Software and RAW conversion
When the SX1 IS was introduced in Europe it didn't have a RAW file mode, but in the run-up to PMA Canon announced the availability of the SX1 IS in the US, along with a firmware upgrade that added RAW capabilities. Like other Canon compact cameras using Digic 4, you have the option of just RAW or RAW+fine JPEG. RAW files will allow you to adjust white balance and control over sharpening and noise reduction after the shot has been taken.
Canon supplies a comprehensive suite of applications with the SX1 IS, including an updated version of its ZoomBrowser for Windows and Image Browser for Mac. Canon now also ships the full version of Digital Photo Professional (DPP) with the SX1 IS (version 188.8.131.52). This is the same software that comes with EOS digital cameras, and includes all the controls you need to process a RAW file - from exposure, saturation and sharpness settings, to noise reduction and curves / levels adjustments.
DPP also includes picture presets, and a comprehensive set of controls (including a new Adaptive Noise Reduction filter and a full set of 'MyColors' presets). While the range of options may not be as sophisticated as other RAW converters, such as Adobe's Camera RAW converter, the fact it is included in the purchase price means that users will not need to spend any more money if they want to fully utilize the RAW mode, and at the time of writing this is the only RAW converter able to handle RAW files from the SX1 IS.
JPEG & RAW Resolution compared
The resolution of the SX1 IS JPEG is quite good, and there is a little more resolution available from the RAW file. The problem with RAW evaluation is that there is currently only one RAW converter that can handle the files from the SX1 IS, and we cannot do our normal evaluation with ACR.
|Canon Digital Photo Professional
RAW -> TIFF
|JPEG from camera|
ISO 80 Studio shot comparison (JPEG vs RAW)
Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) produces results that, whilst similar to the in camera JPEG, can reveal more fine detail at the expense of slightly more noise. Here we can see that the CMOS sensor cannot perform miracles, and that small sensors have noise problems whatever technology is used.
|ISO 80 Out of camera JPEG, Super Fine, default settings|
|ISO 80 Canon Digital Photo Professional , RAW-TIFF, default settings|
Raw headroom and highlight recovery
This is where we would normally talk about the amount of RAW headroom available compared to JPEG But in the case of the SX1 IS, there really isn't any extra information to be had from shooting RAW, so if you overexpose an image and blow out some of the highlights, you can't rescue it from the RAW file. The real benefits of shooting RAW with the SX1 IS lie with white balance correction and the ability to balance the amount of noise reduction vs retained detail at higher ISO settings.