White Balance

The SX1 IS features seven white balance settings including the default automatic mode plus the manual (custom) white balance option, which is set by aiming the camera at a white (or gray) subject and pressing the DISP button. Automatic white balance appeared to work well outdoors but produces images with a distinct cast in low artificial light.

If you prefer a more neutral tone to your indoor shots you're much better off using one of the presets (or custom WB). Compared to the S5 IS WB in incandescent light is slightly worse, but in fluorescent situations is better in both auto and preset settings. As we've mentioned before Canon has told us that the warm tone on incandescent auto WB is intentional and is designed to preserve some of the 'atmosphere' of the original scene.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 8.8%, Blue -14.0%,
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red 3.0%, Blue -3.7%
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 1.7%, Blue -2.3%
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red 1.0%, Blue -0.8%

Flash Performance

The built-in pop-up flash unit has a specified range of 5.2 m at wide angle and 4.0 m at telephoto (when the ISO is set to auto). In use we found it to work very well indeed, with most indoor flash shots perfectly exposed. The FUNC menu offers a Flash Exposure Compensation setting (-2.0 to +2.0), and the AF illuminator helps focus in low light (though it isn't powerful enough for such a long zoom camera - it only really works over distances of about 1.3 m and lower). The SX1 IS retains the flash hot-shoe from the S5 IS, being compatible with Canon's 220EX, 270EX, 430EX II and 580 EX II Speedlites, but should offer full dedication with any Canon compatible flashgun. Note also that the flash exposure is linked to the face detection AF/AE, and this does help avoid 'blown out' flash shots of friends and family.

Skin tone - Excellent color and exposure.
Portrait mode, Face Detection ON.
Color chart -Slight warm tone, excellent exposure

Macro Focus

Macro performance at the telephoto end is very similar to the S5 IS despite the new lens, with similar magnification and very low distortion. The camera has some difficulty focusing at macro distances on the long end of the zoom range, and will report that it is in focus when it is actually not. On the wide end of the zoom range, the SX1 IS can focus down to 0 mm, producing very high magnification and moderate amounts of distortion. In the wide angle macro shot below, the front of the lens is touching the test chart.

Wide macro - 32 x 24 mm coverage
112 px/mm (2841 px/in)
Distortion: Fairly high
Corner softness: Average
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Telephoto macro - 91 x 68 mm coverage
40 px/mm (1012 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: Low
Equiv. focal length: 560 mm

The SX1 IS also has a super macro mode, at which setting the lens is locked to the wide zoom setting (28 mm), and is supposed to do a better job at macro then the standard macro mode by allowing the camera to focus on a subject that is 0cm away from the front of the lens. Since the normal macro mode can focus at something touching the front of the lens, shooting in super macro mode produced the same results as shooting in normal macro mode with the lens set to the widest zoom setting. The problem with super macro, and indeed normal macro mode if you focus on something really close to the front of the lens, is that they need to be either back lit or side lit to so the subject is not too dark.

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The SX1 IS exhibits relatively low distortion given the huge focal length range - 1.3% barrel distortion at the wide end, and no measurable distortion at all at the full 560mm telephoto end. There is also only barely measurable - and hardly noticeable - vignetting.

Barrel distortion - 1.3% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 560 mm