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Canon PowerShot SD780 IS review: Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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5 min read

Man, the SD780 IS is small. It is the "slimmest Digital ELPH Canon has ever created," but you really don't get a full feel for how diminutive that is until you're holding it. It's really small. Its width and height are about that of a credit card; it's just barely thicker than an Apple iPhone (and oddly enough has similar body curves).

canon-powershot-elph-sd780-is-digital-camera-compact-12-1-mpix-3-10-optical-zoom-silver.jpg
7.4

Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

The Good

Very small; simple operation; very good photo and HD movie quality; HDMI out.

The Bad

No optical zoom in Movie mode; generally soft photos; mixed performance.

The Bottom Line

If you need an ultracompact camera for your pocket or purse, strongly consider the Canon PowerShot SD780 IS.

The SD780 IS updates the SD770 IS, getting a resolution bump from 10 megapixels to 12, the company's Digic 4 processor, a slightly wider lens, and the ability to capture movies in HD. For its size, it's an impressive camera. You won't mistake its photo quality for that of a larger, more expensive camera, but it ranks in the top of its class. Its video quality is very good, too. If you need a tiny camera for your pocket or purse, strongly consider the SD780 IS.

Despite the SD780's slight build, it feels very sturdy. However, if you plan to keep it loose in a bag, invest in some manner of protection or risk scratching up its beautiful body and screen. The model is available in silver, gold, black, and a satiny red with pink typography. The lens barrel color matches the body, too, giving it a peculiar uniform look.

Using the camera is remarkably comfortable, even for large hands. Well, maybe using the viewfinder isn't so pleasant because of its miniscule size, but there's always the bright LCD to fall back on. All of the controls are flat and flush with the body. It gives the camera a very smooth appearance, but using the four-way directional pad and center Func/Set button was a bit difficult because of this and led to frequent mispresses on the center button when trying to adjust the ISO sensitivity, macro, flash, or drive mode from the outer ring.

Not that more is expected, but the SD780 is limited to three shooting modes. A small switch on back moves you between Canon's automatic scene recognition called Smart Auto, Program/Scene, and Movie. The Smart Auto was very reliable and since it's picking from 18 different scenes, the bases are well covered. In Program you can control things such as ISO, white balance, light metering, and autofocus type, or you can switch to a handful of scene options like Portrait and Indoors. The Movie mode is capable of recording at an HD resolution of 720p. (For quickly connecting to an HDTV, there's a mini HDMI output behind a small door where your thumb naturally rests while shooting.) But sadly, the 3x optical zoom doesn't function while recording.

The SD780's performance is mixed. For a camera this size, a fast start-up time is expected and that's what we got at 1.5 seconds. Its shutter lag was decent, too, at 0.4 second in good lighting and 0.6 second in dimmer conditions. Regrettably its shot-to-shot times are a little flat, taking 2.4 seconds without flash and nearly 5 seconds with. In addition, its continuous shooting mode comes in well under some of its competition at 0.8 frames per second.

Photo quality is very good, but still subject to problems characteristic of point-and-shoot cameras of this size and price. Some smudginess from noise reduction starts appearing at ISO 200, but all photos were generally soft. Subjects get noticeably softer and smoother as the ISO gets higher, but detail remains reasonably good up to and including ISO 800. While large prints may be out of the question, the noise is suppressed well enough to make small prints and Web use a possibility. (Click to see a photo comparison of ISOs.) In general exposure, white balance, contrast, and color were very good. However, highlights are prone to clipping. Also, chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is in good supply in high-contrast shots, though it's only really visible when photos are viewed at full resolution, not at smaller sizes.

I may have mentioned this once or twice in this review, but the Canon PowerShot SD780 IS is very small. So little and lightweight, in fact, that there's a good chance you'll forget you have it on you--making it just as easily misplaced, too. Yet, even for my large hands it is relatively comfortable to use. While it would be great if it was just a little bit faster, the SD780 IS is overall a great pocket camera. And with its HD-video-capture abilities, the SD780 is strong competition for pocket HD camcorders.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Casio Exilim EX-Z250
2.8
3.7
3
0.5
0.3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77
2.1
2.8
2.2
0.6
0.3
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS
1.5
4.7
2.4
0.6
0.4
Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS
2.9
1.4
1.2
1
0.5
Nikon Coolpix S230
3.5
3.3
3
1
0.5

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

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

canon-powershot-elph-sd780-is-digital-camera-compact-12-1-mpix-3-10-optical-zoom-silver.jpg
7.4

Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Image quality 7
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