Canon PowerShot SX170 IS Review

November 11, 2013 | Gavin Stoker |

Image Quality

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)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Canon PowerShot SX170 IS's 16x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


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)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

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)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


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)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


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)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (448mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (448mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

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

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


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)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg