Canon PowerShot SX200 IS review:

Canon PowerShot SX200 IS

Where the SX200 IS outdoes Panasonic's ZS3 is with its shooting options. There are two Auto modes: Canon's scene-recognizing Smart Auto that picks from 18 specially defined settings depending on what's in the frame, and Easy, which basically locks down all options and controls. Then there's the opposite end with Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual modes with varying amounts of control over exposures. Changing shutter and aperture settings is easy, too, as it only requires you to rotate the scroll wheel. Manual focus is likewise done with the scroll wheel. You simply focus first and then adjust your other exposure controls. If you're an advanced amateur or hobbyist who enjoys fine tuning exposures, these controls are the one major reason to choose the Canon instead of the Panasonic. However, there is one thing missing that will be a deal breaker for some. The SX200 IS is capable of recording video up to a resolution of 1,280x720 at 30fps (as does the ZS3). Canon opted to cripple the optical zoom during recording, though, so all you get is a digital zoom, whereas Panasonic gives you use of its 12x zoom lens.

Keeping with the comparison to Panasonic's ZS3, both cameras' shooting speeds are mixed. The SX200 IS' continuous shooting can't match Panasonic's burst mode, snapping off 0.9 and 1.9 frames per second, respectively. The Canon is slightly better with shutter lag, though: 0.5 second in bright conditions and 0.8 second in dim lighting. But, the ZS3 is fractionally better with its shot-to-shot times.

Photo quality is very good for its class, but it has some faults. The Canon is technically sharper than the Panasonic, nevertheless the SX200 IS' photos are noticeably smudgy, so fine detail isn't as defined--regardless of ISO. Typical of point-and-shoots, photos are best in bright lighting at sensitivities below ISO 200. Noise starts to show at ISO 400, and at ISO 800 photos have a mottled look and everything looks soft. Characteristic of megazooms, the lens has some barrel distortion, but it's minimal. There's a bit of magenta and purple fringing, but it's most noticeable in outdoor shots with extreme contrast. Overall it renders excellent exposure, but not without some highlight clipping, and while color isn't as good as the ZS3, it's still great.

The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a solid pocket megazoom that offers more shooting flexibility than its main competition, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. I'm not thrilled with parts of the design, especially the mechanized flash, but none are so serious as to rule out the camera. Photo quality is very good for a megazoom as is its performance. Still, the lack of optical zoom while recording in Movie mode will no doubt steer some potential buyers away.

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 SX110 IS
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
Nikon Coolpix S630
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS

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