 IS Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: April 23, 2010

Last Updated: October 24, 2010

The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS ($349) is a fairly compact camera that packs a 14X optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, a widescreen LCD display, both point-and-shoot and manual controls, and HD movie recording. It's the follow-up to the PowerShot SX200, a camera I wasn't particularly fond of. The table below compares the SX200 and SX210:


PowerShot SX200 IS

PowerShot SX210 IS
Resolution 12.1 Megapixel 14.1 Megapixel
Focal range 28 - 336 mm (12X) 28 - 392 mm
Max. aperture F3.4 - F5.3 F3.1 - F5.9
LCD aspect ratio 4:3 16:9
Continuous shooting rate 0.8 fps 0.7 fps
Optical zoom in movie mode No Yes
Sound recording in movie mode Mono Stereo
Dynamic image stabilization * No Yes
Memory cards supported SD/SDHC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Battery life
(CIPA standard, live view off)
280 shots 260 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 4.2 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.
Weight (empty) 220 g 188 g
Available colors Black, blue, red Black, purple, gold
* For movies only

As you can see, both the resolution and optical zoom got bumped up on the SX210. The camera's movie mode has also been enhanced, with improve image stabilization, stereo sound recording, and yes, use of the optical zoom. The SX210 also sports a widescreen LCD display, though it's really only useful when recording movies.

The compact ultra zoom space has grown considerably over the last year, with virtually every manufacturer offering a camera in this category. Will the PowerShot SX210 find itself at the top of the heap? Keep reading, our review starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SX210 IS has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 14.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot SX210 IS digital camera
  • NB-5L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
  • 35 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)

The PowerShot SX210 IS does not come with a memory card, nor does it have 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 (very possible). The SX210 supports a million types of memory card, including SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus. My advice is to stick with SDHC or the new high capacity SDXC cards. I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card to start with, and perhaps larger if you'll be recording a lot of movies. Spending the extra dollars on a fast card (Class 4 or higher) is probably a good idea.

The SX210 uses the NB-5L lithium-ion battery, which has been used on several generations of Canon PowerShots. This battery contains 4.1 Wh of energy, which is average for a compact camera. Let's see how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX210 IS 260 shots NB-5L
Casio Exilim EX-FH100 520 shots NP-90
Fuji FinePix F80EXR 230 shots NP-50
Nikon Coolpix S8000 210 shots EN-EL12
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 300 shots DMW-BCG10
Ricoh CX3 310 shots DB-100
Samsung HZ30W 270 shots SLB-11A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V 310 shots NP-BG1

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The first thing I should mention is that the battery life on the SX210 is a bit worse than that of its predecessor. In the compact ultra zoom group as a whole, the PowerShot SX210 is about 15% below average.

Naturally, I have to mention the usual caveats about the proprietary batteries used by the SX210 and all the other cameras in the above table. Number one, they're expensive, with a spare NB-5L setting you back at least $35. Second, when the NB-5L runs out of juice, you can't grab some AAs off the shelf to get you through the rest of the day. You don't really have any options, though, as all compact ultra zooms are the same way.

When it's battery charging time, just pop the NB-5L into the included charger. This is my favorite kind of charger -- it plugs right into the wall (though in some countries you'll need a power cable). You can expect to wait about 125 minutes to fully charge the battery.

Canon PowerShot S90 in the hand

As with nearly all compact cameras, you'll find a built-in lens cover on the PowerShot SX210, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with.

The list of accessories that are available for the SX210 is a short one. Here they are:

Accessory Model # Price * Why you want it
External slave flash HF-DC1

From $90

Attaches via the tripod mount and fires when the onboard flash does; gives you better flash range and less chance of redeye
AC adapter ACK-DC30 From $53 Power the camera without draining your battery
HDMI cable (3m) HTC-100 From $45 For connecting the camera to an HDTV. You can save a fortune by buying a generic one instead.
* Prices were accurate when review was published

I told you it was a short list! One accessory that was available on the SX200 but not its successor is an underwater case.

CameraWindow in Mac OS X

Canon includes version 64 of their Digital Camera Solution Disk with the PowerShot SX210 IS (the version numbers seem to go up by ten every year). The first part of the software suite that you'll probably encounter is Camera Window (pictured above), which you'll use to transfer images to your computer, organize photos on the camera (meaning delete or protect), upload videos to YouTube (I have no idea why the software says "images"), and adjust a few camera settings (startup screen, sounds, theme) as well.

ImageBrowser in Mac OS X

After you've transferred photos to your computer, 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, plus 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.

As for movie editing, you can grab a still frame from the video, or remove unwanted footage from the beginning or end. The software warns that it can only trim videos in 1 second increments, for some reason.

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 super easy to use, and the results can be impressive. While using the camera'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.

Longtime readers of the DCRP could probably hear my cries of "noooooo" when I opened the SX210's packaging and found only a thin "basic manual". That's right, the full manual is only available in digital format on an included CD-ROM. The basic manual is enough to get you up and running, but that's about it -- you'll almost certainly need to load up the real thing at some point. The manual is very detailed, though not terribly user-friendly, save for the helpful "what do you want to do" section, which is (ironically) in the full manual. Documentation for the software bundle is installed onto your computer.