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Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Review

March 2009 | By Don Wan
Buy on From $849.95

Canon's popular superzoom range of cameras began with the release of the PowerShot S1 IS back in 2004, and has been incrementally upgraded each year with more features and more pixels, with the last update being the PowerShot S5 IS announced in May of 2007. In September of 2008 Canon announced dual successors to the S5 IS. The cheaper of the two models is the Powershot SX10 IS, which features a 10 MP CCD sensor behind a 20X image stabilized lens, with the more expensive camera - the SX1 IS - adding RAW mode, a CMOS sensor, faster continuous shooting speed, and HD 1080p video recording.

Canon pioneered the use of CMOS sensors in digital SLRs (starting way back in 2000 with the EOS D30) - and they have long been used in cheap imaging devices (such as mobile phones and no brand 'keychain' digicams), but until now they haven't made their way into mainstream compact cameras. The reason has been simple; they just haven't been good enough. CMOS sensors have more circuitry built into the chip itself than CCD sensors, leaving less room for actually capturing light. This isn't a problem when you're working with a sensor with a large surface area, but at very small sizes it means lowered sensitivity - and that means noise and all the image quality problems associated with removing it.

Any problems with CMOS on large (DSLR) sensors were fixed long ago, and it is now the dominant technology in all but the cheapest models. The quest to fix them for smaller sensors has taken a lot longer, but it's one that continues because the possibilities offered by the on-chip processing capabilities of a CMOS sensor are simply too enticing for camera manufacturers to ignore (quite aside from the fact they use less power and are, in theory, a lot cheaper to mass produce). The SX1 IS, along with Sony's HX1 and the Ricoh CX1, is the first in a new wave of CMOS-sensored 'serious' compact cameras, and though few claims are being made about how the use of CMOS will affect image quality per se, they all sport unique features (high speed capture, HD movies, clever image stacking modes) which are only possible because this technology.

Like every camera in this range since the original S1 IS, the SX1 is designed to be a 'hybrid', combining stills and movie photography in a single device (the S1 IS was one of the first cameras to feature a dedicated Movie record button). But the use of a 16:9 format screen and viewfinder - plus the use of a CMOS sensor capable of full 1080p capture - means that the SX1 is unique in the range (and different to the SX10) in that it gives almost as much weight to movie capture as it does stills.

PowerShot SX1 IS vs PowerShot S5 IS - key changes

  • Higher resolution sensor (10MP vs 8MP)
  • New 28 - 560 mm equiv lens
  • Digic 4 processor (S5 IS was Digic III)
  • Larger, higher resolution LCD screen (2.8 inches vs 2.5 inches)
  • HD movie recording at 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • 'My Menu' system
  • Greatly increased continuous shooting (burst) speed
  • RAW file format is back

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

Canon PowerShot S5 IS

• 1/2.3 " Type CMOS
• 10.0 million effective pixels

• 1/2.5 " Type CCD
• 8.0 million effective pixels

Maximum Image Size 3648 x 2736 3264 x 2448
Processor Digic 4 Digic III
Movie clip limit (HD) Up to 4GB or 29 min. 59 sec.
(L and M) Up to 4GB or 1 hour
4 GB (around 30 mins VGA/30fps)

• Auto
• Hi-ISO Auto
• ISO 80-1600 (3200 as scene mode)

• Auto
• Hi-ISO Auto
• ISO 80-1600
Autofocus modes

• Face Detection AF
• Flexizone AF
• AF Servo
• AF Continuous

• Face Detection AF
• Flexizone AF
• Center AF

Scene modes • Custom • Portrait • Landscape • Night Scene • Sports • Stitch Assist • Foliage • Snow • Beach • Fireworks • Aquarium • Indoor • Night Scene • Sunset • ISO 3200 • Long Shutter• Color Accent • Color Swap • Custom • Portrait • Landscape • Night Scene • Sports • Stitch Assist • Foliage • Snow • Beach • Fireworks • Aquarium • Indoor • Night Snapshot • Color Accent • Color Swap
LCD screen • Vari-angle 2.8" TFT
• 230,000 pixels
• Adjustable Brightness
• 100% Coverage
• Vari-angle 2.5-inch Low Temp P-Si TFT
• 207,000 pixels
• Adjustable Brightness
• 100% coverage
Continuous shooting max 4 fps max 1.5 fps
Battery life (CIPA standard with Ni-MH cells, using LCD) 450 450
Weight (no batteries) 585g (20.6 oz) 450g (15.9 oz)
Other HDMI output

PowerShot SX1 IS specifications

Price • UK: £ 449.99
• US: $ 599.99

• 1/2.3” Canon CMOS
• 10 million effective pixels

Image sizes • 3648 x 2736
• 2816 x 2112
• 2272 x 1704
• 1600 x 1200
• 640 x 480
• 3640 x 2160
• 1920 x 1080
Image processor DIGIC 4
Movie clips • 1920 x 1080 (HD) @ 1080p
• 640 x 480 @ 30 / 15fps
• 320 x 240 @ 60 / 30 / 15fps
• WAVE (stereo)
File formats

• Still: JPEG (Exif 2.2)
• Still: RAW
• Still: RAW + JPEG Large/Fine
• DPOF 1.1
• Movie: Quicktime MOV format

Lens • 28- 560 mm equiv (aspect ratio 4:3), 29 – 580 mm (aspect ratio 16:9)
• 20x Optical zoom
• F2.8 - F5.7 (max)
• 13 elements in 11 groups (1 aspherical element, 1 UD element)
Image stabilization Yes (Lens shift-type)
Conversion lenses Yes
Digital zoom up to 4x
Auto focus • TTL
• AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point)
• 1-point AF (Fixed center)
Focus modes • AF: Single, Continuous
• Manual
• Focus bracket
AF assist lamp Yes
Focus distance Closest 0 cm
Metering • Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF)
• Center-weighted average
• Spot
ISO sensitivity • Auto
• High ISO Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
Exposure compensation • +/- 2EV
• 1/3 stop increments
Exposure bracketing • 1/3-2EV
• 1/3 stop increments
Shutter speed 15 – 1/3200 sec
Aperture F2.8-5.7 (max)
Modes • Auto
• Program AE
• Shutter Priority AE
• Aperture Priority AE
• Manual
• Custom
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Night Scene
• Sports
• Stitch Assist
• Movie
• Special Scene
• Super Macro
Scene modes

• Indoor
• Night Scene
• Foliage
• Snow
• Beach
• Fireworks
• Color Accent
• Color Swap
• Long Shutter
• Aquarium

White balance • Auto (including Face Detection WB)
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Flash
• Custom
Self timer • 2 or 10 secs
• Custom or Face Self TImer
Continuous shooting Approx. 4.0 fps until card fills
Image parameters My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Flash • Auto
• Manual Flash On / Off
• Slow Synch
• Red eye reduction
• Flash exposure lock
• Flash Exposure Compensation +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
• Manual Power adjustment
• Second Curtain Synch
• Range: 50 cm - 5.2 m (wide) / 90 cm - 4.0 m (tele)
Hot-shoe • Canon EX Speedlites (270EX, 430EXII, 580EXII and older models)
• E-TTL with EX series Speedlites, Canon's High Power Flash HF-DC1
Viewfinder • EVF (0.40" type)
• 148,000 pixels
LCD monitor • Vari-angle 2.8" TFT
• 230,000 pixels
• Adjustable Brightness
• 100% Coverage
Other features • Playback red-eye correction
• My Camera
• Sound Memo
• Image tagging
• Orientation Sensor
• Histogram
• Playback zoom
Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Farsi
Connectivity • HDMI Mini Connector
• USB Hi-Speed
• AV out
Print compliance • PictBridge
• Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and PIXMA Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
Storage • SD / SDHC / MMC / MMC Plus / HC MMC Plus compatible
Power • Compact AC power adapter CA-PS700,
• Battery Charger Kit CBK4-300
• Ni-MH Batteries NB4-300
Weight (no batt) 585g (20.6 oz)
Dimensions 128 x 88 x 88 mm (5 x 3.5 x 3.5")

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2009 and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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