Canon’s PowerShot SX200 IS; A Compact 12.1MP Digicam With 12x Optical Zoom Page 2

I carried the camera around for about two weeks and shot under various lighting conditions, from overcast with snow to bright, high-mountain light. It is a very comfortable companion that fits into pocket and hand with an almost unnoticeable weight of under 8 oz and size of about 4x2.3x1.5”. After a few tries and instruction book consultation the camera’s many features were easy to access and navigate, and the 3” LCD screen was very good in dim to moderate light and good in bright light. At least I could compose in full sun, something I could not say for some more expensive models. However, there is no optical finder, which I think limits its use under certain (very bright or directional light) conditions and the screen seemed to blank out when shooting verticals with my polarized sunglasses on, a condition that of course went away when I removed them. Needing glasses to see, this then encumbered my shooting, a classic Catch-22.


The SX200 IS can shoot as fast as ISO 1600, and delivers pretty good results even on its 12.1-megapixel CCD sensor. This shot was made at 12x, the top of the optical zoom range, of an altar detail inside Santa Fe Cathedral.

I found that left to its own devices the camera gave me a consistent 0.5 EV or so overexposure in contrasty light using Evaluative metering (the default—note you can shoot in CWA and spot as well). I used the other two modes more successfully but also overrode the Evaluative tendency to slightly overexpose by setting a -1⁄3 EV exposure compensation, another nice option for those familiar with such settings.

I often found myself shooting in Manual mode and working exposure via the knurled ring around the function set button. I also worked in manual focus, especially in close-up situations. One of the really fun things about the camera is that when you make a setting the camera, in essence, previews the effect on the LCD screen. For example, when you change white balance the LCD displays the effect before you take the picture; same goes for Monochrome mode and, if you learn its foibles, you could even judge and adjust exposure with some degree of accuracy on the fly prior to pressing the shutter release.

Fans of close-up work will have a ball with this camera. You have two close-up setting choices, macro and super macro. This iced over lilac bush was shot at macro; the branches and seed pods of this desert plant were photographed by literally putting the camera right up against the plant, almost like using a flat-bed scanner. The range of super macro is stated as 0-8”!

Despite all the features, overrides, and fun stuff, my main complaint with the camera is that it is JPEG-only. Yes, this camera is mainly aimed at those who shoot for kiosk prints and who are decidedly not interested in post-processing their raw images, but I missed the opportunity to do raw processing nevertheless, especially when it came to exposure and color tweaks. There are some convoluted image-processing setups you can do in the camera, including something called i-Contrast, but once you’ve gone raw it’s hard to go back.

At about $325 street price, the SX200 IS is a handy traveling companion for those who want a pocketable camera with very good image quality and a host of options that will encourage you to make some fun shots. To me it’s a great camera to have along on a walk or hike, and would recommend it for artists who like to shoot photos as sketch diaries. On the con side, there’s fairly limited battery life for those who like to shoot a lot and be out all day (around 300 shots, and it goes quickly after first warning you) and lack of an optical finder, which to me on a big zoom camera would help steady things considerably without having to resort to a high ISO. Having to hold the camera out from the body rather than close in is always a recipe for shakes, doubly so with a high-zoom ratio model like this.

Set on Vivid color, using the center-weighted averaging metering pattern read off the left side of the frame and locked, you couldn’t want for a better exposure of the Ranchos de Taos church at noon.

But I must say that after spending a few weeks with the camera I got into the features and functions that allowed me to shoot in some fun, casual ways. And that was a nice surprise.

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mggm59's picture

I agree with most of the review, but you seem to forget that the bar on the wide angle side has long been upped. To propose a travel zoom with a puny 28mm wide angle, when competitors have gone to 25 and even 24 for years (and in the case of Panasonic 24mm Leica lens, with no compromise in optical quality) is in my view a killing factor that keeps me in search of the perfect travel zoom. On one hand Panasonic TZ20/ZS10 has sent image quality down the drain with their nonsensical search for higher and higher resolution on a tiny chip and ensuing noise, on the other Canon and Nikon keep proposing this insufficient wide angle lens. I'll end up buying a used TZ7, or waiting further that Panasonic reaches sanity and goes back to 12 MPix improving THAT sensor in terms of noise (it was good only at 100-200 ISO) or Canikon proposing finally a good 24mm while keeping the other good features.

ThaddeusHeffner's picture

I like this camera. The controls are easy to use. A perfect camera for me who loves taking pictures at events. - Thaddeus Heffner