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Canon Powershot D10
12.1MP | 35-105mm (3.0X) ZOOM | Waterproof 10m/33ft | $330/£260

The D10 is the most distinctive design in this group test and is Canon's first waterproof digital compact. Before the D10, Canon offered underwater housings for many its compacts, although they inevitably added to the bulk of the camera and tended to be cumbersome in use. With the D10 Canon has taken a slightly different direction to the other manufacturers in this test, producing a design which gives the distinct impression of being an Elph / Ixus re-housed in a tough warterproof shell. It is the least compact camera in the group, and with its rounded edges, sloping lines, and a protruding lens casing, it is a camera that wouldn't look out of place in the world of SpongeBob SquarePants. Instead of offering different colors, Canon has gone for interchangeable covers (sold separately) and has also added connectors on each corner of the camera to create a unique carrying system. While some of the cameras in this group might be confused with any other compact, the D10 is distinctive and instantly recognizable.

Whilst the design of the D10 speaks of fresh thinking, the specification shows a more conservative approach. The D10 is built around a 12 MP CCD that can take stills and shoot video at VGA resolution, but the lens starts at 35mm and extends to only 105mm. The screen is 2.7 inches and 230K pixels, and the controls are similar to all the other compacts in the Canon PowerShot stable.

  • 12.1 effective Megapixels
  • 35-105mm equiv lens with 3.0x optical zoom and optical image stabilization
  • Waterproof to 10m / 33ft.
  • Shock and dustproof
  • VGA video, AVI format
  • 2.7-inch LCD with 230,000 dot resolution
  • ISO sensitivity from 80 to 1600
  • 14 Scene modes
  • Panorama assist mode
  • In-camera Image editing (such as cropping and resizing)
  • Battery life 220 shots (CIPA standard)

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Overview

The Canon D10 is the least compact camera in this group of cameras, with a protruding front lens and curved surfaces all round. While the six other cameras in this test give the impression of being designed as compact cameras first and waterproof second, the Canon appears to have been built from the ground up as an underwater camera. Its large buttons have clear legends that should be easy to read underwater, and the tough shockproof body should take any bump in its stride. The outside of the D10 is completely covered in plastic (save for the metal connectors on the four corners), and unlike the other cameras in this group, comes in just one color (silver), with optional replaceable covers allowing you to customize the look of your camera. The connector system used for accessories on the D10 is also unique, and while in normal everyday use it may look like nothing more than a gimmick, if you are taking the camera snorkeling the extra carrying options will be very welcome.

The D10 Features a 35-105mm (35mm equivalent) lens, a range which might have been acceptable two or three years ago, but now seems quite conservative in an age when most compact cameras start at 28mm. The D10 packs an impressive 12.1 megapixels into its small body, which can record stills as well as video (limited to 640x480 at 30 fps, though this is par for the course on most of the cameras tested). The high resolution for stills somewhat makes up for the lack of telephoto reach, as you can crop quite a lot out of 12.1 mp and still get a nice 8x10 print. The available ISO sensitivity is from 80 to 1600, which is on a par with most other compacts today, and a lower resolution ISO 3200 option is available as a scene mode.

The D10's playback mode is accessed via a button (as opposed to being a dedicated position on the mode dial) and offers rudimentary editing functions, such as cropping and rotation. While it is always preferable to edit images on a computer, such features are useful if you are going to print direct from the camera. The D10 is a shooting priority camera, meaning it's always ready to take a picture after you half press the shutter button.

The D10 features an interface which will be familiar to users of current generation Canon compacts, with the function menu accessed by the center button of a multi controller which also allows direct adjustment of exposure compensation, focus mode, drive mode and flash control. The menu system is the same clear and readable one that has been used in PowerShot cameras for quite some time now, and the large text and bright colors makes it one of the easiest to use underwater. The D10 does not offer as much manual control as other Canon compacts, instead offering you a similar amount of control as you might find on an Elph / Ixus. This may not be such a bad thing as the camera can automatically select from a multitude of scene modes for you, and the number of such modes included in cameras these days can make it hard to know which is best to use in each situation.

While not a standout in terms of features, the D10's rounded underwater-orientated design makes it immediately lovable, and it was certainly one of the more popular cameras in the group around the office.

Key Features

The Canon D10 is all rounded edges and features a smooth plastic outer shell. Despite the plastic construction, the camera feels solid and well made, and should take any knocks in its stride. Despite the lack of a grip, the D10 feels mostly comfortable and secure in the hand, thanks to the matt finish of the materials used in the interchangeable covers.
The back of the D10 is dominated by the 2.5 inch 230K LCD. There are buttons set above the LCD and to the right. The zoom controls are on the top right, below which is the four way controller with flash, macro, self timer, and exposure compensation settings. On the bottom row are the display and menu buttons. The buttons are large and easy to press so you should not have problems in or out of the water.
The top of the D10 features the shutter button and on/off button on the right, and the direct print, record mode, and playback button in the middle, just above the LCD screen. The buttons are quite big (especially the shutter button, which is the largest in the group of cameras tested here), and quite easy to find by feel.
In this side view you can see just how thick the D10 is - it very much gives the impression of being an Elph / Ixus wrapped up in a waterproof shell. The lens protrudes quite a long way, and the rest of the camera tapers towards the lens front. Even though the lens does not extend during zooming or when the camera is turned on, this is the least pocketable camera of the five tested.
The digital A/V and DC in ports on the side of the D10 are hidden behind a latch which is both spring loaded, and features rubber gaskets. It certainly looks and feels like it should be watertight.
Both battery and memory card are hidden behind the watertight door at the bottom of the camera. The battery included with the D10 has the equal highest capacity (with the TS1) in this group at 940mAh. SDHC and SD cards are accepted meaning you can use cards up to 32 GB, and can snap away underwater without worrying about running out of space.
The D10 features user-changeable covers in a variety of colors. There are two bolts that you can remove with an allen key (provided) and then the cover pops off. The shell design underneath might prompt some of you to use the camera without a cover.
There are bayonet connectors on the four corners of the D10. Canon offers optional accessories that connect carry straps, and long woven cables to attach to the connectors.
The D10 is pictured here with some of the optional woven carrying cables.
Here you can see the function menu system that should be familiar to anyone who has used a PowerShot camera. In Program (P) mode, all the common controls you might want to change are available through either the function menu or direct select buttons on the D10.
Like all other cameras in this group test, the D10 offers some simple editing functions as part of its playback mode, as well as the ability to create slideshows. Here you can see the cropping function in action.

Image quality and performance

The Canon D10 felt like one of (if not the) most responsive cameras in this test. Our focus test, conducted in moderate indoor light at wide angle, showed it took 0.9 seconds to achieve focus (which is equal best in the test with the Z33). It was one of the slowest cameras to zoom through its lens range from wide angle to telephoto taking 1.8 seconds, and takes a moment to react when you press the zoom rocker (not unusual in this test and with compacts in general). The D10 was the fastest camera to switch on in the group at a blistering 1.0 seconds flat. It was also equal fastest (with the W60) in writing to the card, taking just 1.2 seconds to write out a 12 MP jpeg.

When you examine the images from D10, it is easy to see that this camera produces very good images at low ISO settings. Lots of fine detail and low noise are two of the D10's best traits, as is a nice dollop of in-camera sharpening. You know you are looking at an image from a compact rather than a DSLR, but it is clear that this lens and sensor combination can produce some great images, and the image quality at lower ISO settings is the best in test.

In general the color reproduction and exposure of the D10 is really good, as is the auto white balance, making this a camera you can normally set to auto and trust it to get the image. You also have the option of setting the camera into Program (P) mode for some level of control, and while there is no live histogram, there is the option to see one in playback mode quickly, and exposure compensation is but a button click away. While the camera is responsive to use, it suffers from the same problem as most compacts in that it take a moment to focus, and with shutter lag added on top this makes it difficult to capture the decisive moment. Auto focus performance was very good, and the face detection worked well in situations were we used it.

The flash shots from the D10 were the best of the bunch, and produced both a nice skin tone and the best balance between ambient and flash light. High ISO performance was a double-edged sward. While the D10 managed to keep the noise levels quite low, the noise reduction applied by the camera obliterated a lot of the fine detail in the image, and give the image a desaturated look. ISO performance up to ISO 400 was quite good, but above that it quickly deteriorated.

Finally the underwater performance of the D10 was again at the top of the heap. The big buttons, and straightforward design of the camera made it easy to use underwater, and the speedy performance out of the water translated well into the water, with the camera again producing crisp detailed images.

The Canon D10 produced sharp detailed images with good color reproduction. White balance and exposure were also very reliable. Quite simply the D10 gave the best image quality of all the cameras in this group test.

Summary

In terms of an everyday camera the D10 has only two blemishes - not being very compact in size and its (not very wide) 35mm zoom lens. If you can look past those two points, the D10 is the most responsive, and produces some of the best images of all the cameras in the group. With replaceable covers, the unique connector system and its cute looks, the D10 is a very attractive camera. If we were to take one camera with us that could do it all on a tropical holiday the D10 would be right at the top of the list.

  • We like: Rounded and cute design, good metering, white balance and color reproduction, best in test sharpness and recorded detail at lower ISO settings, high capacity battery, responsive fast operation and easy to use.

  • We don't like: The least compact camera in test, zoom range starts at 35mm, aggressive noise reduction at high ISO destroys fine detail.
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