Conclusion - Pros

  • Good resolution, Good color
  • Generally accurate focus gives a high 'hit rate' even in auto mode
  • Huge photographic versatility with 28-560mm lens and super macro mode
  • Image stabilization works very well (and can be used in movie mode)
  • Fast continuous shooting mode (with AF off)
  • 1080p (1920x1080) HD video recording at 30 fps
  • Good movie quality with high quality stereo sound
  • RAW shooting for more control over image processing
  • Solid construction and good handling
  • Fast and responsive
  • Impressively low distortion for such a large lens
  • SD card slot moved back to a location accessible while on a camera tripod
  • Enjoyable and easy to use
  • Good screen, bright and clear with full tilt & swing articulation
  • Customizable shortcut button, ISO button
  • Good macro

Conclusion - Cons

  • Noise and noise reduction effects visible at anything over ISO 80
  • Noise reduction starts to destroy fine detail at anything over ISO 100
  • ISO 800 and 1600 very noisy and of limited use
  • Lens is prone to chromatic aberration and purple fringing
  • Movie button in awkward position for some people
  • Electronic viewfinder may be improved, but it's still not fantastic and is bettered by cheaper SX10 IS
  • Focus hunts in low light situations and at the longer end of the zoom range
  • Expensive
  • No rechargeable batteries supplied in the box
  • Metering tends to clip highlights in contrasty situations, not helped by limited dynamic range

Overall conclusion

Lets start with the good. The SX1 IS is a nicely designed, easy to use camera with a very useful zoom range and an effective image stabilization system. This combined with the new interface and features that come with Digic 4, such as auto ISO, the slightly tweaked interface and fast shot to shot speeds, and also RAW mode (something rarely seen in cameras of this class) makes the SX1 IS a camera that has the potential to become one of your favorite toys. The use of CMOS technology has also allowed Canon to add HD 1080p video recording - the first of a range of superzoom cameras to have this feature. On paper if you were shopping for a superzoom camera the SX1 IS should definitely be near the top of your list.

But cameras don't exist only on spec sheets or web pages. Once in hand, the SX1 IS cannot deliver on the promise of the CMOS sensor (which Canon is known for in their EOS range of DSLR cameras). Image quality, while not terrible is actually slightly worse then the much cheaper SX10 IS, and high ISO noise performance is firmly in compact territory. As much as it tries to be DSLR junior, as soon as you see the images you know that it is not. Even though there is RAW mode to give you control over image processing, it offers no more dynamic range, just control over white balance and the amount of noise reduction and sharpening.

The other big difference between the SX1 IS and the cheaper SX10 IS (other then RAW mode) is 1080p HD video capture. While this might sound significant, the image quality problems with the smaller sensor such as noise are also present in the movies, and the usual 'jelly effect' caused by the rolling shutter when panning with CMOS sensors is present here as well. What it comes down to is that the price difference between the SX1 IS and SX10 IS could buy you a nice HD video camera that would give you as good - if not better - video quality.

All this is not to say that the SX1 IS is a terrible camera. In the right situations it can produce nice results, especially if your intended use is for small prints or web galleries. And for some users it will offer the right balance of versatility, features and size to justify the high price. But at this price point, and with low end DSLRs coming down in price all the time, we don't think there'll be many such users, especially since you can get almost all the same features in a much cheaper package (in the SX10 IS).

In the last few months there have been a number of new superzoom cameras announced; all feature fast capture times, more and more new features, and wider and wider zoom ranges. It is too early to say how the SX1 IS stands up against these new cameras, and it will be interesting to see how this market segment shapes up. As it stands the SX1 - whilst interesting - offers too little to justify its high price, and while I'm sure that as its price falls it will become more attractive to a wider range of potential buyers, at the moment it's impossible to see why you would buy one over the SX10 IS.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.5
Image quality 7.0
Optics 8.0
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 7.0

Recommended (Just)


Want to make sure you don't miss out on any future reviews?
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter!

Enter the 'Canon Talk' Discussion Forum