Shooting performance is generally slow, meaning it's not a good option for fast-moving subjects; this is the case for most compact cameras, however. Shutter lag--the time it takes to capture an image once the shutter release is pressed--is 0.6 second in good lighting and 0.8 second in low light. Shot-to-shot times are somewhat long, too, at 3.5 and 5.8 seconds, without and with flash, respectively. What's worse is that the camera actually feels slow. From off to first shot is 2 seconds (good for a compact megazoom camera) and its continuous shooting rate is a lowly 0.5 frames per second.
The SX210 IS' photo quality is very good bordering on excellent; there are definitely some issues. Photos from compact digital cameras tend to noticeably soften at ISO 200, and that's what happens with this Canon. However, the drop off is subtle and noise amounts are low, so 13x19-inch prints of lightly cropped or uncropped images are certainly possible. Canon claims you can crop and enlarge portions of shots for prints up to 16.5x23.4 inches. You can certainly do that, but it's doubtful you'll be happy with what you get. The biggest problem is that photos will occasionally look overprocessed and digital. Cropping in only makes this more visible in prints.
As you head to the higher sensitivities--ISO 400 through 1,600--details get increasingly softer, but are still strong enough to make a solid 8x10-inch print. Its low-light photos aren't as good as those from Sony's Cyber-shot HX5V, but only slightly. On the other hand, the SX210's lower ISO shots are a touch above the Sony's. Canon has renamed its High ISO mode to Low Light to help alleviate some people's confusion about the setting. The mode captures 3.5-megapixel photos at ISOs from 400 to 6,400. The results are predictably grainy and there's visible yellow blotching in the darker areas of photos, but at least you'll capture something if that's all you're after.
There is some asymmetrical distortion on the left side of lens visible at its widest position. When the lens is extended there is slight pincushion distortion, but it's barely discernible. The SX210 exhibits a high amount of fringing around high-contrast subjects. It's typical of compact cameras, but the amount is above average for its class.
Color performance is a strong point with the SX210 IS. Everything turns out bright, well saturated, and reasonably accurate. Exposure is generally good, though it really struggles with highlights, blowing them out every chance it gets. White balance is fairly accurate, too, but Auto goes really warm indoors. You're better off selecting the appropriate preset for your lighting or using a custom setting.
Video quality is on par with an HD pocket video camera. You do get use of the optical zoom while recording and the lens movement doesn't get picked up much by the stereo mic. Worth noting is the camera's Dynamic image stabilization option that helps control shake when running alongside a moving subject. It does in fact help, but is only effective when the lens is in its widest position.
As pocketable megazooms go, the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS is a solid choice for those looking for more shooting control as well as a reliable Auto mode. Most of the issues I have are with its design, which keeps it from receiving a higher rating. (It's a marked improvement over the SX200 IS, however.) The noticeably slow shooting performance is also a problem; I can't recommend this for those needing to capture photos of anything that's moving. Nonetheless, its photo quality is very good and the manual and semimanual controls are better than you'll find from competing models.
(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)
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