Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      Canon’s second 10-megapixel, 20x optical zoom digicam with advanced shooting controls.Last September, Canon announced two new 10-megapixel PowerShot SX-series digicams: the SX1 IS and the SX10 IS. The PowerShot SX10 IS has many of the features of the SX1 IS model (which we have already reviewed) but uses a CCD sensor instead of a CMOS chip. Both models feature stabilised 20x optical zoom lenses that span the equivalent of 28-560mm in 35mm format. The lens is threaded – but only for the clip-on lens cap and not for filters. . . [more]

      Full review


      Last September, Canon announced two new 10-megapixel PowerShot SX-series digicams: the SX1 IS and the SX10 IS. The PowerShot SX10 IS has many of the features of the SX1 IS model (which we have already reviewed) but uses a CCD sensor instead of a CMOS chip. Both models feature stabilised 20x optical zoom lenses that span the equivalent of 28-560mm in 35mm format. The lens is threaded – but only for the clip-on lens cap and not for filters.
      Designed to replace the S5 IS model, which was announced in May 2007, the new SX models are larger and heavier than their predecessor. Styling is reminiscent of Canon’s smaller DSLRs. The SX10 IS is slightly smaller and lighter than the SX1 IS- and also $250 cheaper. Both cameras are powered by four AA batteries.


      Front view of the PowerShot SX10 IS with the pop-up flash raised.


      Rear view showing the vari-angle LCD monitor open.
      The electronic viewfinder on the SX10 is superior to that in the SX1 IS with significantly higher resolution. However, the view it provides of the subject remains pretty ordinary when compared with an optical viewfinder. Dioptric adjustment is via a rotating knob on the left side of the finder housing.
      Both cameras offer the same range of shooting modes, shutter speeds, exposure compensation and white balance and ISO settings. Their focusing and metering modes are identical and both record to SD or SDHC memory cards. Both cameras are restricted to JPEG capture for stills but only the SX1 IS can record Full HD video at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. It also has two widescreen stills modes with 3648 x 2048 and 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, where the SX10 IS only offers widescreen stills at 3648 x 2048 pixels.


      The mode dial and right hand controls.
      Only the SX1 IS offers wireless flash support and this model also has a maximum continuous shooting speed of 4 frames/second, whereas the SX10 IS can only manage 1.4 frames/second. Although both models have vari-angle monitors, the SX1 IS’s LCD monitor is marginally larger, with a 2.8-inch diameter, compared to 2.5-inches on the SX10 IS. Monitor resolution is the same at 230,000 dots.
      The SX10 IS uses the same DiG!C 4 processor as its ‘cousin’, which means it also provides the same improved Face Detection Technology that can detect faces positioned at an angle to the camera – or in profile. Face Select & Track and Face Self-Timer technologies are also included, along with improved Motion Detection Technology.
      This function detects camera and subject movement then automatically adjusts ISO to prevent image blur. Other ‘intelligent processing’ functions include Servo AF, which continuously re-adjusts focus to keep subjects sharply imaged and i-Contrast dynamic range adjustment.
      We’ve already covered the physical characteristics and shooting modes in our review of the SX1 IS so there’s little point in repeating them here. However, the sensors in the two cameras are quite different and merit separate attention.

      The sensor used in the SX10 IS is a standard 1/2.3-inch type (6.16 x 4.62 mm) CCD chip with a total of 10.3 million photosites and an effective resolution of 10 megapixels. For 4:3 aspect ratio images, the effective pixel count is approximately 10-megapixels, while cropping to produce the 16:9 aspect ratio results in approximately 8.30 million pixels (effective). The pixel pitch is 1.7 mm and the standard primary colour filtration is used (presumably with a Bayer pattern).
      The SX10 IS only records still images as JPEGs, offering six image size settings (including one 16:9 ‘widescreen’ option) plus three compression levels. Interestingly, while image size continues to be adjustable via the Function menu, to adjust compression on the SX10 IS you must press the Display button after setting the image size. This button also toggles between LCD and EVF and adjusts display modes. Typical image sizes are shown in the table below.








      3648 x 2736





      2816 x 2112





      2272 x 1704





      1600 x 1200





      640 x 480




      Widescreen (8M)

      3840 x 2160




      Unlike the SX1 IS, the SX10 IS is restricted to VGA and QVGA video recording at 30 frames/second. Use of the H.264 video compression standard provides good video quality at lower bit rates than previous system, providing greater recording times for memory capacities. Typical recording capacities are shown in the table below.


      Frame rate

      Recording bit rate

      Capacity with 2GB card

      640 x 480

      30 fps

      1402 KB/sec

      22 minutes 45 seconds

      320 x 240

      30 fps

      480 KB/sec

      1 hour, 4 min. 1 sec.

      Like the SX1 IS, the SX10 IS allows you to initiate movie recording from any shooting mode by simply pressing the large button on the rear panel. A second push stops recording. If you’ve set the camera for widescreen capture, it defaults to the 4:3 aspect ratio for video recording. Twin microphones just below the flash housing allow sound to be recorded in stereo for both movie clips and sound memos.
      Autofocusing continues while video is being captured and adjustments will be made to exposure levels and white balance, if required. Face detection also engages automatically when the 4:3 aspect ratio is selected.

      Pictures taken with the test camera were similar to shots from the SX1 IS, with plenty of detail and natural-looking colours. The exposure metering system favoured shadows over highlights so blown-out highlights were common in shots taken in bright, contrasty lighting. Under overcast conditions a full dynamic range was captured.
      Imatest showed resolution to be in line with expectations for a 10-megapixel digicam, although the lens showed the same edge softening as we found with the SX1 IS (which isn’t surprising as both cameras have the same lenses). Best performance was at the shorter focal lengths and with wider lens apertures. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Resolution was highest at ISO 80 and 100 and then a slow decline began, with a significant reduction between ISO 400 and ISO 1600. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Imatest showed a higher degree of post-capture processing in image files, which resulted in images that were not quite as sharp as those from the SX1IS – although you have to ‘pixel peep’ to actually see any difference. Colour accuracy was fair in our Imatest assessments, which showed saturation to be marginally higher than the SX1 IS. Otherwise, both cameras had similar shifts in skin hues and elevated saturation from oranges through to reds and blues.
      Lateral chromatic aberration ranged from moderate to serious in our Imatest tests and we found some colour fringing when shots were enlarged to 100%. Fringing was quite noticeable with both the wide and telephoto focal lengths and it was more pronounced towards the edges of shots than near the centre. An example is shown below.


      Digital zoom shots were similar to those from the SX1 IS and sharper and less artefact-affected than Photo Review commonly sees in extended-zoom digicams we review. Backlit subjects were competently handled and flare and ghosting were negligible unless the camera was pointed directly at the sun.
      The built-in flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at all ISO settings and produced evenly-balanced exposures up to ISO 1600. Low-light performance was above average for long exposures between ISO 100 and 400, where traces of image noise became visible. Thereafter, noise became progressively more intrusive but images could generally be considered printable at snapshot size with all ISO settings.
      The auto white balance failed to eliminate the orange cast of incandescent lighting but produced close-to-neutral colours under fluorescent lights. With both types of lighting, the pre-sets delivered neutral colours, as did manual measurement.
      Video capture was generally good, although many of the camera’s inherent faults were uncorrected in movie mode. Clips were acceptably sharp and colours were natural-looking. The stereo audio was a genuine plus and the microphone delivered slightly better clarity than we had expected in windy conditions.
      Overall response times were about average for a current long-zoom digicam. The test camera powered up ready for shooting in approximately half a second and shot-to-shot times averaged 1.8 seconds without flash and approximately 3.6 seconds with. On average, it took 3.2 seconds to process each image file.
      We measured an average capture lag of 0.35 seconds, which changed to almost instantaneous capture when shots were pre-focused. The continuous shooting mode recorded 10 shots in 8.4 seconds. Image processing appears to be on-the-fly as it took only 3.5 seconds to process each burst of 10 shots.
      The alkaline batteries supplied with the test camera still had power remaining at the end of our tests, which involved 235 shots. This is to be expected, since the supplied batteries are rated for approximately 340 shots.

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a well-built, long-zoom digicam with good wide-angle coverage, plenty of user-adjustable controls and image stabilisation.
      – You use the monitor for shot composition and enjoy shooting with the camera close to the subject, low to the ground or above your head. (The vari-angle LCD makes this easy.)
      – You want manual flash adjustment plus a good range of flash settings (including first- and second-curtain synch), along with the ability to add an accessory flash unit.
      – You’d enjoy shooting video clips with stereo sound.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a pocketable camera. (The SX10 IS isn’t.)
      – You want to shoot raw files (the SX10 IS is restricted to JPEG capture).
      – You require high-quality images in dim or contrasty lighting – and when shooting under incandescent lights.
      – You want to shoot widescreen or high-definition video (the SX10 IS can’t).





      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Close-up. 40.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/50 second at f/5.


      Super macro. 5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/101 second at f/4.


      Digital zoom. 100mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.7.


      Flash exposure; 37.5mm focal length. ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.


      Flash exposure; 37.5mm focal length. ISO 1600, 1/60 second at f/5.


      Night shot: ISO 100, 15 second exposure at f/2.8; 11.6mm focal length.


      Night shot: ISO 1600, 2 second exposure at f/2.8; 11.6mm focal length.


      5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/251 second at f/4.


      100mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/79 second at f/5.7.


      22.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/50 second at f/4.5.


      Servo AF: 55.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.


      29.3mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.


      Widescreen: 5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/150 second at f/8.


      Widescreen: 15mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/25 second at f/8.


      Widescreen: 39.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.




      Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mm CCD with (10 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 5.0-100.0mm f/2.8-5.7 zoom (28-560mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 20x optical, approx. 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies – MOV (Image Data: H.264; Audio Data: Linear PCM stereo)
      Image Sizes: Stills ““ 3648 x 2736, 2816 x 2112, 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480; Widescreen: 3648 x 2048; Movies 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at 30 fps
      Shutter speed range: 15-1/3200 second
      Image Stabilisation: Optical (Lens Shift Type)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV increments
      Focus system/range: TTL Autofocus (Single / Continuous) incl. Face Detect with movie support, Centre, Flexizone, Manual; range ““ 50 cm to infinity; macro 10-50 cm; super macro ““ 0-10 cm
      Exposure metering: Evaluative, Centre-weighted average, Spot metering
      Shooting modes: Auto, P (Program), Tv (Shutter Priority), Av (Aperture Priority), M (Manual), C (Custom), Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Sports, Special Scene (Indoor, Night Scene, Sunset, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, ISO 3200, Color Accent, Color Swap), Movie
      ISO range: Auto, High ISO Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, on, off, Red Eye Correction, Red Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro, Second Curtain Synchro, FE Lock, Safety FE; range – 50cm ““ 5.2 m (W), 1m − 2.8 m (T)
      Sequence shooting:
      Storage Media: SD/SDHC cards
      Viewfinder: 0.44-inch, 235,000 dot electronic viewfinder with dioptric adjustment (-6.0 to +2.0 dpt)
      LCD monitor: 2.5 inch vari-angle LCD monitor with high resolution (approx 230,000 dots)
      Power supply: 4x AA batteries (alkaline, NiMH or Lithium); CIPA rated for approx. 400 shots/charge with NiMH batteries
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 124 x 88.3 x 86.9 mm (ex. protruding parts)
      Weight: Approx. 560 grams (without batteries and card)





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