A lot of cameras in the crowded and competitive digital point-and-shoot market are all flash and no substance. They add all sorts of extra gimmicks such as fancy slide shows and colorful borders that don't actually contribute to the cameras' pictures. Canon thumbs its nose at that design philosophy with the simple yet functional PowerShot SD600, a 6-megapixel point-and-shoot camera that's light on features but heavy on image quality, performance, and usability. It's simply a great camera for anyone interested in just taking great-looking images.
A midrange member of Canon's SD series of cameras, the Canon PowerShot SD600 is small and light, weighing less than six ounces. The matte-silver metal body, almost identical to the PowerShot SD630's, is compact enough to fit in a shirt pocket but solid enough to have a nice, dense, block-of-metal feel. If you want to spend an extra $50 or so, the SD630 is a carbon copy of the SD600 but with a 3-inch LCD compared to the SD600's 2.5-inch screen.
Like the camera itself, the Canon PowerShot SD600's control scheme is simple but functional. Most of the controls are on the back of the camera, next to the LCD. You control camera functions with a basic four-way-plus-OK switch, with instant access to ISO, flash, macro, burst, and shutter settings. The back of the camera also holds a mode slider, as well as display, menu, and print buttons. The top side of the camera holds the shutter release, the zoom rocker, and a power button.
The SD600 sports a standard f/2.8-to-f/4.9, 3X zoom lens (35mm-to-105mm equivalent) and offers a basic feature set highlighted by a few notable capabilities. The 2.5-inch LCD is accompanied by an optical viewfinder, a rare combination in ultracompacts. The viewfinder is tiny but welcome, especially when battery power runs low. The camera has a handful of scene presets, plus a VGA movie mode with a QVGA 60fps setting for watching slow-motion clips. Of course, Canon's innumerable image-adjustment parameters let you tinker with contrast, sharpness, saturation, and skin tone, as well as red, green and blue levels.
The SD600 lacks certain features, such as built-in memory, image stabilization, manual exposure control, and a live histogram. These would have been handy, but they're not critical, and their absence hardly hurts the camera's appeal.
The Canon PowerShot SD600 boasts excellent performance, with fast start-up and responsive shooting. The quick shutter lags no more than 0.7 second, even in dim light. We measured a quick shot-to-shot speed of 1.5 seconds, which bumps up only slightly to 2.1 seconds with the flash enabled. Burst mode proves equally fast, delivering about 2.1fps.