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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good image quality (at lower ISO settings)
  • Accurate metering in the majority of situations
  • Very useful lens range with surprisingly good edge-to-edge performance
  • Useful and adaptable Auto ISO-shift function
  • Handy macro performance at wide end of lens
  • Large, bright, clear screen
  • Looks and feels well designed, handling better than expected
  • Feels fast and responsive in use
  • Superb build quality and finish
  • Direct print button can be customized into something more useful

Conclusion - Cons

  • AiAF/Face detection a little haphazard
  • Occasional tendency to ignore (and overexpose) bright regions
  • Touch wheel slightly awkward
  • Image quality suffers above ISO 400 due to noise and noise reduction issues
  • Easily scratched and scuffed
  • Manual control limited
  • Average battery life

Overall conclusion

The SD870 IS follows in the footsteps of some highly regarded cameras so it's understandable that Canon has chosen not to tinker too much with a successful formula. The camera's image quality is generally very good, especially considering its use of a genuinely wideangle lens. A reasonable amount of manual control for what is ostensibly a point and shoot camera means that occasional metering difficulty in tricky scenes can be compensated for, but does require the user to concentrate on what they're doing.

Overall, though, the impression is a good one, the build and appearance of the camera are consistent with the high standards that have characterized the SD/IXUS range and its all-round ease-of-use is also impressive. Face detection and image stabilization have become de rigueur but should be considered occasionally useful, rather than essential, functions and ones that can be turned off for most of the time.

The Auto ISO-shift function in particular stands out as a good idea well implemented. It allows the camera to be left at its lowest sensitivity mode except when really needed, rather than a conventional Auto ISO, that can sometimes let ISO creep up in moderately lit scenes. It's an intelligent way of keeping the camera at its best settings unless absolutely necessary. The option to have the camera warn you when it thinks ISO shift is needed, rather than just deciding for you, is particularly impressive.

Less impressive is the touch wheel, which appears to be a slightly fumbled attempt to fit extra functions onto fewer buttons. Ironically, the functions that it accesses (in record mode, at least), only required two buttons to be pressed anyway, making it questionable whether it delivers convenience or complexity.

Like other cameras in this range what makes the SD870 IS so appealing - aside from the high quality design and construction - is the 'point and shoot' reliability, which produces good, sharp, well exposed results in a wide range of shooting conditions, something you simply can't say about a lot of competitors. We were also very impressed with the lens; a wide lens usually results in a compromise between the really useful ability to 'zoom out' and a degree of chromatic aberration and corner softness that can dent image quality. Our tests and experiences of real-world shooting show very little evidence of these expected shortcomings, helping the 870 IS stand out from competing wideangle ultra compact cameras.

This, combined with good image quality (at low ISO, anyway), and a control method that has been carefully refined over previous generations of camera makes the SD870 IS well worth short listing if you're after a wideangle ultra compact camera that you can rely on to produce the goods without asking too much of the operator.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.0
Ergonomics & handling 7.5
Features 8.0
Image quality 7.5
Optics 7.5
Performance (speed) 8.5
Value 7.0

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Canon SD870 IS Review Samples

30 images • Posted 11 January 2007 • View album
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