on December 12, 2010
I'll start by saying that I'm a Canon fan. Three out of four of my current digital cameras, including both my DSLR's, are Canon. When I was looking to upgrade my compact zoom, this unit caught my eye for both its price point and its feature set. For a sub-$200 compact zoom, this camera definitely leads the pack.
* 12 megapixel image capture
* Very good image quality
* Full 720P HD video capture
* Excellent low light performance for its class
* Excellent image stabilization capability
* Full manual control, including Av, Tv and full manual modes
* Great zoom range, especially at the wide end
* Excellent, fast and intuitive performance
* Reasonable battery performance with rechargables (a MUST!)
* Works with convenient AA batteries
* Excellent flash for its class
* Excellent color fidelity with no detectable image artifacts
* Fast continuous shooting for a compact camera
* Perfect size for a compact zoom, fits in a large pocket
* Fantastic price/performance ratio
* No CCD cleaner that I've found
* No flash shoe for an external flash
* No external audio inputs for video capture
* 10 minute video capture limit
* No RAW image support
* Terrible support for HD video codec
* No optical/digital viewfinder / LCD display only
* My unit got a speck of dust inside the lens, creating a spot on images/video for awhile
It's been a couple years since I've purchased a camera and I was a bit surprised to see how far the feature sets have come, especially on the lower-end compacts. I've now put this camera through the paces in many different situations and overall, I'm very pleased with everything about it so far.
My criteria for this camera purchase was fairly simple. I wanted a compact zoom with decent optical range, AA battery support, excellent color fidelity, reasonable low light performance and a unit that provided full manual control. I'm an amateur/semi-pro photographer and I expect a lot from my cameras. After reviewing the options out there, this one was a clear winner.
First, I'll speak to the image quality and zoom. I've been very impressed with both its color fidelity and the overall image quality. Images are sharp and its ability to provide vivid color and great dynamic range within images is fantastic. With the unit's lack of RAW support, this was very important to me. At the low end of the zoom, there is a bit of the wide-angle effect...but I really appreciate how wide this camera is able to go. At the far end of the zoom, the optical quality is still great and I haven't detected any weak spots within the optical range. I've never been impressed with digital zoom, and I nearly always avoid it...but as is typical with digital zoom, you'll get artifacts at the furthest end of the spectrum. For a compact, the macro mode is also quite functional, allowing a very short focus range of less than 1/2" - and the 2" focus minimum for normal mode is also quite impressive.
Aperture performance was up to my expectations for a camera lens of this quality, if not even a little better than I expected. The range is from f/3.4 to f/8.0 in aperture priority mode, and I typically would want more on the far end, but as far as I'm concerned, this camera produces f/22 and above quality in landscapes. You're not going to get beautiful bokeh effects at the low end (f/3.4) but this is typical of compact cameras with inexpensive lenses. With that said, though, I was surprised to see any bokeh whatsoever...and it is possible to get a little.
Low light performance is important to me as this is one of my strongest interests in photography. Up to ISO800, there is very little noise in the captured images and I've found that my noise filters will clean up what little there is quite well. ISO1600 starts to introduce a fairly strong noise characteristic, but I expected as much. There is no ISO3200 support, but personally, I feel like this is a waste in a camera at this price point as there's no way you're going to get good performance at such extremes. The image stabilization works well, especially when you're right on the edge of needing a tripod. The camera features an auto focus assist beam, which is a welcome addition within a camera at this price point. Low-light video performance was quite good, although it does take a performance hit in the noise department...but I was still very impressed that it performs as well as it does by producing very watchable low-light video results.
The overall feature set for a relatively inexpensive compact is just staggering to me. All of the basic features are there for a person who appreciates some creative control, including full Tv, Av and manual modes. The automatic modes are great for those times when I don't want to put effort in and P-mode (full auto, except for control over ISO) was an absolute necessity for me. The time-to-live is quick and from an off-state, I can capture an image in less than 3 seconds. I've tested some of the newer, fancier features and I have to say, they're quite impressive. The smile detection blew my mind because it actually worked! The ability to auto-shoot portraits when new people enter the scene is also pretty amazing to me. Blink detection? I would have never thought of that, but it's actually worked for me in a couple of cases. The HD-video is a great addition to my camera lineup and I've started playing with it fairly extensively. I have noticed a bit of discrepancy between the image stability on the LCD screen and the actual result in the produced video, but then again, if I wanted super-stable video, I'd use a tripod. There is a 10 minute limit to video capture, which could be a deal breaker for some, but for my purposes it's just fine. It picks up audio quite well, which was surprising to me - although you're not going to get movie studio quality out of the thing.
Physically speaking, the camera is very comfortable to hold and all of the buttons are conveniently placed. Anyone who's used a Canon camera will feel quite at home with it...and even if you're not, I wouldn't anticipate much difficulty. I haven't had any notable difficulty with the button placement, but have inadvertently turned off the camera when I was trying to capture a picture in a hurried situation. It's not exactly a sub-compact, but for a compact zoom, the size is perfect and exceeds my expectations. (It fits in a large pocket quite easily, but not well in smaller ones, such as most rear pockets.) The lens retraction is very nice and the lens portion only sticks out about 3/4" from the body when fully retracted.
Battery performance met my expectations, for the most part. The use of rechargeable batteries is a must for any digital camera - it's no secret that ALL digital cameras suck up a lot of juice. (This is WHY most of cameras use proprietary NiMH batteries!) For me, I'm fairly heavily invested into NiMH AA batteries, so it was very important for this purchase to support them. I don't get the rated performance, but I never trust those values and I can certainly squeak 200+ images out of a set of 2300mAh batteries, without flash usage. Video use does suck up the juice, but I've still been surprisingly impressed with its performance as I expected a lot less. I wouldn't really consider using standard alkaline batteries in a digital camera for all but a pinch situation and if you expect good performance on alkaline batteries, you're not going to get it. I did find the camera did not like a couple of my sets of 2700mAh batteries, and wouldn't even turn on...and while that bugged me, it wasn't a deal breaker as it does work with 90% of my batteries. A quality battery charger/tester goes a long way, as you won't get good performance if your batteries aren't up to snuff and aren't properly matched according to actual capacity.
I really only have a couple of complaints. Somehow my unit got a fairly large spec of dust inside the lens, and for awhile, all my images/video had a blurry spot on them - particularly in images with fairly strong light/midrange backgrounds. I'm a little concern about the seal and its ability to prevent dust from entering into the lens. Eventually, this speck of dust went away and my images are back to normal - but it's frustrating when you can't do anything about something like this. Additionally, the HD video codec that is used by this camera (H.264/Apple Quicktime MOV) is very frustrating to work with on a computer. It's just not well supported yet and takes a LONG time to open on my computer, even within Apple's quicktime application. (My machine is a quad-core 3.2Ghz proc, 4GB RAM...fast, for all intents and purposes - perhaps I have an issue with my computer's video codecs and I am willing to concede that possibility.) With that said though, I've found it best to convert it to a different format for editing...a step that I would rather avoid. These two issues prevented me from giving the product a full five-star rating.
Overall, though, I'm impressed with this camera and it fit the bill perfectly for me. I hope you've found this review helpful!