At the time of this review, the Canon PowerShot Digital Elph line featured no fewer than 10 models--not even including lingering older models--so deciphering what makes one better or different than another gets tricky (here's our succinct breakdown). The 10-megapixel PowerShot SD880 IS Digital Elph is the follow-up to the popular SD870 IS, and what a worthy successor it is. It's capable of producing truly excellent pictures for a camera of its size and it has nice components for a sub-$300 model including a wide-angle lens and optical image stabilization. There are a couple weaknesses, but nothing that keeps it from being an excellent point-and-shoot camera.
At 6.3 ounces and measuring 3.7 inches wide by 2.2 inches high by 0.9 inch deep, it'll fit more comfortably in a pants or coat pocket than a shirt pocket, but it's by no means big. Compared with the SD870 IS, the SD880 IS has the latest version of Canon's image-processing engine, Digic 4, jumps from 8 megapixels to 10, and offers a few more scene modes. The 4x f2.8-5.8 28-112mm lens is a highlight of the camera; the wide angle is so nice to have on a camera this small, and it's a tad longer zoom than on the SD870. It also records video using the H.264 codec instead of Motion JPEG.
Scene modes are plentiful--16 in all--and include Stitch Assist for panoramas and Underwater for use with an optional casing. Shooting mode lets you go fully automatic with some minor adjustments, or drop it into Program AE, which gives you control for exposure compensation, white balance, tone, and ISO.
The directional pad is pretty standard; instead it's the thumb dial that adds interest here. In SCN mode, the dial is used for rifling through your options. It's also used for swapping between Auto and Program in Shooting mode and tone control in Video. It works well, but you can barely feel stops when spinning the dial making it just a little too easy to switch out of whichever mode you want. The dial can be used for navigating Menu settings, too. Overall, I like the key design and wheel, but I can also see it confusing new users to the point of frustration.
The buttons have a pillowy, convex shape, which is not only attractive, but makes for unmistakable presses. The Print/Share button can be turned into a shortcut key to access one of nine shooting functions.
As for performance, the SD880 IS is fractionally slower than the first-rate SD870 IS. Time to first shot is 1.2 seconds and you can shoot again in 1.9 seconds. Shutter lag was great; just 0.4 second in bright conditions and 0.8 in dim. The only marked decrease in speed is if you're using the flash: the shot-to-shot time extends to 3.2 seconds, which is a generally slow time and nearly a second longer than the SD870 IS. The typical burst speed is a respectable 1.4 frames per second. The 3-inch Canon PureColor LCD II performed well in direct light and has a wide viewing angle.
More impressive than the SD880 IS's speed is the picture quality. Colors were always natural and vibrant. White balance was accurate and pictures showed good detail and sharpness at ISO 200 and below. Also, if you take a lot of landscape photos, note that the SD880 IS is prone to fringing. Video is better than average considering it tops out at 640x480.
Worth noting, too, is Canon's new Intelligent Contrast setting (i-Contrast) that theoretically just opens up shadow areas. It can be applied either automatically when you're shooting or after during playback. I recommend using it only in playback as more often than not it lightened the entire image, not just dark areas. In playback you can apply the effect in gradual levels as well and create a copy, whereas the camera decides on the level if you shoot with it on.
There's plenty more to talk about with the Canon PowerShot SD880 IS, but it only reinforces how good a pocket camera it is. If the SD870 IS was on your short list, the SD880 IS is definitely worth the small additional investment.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|