Canon PowerShot SX20 IS review: Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

It's a bit aggravating: By going to 12 megapixels, the new, "improved" version of the SX10 manages to become significantly slower than its predecessor in some respects. That's in a class of cameras always struggling with poor performance. The camera powers on and shoots in about 2 seconds, which is acceptable, if a tad slower than everyone else. In good light it matches the SX10's 0.6-second time to focus in shoot, and in dim manages to shave 0.1 second off for 0.7 second--relatively good for this group. However, the larger files come into play for the time it takes for two consecutive shots, which increases by a full second; when you add flash, the differential rises by more than 1.5 seconds to 4.1 seconds. The burst performance also drops in half, from 1.4fps to 0.7fps, but that just takes it from unusable to even more unusable. (Since EVFs black out when a shot is taken you can't verify that the subject is in the frame, making them inadequate for continuous shooting.)

The battery life is still good, though. Canon CIPA rates it at about 340 shots on alkalines and 600 on NiMH, and the optical image stabilizer works as well as ever. 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.

The SX20 IS' photos aren't bad, but they no longer stand out from the rest of the pack. Even photos shot at ISO 80 look soft and noisy, except when viewed scaled down; it looks like the poor detail resolution typical of point-and-shoot cameras, since super macro closeups tend to look the best of the lot. While the exposure and color look very good, the slow lens can get frustrating when shooting at the telephoto end because there never seems to be enough light. The HD movies look relatively good, though they're soft like the stills, and the ability to zoom through the whole range for video is really nice. The lens zooms quietly, too.

While it's a solid megazoom, the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS doesn't deliver for the extra dough the way the SX10 did or the expensive PowerShot SX1 IS still does. You probably should check out some of the cheaper options before committing.

Shooting speed
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
Olympus SP-590 UZ
Nikon Coolpix P90

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

What you'll pay

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

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    Where to Buy

    Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

    Part Number: 3633B001 Released: 24 Aug 2009
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Release date 24 Aug 2009
    • Digital camera type Full body
    • Optical Zoom 20 x
    • Optical Sensor Type CCD
    • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
      12.1 Megapixel
    • Image Stabilizer optical
    • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"