|Key comparative specs||Olympus SP-590 UZ||Nikon Coolpix P90||Canon PowerShot SX20 IS||Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35|
|Sensor||12-megapixel, 1/2.33-inch CCD||12-megapixel, 1/2.33-inch CCD||12.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CCD||12-megapixel 1/2.33-inch CCD|
|Lens (35mm equivalent)||26x f2.8-5 26-676mm||24x f2.8-5 26-624mm||20x f2.8-5.7 28-560mm||18x f2.8-4.4 27-486mm|
|Closest focus (inches)||0.4||0.4||0.0||0.4|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 64 - ISO 6,400||ISO 64 - ISO 6,400||ISO 80 - ISO 1,600||ISO 80 - ISO 6,400|
|LCD||2.7-inch fixed; 230,000 dots||3-inch tiltable; 230,000 dots||2.5-inch articulated; 230,000 dots||2.7-inch fixed; 230,000 dots|
|Video (max resolution at 30fps)||640x480||640x480||1280x720 H.264 MOV||1280x720 (AVCHD Lite or MJPEG MOV)|
|Optical zoom during movie capture||Yes (no audio)||No||Yes||Yes|
|Exposure modes||Auto, PASM, Scene||Auto, PASM, Scene||Auto, PASM, Scene||Auto, PASM, Scene|
|Batteries (CIPA rating)||4 AA-size; 340 shots (alkalines)||Lithium Ion; 230 shots||4 AA-size; 340 shots (alkalines), 600 shots (NiMH)||Lithium Ion; 470 shots|
|Body dimensions (WHD, inches)||4.3 x 3.5 x 3.6||4.5 x 3.3 x 3.9||4.9 x 3.5 x 3.4||4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5|
|Operating weight (ounces)||18.7||17.2||22.9||14.5|
It still has a dedicated movie record button with a fairly well-implemented capture interface. Canon integrated the movie resolution settings into the function menu along with the standard white balance, color adjustment, exposure bracketing, flash compensation, metering, and still size and quality controls. Held over from the SX10, some of the more interesting features include a Face Self-timer, which shoots a specified number of seconds after a face is detected and a custom timer that lets you also specify the number of shots to take (sort of a limited intervalometer since you can only take up to 10 shots). The rest of the capabilities, for the most part, are the same as the competition. These include PASM, full auto, and a handful of scene modes; my favorites are a custom setting slot on the mode dial and 3.9-inch macro and zero(!)-inch Super Macro modes. For more details on the SX20 IS' features and operation, you can download the PDF manual.
It's a bit aggravating: By going to 12 megapixels, the new, "improved" version of the SX10 manages to become significantly slower than its predecessor in some respects. That's in a class of cameras always struggling with poor performance. The camera powers on and shoots in about 2 seconds, which is acceptable, if a tad slower than everyone else. In good light it matches the SX10's 0.6-second time to focus in shoot, and in dim manages to shave 0.1 second off for 0.7 second--relatively good for this group. However, the larger files come into play for the time it takes for two consecutive shots, which increases by a full second; when you add flash, the differential rises by more than 1.5 seconds to 4.1 seconds. The burst performance also drops in half, from 1.4fps to 0.7fps, but that just takes it from unusable to even more unusable. (Since EVFs black out when a shot is taken you can't verify that the subject is in the frame, making them inadequate for continuous shooting.)
The battery life is still good, though. Canon CIPA rates it at about 340 shots on alkalines and 600 on NiMH, and the optical image stabilizer works as well as ever. The lens, however, narrows to f5.7 at maximum telephoto, which is quite slow; even the Olympus SP-590 UZ only narrows to f5.0 at a longer 676mm equivalent.
The SX20 IS' photos aren't bad, but they no longer stand out from the rest of the pack. Even photos shot at ISO 80 look soft and noisy, except when viewed scaled down; it looks like the poor detail resolution typical of point-and-shoot cameras, since super macro closeups tend to look the best of the lot. While the exposure and color look very good, the slow lens can get frustrating when shooting at the telephoto end because there never seems to be enough light. The HD movies look relatively good, though they're soft like the stills, and the ability to zoom through the whole range for video is really nice. The lens zooms quietly, too.
While it's a solid megazoom, the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS doesn't deliver for the extra dough the way the SX10 did or the expensive PowerShot SX1 IS still does. You probably should check out some of the cheaper options before committing.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)