Canon PowerShot SX170 IS Review
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS is an affordable high-zoom digital compact camera. It features a 16 megapixel sensor, 16x 28-448mm image stabilised optical zoom, manual modes for controlling shutter-speed and aperture, a range of digital effects, 720p HD video recording capabilities and a 3-inch LCD screen. Priced at £169.99 / €199.99 / $179.99, the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS is available in red or black.
Ease of Use
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS (‘Image Stabilised’), baby brother to the simultaneously introduced SX510HS, resembles a miniature digital SLR but in fact packs a 16x optical zoom (32x digital zoom) into a chassis that will fit readily into the pocket of your jacket, or that of your jeans at a squeeze. We had the version in for review that sports an eye-catching, wine coloured matt finish, though there’s also a regulation issue black option. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is £169.99, though street prices will inevitably be cheaper still (around £150 at the time of writing). Maximum resolution is 16 megapixels from a standard issue 1/2.3-inch CCD, as opposed to CMOS, sensor.
In updating the SX170 IS from 2012, this presumably family-orientated travel zoom/super zoom with a lens reach starting out at a wideangle 28mm equivalent (running up to 448mm in 35mm terms at the telephoto end), squeezes in a flash above the lens that needs to be manually raised before it will fire. The other top plate controls are a familiar shooting mode dial with the usual division of creative P/A/S/M and fully automatic options, including the 32 scenes recognizing ‘Smart Auto’ mode, adjacent raised shutter release button encircled by a lever for controlling the flash, plus an on/off power button sitting just behind it.
Press this and the SX170 IS readies itself for action in around 2-3 seconds, which is roughly the same time it takes its zoom lens to whirr from maximum wideangle to extreme telephoto in stills mode. Happily the optical zoom can also be deployed once video recording has commenced, but here it takes a more leisurely 9-10 seconds to move through the same focal range. Though there is some operational noise picked up by the microphone as the zoom does its stuff, it’s kept at a reasonably low level that would be drowned out in busier environments.
Unusually perhaps for a camera that is pretty much your standard point and shoot – just one with a longer than average lens reach – stereo microphones sit either side of the lens at the front, with a speaker set into the far left hand edge of the top plate (if the camera is viewed from the rear). At the back for shot composition and replay is a regular issue 4:3 ratio 3-inch LCD screen with so-so 230k dots resolution and operational controls ranged to the right of it. This control layout will be immediately familiar to any recent Canon snapshot (either PowerShot or IXUS) user.
Very top right on the backplate, just right of a resting place for the thumb of the right hand, is a video record button for nigh instantly activating HD ‘movie’ recording. In showing its budget ‘credentials’ the SX170 IS offers just 1280x720 pixels clips, rather than the Full HD 1920x1080 pixels resolution of most models these days. Directly below this button, and like it slightly inset, is a means of retrieving clips or stills. This playback button forms one of a quartet of identically sized buttons sitting either above or below a centrally placed function/set button. This one is in turn encircled by a scroll wheel come multi-directional control pad; another familiar operational device.
Top left of this and next to the playback button we discover a button for accessing/controlling exposure (+/- 2EV), whilst below it another button pairing for the self-explanatory ‘display’ and ‘menu’. Thankfully in this being a Canon PowerShot, the buttons are large enough and well spaced enough for accessing with the pad of your thumb, rather than requiring fiddly fingertip precision.
Both flanks of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS provide a lug for attaching a provided wrist strap, whilst the right hand side – if the SX170 continues to be viewed from the back – features a black plastic flap protecting a single AV/USB output port. There is no wireless Wi-Fi image transferal option with the SX170 IS; at least not a built-in option.
Whereas once a camera of this ilk would have been powered by a couple of AAs (as indeed the previous SX160 IS was), on the updated version we thankfully get a rechargeable lithium ion battery provided that slots into the base of what is a subtly raised handgrip – its compartment also including a slot for optional SD card. Canon has further seen fit to provide a proper standalone charger and mains lead – a welcome addition, when many lower priced cameras are now just coming bundled with a USB lead and similarly equipped plug to connect the camera directly to a power source. At the base of the PowerShot sits a slightly off-centre screw thread for attaching it to a tripod; again, so standard issue.
Press the on/off button and this JPEG-only Canon whirrs into action, lens barrel extending from within its protective housing sound-tracked by its mechanics to arrive at maximum wideangle setting before the rear screen blinks into life. Naturally said LCD, which offers a fairly bog standard resolution of 230k dots, is the only means here of composing and reviewing photos and video; there is no eye-level viewfinder like you’d find on the DSLRs and bridge cameras that the SX170’s design consciously gives the nod to. Still, the LCD here does offer 100% coverage.
The raised shutter release button is nice and springy. But that being said a gentle squeeze enables the user to readily find its ‘bite point’ and for the camera to quickly determine focus and exposure before pressing down fully to take the shot. There are 10 shooting modes on the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS to choose from, with the smart ‘auto’ option the one most visibly highlighted in green. By contrast we also get the familiar program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual modes.
Added to these are a Live View mode, allowing easy exposure and colour adjustment by the user: for example using an on screen slider summoned up via the function/set button to alternate between dark and light, neutral and vivid and cool and warm. Selectable ISO settings range from ISO100 to a maximum ISO1600 – so nothing particularly flashy in this respect. Maximum aperture is f/3.5, so not particularly suite to low light work, despite the inclusion of the low light mode that reduces pixel count to four megapixels to limit noise.
Next along the dial, one past the auto mode, is the scene mode setting. The selection accessible here is pretty basic. We get the standard Portrait mode, a Face Self Timer that starts ticking down when the camera registers a face has entered the frame, a low light four megapixel recording mode, a ‘snow’ shooting mode, plus a fireworks mode. These are all selectable via the very familiar Canon compact range toolbar presented on the left hand side of the screen.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The next option on the dial is slightly more exciting in allowing us access to digital effects applied at the point of capture. Here we get a familiar fish eye effect, the de rigeur tilt and shift lens ape-ing miniature effect, a pinhole camera ape-ing toy camera effect, monochrome option, super vivid colour option plus poster effect. More unusually perhaps there are several image ratio options on this camera: the familiar 4:3 and 16:9 are joined by 3:2 and more surprisingly 1:1.
Continuing clockwise around the 10 option dial we come to a ‘discreet’ mode which deactivates operational bleeps and shutter sound for more convert, or shall we say, candid shooting. Last but not least on the dial is a dedicated video option, which like with stills provides access to Canon’s My Colours settings, white balance, plus, for video, the option to switch from HD capture to standard definition 640x480 pixels and back again.
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS is light and small enough to shoot one-handed with, though it naturally feels like both hands is the better solution when attempting photography toward the telephoto end of the zoom. Official dimensions are 108x71x43.9mm and it weighs 251g; so it’s solid despite the plastic construction and without feeling a dead weight.
The included lithium ion battery, which shares a port with removable SD card media at the camera’s base is good for 300 shots from a full charge according to CIPA testing, which is fairly good for a pocket snapshot. But what of the pictures the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS produces? Can they also be summed up in such glowing terms?
Though the pocket-sized Canon PowerShot SX170 IS has obviously taken its design cues from a digital SLR, the pictures this PowerShot delivers cannot hope to ape its much larger look-a-like. This, then, is really best summed up as your average snapshot camera that just happens to have a larger than average zoom reach, after all.
Whilst 28mm equivalent wideangle images appear sharp enough, albeit not escaping altogether from familiar compact camera bugbears such as purple pixel fringing, shots taken from the same vantage point, handheld, at maximum telephoto can unsurprisingly appear soft, even with built-in image stabilisation provided to counter the blurring effect of any hand wobble.
In terms of metering the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS is fairly unsophisticated; if you want foreground detail then be prepared to be presented with washed-out looking skies; or if you want cloud detail in a landscape picture then be prepared for murky looking foregrounds. OK, so we were using the camera during a particularly dull and overcast period; but still it is possible to get sufficiently well saturated colours that still visibly ‘pop’ in your frame.
We were also lucky enough to be able to properly try out the camera’s fireworks scene mode at an annual display and achieve much better, more blur-free results than were achievable with the camera left to its smart auto devices. And our test images were shot hand held too.
For low light shooting in general though it must be said that the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS isn’t the best suited; for starters the ISO range tops out at a maximum ISO1600 which is the kind of range snapshot cameras were offering a decade ago. Also, noise/grain starts to intrude from ISO400 in shadow areas if you’re looking for it, spreading across the whole of the frame, if subtly so, at ISO800. At ISO1600, even without enlarging areas to check, we’re visibly losing detail as noise reduction kicks in. Whilst images taken at this setting are still usable, it seems to have been wise for Canon not to stretch the ISO range further to ISO3200.
There are 5 ISO settings available on the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS's 16x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.
Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
Macro (100% Crop)
The flash settings on the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS are Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro and Red-Eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (448mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (448mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye Flash settings caused any red-eye.
|Flash On (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds in the Manual shooting mode, which is good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 400.
Night (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
1/40s · f/3.5 · ISO 100
1/60s · f/4 · ISO 200
1/125s · f/4 · ISO 400
1/250s · f/4 · ISO 800
1/500s · f/4 · ISO 1600
1/60s · f/4.5 · ISO 320
1/200s · f/4 · ISO 200
1/40s · f/5.9 · ISO 400
1/250s · f/4 · ISO 200
1/160s · f/5.9 · ISO 400
1/160s · f/4.5 · ISO 200
1/320s · f/4 · ISO 200
1/1s · f/3.5 · ISO 400
1/100s · f/3.5 · ISO 100
1/250s · f/4 · ISO 100
1/30s · f/4 · ISO 200
1/100s · f/4 · ISO 100
1/160s · f/3.5 · ISO 400
1/60s · f/4.5 · ISO 200
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS
Front of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS / Lens Extended
Front of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS / Pop-up Flash
Side of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS
Side of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS
Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS
Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS / Turned On
Top of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS
Top of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS / Lens Extended
Bottom of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS
|Side of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS|
|Side of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS|
|Front of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS|
|Memory Card Slot|
The new inclusion of rechargeable lithium ion battery rather than bog standard AAs aside, the 16 megapixel Canon PowerShot SX170 IS doesn’t appear massively altered from its SX160 IS forebear. So if you like your pocket travel zooms to look a little bit more traditional, and aren’t bothered about flashier ‘extras’ such as built-in GPS or Wi-Fi, then the snapshot-quality SX170 IS may suit anyone who doesn’t want to spend a king’s ransom to drag faraway subjects that much closer.
Be advised though that whilst the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS may look like a miniaturized DSLR the resultant image quality of this compact doesn’t even come close. Fine though it may be for everyday snapping, if you want shots that stand further apart from what a decent smartphone can produce, then spending a little extra for a camera with a better quality sensor and a few more bells and whistles is recommended.
That said, the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS’ build and performance is acceptable given its asking price, so those who have little to spend will find equally little to complain about. Though picture quality is a little so-so for our tastes, at least the camera looks good and feels good in the palm, which at this currently contracting budget end of the market actually counts for quite a lot.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4|
Listed below are some of the rivals of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS.
The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is a new travel-zoom camera for 2013, offering a 20x zoom lens and a 12 megapixel back-illuminated image sensor. Other key features of the Canon SX280 include built-in GPS and wi-fi connectivity, a 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080p HD movies with stereo sound, fast 14fps burst shooting, and a full range of manual and automated exposure modes. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot SX280 HS in-depth review now...
The FinePix F800EXR is the latest travel-zoom camera from Fujifilm, sporting a 20x lens with a versatile focal range of 25-500mm. The 16 megapixel F800 EXR also features wireless image transfer, GPS support, full 1080p movies, a high-contrast 3 inch LCD screen and 8fps continuous shooting. Read our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix F800 EXR review to find out if it's the ultimate travel camera...
The Nikon Coolpix S9500 is an affordable, full-featured travel-zoom compact camera. Featuring a 22x zoom lens with a focal range of 25-550mm, the slimline Coolpix S9500 has a 18 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, high-resolution 3-inch OLED screen and boasts GPS tracking and wi-fi connectivity. Read our detailed Nikon Coolpix S9500 review now...
The Lumix DMC-TZ35 is Panasonic's new entry-level travel-zoom compact camera for 2013. The TZ35 (also known as the ZS25) packs a 16 megapixel MOS sensor, 20x wide-angle zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen, 1080i HD movies, 10fps burst shooting and full manual controls into its pocketable body. Available in silver or black for £299 / $299, read our Panasonic DMC-TZ35 / ZS25 review to find out if it's the right travel camera for you...
The Pentax Optio RZ18 is a new travel-zoom camera with an 18x zoom lens and a 16 megapixel sensor. Also on offer are 720p HD movies, a 3-inch LCD screen and optical image stabilisation, all for under £199 / $299. Read our in-depth Pentax Optio RZ18 review now...
The Ricoh HZ15 is an affordable travel-zoom camera, offering a 15x zoom lens and 16 megapixel sensor for less than £120. Can it compete with the all-conquering smartphone? Read our Ricoh HZ15 review to find out...
The Samsung WB250F is a new travel-zoom camera that won't break the bank. The WB250F offers a wide-angle 18x zoom lens, 14.2 megapixel sensor, 1080p video recording, 3 inch LCD touchscreen and built-in wi-fi connectivity. Read our Samsung WB250F review to find out if it's worth the modest price-tag...
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 is an affordable travel-zoom compact camera. A 20x zoom lens, 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting, built-in wi-fi, Full HD movie recording and 500 shot battery life are all on offer. Priced at around £250 / $300, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 review to find out if it lives up to its full promise.
Reviews of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS from around the web.
The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS was announced in August 2013 and has a 16 megapixel sensor and 16x optical zoom, all in a pocketable body. It is available in red and green for around £149, and updates the Canon Powershot SX160 IS, using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Read the full review »
Travel-zooms look like compact P&S digital cameras, but they feature extra long zoom lenses (typically 10x to 25x) and manual exposure options that are not included on the little auto-exposure only cameras. The Powershot SX170 IS is Canon's latest travel zoom, the little brother to the class champ Canon SX280 HS.
Read the full review »
|Type||1/2.3 type CCD|
|Effective Pixels||Approx. 16.0M|
|Colour Filter Type||Primary Colour|
|Type||DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology|
|Focal Length||5.0 – 80.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 448 mm)|
Digital Approx. 4x (with Digital Tele-Converter Approx. 1.6x or 2.0x and Safety Zoom¹). Combined Approx. 64x
|Maximum f/number||f/3.5 – f/5.9|
|Construction||11 elements in 9 groups (1 UD lens, 1 double-sided aspherical lens)|
|Image Stabilisation||Yes (lens shift-type), approx. 2.5-stop¹. Intelligent IS|
|AF System/ Points||AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point), 1-point AF (fixed to centre)|
|AF Modes||Single, Continuous, Servo AF/AE¹, Tracking AF|
|AF Point Selection||Size (Normal, Small)|
|AF Lock||On/Off Selectable|
|AF Assist Beam||Yes|
|Closest Focusing Distance||1 cm (W) from front of lens in macro|
|Metering modes||Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Centre)|
|Exposure Compensation||+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
Enhanced i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
|ISO sensitivity*||AUTO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|Speed||1 – 1/3200 sec. (factory default)
15 – 1/3200 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)
|Settings||Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom|
|Monitor||7.5 cm (3.0”) TFT, Approx. 230,000 dots|
|Brightness||Adjustable to one of five levels. Quick-bright LCD|
|Modes||Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro|
|Slow Sync Speed||Fastest speed 1/2000 sec.|
|Flash Exposure Compensation||+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments. Face Detection FE. Safety FE, Smart Flash Exposure|
|Flash Exposure Lock||Yes|
|Manual Power Adjustment||3 levels with internal flash|
|Built-in Flash Range||50 cm – 3.0 m (W) / 60 cm – 2.0 m (T)|
|External Flash||Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1,
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2
|Modes||Smart Auto (32 scenes detected), Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Live View Control, SCN (Portrait, FaceSelf-Timer, Low Light (4.0MP), Snow, Fireworks), Creative Filters (Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect), Discreet, Movie|
|Modes in Movie||Smart Auto (21 scenes detected), Standard, Program AE, Portrait, Snow, Fireworks, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect|
|Photo Effects||My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)|
|Drive modes||Single, Continuous, Continuous with AF, Self-Timer|
|Continuous Shooting||Approx. 0.8 shots/sec
with AF: Approx. 0.5 shots/sec.
with Live View: Approx. 0.6 shots/sec
(all speeds are until memory card becomes full)¹²
RECORDING PIXELS / COMPRESSION
|Image Size||4:3 - (L) 4608 x 3456, (M1) 3264 x 2448, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480
16:9 - (L) 4608 x 2592, (M1) 3264 x 1832, (M2) 1920 x 1080, (S) 640 x 360
3:2 - (L) 4608 x 3072, (M1) 3264 x 2176, (M2) 1600 x 1064, (S) 640 x 424
1:1 - (L) 3456 x 3456, (M1) 2448 x 2448, (M2) 1200 x 1200, (S) 480 x 480
Resize in playback (M2, S)
|Movies||(HD) 1280 x 720, 25 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 5fps, 2.5fps, 1.25 fps
|Movie Length||(HD) Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec.¹
(L ) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour²
|Still Image Type||JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant|
|Movies||MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (stereo)]|
|Canon Printers||Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge|
|Red-Eye Correction||Yes, during shooting and playback|
|My Category||Image tagging feature|
|Intelligent Orientation Sensor||Yes|
|Playback zoom||Approx. 2x – 10x|
|Self Timer||Approx. 2 or 10 sec., Custom|
|Menu Languages||English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Romanian, Farsi, Hindi, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese|
|Computer||Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)|
|Other||A/V output, dedicated connector (PAL/NTSC)|
|Type||SD, SDHC, SDXC|
SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEM
|PC & Macintosh||Windows 8 / 7 SP1 / Vista SP2 / XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.6 – 10.8
|Browsing & Printing||ImageBrowser EX|
|Batteries||Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-6LH (battery and charger supplied)|
|Battery life||Approx. 300 shots
Eco mode approx. 440 shots
Approx. 420 min. playback
|A/C Power Supply||Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40|
|Cases / Straps||Soft Case DCC-750|
|Flash||Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1,
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2
|Power Supply & Battery Chargers||AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40, Battery Charger CB-2LYE|
|Other||Canon AV cable AVC-DC400ST, interface cable IFC-400PCU|
|Operating Environment||0 – 40 °C, 10 – 90% humidity|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||108.0 x 71.0 x 43.9 mm|
|Weight||Approx. 251 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)|
|Zoom||¹ Depending on the image size selected.|
|Image Stabilisation||¹ Values at maximum optical focal length. Cameras whose focal length exceeds 350mm (35mm equivalent) are measured at 350mm.|
|AF Modes||¹ Some settings limit availability.|
|Continuous Shooting||¹ Under conditions where the flash does not fire.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
|Movie Length||¹ The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: (HD) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 4 or above. (Full HD) 1920 x 1080 Speed Class 6 or above. (iFrame) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 6 or above.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
- All data is based on Canon standard testing methods (according to CIPA Standards) except where indicated.
- Subject to change without notice.