What's purple and can see things a long way away? Give up? It's the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS, of course. The SX210 packs a 14x optical zoom in a compact camera frame, but doesn't make for very good jokes.

Not to be confused with the Canon's own IXUS 210, the SX210 is the follow-up to the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS. It's a more rounded piece of work, adding an undulating silver trim, although it loses the SX200's signature bent handgrip. It comes in this fetching purple, hideous gold or boring black.

At the front is a whacking great 14x optical zoom with a wide angle of 28-392mm, equivalent to a 35mm film camera. You have the choice of a range of scene modes, aperture and shutter priority, and manual control. One feature we like is the option to dial the flash intensity down when you don't want to bleach out the scene before you.

The SX210 shoots 720p high-definition video at 30 frames per second. It has a stereo mic in the top of the camera, with a wind cut filter to quieten noise. You can zoom while filming.

The SX210 is a slick entry to the high-zooming compact market dominated by the Panasonic Lumix TZ series, including the Lumix DMC-TZ8 and TZ10. We put it through its paces at Mercedes-Benz World, so fasten your seatbelts and put your foot down through our gallery of the SX210 burning rubber.

Like the SX200, the SX210 has a flash that pops up as soon as you turn the camera on. That feature annoyed some users, so the new flash can be pressed back in and pulled out again with your finger. We're not keen on the flash popping up every time -- especially as more often than not the fingers of our left hand were holding the camera there and we inadvertently pushed the flash straight back in -- but we do like a flash robust enough that you can physically pop it open. You are deprived of the SX200's sublime fold-out action, however.
The back of the SX210 sports a 76mm (3-inch) 16:9 screen. As well as the normal buttons, there's a rotating scroll wheel as seen on previous IXUS models. The dedicated video-record button can be retasked to call up other shooting options, such as ISO speed.
The 14x optical zoom is controlled by a rocker switch that looks small but is capable of pleasingly subtle alterations.
The test track at Mercedes-Benz World offered plenty of opportunity to test the tracking autofocus. In servo-focus mode, with continuous autofocus enabled, the camera quickly and smoothly followed the car, adjusting focus and exposure.
New scene modes include this fish-eye effect. While the middle of the shot is all bulgy and funny-looking, you don't get the dramatic perspective changes you'd expect from a real fish-eye lens.
Another new effect is a tilt-shift simulation, creating a toy-like effect. This worked best when high up, looking down on people and things. The intensity of the effect can be tweaked.
The Canon PowerShot SX210 is available to buy now for around £350. Look out for our full review, coming soon.

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