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The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is remarkably equipped for what's ostensibly a point-and-shoot camera. Sure, the wide-angle lens with 12x zoom in a reasonably compact body is the big draw; but there's also the HD video recording abilities and the full manual control over shutter speed, aperture, and focus, in addition to a glut of other shooting controls. This is namely what separates it from its main competition, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS3. Well, that, and the fact that the Canon's zoom lens is locked while shooting video.
If you're after a more pure point-and-shoot experience and want to take full advantage of the zoom range whether you're shooting stills or video, the ZS3 is probably the compact 12x megazoom to go with. Want more control over exposures? The PowerShot SX200 IS is what you'll want in your pocket.
|Key specs||Canon PowerShot SX200 IS|
|Dimensions||4.1 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 1.5 inches deep|
|Weight (with battery and media)||8.6 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution||3-inch LCD, 230K dots|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||12x, f3.4-5.3, 28-336mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/MOV (H.264)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels (4:3)/1,280x720 at 30fps (16:9)|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and electronic|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 280 shots|
The SX200 IS is attractive, if a little odd looking, because of the long, wide-angle lens in front. Available in three colors--black, blue, and red--its style is a definite improvement over Canon's previous pocket zooms, the SX100 IS and SX110 IS. Despite having a longer and wider lens than those models, the SX200 IS is more pocketable. It's not necessarily lightweight, though.
Unfortunately, it's not without its design quirks. The biggest of these being the motorized flash, which automatically rises from the top left of the chassis and can't be retracted. This makes pinch-gripping the left side a little difficult and it's not helped by the overall slipperiness of the camera's body. Second quirk: the dime-sized Mode dial on top has no fewer than 13 selections on it. Five of them are scene modes that can be eliminated by sticking them under the SCN selection. That would've allowed Canon to make the icons a more easily readable size.
Controls on back are pretty standard: four buttons and a directional pad. There's a scroll wheel around the outside of the pad for faster menu navigation as well as for working with the manual settings. But (quirk number three) the left side of the pad comes so close to the raised edge of the LCD that it prevents larger thumbs from easily pressing that side of the pad or smoothly completing a revolution of the wheel. Lastly, the camera feels fairly sturdy with the exception of the right side, which is capped by plastic with part of it being a door covering the mini HDMI and USB/AV port.
On the upside, using the SX200 IS doesn't take much effort--even if you're taking advantage of all its shooting options.
|General shooting options||Canon PowerShot SX200 IS|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom|
|Recording modes||Auto, Easy, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Super Macro, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Special Scene, Movie|
|Focus modes||Face Detection AF, Center AF (Small, Normal), Manual|
|Metering||Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Color effects||Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Unlimited continuous photos|
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.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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