One of two cameras replacing the S5 IS, the SX10 IS offers 10.0 megapixels and 20x stabilised zoom

Product Overview

Overall rating:

87%

Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

Overall score:87%
Features:90%
Value:75%
Image Quality:90%
Performance:95%
Design:85%

Pros:

  • Performance, build quality, features, image quality

Cons:

  • Price, viewfinder, no Raw mode

Product:

Canon PowerShot SX10 IS Review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£280.00

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For the past five years the Canon S-series of image-stabilised superzoom bridge cameras has been the benchmark by which other cameras of this type have been judged. They have combined powerful high quality lenses and powerful sensors with impressive features including video recording with stereo audio, articulated monitor screens and SLR-like handling.

Features

The S-series is being discontinued, with the popular S5 IS, launched in 2007, being the last model; however the design concept lives on in the two cameras with which Canon is replacing the S5; the £400 SX1 IS, and this, the £280 SX10 IS. Both models take up where the S5 left off, featuring 20x optical zoom image stabilised lenses with 28mm-equivalent wide angle settings, 10-megapixel sensors and fully articulated flipn- twist monitor screens.

Both new cameras also feature high quality video recording modes, but they do also have some significant differences to account for the difference in price. The SX1 has a faster CMOS sensor allowing 4fps continuous shooting, as well as 1080p HD video capability and a wide-screen 16:9 monitor screen. The cheaper SX10 IS with its 1/2.3” CCD sensor can shoot 1.5 frames per second and has VGA video recording, although with 30fps, stereo audio video, full optical zoom, image stabilisation, a high-quality low-compression recording format and one hour maximum clip length, even the SX10’s lesser capabilities are still well above the average.

As a still camera too the SX10 is impressive. Canon has chosen to ditch the often criticised AiAF multi-zone autofocus system in favour of a simpler but faster and more versatile FlexiZone single-point system, with a dedicated button to quickly re-size and move the AF point to anywhere in the central region of the frame. It is more complex to use effectively and not as accommodating for those who prefer their cameras to be auto-everything, but for more patient photographers it is definitely a more useful system.

As well as this the SX10 has a full range of manual exposure modes, with shutter speeds of 15 seconds to 1/3200th and aperture control in 1/3EV increments, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 – f/5.7, and a minimum of f/8.

It has multi-zone, centreweighted and spot metering, as well as an improved face detection system that can track partially obscured or profile-view faces. Among many other options the Canon quick menu includes full colour manual control, with customisable contrast, saturation and sharpness. One advanced function notable by its absence however is Raw mode, which would have increased the camera’s appeal to serious photographers. Some of the SX10’s main rivals do have this feature.

Design And Performance

Design
The body of the SX10 is quite similar in overall appearance to that of the S5 IS which it replaces. It is shaped exactly like a small DSLR, right down to the flash hot-=shoe on top of the viewfinder, and is not far off the same size as an entry-level APS-C camera.

It has a large comfortable handgrip and feels solid and secure in the hand. The substantial 560g dry weight, comprised largely of the big zoom lens, is even heavier when four AA batteries are included. Build quality is well up to Canon’s usual high standard, and the comprehensive control layout is sensibly arranged, although possibly a bit daunting for inexperienced users. The large D-pad with its rotating bezel is rather prone to accidental activation while shooting, but other than that the camera handles extremely well.

The LCD monitor is fully articulated and can rotate to almost any angle, including pointing forwards for self-portrait shots. At 2.5 inches with a 230,000-dot resolution it’s no sharper than most recent compact cameras, but it does have a good anti-glare coating and a nice wide viewing angle.

The electronic viewfinder is also no better than average. With 0.44in diagonal size and 235,000-dot resolution it is larger and slightly sharper than some rival models (such as the Panasonic FZ28), but it still isn’t sharp enough for manual focusing, and the dots are plainly visible. After seeing the Field Sequential EVF displays on some recent high-end cameras such as the Fuji S100FS and Panasonic G1, the finder on the SX10 (and the SX1) looks a bit crude by comparison.

Performance
For such a big camera the SX10 is certainly light on its feet. It starts up in a little under two seconds, and shuts down again even more quickly. The improved autofocus system and high-speed DIGIC 4 image processing give it a good fast shooting speed, and in single-shot mode at the highest picture quality setting it can consistently shoot a frame every 1.8 seconds. As mentioned previously, in continuous shooting mode it can rattle off approximately 1.5 shots a second, which is pretty quick by any standard.

The camera’s physical performance is just as impressive. The zoom operation is especially nice; it has a two-stage action, so that a gentle push on the control makes the zoom glide slowly and silently on its ultrasonic motor, ideal for video shooting, but pushing the control hard makes the lens zip to the other end of the zoom range in about two seconds, although it does make a loud whirring noise while doing so.

Image Quality And Value For Money

Image Quality
The SX10’s picture quality doesn’t disappoint. Despite its massive 28-560mm zoom range the lens performs well, with excellent centre sharpness providing an exceptionally high level of fine detail for the 10.0MP sensor.
There is a little barrel distortion at the wide–angle end, as well as a little chromatic aberration towards the edges of the frame at all focal lengths, but thankfully it avoids the pincushion distortion that plagues some superzoom models, and the overall picture quality is very good.

Dynamic range is also surprisingly good for a camera that, after all, only has the same sized sensor as a pocket compact. It dose have a tendency to over-expose slightly in backlit or similarly high contrast situations, and it does capture a lot of shadow detail, albeit at the cost of some burned-out highlights.


Image noise too is well handled, with good picture quality up to ISO 200 and Canon’s usual reduction system providing a slightly grainy but still well-detailed result at higher settings. Image quality at the maximum setting of ISO 1600 is not so good however, with very blurred detail and rather de-saturated colour.

Value For Money
With its retail price hovering around £280, the SX10 IS is by no means a cheap camera, but then top-end bridge cameras are all expensive. Even compared to its main rivals, such as the Panasonic FZ28 (£245), Olympus SP-570 UZ (£245) and Nikon P80 (£250) it might seem pricey, but then those competitors can’t match the SX10’s impressive video performance. It’s one of the few still cameras that can come close to matching a dedicated camcorder, so in that respect it looks like better value for money. For anyone looking for a versatile Jack-of-all-trades camera that can do almost anything, it’s certainly a hard one to beat.

Verdict

The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS is a supremely versatile camera that offers a wealth of useful features. Although its complex controls may be a bit of a handful for inexperienced users, keen photographers will appreciate its creative options, fast performance and superior image quality, and its excellent video capabilities are also very useful. However the lack of Raw mode, less-than-brilliant EVF and hefty price tag will put some people off.

Verdict

The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS is a supremely versatile camera that offers a wealth of useful features. Although its complex controls may be a bit of a handful for inexperienced users, keen photographers will appreciate its creative options, fast performance and superior image quality, and its excellent video capabilities are also very useful. However the lack of Raw mode, less-than-brilliant EVF and hefty price tag will put some people off.

Full Specification

Sample Photos:
http://www.whatdigitalcamera.com/equipment/galleries/sample-images/canon/10288/1/0/canon-powershot-sx10-is-sample-images_pg_Inspire.html
Weight:
560g

Product Shots:
http://www.whatdigitalcamera.com/equipment/galleries/productshots/canon/10500/1/0/canon-powershot-sx10-is-product-shots.html
Dimensions:
124.0 x 88.3 x 86.9 mm

Power:
4x AA
Memory Card:
SD/SDHC

Connectivity:
USB 2.0
White Balance:
Auto, 6 presets, custom

Metering System:
Multi, Spot, Center Weighted, Face Detection
Flash Modes:
Auto, Manual Flash On / Off

Shutter Speeds:
15 – 1/3200 sec
ISO Range:
80 – 1600

Exposure Modes:
Auto, P, A, S, M, Custom, Scene modes
File Formats:
JPEG, MOV H.264 (stereo), WAVE (stereo)

LCD:
2.5in LCD 230,000 dots
Lens:
28 – 560mm f/2.8 – f/5.7

Sensor:
1/2.3-inch CCD, 10.0MP

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Design And Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality And Value For Money
  5. 5. Verdict
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