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Operation and controls

The SX1 IS represents another incremental step in the evolution of Canon superzoom cameras, and as such it will be immediately familiar to those who have used current and past PowerShot cameras. Compared to the S5 IS, some of the buttons have been moved to other locations on the camera, and the new multi controller / scroll wheel combination added.

While the 'mini-slr' styling and controls may be a bit daunting at first glance, all the important features are easy to operate, and you will more than likely quickly be right at home, aided by the great number of auto and scene modes. The SX1 IS has external buttons for most of the common shooting controls, and you can overlay just about all the information you would want to know on the LCD or EVF during shooting.

Like the S5 IS, video recording is something that is given great prominence (even more so on this model as it can record 1080p HD video), with the almost silent lens operations (zooming, focusing and IS) keeping camera noise down, and the wind filter keeping unwanted external noise to a minimum.

Rear of camera

The rear of the camera is dominated by the 2.8" widescreen articulated LCD. To the top left there is the programmable print button, and the dedicated aspect ratio button. The eye piece is nicely extended from the body and is not only comfortable to use, but also stops you smudging the screen with your nose. To the right of the eye piece is the dedicated video recording button which is a little awkward to reach if your hands are smaller then average, but is positioned so you will not accidentally bump it with your thumb in normal use. The playback, exposure compensation and focus select buttons have now been placed in a arc to the right of the thumb rest in a location that is easy to reach. Below the thumb rest is the newly designed muti-controller, with the one major design flaw on the SX1 IS (the scroll wheel). The display and menu buttons are located on the bottom right in locations where you have to be holding the camera with two hands to operate them.

Top of camera

With the much thicker lens barrel, the SX1 IS is even more 'mini SLR' in its styling than the S5 IS. The top of the camera is distinctly more tidy, with just the mode dial, flash control button, flash hot-shoe and ON/OFF button joining the shutter release and zoom rocker (which are situated in a very comfortable position).

Display and menus

The display and menu system has had a slight refresh to bring it in line with other current-generation PowerShot cameras such as the G10. Even with the make-over, the camera should be immediately familiar to owners of previous PowerShot cameras, especially those who have used the S5 IS for any period of time. Overall Canon has done a good job of making the camera both intuitive to use and customizable.

When capturing screen shots for cameras we use the A/V out connection on the camera. The SX1 IS automatically outputs a 4:3 image though this connection, which is the reason why all the screen captures are in 4:3 aspect ratio. 16:9 images are letter boxed with black bars on the top and bottom.

The most basic preview screen showing focus point, shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the aperture and shutter speed chosen, ISO setting, along with a camera shake warning if necessary. If auto focus is activated, the focus rectangle will turn green when the focus has been locked.
You can change the amount of information shown on-screen, and there is a 'grid' option (shown in the next screen) for those of us who struggle with straight horizons. The size/quality and remaining space indications are shown for both stills and movies, along with drive mode and ISO setting. Things can get get a little crowded on-screen with everything showing, but it is good to see that nothing has been left out.
Hidden away in the Record menu is an option that allows you to customize - to an extent - the amount and type of information displayed on-screen as you cycle through the four different display modes (two on the main screen, two on the electronic viewfinder's display). Users of previous PowerShots will be perfectly at home with the record mode FUNC menu, which offers a wide range of controls over shooting and image parameters (white balance, MyColors, bracketing, flash AEC, metering mode, file size / quality) in one place at the press of the FUNC button.
As with previous models bracketing options include Focus Bracketing - useful for macro work, and pretty unusual on a camera of this type. The 'Flexizone' AF system allows you to choose from any one of 375 points in the frame by pressing the focus point selection button and moving the focus point around using the multi controller. The SX1 IS also features Canon's Face Detection AF/AE system, pressing DISP will toggle between large and small AF point mode, and MENU to automatically select a face.
The manual focus button toggles manual focus on or off. You can choose to have the area around the focus point magnified in manual focus mode (not shown), and with the higher resolution LCD it is very usable, less so with the EVF. As well as a brace of scene modes and Aperture/Shutter Priority the SX1 IS has a perfectly usable fully-metered manual mode. The exposure is simulated on the screen.
The 'Special scene' mode adds eleven subject programs (Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Indoor, Night Scene, Long Shutter, Sunset, ISO 3200) and the unusual Color Swap and Color Accent options (which used to be part of MyColors). Record mode menu allows you to customize everything from flash synch to the spot AE point and self-timer delay. It is also here where you'll find the control for image stabilization.
New in the latest generation of PowerShot cameras is the 'My Menu' system, which allows you to group all of your most used functions into one menu tab. The direct print button on the SX1 IS can be programmed to a number of other more useful functions.
The SX1 IS can be set to either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. When set to 16:9 the movie recording is locked at 1080p, while in 4:3 mode movie recording is limited to 640x480 or 320x240 resolution. When in 16:9 aspect ratio, the still image size is limited to 8MP or 2MP.
The play mode default display shows just basic information showing filename, date & time stamp and quality setting. One of the three alternative play mode views includes a histogram display (complete with flashing highlight warnings) and exposure information.
The SX1 IS provides play magnification up to to 10x (as shown here). You can move around the image using the 4-way controller. As with other recent PowerShots you can jump from image to image at the same magnification by pressing the SET button and using the left/right keys. Press the zoom controller towards wide angle to switch to a 3x3 thumbnail index, a second press enables JUMP mode which allows you to step through a full page of 9 images at a time. You can also (not shown here) rotate images in thumbnail view, which is a nice touch.
One very useful new playback mode in the SX1 IS is the focus check mode, which displays a (user defined) magnified view alongside the full image so you can make sure it's in focus. The SX1 IS allows you to do some in-camera image editing like rotation, cropping and resizing. Useful if combined with the direct print functionality.
'My Category', common to most modern PowerShots, is the ability to categorize images in-camera. The categories can be used in Canon's software on your PC for sorting images, but really I can't see many people sitting doing this on a 2.5-inch screen when they can do it later on the computer. The JUMP options now allow you to scroll through images according to date, category and folder, to view only movies and to jump 10 or 100 images at a time.
The play menu offers the usual range of options, including protecting, rotating and deleting images, plus a sound recorder. One new feature offers the ability to remove red-eye from your shots in-camera. As with the SX1 IS you can apply 'My Colors' effects to saved images, which is much better than committing to it at the point you take the picture.
As well as Canon's fancy transition effects you can also set slideshows to only show images in a particular category. As usual the DPOF and direct print options are split off into a separate menu.
The setup menu (accessible from both playback and record modes) is where you find more general camera settings, including sounds, power saving, date and time, LCD brightness, card formatting, language and video output format. The 'My Camera' menu allows you to customize the camera startup image and various sounds.
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