Canon PowerShot SD20
At a Glance
Although the Canon PowerShot SD20 earns our vote for style and size, this 5-megapixel camera loses some support for its omission of an optical zoom while costing upward of $300. Still, the SD20 takes remarkably good pictures compared with other fashionable point-and-shoots, so we'd recommend it for garden-variety party pictures but not much more.
The $310, 4.3-ounce SD20 comes in garnet, midnight blue, "zen gray," and silver. With a bright 1.5-inch LCD (but no viewfinder) and big, easy-to-use buttons, the camera's five scene modes (underwater, indoor, night snapshot, landscape, and portrait) and macro mode are easily navigable. The documentation is clear, and the SD20 comes with ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 5 and VideoImpression software as well as Canon's own photo utilities.
The SD20 performed surprisingly well when compared with other stylish point-and-shoots such as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1 and the Olympus Stylus Verve. In our image-quality tests, the SD20 exhibited vibrant color, good sharpness, and steady exposure. (If anything, sometimes the blues were too blue.) Skin tones looked natural as well. The exception here was in battery life, where the SD20 ranked second from the bottom among our current collection of 18 tested point-and-shoots.
The big problem is that the SD20 has no optical zoom, just a 6.5X digital zoom. Trying to zoom out too far, particularly in a landscape setting, yields muddy results. Smaller zooms, such as when you're framing people in an indoor shot, work fine.
The SD20 is a casual user's camera. If you're looking to delve beyond social-engagement photos, get a camera with an optical zoom.