The SD10 has the design and layout of a conventional film SLR from the front, with a fairly logical mix of digital and photographic controls on the top and rear of the camera. The body is finished in a high impact plastic, under this skin is a metal substructure. The hand grip and a small portion of the rear of the camera are coated in hard rubber (personally I prefer the softer, stickier stuff used by Nikon). The thickness of the camera and the hand grip makes it feel chunky and boxy, although not uncomfortable to hold or use. Control layout is good and easy to understand, it's not hard to get to work with the SD9 quite quickly. Build quality is good, buttons (the majority of which are rubber) work well although don't have a definite click. Overall the SD10's body is large by modern digital SLR standards but easy to understand and robust enough to take the knocks.
Side by side
Here is the SD10 beside Canon's EOS 10D. The camera has very similar dimensions to the EOS 10D apart from in height where the SD10 stands 13 mm (0.5 in) taller, this appears to be due to the battery cartridge which fits into the camera base. Weight wise the EOS 10D is 879 g (1.9 lb) with its Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, the SD10 weighs 900 g (2.0 lb) with four AA's or 869 g (1.9 lb) with two CR-V3 Lithium (non-rechargeable) batteries.
In your hand
As mentioned above the SD10's larger-than-normal dimensions don't affect the usage or comfort of the camera. All controls are logically laid out, those most used within reach of your right hand.
Rear LCD Display
The SD10's 1.8" 130,000 pixel LCD monitor is bright and detailed. The screen is clear enough to see outdoors although an anti-reflective coating would have helped in direct sunlight. Also provided with the camera is a clip-on shaped LCD protector (not shown). Once on it covers all of the LCD buttons except delete which is left available for deleting images in record review mode.
Top LCD Panel
The LCD panel on the top of the camera provides a summary of camera settings (digital and photographic) as well as a readout of exposure. It includes information such as the currently selected image size, white balance, battery status (both 'camera' and 'digital' batteries), frames remaining, metering mode and shutter speed / aperture. Note that ISO sensitivity is not displayed unless you press the ISO button.
Below is a diagram of all information displayed on the top LCD panel:
The SD10's viewfinder was bright and clear with a hard rubber eyepiece and a dioptre adjustment slider running along the top. Focus screen matting seems to be sufficient for manual focus.
When you first start using the SD10 it will take a few shots to get used to the 'Sports Finder' where you can actually see outside the captured frame. The area outside of the sensor size is shaded grey and has horizontal and vertical line markers (useful for getting horizons straight). The center AF area and AF frame are marked on the focusing screen. Below the main frame view is the LCD status bar.
The viewfinder LCD status bar relays some of the information provided on the top LCD information panel as well as having indicators for flash and auto focus lock / manual focus accuracy.
Batteries / Compartments
In a notable improvement over the SD9 the SD10 no longer requires two set of batteries, instead it needs only the power provided by AA or CR-V3 batteries in the battery tray which slides into the base of the camera. We found the best battery life performance was from two of the non-rechargeable CR-V3 Lithium batteries (as pictured below), optionally you could use four high capacity AA NiMH rechargeable batteries.
Compact Flash Compartment
The SD10's Compact Flash compartment is mounted in the side of the hand grip, the compartment door is opened by sliding a small release lever on the back side of the grip (the door springs open on its own). If you open the compartment door while the camera is powered on or is still writing buffered images to the card a warning message will be displayed on the LCD monitor. The SD10 accepts either Type I or Type II Compact Flash cards and fully supports the IBM Microdrive, it does not however support cards larger than 2 GB in size.