Overall, the SX1 delivers excellent performance, especially for a category notable for sluggish products. It wakes and shoots in 1.4 seconds, and under optimal focusing circumstances can lock and shoot in 0.4 second. Even under harder to focus, low-contrast conditions, it takes only 0.6 second. Shot-to-shot JPEGs typically take 2.8 seconds, and raw is even faster at 2 seconds. While its 2.9 frames-per-second burst can't beat the ultra-high-speed continuous shooting of models like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 or the Casio Exilim EX-FH20, it's still very good for its class. And it can burst raw at about 1.5fps. My only caveat about the camera's performance is from a repeated, but unfortunately not repeatable, problem with the AF system I experienced, in which it would indicate focus had been locked even though the scene was completely out of focus.
Generally, photo quality tends to be the weakest aspect of megazooms, but so far the SX1 seems to deliver the best for its class. While its colors aren't quite as good as the SX10's--oranges, yellows, reds, and purples are slightly off, though you probably couldn't tell without a side-by-side comparison--it has a better tonal range with less contouring in shadow areas. It has a better noise profile, with lower noise at all ISO levels, and without the blue channel artifacts I noticed in the SX10's photos. However, as with most models at this level, detail becomes visibly degraded at ISO 400 and beyond. It's pretty sharp, but by the numbers it fares worse than the SX10 for sharpness; I attribute this to some visible haloing in the blue channel I saw in the test charts.
The camera retains the separated stereo mics of its ancestors and can zoom--pretty quietly--during recording. And the video quality is quite nice--relatively sharp and saturated, with fast refocusing and exposure adjustment--especially played back on a large TV.
Though it's as big as and priced like a cheap dSLR, the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS delivers similar performance plus a 20x zoom lens and HD video that those can't provide. And while it's relatively expensive for its class and has some interface quirks, as long as you don't need ultra-high-speed burst shooting, it's probably the best megazoom option we've tested thus far.
(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)