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Photographic tests

White balance

The SD700 IS has five white balance presets (daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent and fluorescent H) in addition to the default auto white balance. There is also a 'custom' white balance setting, which allows you to point the camera at a white or gray object and set the white balance manually. The custom white balance setting is remembered even if you turn the camera off. In normal outdoor shooting the auto white balance works perfectly (as confirmed by our studio tests). Indoors it's a bit more hit and miss, as we've seen with most Canon PowerShots incandescent (tungsten) lighting causes a fairly strong orange color cast (though switching to manual gives a perfectly neutral result). We've spoken to Canon about its approach to white balance and have been told that the warm colors we see when shooting under incandescent light are intentional and are intended to 'try to keep some of the warm atmosphere of this kind of shot'.

Auto White Balance Flu Preset Auto White Balance Incandescent preset
Fluorescent light - Auto white balance average,
Preset white balance average
Incandescent light - Auto white balance poor,
Preset white balance good

Flash

The SD700's built-in flash has a quoted working range of 0.5m - 3.5m (1.6 - 11.5 ft) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.5m - 2.0m (1.6 - 6.6 ft) at the tele end, which is a bit on the underpowered side. In our real-world tests the flash did a decent job with a very slight warm tone (which is nice). The flash is also very fast - even with the red-eye reduction turned on, meaning you won't miss any spur of the moment shots waiting for the flash. We found the AF illuminator would allow focus in complete darkness (or as near as we can get) at distances of up to around 1.0m. In low light the AF illuminator can help focus at distances of up to around 2.0m.

Click here for flash test chart

Skin tone -
Excellent color, very slight underexposure.

Macro

As is common to most compact digital cameras the SD700's macro mode is most effective at the wide end of the zoom, where you can get as close as 2cm - not bad at all for an 'ultra-compact', capturing an area just over 3cm across. At the long end of the zoom the performance is less impressive - 40cm subject distance capturing an area just over 10cm wide - but still pretty useful. There is inevitably some distortion when shooting very close up at the wide end, but it is not too strong, and certainly less so than many of its competitors.

Movie mode

s is now the norm on cameras of this type the SD700 offers a maximum movie size of 640x480 pixels - enough to fill most television screens at 30 frames per second. It also offers options to shoot at smaller sizes and lower frame rates. There's a 'high frame rate' option that shoots 320x240-pixel movies at 60fps.

Overall quality is excellent, with movies very smooth and showing few compression artifacts. The AVI files are large - at the best quality setting (640x480 / 30fps) you're burning around 1.7MB every second, so if you intend to shoot a lot of movies you're going to need to invest in some big, fast SD cards.

You cannot use the optical zoom during filming, but you can use the digital zoom (though the quality is pretty poor, so I wouldn't advise it).

Sample movie: 640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 11.16 MB, 6.8 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

Resolution

Resolution is up with the best cameras in this class (with the notable exception of the Fuji F10/F11, which still rules the roost), and the results are remarkably clean for an ultra compact. As you move towards the very highest frequencies there is a very small amount of moiré visible, but overall there's little to complain about here. There is a very slight fall off in sharpness towards corners, but to be honest it's not going to show in everyday prints, and is far less serious than we've seen with previous Ixus / ELPH models - or most of their competitors.

Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1400 LPH
Extinction resolution 1650 LPH

 

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1500 LPH
Extinction resolution 1800 LPH *

*moiré visible

Distortion and other image quality issues

The SD700 exhibits moderate distortion at the wide end of the zoom - 1.2% barrel distortion (click here for test chart), but it's nothing to worry about on a camera of this type. On a more positive note there is no measurable distortion at all at telephoto end (click here for test chart).

Fringing

The SD 700 IS exhibits some very mild and very diffuse purple / blue fringing, though to be fair you only get it at the edge of overexposed areas, and we found only two examples in the 700+ shots taken for the gallery.

100% crop 35mm equiv., F2.8

Noise

With tiny, high pixel count chips noise is always going to be an issue, and to a large degree this is more a test of the effectiveness (both measurable and visible) of a camera's noise reduction system. Designers have to balance the desire to produce smooth, clean results with the need to retain as much detail as possible (if you blur away the noise, you blur away image detail too). As noted in the PowerShot S3 IS review, Canon's approach with the latest 6MP cameras appears to be fairly subtle, and much less bothered about luminance noise (the graininess is a lot less visually offensive than color blotches). There is some softness as the noise reduction really kicks in at ISO 200, but ISO 400 is surprisingly good, though I think it's safe to say ISO 800 is for 'emergency use only' but overall these results are pretty good for a small sensor camera.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800
100% Crops

Noise graph

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity is on the vertical axis.

Measurable noise is unsurprisingly very similar at ISO 80-400 to the other cameras we've tested using this chip, and though it's offering nowhere near the performance of the Fuji Super CCD sensor (as used in the F10/F11) at ISO 800, it's a lot better than many cameras of this type. Luminance and chroma noise are low at ISO 80 and 100, producing very clean results without excessive noise reduction.

 

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