Conclusion - Pros
- Very good resolution
- Incredibly slim, compact design
- Beautifully built and all-metal construction
- Excellent color and white balance in most situations
- Manual (custom) white balance
- Good exposure and generally very reliable focus (using single-point AF)
- Good flash performance at short distances
- Fast and responsive
- Big, bright screen with wide viewing angle
- Excellent movie mode
- Nice handling and easy to use interface
- New ISO button
- Playback orientation sensor
- AF illuminator
- Excellent macro mode
Conclusion - Cons
- Fairly strong purple fringing
- Some dynamic range issues (common to cameras using this sensor)
- Some edge and corner softness at wide angle/max aperture
- Battery life when using LCD
- No exposure information in record mode except when camera shake is an issue
- No exposure information in playback mode
- Very little manual control
In an ideal world buying an ultra compact camera would not involve any compromise at all. But this ain't a perfect world, and if you want a camera you really can carry with you anytime, anywhere then you have to accept there will be some trade-off in terms of absolute image quality. The SD450, like the SD400 before it, is a fast, easy to use, well-specified camera that can genuinely claim to be pocket-sized, and it produces images that - whilst by no means perfect - are sharp, clean and colorful, and it does so with the minimum fuss. It's so small, and is so enjoyable to handle and use that you cannot help but take it with you wherever you go, something you might hesitate to do with a larger camera.
The improvements over the SD400 are largely cosmetic, though the larger screen is nice (and in a camera like this the low resolution doesn't make such a big difference), and the addition of an external ISO control button is welcome. The playback slide show effects are cool, and add a little something to using the camera. On the downside, the problems we encountered when testing the SD400 - fringing, edge softness, poor battery life - haven't been fixed, and I honestly can't see why Canon won't put the shutter speed on the screen all the time, not just when it's slow enough to worry about camera shake.
Of course there are limits to what you can expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness of the images produced by the SD450, even with the fringing and occasional soft corner. At the end of the day, where it matters to the target market; exposure, color, focus, speed and flash performance, the SD450 more than meets expectations. If you can live without manual control over exposure this is the perfect pocket camera and an ideal alternative for the days you don't want to take a bigger camera out with you.
Now for the rating. In the year or so since the SD400 arrived the ultra-compact market has inevitably moved on, with features such as image stabilization and high ISO starting to appear (though it must be said the latter is rarely any good), pixel counts increasing and prices falling, so can the little Ixus/Elph still compete? It's a little cheaper than the SD400 was (averaging around $320), and it's a little better (though the changes are hardly ground breaking), but there are definitely better cameras out there. This is certainly true if you want more manual control or more pixels, and for a similar price the Fuji F10 offers usable high ISO performance. But at the end of the day everything that made the SD400 so attractive as a package is also true for the SD450 - and then some. It's a beautifully made and reliable point-and-shooter that is easy and fun to use, and one that produces surprisingly good results where it counts, and one that - even with the niggles mentioned above - is perfectly designed to satisfy its target market. And so, despite the tougher competition, the SD450 retains its Recommended tag, albeit with more reservations than the rating given to the SD400.