The SX210 IS' photo quality is very good bordering on excellent for its class. Photos from compact digital cameras tend to noticeably soften at ISO 200, and that's what happens with this Canon. However, the drop-off is subtle, and noise amounts are low, so 13x19-inch prints of lightly cropped or uncropped images are certainly possible. Canon claims you can crop and enlarge portions of shots for prints up to 16.5x23.4 inches. You can certainly do that, but it's doubtful you'll be happy with what you get.
As you head to the higher sensitivities--ISO 400 through 1,600--details get increasingly softer, but are still strong enough to make a solid 8x10-inch print. Its low-light photos aren't as good as those from Sony's Cyber-shot HX5V, but only slightly. On the other hand, the SX210's lower ISO shots are a touch above the Sony's.
Canon has renamed its High ISO mode to Low Light to help alleviate some people's confusion about the setting. The mode captures 3.5-megapixel photos at ISOs from 400 to 6,400. The top image was taken at ISO 3,200, the bottom at ISO 6,400 (the sensitivity is chosen by the camera based on lighting conditions). They're grainy, and there's visible yellow blotching in the darker areas, but at least you'll capture something if that's all you're after.
The manual shooting options on the SX210 are better than most compact megazooms. You get semimanual and full manual control over shutter speed and apertures as well as manual focus with a safety for fine tuning. Apertures include f3.1, f3.5, f4, f4.5, f5, f5.6, f5.9, f6.3, f7.1, and f8. With the lens fully extended you only get three of these, though: f5.9, f7.1, and f8. Shutter speeds can be set from 15 seconds to 1/3,200 second.
There are options for setting color saturation, sharpness, and contrast, too, and the flash strength can be easily adjusted.
With so many megazoom camera offerings, you may be tempted to skip over a 14x model like the SX210 IS. The fact is this range is able to get you much closer to your subject without the bulk of a larger lens. The fact that it's a wide-angle lens, too, gives you that much more flexibility when shooting.
The SX210 exhibits a high amount of fringing around high-contrast subjects, such as the streak of purple running down this tree trunk and scattered throughout the image around the leaves and branches. It's typical of compact cameras, but the amount is above average for its class. Of course, the tree trunk looks fairly flat and processed, too, which doesn't help things.
This is the same image as the previous slide, but a different issue (though you can still see purple fringing in this area, too). Canon's automatic correction for overly bright or dark areas, i-Contrast, is usually pretty good. In this case, it seems to have overprocessed the tree, making it look unnatural. To be fair, the manual does warn that under some conditions may not be corrected properly. This must be those conditions. The processing also appears to have a problem with resolving the roof shingles in the lower left corner.
There is some asymmetrical distortion on the left side of lens visible at its widest position (top). When the lens is extended there is slight pincushion distortion, but it's barely discernible (bottom).
Color performance is a strong point with the SX210 IS. Everything turns out bright, well-saturated, and reasonably accurate. Exposure is generally good, though it really struggles with highlights, blowing them out every chance it gets. White balance is fairly accurate, too, but Auto goes really warm indoors. You're better off selecting the appropriate preset for your lighting or using a custom setting.