Canon PowerShot SX10 IS review: Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

Though in many ways the camera's performance remains unchanged--or worsens a little--from the S5's, it's still pretty zippy compared with increasingly sluggish competitors. It's ready to shoot much faster than the rest, at about 1.5 seconds, and is the quickest focuser of the bunch; it can focus and shoot in about 0.6 second in good light and 0.8 second in dim. Rising to 2.1 seconds, its shot-to-shot time is about half a second slower than the S5's, likely the result of increasing the resolution without adding more buffer memory; annoying, but still better than most. At least flash doesn't impose much overhead, rising to only 2.4 seconds once you factor in flash recycle time. And while its 1.4fps burst shooting puts it in the middle of the pack, the burst speeds of these cameras are all essentially in the same ballpark--that sad ballpark that nobody goes to anymore. The SX10 seems to be fairly power efficient, though. Canon CIPA (PDF) rates it at about 340 shots on alkalines and 600 on NiMH, and I never saw the low-power indicator flash while testing. And the optical image stabilizer works as well as ever; I got about four stops of shutter-speed latitude out of it. 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.

Thanks in part to a better lens and improved noise suppression, the photo quality generally surpasses that of the S5. Though there's some distortion, especially at the wide end, it doesn't result in the serious fringing problems we usually see. You can use up to ISO 200 pretty confidently, and ISO 400 is OK as long as your scene isn't too detailed; I'd probably draw the line at ISO 800, however, unless you're planning to view or print the photos at 4x6 or smaller. (Manually it goes to ISO 1,600, though there's a scene mode that allows it to go up to ISO 3,200. Highly unsuggested.) Even at small sizes there's a little visible desaturation. As you'd expect, the color, exposure and tonal range are quite good. However, despite the improvements in the lens, most normal-range photos are generally soft. Only Super Macro shots have good center sharpness, and even then small details can have a slightly oversharpened look.

As evidenced by the SX1 IS, Canon obviously thinks that raw support and HD video are worth a couple hundred more bucks; maybe I'd agree if the SX10 were as cheap as its similarly lacking competitors. But it's not. So ding them I shall. Otherwise, like its ancestors before it, the PowerShot SX10 IS offers a very nice enthusiast-oriented feature set, plus decent performance, solid photo quality, and a comfortable, relatively well-designed body.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot S5 IS
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50
Olympus SP-570 UZ
Nikon P80

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
Nikon P80

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