Design and Handling

Like the SD500 and 550 before it, the SD700 IS replaces the minimalist boxy styling of earlier Ixus/Elph models with what Canon's marketing department christened a 'Perpetual Curve' design (less straight lines to you and me). The SD700 IS bears a close resemblance to the SD550, though some controls have moved, and the back plate is now half-covered in an attractive shiny black plastic (Canon's nod towards the gradual return to fashion for black cameras).

Like the SD500 / SD550 before it, the SD700's looks and feel exude quality, and the silky stainless steel finish is almost indulgently tactile, and - as befits a camera at the higher end of the ultra- compact price range - it is beautifully built with an admirable attention to detail. The only downside of the finish used is that it seems very susceptible to scratches and marks (so keep it in a case when not in use). Although the control layout has been tweaked slightly (the mode dial is now inset into the body), the basics are the same as most models in the range. This means you get external controls for flash, focus (macro or infinity), self-timer/drive and - in a welcome change - ISO, everything else is accessed via the excellent FUNC menu.


With a fully-loaded weight of around 192g (6.8 oz) the SD700IS is just heavy enough to feel solid and stable in the hand, though as noted above, the pebble-smooth exterior, combined with the lack of any discernible 'grip' means it can feel a little precarious held in one hand, but is in fact perfectly usable. The positioning of the shutter release and zoom rocker make single-handed operation easy - just make sure you've got the strap around your wrist just in case it slips out of your hand and starts heading south.

Key body elements

Although the changes to the body over the SD550 are fairly minimal, they are a small improvement - particularly the new mode dial, which is a lot more difficult to move accidentally when holding the camera with one hand.

The main mode dial is set into the body on the top right 'shoulder' of the camera. There are five positions (play, rec-auto, rec-manual, scene and movie) and very stiff click-stops to make sure you don't move it by accident.
The screen is fairly large at 2.5 inches, and with 173,000 pixels it's higher resolution than many of its competitors. It's bright and clear and surprisingly usable in even bright light. For times when the glare gets too bad (or you want to preserve battery life) there is a small - and just about usable - viewfinder. To the right of the viewfinder is tha main on/off switch.
The SD700's optically stabilized lens covers a useful 35-140mm (4x) zoom range, though I'd love to see it starting a bit wider. The maximum aperture drops from F2.8 to F5.5 as you zoom from wide to tele. The lens collapses into the body when not in use.
The ubiquitous four-way controller is used to navigate the menu system and provides direct access to flash, macro, self-timer/drive mode and ISO. There is no external control for exposure compensation (you need to use the FUNC menu for that). Below the four-way controller are the DISP button (used to alter the amount of information overlaid on the display) and MENU button.

Controls & Menus

Canon has been fine-tuning its user interface for several generations of PowerShot, but the basic operation has remained the same, which is good news, because it works well, and is fast and intuitive. The SD700 features all the nifty new features seen on Canon's other more recent high end models, including an orientation sensor that rotates the display in playback mode if you turn the camera round, slideshow transitions and, of course, MyColors and Color Swap options.

As usual you can change the amount of information shown on-screen, and there is a new 'grid' option (shown here) for those of us who struggle with straight horizons. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating focus point(s) chosen in AiAF mode, along with a camera shake warning if necessary. Note that you only see a shutter speed indication if the camera thinks it's low enough to cause camera shake.
Users of previous PowerShots will be perfectly at home with the record mode FUNC menu, which offers fast access to a wide range of controls over shooting and image parameters. With the mode dial turned to 'SCN' you can choose from 9 scene modes, plus Canon's 'special effect' modes; Color Accent and Color Swap.
In 'manual' mode you get Canon's full range of color control options, including presets (vivid, sepia etc) and sliders for adjusting contrast, saturation, sharpness, red, green, blue and skintones. 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 options for image stabilization.
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 play menu offers the usual range of options, including protecting, rotating and deleting images, plus a sound recorder. You can apply 'My Colors' effects to saved images, which is much better than committing to it at the point you take the picture.
One of the three alternative play mode views includes a histogram display and exposure information. The usual options for viewing thumbnails (3x3) and magnifying (up to 10x) are available, as well as Canon's smart new slideshow options. The SD700 has Canon's new Print menu, which simplifies the direct print process (something I must confess I've rarely used on any camera).