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Canon Powershot SX110 IS
9.0MP | 36-360mm (10X) ZOOM | $220 US / £180 UK

The PowerShot SX110 IS replaces the SX100 IS, which was the first model in Canon's SX series of budget super zoom compact cameras designed to compete with Panasonic's successful TZ series. Specification and build quality wise the SX110 IS is located somewhere between the tried and tested A-Series and the more upmarket SX10 IS. The main differences to its predecessor are the higher sensor resolution (9 vs 8 megapixels) and the larger screen (3.0" vs 2.5"). Like the competing models from Panasonic and Sony the SX110 IS doesn't have an eye-level viewfinder, relying solely on the LCD screen for framing. It's available in silver or black (the latter being a lot more attractive in our opinion).

  • 8.0 effective Megapixels
  • 36-360mm equiv lens with 10x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom
  • 3.0 inch LCD with 230,000 dots resolution
  • Dual Image Stabilizer
  • ISO sensitivity up to 1600
  • 13 shooting modes, 7 Scene Modes
  • Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual Exposure Mode
  • DIGIC III Processor for enhanced Face Detection with Face Selector button
  • In-camera Editing
  • 32 MB memory card supplied
  • Print/Share button with ID Photo print Option
  • Available in Black and Silver
  • Optional accessories available, including Selphy Photo Printer

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Overview

The SX110 IS may not be as small its IXUS cousins but it offers a good compromise between zoom reach and pocketability, and considering the large zoom range is actually surprisingly compact. And whilst it might not be the prettiest camera around and its plastic body may appear a little cheap at first sight, all buttons and controls are in the right places and the (small) grip allows for easy handling, even with one hand.

The lens hasn't changed from the previous model and covers a 35mm equivalent, optically stabilized, zoom range of 36-360mm which means you got plenty of reach at the long end but you might struggle to fit all family members into the image when shooting in confined spaces. Images are captured on a 9.0 megapixels sensor and can be viewed and composed on a 3.0 inch screen. It's larger than the predecessor's but the resolution hasn't changed and is still a fairly average 230K pixels.

The user interface will be instantly familiar to anyone who's previously owned a Canon compact camera and that's no bad thing, since we feel the company generally does a good job by putting the most commonly changed features on the easy-to-access Func menu. Although this type of camera is most comfortable - and most likely to be used - in program auto mode, enthusiasts will be reassured by the sight of the P, A, S and M icons on the mode dial.

Key Features

Considering its massive zoom range the SX110 IS is relatively compact. The grip ensures good handling.
The control unit on the camera's back is, small differences aside, very similar on all of Canon's high-end compact cameras. The combined four-way controller/dial allows for easy navigation of menus and image review and at the same time gives direct access to ISO, focus mode and drive mode.
Mode dial, shutter button and power button are located on the camera top.
The lens offers a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 36-360mm. The SX110 IS uses Canon's very effective optical image stabilization to counteract camera shake.
Canon's FUNC menu provides easy access to the most essential shooting parameters.

Image quality and performance

The SX110 IS doesn't use the latest version of Canon's processor but it does have the DIGIC III, which offered noticeable performance improvements over its predecessors, and the camera generally feels snappy and responsive at all times. The lens covers a very long range, so not surprisingly it takes slightly longer to extend and retract when switching the camera on or off than a shorter lens. But at approximately 2.4 seconds it all stays well within acceptable limits - just don't expect to be able to switch on and fire immediately.

The focus does a good job and in good light and at wide angle takes about 0.3 sec to lock onto the subject. This increases to 0.6 sec at the long and of the zoom and can further increase in low light. If we have to complain about one thing it is the long flash recycling times (common to most AA powered cameras). It takes about 5 seconds until the flash is ready for the next shot and this can increase to almost ten if the batteries are weak. This can be fairly inconvenient if one or more subjects are waiting for their photo to be taken. Image review and shutter lag are very good for a camera in this price bracket.

When looking at any camera that packs a 10x optical zoom into a body this small and doesn't cost the earth you have to be prepared for some compromises in image quality. The good news is that the SX110 IS actually doesn't demand too many; the output is - as long as you're not looking to produce very large prints - actually very good. At a pixel level it's easy to find fault; there's some pretty strong smudging and smearing of very fine low contrast detail and a touch of purple fringing around high contrast edges, but at normal viewing magnifications there's more to like than not.

Exposure, focus, and white balance are excellent in good light, though focus struggles at longer zoom settings in dim conditions. The color is bright and vivid but still natural, and detail and sharpness are, for the most part, very good. High ISO performance isn't terrible, and the output is usable for small prints (under 5x7 inches) at up to ISO 800.

This isn't a camera for the social snap shooter, however; the focus is unreliable in low light and the flash recycle times simply too frustrating - which is unfortunate, as flash exposure and color is actually very good.

Close-up the SX110's images look a little over-processed, showing smearing of low contrast detail (due to noise reduction) - even at base ISO - and high sharpening. But it's also capable of very sharp, detailed results in perfect conditions. There's some fringing too, but for smaller prints or on-screen viewing at normal magnifications the output looks very good, with no exposure, color or contrast issues.

High ISO performance is pretty average - not the best here, but by no means the worst, and as long as you have reasonable expectations, up to ISO 800 the output is usable for small prints on screen use at reduced magnification.

Summary

The SX110 IS improves on its predecessor with a slightly prettier design, larger screen and a bit of extra resolution, but it doesn't really address the issues we found when we reviewed that camera (poor low light focus, pixel-level image quality and flash recycle times). That said, this is a great choice for anyone on a budget wanting a well-specified camera with full photographic control and a big zoom range. It neatly fills the gap left by the high end A series cameras, which seem to be gradually moving away from manual controls and back into budget point and shoot territory.

Its small size and low weight make it the perfect 'walk around' camera, though the zoom range is skewed towards the telephoto, and we missed having a real wideangle for scenery and interior shots. It's also a camera that performs far better in daylight (when the results are pretty good and the camera very responsive) than in low light or with flash (where performance is a lot more sluggish), so if you're after something for social snaps - or if you want a wideangle lens - then we'd suggest you look elsewhere.

  • We like: Great feature set, value for money, performance in daylight, overall image quality is pretty good

  • We don't like: Long flash recycle times, slow focus in low light, no wideangle, pixel level image quality limits usefulness for large prints
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