Canon PowerShot SX210 IS: A Pocket Megazoom for Novices and Advanced Photographers
At a Glance
Offering the holy trinity of ease of use, manual controls, and best-in-class video quality, the 14X-optical-zoom PowerShot SX210 IS ($350 as of June 1, 2010) is a follow-up to last year's excellent PowerShot SX200 IS. Improvements include a slimmer frame, the ability to zoom while shooting video, support for SDXC cards, and new scene modes.
In PCWorld Labs subjective still and video testing, the SX210 IS received an overall imaging score of Good. It had the most well-rounded images of any pocket megazoom camera in our test group, earning a Good rating for all four of our testing categories (exposure, color accuracy, sharpness, and lack of distortion).
The SX210 IS also produced noticeably better video quality than any of the other pocket megazooms in our test batch, posting a video-quality score of Superior. In contrast, audio capture was a weak spot; the camera has no mic-in port, so you're stuck with less-than-impressive sound to accompany the camera's stunning 720p, 30-fps videos.
Here are sample clips that we shot in bright indoor lighting and in low light with the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS. For the highest-quality clips, select 720p from the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player.
This is the top "one-size-fits-all" camera of our test group, offering the best range of controls to suit both advanced and novice photographers. It has a full set of manual controls, including aperture-priority mode, shutter-priority mode, and full manual exposure. Aperture settings range from f3.1 on the wide-angle end to f8.0 in full telephoto, and you get more incremental options for setting your f-stop than you do with the Casio Exilim EX-FH100.
For beginners and creative-but-casual snapshooters, the SX210 IS has a few scene modes worth mentioning. New to the mix are a Miniature Mode, which makes full-size objects seem like models by faking the effects of a tilt-shift lens, and Fisheye, which mimics a fish-eye lens. Holdovers from previous-generation Canon cameras include Color Accent (which allows you to expose a single color in an otherwise black-and-white photo), Color Swap mode (which lets you replace one color with another in your photo), and a large number of more-common scene modes.
The SX210 IS approaches ergonomics in an innovative way. Lacking a raised hand grip, the camera instead has a narrow, finger-width trench along the top and sides for securing the grip; you control the 14X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 392mm) by using a toggle-like control on the top of the camera with your fingertip. Gripping the camera still takes two hands, but the zoom toggle gives you greater control over the zoom speed than the ring-based or thumb-operated controls on most point-and-shoots do. It's definitely worth a test drive before you buy, especially if you like shooting with one hand.
The pop-up flash is another improvement over last year's model, as well. Instead of its being controlled by fully electronic measures, you can manually flip the flash up and down on this camera. The flash automatically pops up when you turn the camera on; if you don't need it, you can just click it closed with your finger.
Battery life is decent, but nothing spectacular. The SX210 IS is rated for 260 shots per charge of its rechargeable battery, short of the 300-plus shots we see on average for a point-and-shoot camera.
The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS is the rare camera that's sure to please a variety of users, making this pocket megazoom a solid recommendation for any camera shopper. It's a more-conservative buy than the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V, but it's still a fun camera with top-notch performance.