183 of 185 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2006
In my opinion, this camera is worthy of a 5 star rating, one of the few I've ever given.
My experience with cameras in this class started with a Canon S-100, which I upgraded later to a Canon S-400, both of which proved to be excellent for my on-the-go photography needs. My only criticism with this class of cameras was that they lacked two features I really wanted:
1. wide angle lens
2. image stabilization
I guess the Canon folks read my mind with the introduction of the SD-800, and after reading a number of positive technical reviews for the camera on the web, I purchased one as an upgrade for my beloved S-400. I was particularly suspicious regarding image stabilization, since my only prior experience with a camera using this technology had been disappointing (Canon S-1, a larger 10x zoom model).
As might be expected with the advances in memory technology, the SD-800 takes movies at a higher resolutioni (640x480) than the S-400 (320x240) and has a higher maximum pixel count (7.1 vs 4.0). It also uses the smaller SD memory cards as opposed to the bulkier CF cards for the S-400, and the lithium battery pack has a different form factor (which means you can't reuse stuff from an earlier model).
What I consider to be the 2 real upgrade features for this camera, the wide angle lens and the image stabilization, are what truly distinguishes it from its competition. I've had this camera for about a month now and can happily report it is a significant advance over the S-400. The image stabilization is a dream. With the S-400 I had to rely on bracing the camera in many circumstances where with the SD-800 I can count on sharp images just holding it out, composing, and taking the shot. In a recent work session where my group had accumulated a great deal of writing on a wide white board along the side of a narrow conference room, I was able to capture in a single, sharply focused shot the entire board, something the S-400 would have taken 2 shots to achieve followed by a photo stitch. There is some distortion at the outer edges, but I personally don't see this as a drawback given the advantages to getting the whole image (after all you can crop the picture if the rather small amount of distortion truly bothers you).
What else? Well, the camera is lighter and more comfortably contoured than the S-400. It does retain the view finder (thank heavens ... there are simply circumstances where this is the only reasonable way to compose a shot). A single door is used for both memory and battery (vs. 2 doors on the S-400). As others have reported, the door has a flimsy feel, but my first camera in this line (the S-100) had a similar door and I never broke it. Anyway, the USB-2 picture download pretty much eliminates needing to pop out memory cards to get a faster download speed via a card reader. I did invest in a 4Gb high speed SD card since maximum movie length is 4Gb at 640x480, 30 frames per second, or about 25 minutes worth of pretty darn good movie taking. My experience to date is that with this level of capability and convenience I doubt I will every use my cam corder again for family movies.
Out of the box I found the controls and interface to be easier and more intuitive than the S-400. I have all the capabilities I had with the S-400, plus some "gee-whiz" features I've had fun with but I doubt I will use routinely (e.g., color swap). I can also recommend Canon's leather case for this camera. It provides an extremely easy way to carry the camera on your belt (it uses a belt loop, which I think is far superior to a belt clip). I was initially put off by the magnetic flap used with this case, but now agree it's a superior design (their earller cases used Velcro).
100 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2007
I'm a professional photographer who shoots with two Nikon SLRs and an array of Nikon lenses; some of the lenses alone cost five times the price of the Canon SD800. But I got tired of lugging heavy camera equipment around for family and travel photos and general grab shots. So when I'm not working, the SD800 is what I use.
It's not perfect for sure. To name just a few annoyances: it suffers from red-eye effect when you take flash pictures of people; like all point-and-shoot cameras, it has noticeable shutter lag; it has rather a lot of image noise at ISO settings over 200; and its 'manual' mode doesn't let you set an aperture value or a shutter speed. I also notice quite a bit of lens aberration, which becomes especially evident when pictures include straight lines, such as doorways; the SD800 gives them a slight curve.
But maybe all that is the wrong way to look at it. For a $375 featherweight camera, this thing can't and shouldn't be expected to deliver SLR-like quality or features. And what the SD800 DOES do well is more important: It takes lush, pleasing pictures with very good color fidelity (a Canon trademark) and with minimal thought and fuss required from the photographer.
It's also a very pleasant camera from a usability point of view, and not just because it slips easily into a shirt pocket or into the nicely made but optional Canon belt case ($15). The SD800 has only nine controls (buttons and dials), which is usually a recipe for confusion as functions either tend to get hidden deep inside menus, or require counterintuitive pushes of several buttons to access. But the camera is more logically laid out and designed than any compact I've ever shot with. I only had to crack the manual for a couple of advanced tricks, like photo-stitch and color-swap. The rest of the SD800's operation is pretty much self-evident.
I appreciate that the power button is recessed; whenever I tried to stuff my old Canon Powershot G6 into my pocket, or pry it out, that camera would turn itself on due to the poor placement and design of the power switch. It got annoying enough that I sold it. There are no such design goofs on or in the SD800.
The camera's proprietary battery provides lots of juice, the screen (which is as big as on my $1,600 Nikon D200) is bright and clear, the image stabilization works really well, and the range of the lens is just right (being able to shoot at 28mm -- respectable wide angle -- is a wonderful thing, very uncommon among point-and-shoots, whose lenses typically start at 35mm).
All told, I quite smitten with this nice-looking, well-thought-out little picture-taking machine. Considering that it also takes decent video footage, the combination of quality, features, and value is, in my book, untouched by any other digital compact currently on the market.
374 of 405 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2006
This is my fourth camera from the Canon Digital Elph line (previously, I had an S330, S400 and SD400). They have always taken great photos, and Canon has truly earned my repeat business (I also had a Digital Rebel and now I have an 20D).
I've had the SD800 for a few days now. Like its predecessors, it takes fantastic photos. The image stabilizer works wonderfully, and the camera functions quite well (and faster than most compact cameras). Other reviewers have spoken about the photo quality, and you can also get detailed technical reviews elsewhere on the internet, so I won't get into that here. What I want to focus on is the functionality of the design of this camera.
Digital Elphs used to be chunks of stainless steel. I dropped my S330 from a 12ft balcony, and it emerged unscathed. This is the first camera I've had that felt like it is going to break at any moment. It is larger and clunkier than the previous generation of Elphs (e.g., it is 36% larger than the SD200/300/400), and feels "plastic-y" and cheap (despite the fact that it looks nice). The buttons are small and offer minimal feedback, so it is easy to press the wrong button, especially if you have large fingers (and even if you have only average fingers). The "mode select" dial switches between Auto, Manual, Scene, Movie and Playback modes, but it is difficult to move. The dial is stiff and has only a small raised ridge on one side, making it difficult to set the dial to the proper mode on the first try. In sum, the design of this camera makes it operation more difficult than necessary; not something I expected from a camera from Canon, espectilly one at this cost.
This camera takes amazing photos, but Canon needs to brush up on their design. For a brief moment I considered returning this camera and keeping my SD400, but this camera's features are too good to pass up. I suppose everyone will get used to the poor design, but for this amount of money, none of us should have to.
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2006
I just spent a good 1/2 hour here reading reviews on the SD800 IS, and didn't agree with many of them so I had to write one myself. I have previously owned Canon's S400, S500 and SD550. I usually pass my previous cameras on to family so I can get the latest and greatest, and once again I am not sorry I did. I am extremely happy with my 800 IS. I quickly charged my battery, then took 60 photos or so using every feature I could find in the camera. Macro, flash, no flash, wide, telephoto, B/W, sepia, vivid, you name it. I couldn't take 1 bad photo even if I tried! I loved the results in all of them. My only complaints were test shots at ASA 800 and up. Yes, those will be very noisy and unusable, but when printed in a 4x6 size how bad will it be, really. Not much worse than film cameras at ASA 400 or 800. How many situations will you find yourself in needing that high an ASA rating? This camera is beautifully built, it looks and feels expensive and I think it's a quality built camera. It is not a tank like my old S400, and it's lighter than the SD550 but it does not feel or look cheap. This is an outstanding small camera. As for soft or blurry edges at the wide angle setting, NONSENSE. I just can't see it in my photos. If you are a previous Canon Digital elph owner and want to upgrade, go for the 800 IS. I picked this one over the 900 because I didn't like the looks of the 900, didn't care for 10 megapixels (when is it enough?), and the 900 did not have the IS feature, which is outstanding on my 800 IS. It really works! I took many photos indoors without flash, hand held and they were unbelievable, with excellent color balance. My flash photos seemed to cover the room just nicely too. I just loved every photo I took today with this camera. So, I don't know what all the whining and bickering is about, but this is one fine piece of camera engineering. As for the battery/SD card cover, yes, it's light and plastic, so open it carefully the way you should handle a $400 camera. There must be many clumsy people out there who break things. I never have, especially with my cameras. So, do I regret giving up my SD550 for this 800 IS? NOT ONE BIT! Both are outstanding cameras. I did a lot of research before forking over the cash for my next camera, and I'm glad it led me again to the Canon line. If you want one, treat yourself. I also hope I have made your selection easier for you. Between my wife and kids, my siblings, my nephews, brothers-in-law, you name it, they all have digital cameras now. We see many crappy photos, but almost never from those who went with the Canon Powershots. What does that tell you?
I have had my camera for more than one month now and I am still very happy with it. My wife has my previous SD550 so I've got the best of both worlds. That SD550 is also a great little camera, so I'm glad we've kept it. It just doesn't have Digic III or the IS feature, but that hasn't been a big issue. What I have now noticed is that for some reason I'm getting more red eye shots with these cameras. I have been taking a lot of photos of my young daughter and her dance class partners, and it seems to be more of a problem with children than adults for some reason. I have read that because of the small camera size, the flash is just too close to the lens and that is the reason. I don't really know but it could be true. I use a software program provided by Kodak Gallery to upload many photos at once, and it fixes that very quickly and easily so it is not a big issue to me. Also, some have written about the white spots that show up on photos. That I believe are dust particles in the air that come out magnified in photos, which is another common thing with these small digital cameras. Remember, at 7.1 MB you will see incredible details in your photos. If you have a digital camera, trying taking shots outdoors at night around a camp fire and you'll see what I mean. As for the round dust spots that show up, I just copy and paste a surrounding area without the spot and paste it over the spot and it's gone. There are many software programs that let you tweak your photos, so it's easy and fun to make corrections, which was virtually impossible with film photos.
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Sure, there are some legitimate quibbles about the SD800. For example, while generally solid in construction, the USB and video out are hidden behind a remarkably flimsy cover. In fact, when you pull back on the lid, it feels as if the slightest additional force would break it, although so far so good. And, yes, as some reviewers have noted, the mode changing dial might be difficult for someone with clumsy fingers.
You also should know that, while it has a manual mode, this is a not a camera for someone who wants to tweak apertures or shutter speed. It's a point and shoot, after all. That's the category. If you want more, look elsewhere. So, that isn't a complaint. It's just a caveat to those who aren't fully sure what they want out of their camera.
Also, some have complained about the camera being "only" 7.1 mega-pixels. This kind of "insight" doesn't really help when looking at cameras as light, small, and easy as the SD800. Certainly, if you need to make prints bigger than 16 x 20 (after cropping), then perhaps you should be concerned -- and ought to be looking a something other than this point-and-click beauty. This camera is about a beautiful form factor, easy portability, and stunning pictures, not making posters.
These points being said, the SD800 is a very special camera. I've owned a number of digital cameras (Fuji, Nikon, and Canon), and checked out way too many cameras before I purchased the SD800. The picture quality is superb--the best I've seen under most conditions. It's incredibly fast on recharge, focus, flash, and picture snapping. It also has a wide-angle lens that grabs enough extra real estate (and people) to make far more stunning pictures than the typical lens on a point-and-shooter. The SD900's lens pales in comparison. I dare you to see for yourself!
As for overall build, this is a solid, virtually all metal camera. Would it survive a 12-foot fall? Maybe not. Few cameras would. My last Nikon broke on a 5-foot fall. That's life. Just keep it on a strap.
This is a great camera. The camera to get, in fact, if you want gorgeous pictures, a great lens, and more features than you can shake a stick at, including amazing optical image stabilization that really works, and software that identifies faces in a shot and makes sure they all look as great as they can.
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2006
What a great camera!
I am an ex-wedding photographer and am very picky about the equipment I buy. This camera produces beautiful images and downloads them very quickly to your computer using the included Canon software. Be sure and get a 1GB fast SD card...it pays off in fast image save times as well as image upload times.
The 28MM eq. lens is very rare in this size camera as is the optical image stabilization system. The portrait mode does a great job of eliminating red eye, unlike many other cameras. There are even a few manual settings available for those so inclined. Try using the exposure compensation to darken up a shot to add some drama.
The only con is that the zoom switch is a bit jerky, but that's a nit. Another great camera choice in this category is the Casio Ex-Z850 which I have used and also love. The Canon 800IS beats the Casio for 2 reasons, 28MM eq lens and true optical image stabilization vs. the digital kind.
I am completely satisfied with this camera and Highly recommend it to anyone.
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2006
First...A lot of other reviewers have talked about how 'cheap' or 'flimsy' this camera feels...I think I have a different take on this coming from a Mechanical Engineering background (and actually making similar products in consumer electronics)
I had an old SD100 and decided to upgrade, and indeed the old SD100 'feels' like a tank, and this new one 'feels' flimsier...but I dont think it ACTUALLY is. First off, the new camera is very lightweight, and from a customer usability standpoint, lighter is often confused with 'cheaper'. Second, this camera uses metal luster plastic parts...which scream 'plastic!' whereas the old camera used plastic that was matted and painted...so it looked like the metal surrounding it. People also complained about the 'inside' being plastic now instead of metal...this is actually a good thing, as the internal metal on the SD100 was punched sheet metal (aka bendable, warpable, not structural) whereas the SD800 has molded plastic that perfectly fits the desired shape, actually providing more internal support....These cameras get their extremely small size by using the case as its structural support anyways...and here like previously, the case is metallic (basically...the case is titanium to support the product, and marketing decided to sell that as a 'feature').
That all being said...it still DOES 'feel' cheaper or breakable, even if I dont think it is from the engineering standpoint...and part of product design is making something that 'feels' good...so I have to dock canon one star on this thing for not completely following through on the design front.
As for everything else....Amazing optics, this thing takes wonderful pictures...it is SUPER responsive, statup time is non-existent and focus etc time feels twice as fast as the SD100. The IS feature works wonderful (its hard to see it work I must admit...but then you turn it off and take another picture and WHOA...huge difference, one is nice and the other is blurred crazily..[...]
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2006
I've gotten this camera to replace a Canon S45 that I bought in January 2003 and this review is meant as a contrast to that type of camera (i.e., this review may not be too useful if you're coming to this camera from another point of view). I chose the S45 at the time over the top ELPH model back then (S330, I think) because I expected that it would be my only camera for a while and so wanted manual control, RAW support, etc. As it happens, the Digital Rebel came out in September that year and when I got one, the role of my S45 changed: A take-anywhere camera for taking snapshots and video clips. The latter came a bit as a surprise, because I thought I'd prefer using my more full-featured miniDV-based video camera. However, it turns out that "compact" often beats "full-featured" (the S45 is not as small as the SD800, but it's still pretty small compared to my video camera).
In its new role, the weaknesses of the S45 were (a) not compact enough, (b) poor low-light performance, (c) limited, low-quality movie recording functionality, (d) relative slow response times. (That's all relative, of course: At the time, it was a reasonably good compromise in those areas.) On the plus side, the S45 is sturdy, I really like its user interface, and I got some really nice pictures out of it.
How does the SD800 stack up in that context? Very well, but not perfectly. I like its build quality and the subcompact size (though it's a bit on the large end of its class; not a bad thing per se). The plastic parts are no worse than the similar parts on the S45, but I get slightly anxious at the thought of scratching the shiny surfaces. The 2.5" screen make for bright and sharp previews (it feels more fragile than that of the S45, however). Image quality is a step above that of the S45 in general, and easily two steps above for low-light work (where the image stabilization function and better ISO 400 performance really shine). ISO800 seems somewhat usable, beyond my expectation.
I don't care much about some of the more exotic features like "swap colors", but one feature I've unexpectedly come to appreciate is the face-recognition contribution to focus and exposure: It works, and it works really well! (It also ties into a built-in categorization feature, in that the label "People" will automatically be assigned to pictures containing faces; that's clever too, but I don't think I'll use it.)
Unsurprisingly, the wider-angle lens is a boon to many snapshot situations. (It was one of the factors that prompted me to order the SD800.) There is considerable corner softness at the wider end, but for this type of camera it doesn't bother me too much. I wish the long end were a little longer of course (and slightly less compact models from Panasonic do better in this regard), but again I don't feel strongly about that considering the camera's size. This also appears to be one the most responsive subcompacts out there: It's certainly a whole lot faster at starting up and zooming than the S45 (though it still feels sluggish compared to a DSLR).
The movie clip recording mode is far better than that of the S45: The higher (VGA) resolution and the image stabilization are the main factors there. Still, I wish it could record a using a tighter codec (like H.264) and I wish the optical zoom could be used during shooting. A 1GB SD card will hold a little over 8 minutes of 640x480 30fps video, but once downloaded I can convert that to a H.264 file of about 70MB. The digital zoom in movie mode works well in good light (almost 5X for 640x480 clips), but in low light zooming in more than 3x or so results in exceptionally pixel-noisy clips.
Finally, the overall interface is relatively intuitive and generally well executed. My one beef is that "review" mode is part of the general mode dial. On the S45 (and Canon's DSLRs), "review" is entered using a separate switch (or button), which allows the general dial to indicate the recording mode: A half-press on the shutter and the immediately goes back to recording mode. On the SD800, if I'm reviewing images and suddenly see an opportunity (which happens all the time), I have to first fumble with the dial (being careful to select the right mode) and only then is the camera ready to shoot. On the plus side, when shooting a picture the camera automatically displays the image shot for a customizable amount of time (I set it to "until shutter pressed") and allows zooming into that picture.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2006
I have a Canon 1DMarkII Pro DSLR and all Canon L series lenses. I studied photography and love manual control, BUT I also want to take my camera everywhere for those impromptu moments. For a point and shoot, I want the camera to be well priced and take great pictures on auto mode, yes, AUTO - otherwise I might as well take my professional camera body with me. Another reason why I want Auto mode to work as advertised is because I want others to hold this camera and take photos of me. How many times have you let others hold your camera only to find the image blurry or not focused on your face.
I've owned or used regularly the Canon Powershot S50, S60, SD700IS and now SD800IS. You'll find lots of technical data reviews on the SD800IS but I'll focus on actual usage for the average person who's not a technical data freak.
I upgraded from the S60 to the SD800IS for the image stabilization. Higher megapixels is not a reason to upgrade a relatively new camera, but Image Stablization is. You'll get much better shots period. All point and shoots suffer from the problem of camera shake; Canon IS works! You'll also be able to shoot at lower ISO's resulting in less grainy photos. Most point and shoot cameras work well at ISO 100 and progessively get worse above ISO 200, the SD800IS is no exception. Bottomline, image stablization helps you stay at ISO100/200.
Yes, this camera is feature packed and the buttons are sometimes hard to push but there's no perfect small camera. The problems people write about, I can live with it, it's not as bad as it sounds and I quite like the buttons on the SD800IS. The power button is nicely recessed so you won't accidentally turn it on - this is usually the biggest concern for me since I put in my pant or jacket pockets.
The images are amazing. With the IS and face detection capability, anyone without photography training can take great photos -- the #1 complaint for most amateurs are blurry shots or where the camera has not focued on the person's face. Canon has done a great job with technology that works quite well.
The images are sharp and look good printed. It's not as good as my DSLR but it rivals any other point and shoot of its size and weight. I'm also not sorry they dropped RAW recording format as from what I've read, with these small sensors the difference compared to JPEG is not noticeable. The battery lasts a long time unlike the older Powershot S50/S60's. Sure, the camera body is a bit plasticky, wish it was more solid, and you have to be more careful about not dropping it. Same goes for most other point and shoots so the problems people are nitpicking about with the SD800IS are typical of other cameras in its size and price range.
The video is also fabulous and works great with the image stablization. This camera is perfect for a new dad like me who wants to always have a camera around to take pics and vids of my child.
The wide angle lens is also handy. I'm more likely to use wide-angle to get group shots indoors than the telephoto range. Not many point and shoots have the 28mm wide-angle range so you're sure to notice the difference in family shots in tight spaces like living rooms.
The gravy on top feature has got to be the Grid Lines feature for rule of thirds (helps you compose your shot) and 2:3 aspect ratio (if you're printing 4x6 and want to avoid cropping wrong areas). The LCD screen is bright and works well on sunny days.
The flash is a bit weak, but that's the same with all point and shoots. Add a $129 Metz 28 CS-2 compact flash and this camera is set for anything. I carry the SD800IS and Metz compact flash in 2 small custom-fitted $10 neoprene cases that I found on eBay and this setup goes with me everywhere. Hardly noticeable in my jacket pocket.
Bottomline: if you're looking for a new point and shoot, look for one with a wide angle lens (if you plan on taking indoor photos), image stablization and face detection technology. I'm not loyal to Canon just because I own lots of their equipment; I'll buy any brand point and shoot that meets my needs. After several months use, I'm still extremely happy with my SD800IS and believe it's the best point and shoot Canon has released so far.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2006
I got this camera about a week ago to replace my old SD200 that died and I am having a ball with this little thing. I do a lot of photography so I need a camera that takes good, sharp pictures consistently and this camera really delivers. I'm absolutely in love with the image stabilizer. I can actually use the digital zoom and still get a sharp picture. I'm amazed. Another plus about the image stabilizer: you can take low light pictures much easier. I took a picture recently of a carosel at dusk and its completely clear.
Another criteria of mine is a very minimal delay between pressing the button and taking the shot. Most of the other cameras I tried out had at least a half second delay. This camera doesn't have a delay. At all. You press the button and it takes the shot that second. The only exception is in low light when the shutter stays open longer but thats a different matter all together.
I also love all the little features. I haven't quite figured out all of them yet but this camera has a color accent feature that will pick out one color and put the rest of the picture in black and white. Its really fun to play with. There seems to be a setting for everything, so you can get the perfect shot every time and not botch the special moment.
The LCD screen is amazing. Its so clear and has awesome colors. It also flips the pictures for you so no matter what orientation the picture is you can see it full screen. The buttons and menus are really easy to figure out, but then again its identical to all the other elphs so i already knew how to work it.
I haven't printed any images that I've taken yet but I'm pretty sure that they'll be good. Overall, i just love this camera. I was sold the moment I saw how clear the pictures were, even on 10xs digital zoom. Everything about it is just perfect for every use.