Canon PowerShot SX10 IS review
I purchased my SX-10 IS as a back-up for my Canon EOS 400D DSLR. Previously, I had been using the Fujifilm FinePix S9600, and whilst I had no complaints, the attraction of a 20x zoom versus a 10x, and image stabilisation as well proved to be the deciding factors. Having now taken hundreds of images, under a wide variety of conditions, I can now say how well it serves.
Obviously, it is not a DSLR, and at the extremes of its capabilities it cannot compete, but it is fair to say that it performs surprisingly well under the majority of circumstances. The build quality is excellent; the use of regular, easily obtainable AA cells as a power source is a distinct plus; compatibility with my existing Canon speedlite welcome; familiar Canon-style photgraphic adjustments make it easy to swap between the 400D and the SX-10; excellent image stabilisation, permitting even hand-held shots at maximum zoom; and a reasonably useful electronic viewfinder.
The real feature though is obviously image quality. As I've remarked before, ultimately the only thing that matters is image quality. Small sensors are a prerequisite for super-zoom lens - the size of the glass you would need for the same zoom range and image quality with, say, a full-frame sensor would probably require a federal export licence! This being the case, the trade-off is sensor noise. In this respect the SX-10 IS excels. Obviously image noise is going to be present, but from ISO80 through ISO200 the artefacts are very well controlled, and at ISO80 and ISO100 they are only evident when carefully pixel-peeping. At ISO200 they are slightly intrusive, but even with A4 or 8x10 prints you would have to look very closely and at normal viewing distance these noise issues are invisible. Running the image through Neat Image Pro, Noise Ninja, or Helicon Filter can easily deal with the noise with very little loss of fine detail. ISO400 is where the noise starts to become an issue, and from ISO800 onwards everything is downhill - fast! ISO1600 and ISO3200, even at the reduced resolution of 2Mp is essentially useless. Overall, the decision to use a 10Mp sensor and careful in-camera noise reduction provides an optimised result where it matters. Compare this with the SX200 IS where even base ISO is very noisy and lacks fine detail.
The lens is not perfect - no lens is - but the geometric distortion and CA are well controlled, even at the edges of the frame. Certainly no worse than my favourite 400D lens, the 17-85mm IS zoom. Things have certainly moved on since my Fujifilm S9600 was state-of-the-art, and overall the SX10 IS is a very competent performer, capable of giving excellent results under a wide variety of shooting conditions, and in good light, compares very well with my 400D. Take the same shot at the same ISO (100) at the same focal lengths and then compare the images side-by-side using, say, the FastStome Image Viewer (Excellent all-round tool, including a competent image editor.) and there is very little difference. Print the two images, and then you really have a job to tell which is which. This is not to say that it can replace a DSLR, it cannot, the ISO flexibility and ultimate dynamic range of a DSLR will win out every time, but for many situations, and as a back-up or substitute when you simply cannot take the whole DSLR kit, the SX-10 fills the bill nicely.
If you need additional flexibility, check out the CHDK autobuild for this camera - WOW!
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