Canon's PowerShot SX series of compacts have long been some of the best travel compacts on the market. But how does the latest model shape up in light of competition?
Canon’s SX series of PowerShot compacts has, for a long time now, offered advanced functionality in a small and affordable body, and for that reason have been popular with compact camera buyers. Currently priced just over the £200 mark, the SX220 HS promises to add to the range’s reputation as it arrives with both an impressive specification and a host of features new to the range. But is it good enough to test the growing breed of travel compacts?
Canon PowerShot SX220 HS review – Features
The Canon SX220 HS features the kind of full specification that you’ve come to expect from the SX PowerShot range. The model features a 12.1MP CMOS sensor, which is paired with HS technology. The HS technology is aimed at providing extra assistance in low light image capture, and reducing the amount of noise appearing in these images, a process also aided no doubt by the presence of Canon’s DIGIC IV processor.
The sensor is coupled with a 14x optical zoom, ranging from 28-392mm in equivalent terms, itself supported by optical image stabilisation offering, claims Canon, up to a 4-stop benefit. Another eye-catching feature of the camera in the 3in PureColor II G LCD screen – boasting a 461k-dot resolution, the LCD is one of the better on the market, although the fact that it’s widescreen, with a native 16:9 resolution may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Another element of the camera’s specification which places it firmly in the travel compact sector is the presence of HD video. The SX220 HS offers 1080p HD capture which, as well as offering the facility to zoom during shooting, is also supported by dynamic image stabilisation while shooting.
The model also offers full manual image capture, alongside Program, Aperture and Shutter priority image capture modes, which will no doubt please those looking for extra control over the capture process. However, as with all good travel compacts, a bevy of functions are present to cater for the photographer looking for the camera to do the work. A ‘Smart Auto’ mode features which has the power to recognise the scene your shooting from 32 separate shooting scenarios.
Design and Performance
Canon PowerShot SX220 SX220 HS review – Design
Considering the large focal range the SX220 HS possesses, as well as the full specification, the camera features a relatively compact body. Despite a slight protrusion on the front of the camera’s body, accommodating the 14x optical zoom, the body is impressively slim, and certainly slim enough to fit in a pocket. The top of and sides of the camera feature a slight indent which serves well as a sitting position for your fingers whilst shooting. The same can be said with the wide-angle screen on the rear of the camera – unless you’re predisposed to use the full width of the screen whilst shooting stills, instead preferring to shoot in a 4:3 crop, the non-image displaying areas also house your thumbs well.
All is not rosy on the rear of the camera, however. The rear of the SX220 HS also houses a mode dial and control wheel – the former is very firmly fixed and takes quite some effort to rotate, making switching between modes while shooting quite an effort. The opposite is true with the control wheel – when shooting, the control wheel is far too easily jogged in accident, thus causing a host of functions to appear and accidently be switched between whilst composing images, which is far from desirable.
Outside of the slight issues with the buttons on the rear of the camera, the SX220 HS is a well-designed model which feels sturdy in use and would no doubt be up to the rigours that so often face a travel compact.
Canon PowerShot SX220 SX220 HS review – Performance
The PowerShot SX220 HS is a pleasure to use, baring the aforementioned issues with the poorly-designed control wheel. The camera starts up in no time at all, and is soon ready for shooting. If you’re looking for more creative control over your images, then the full manual control and priority settings are no problem at all to negotiate and control. In fact, the manual capture control shooting modes are an area in which the control wheel redeems itself, allowing quick control over either shutter or aperture. Those looking to let the camera do more of the work can rest comfortable in the knowledge that the
The SX220 HS’s focus system is both prompt and accurate, quickly locating the subject. The model also benefits in the speed department in use from having a dedicated video record button located on its rear, allowing one-touch access to the camera’s 1080p HD video capture.
The image stabilisation is very effective in use, and serves as a useful tool against the large optical zoom. It’s even noticeable in the framing of images, whereby panning and tilting the camera can be achieved in a steady movement. The zoom itself also benefits from having two speed settings – by moving the zoom slider marginally to one side, you can zoom the camera slowly either towards or away from your subject. Move it to either extremity, however, and the camera will soon move to either end of the focal range.
Image Quality and Verdict
Canon PowerShot SX220 HS Review – Image Quality
Considering the large focal range of the SX220 HS, it’s hardly surprising that the model suffers from slight image quality issues. There’s an issue with barrel distortion throughout the focal range, while fringing is also present. Noise is well controlled throughout the lower end of the ISO settings, also though it does become a slight issue towards the higher end of the scale.
On a positive note, the SX220 HS controls the balance between shadows and highlights well, and displays a good dynamic range. Colour reproduction is also pleasing – tones are natural and muted, and lend themselves to any modification in the post production process.
Canon PowerShot SX220 HS review – Verdict
The SX220 HS is an impressive all-round travel compact which is priced competitively relative to equivalent cameras. The specification offers more than enough for the casual shooting, while HD video capture and full PASM control will satisfy those looking for something more advanced. However, there are several handling issues and niggles that detract from the overall user experience. Add to that a fair number of image quality issues and, while the SX220 HS is still a very good camera, it just misses the mark.
105.7 x 59.3 x 33.2mm
USB 2, PictBridge, HDMI mini
Li-ion rechargeable NB-5L
SD / SDHC
Auto, manual, slow-sync
Auto, 6 preset, custom
100 – 3200
Evaluative, centre, spot
Auto, PASM, 32 scene
15 – 1/3200 sec
3in, 461k-dot LCD
12.1MP, 1/2.3in CMOS sensor