The PowerShot SX200 IS represents Canon's first foray into the travel-zoom compact camera market, and it certainly offers a lot of features on paper. There's a 12x, 28-336mm optical zoom lens with built-in image stabilizer, 12 megapixel CCD sensor, 3 inch LCD screen, Digic 4 image processing engine, 720p HD Movie Mode, plus Smart Auto mode with Scene Detection Technology and Easy mode for beginners. The Canon SX200 IS also offers Face Select & Track, FaceSelf-Timer and Auto Red-Eye Correction to help you capture better-looking portraits, and there's a full range of manual exposure modes for more experienced photographers looking to take control. Priced at $349.99 / £359.00 / €429.00 and available in black, blue and red, can the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS challenge the current travel zoom king, the Panasonic Lumix SX200 IS? Carry on reading to find out...
Ease of Use
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS camera just about fits in the palm of my medium sized man's hands, but it's definitely erring on the large, elongated and bulky side of compact. It's also a little bit heavier and bigger than its main competitor, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7, especially in depth, although there's only 5mm or so difference between the two. Canon have somehow squeezed in a 12x zoom lens, equivalent to a focal range 28-336mm on a 35mm camera, which provides a versatile focal range that will cover almost every photographic situation that you'll ever encounter. It's not quite as wide as the TZ7's 25-300mm lens, but you do get the additional telephoto range. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS' lens is significantly bigger though - it extends by 3.75cms even when set to wide-angle, reaching nearly 6cms at maximum telephoto, making it a bit more conspicuous in a crowd.
The 28mm wide angle focal length provides an entirely new viewpoint that can only increase your creativity. Take it from me, you won't want to go back to a "standard" 35mm zoom after using the 28mm lens on the SX200 IS - it's much more appealing than the lenses that most other Canon compacts offer. The 12x zoom lens obviously makes this one of the most versatile compacts around in terms of focal range, especially as it is coupled with Canon's excellent Image Stabilizer, which helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp, providing 4 stops of compensation. The SX200's lens isn't particularly fast at either the wide-angle or telephoto settings though, with maximum apertures of f/3.4 and f/5.3 respectively.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a well-built camera with a high quality metal body, with our review sample finished in an attractive metallic blue with silver accents. The design is dominated by the large 12x lens on the front and the large 3 inch LCD screen on the rear. There is no optical viewfinder, which follows a recent trend in digital cameras, and this does make the camera a little harder to keep steady at the telephoto end of the zoom than holding it up to your eye. The hand-grip on the SX200 is unfortunately of the shiny, smooth variety which doesn't make it particularly easy to hold, although there is a, indented thumb-rest on the rear.
The SX200 IS is well-made overall, although there are a couple of external controls that don't instill much confidence. The tripod socket is made of plastic and is inconveniently located in the left-corner of the bottom of the camera. Even more puzzling is the built-in flash, which inexplicably pops-up for every shot, regardless of whether you're using flash or not - and worse, it can't be pushed down again. This effectively means that it looks like you're always using the flash, even if you aren't, which will only cause unwanted attention in locations like museums and anywhere else that flash is prohibited. It's one of the most bizarre design decisions that I've seen in recent memory. Finally, the cheap plastic cover of the HDMI / AV Out ports seems out of keeping with the rest of the camera.
Even though this is camera offer a full range of manual exposure modes, the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is not overly complex in terms of the number of external controls that it has. The majority of the 10 controls are clearly labeled and common to most cameras, and are certainly instantly familiar if you've used any Canon compact from the last few years. There's a traditional dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the various shooting and scene modes. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes, a sensible move given that there are 13 different modes to choose from. The shooting mode dial has a nice positive action with an audible click and isn't easily disturbed when stored in a pocket or bag. Also found on the top of the camera are the annoying pop-up flash, On/Off button, a large and responsive zoom lever, and the shutter button.
The rear of the camera is dominated by the 3 inch LCD screen. This is the only way of framing your shots, so if you have to have an optical viewfinder, look elsewhere now. I found that it coped well with the majority of lighting conditions, although the pixel count of 230k dots is a little on the low side for such a big screen, resulting in a slightly grainy display. You can directly access the various focus and flash options by clicking left and right on the navigation pad, whilst up and down are respectively used to set the exposure compensation and timer options. There is sadly no dedicated button for ISO speed, which is a commonly used feature, although you can work around this by optionally setting the Print Transfer button to one of 7 available options (which include ISO speed). The Function/Set button in the middle of the navigation pad opens a sub-menu, which allows you to set metering, colours, white balance, ISO speed, flash power, continuous shooting and image size/quality settings. This system is a good compromise given the size of the SX200's LCD screen and therefore the limited space for external controls.
The menu system on the Canon Powershot SX200 IS is extremely straight-forward to use and is accessed by a dedicated button underneath the navigation pad. Quite a lot of the camera's main settings, such as white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed, are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn't actually that complicated. A row of 2 icons along the top of the LCD screen represents the Camera and Setup sub-menus, with most of the options being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the very large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time. Image stabilisation can only be turned on through the SX200 IS's menu system, but this isn't really a problem in practice, as I left it turned on for 99% of the time without negatively affecting the battery life.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Canon have chosen to cut costs and only supply the full manual as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format (there's just a short printed guide to the camera's basic features). Not much use if you're taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.
The Canon Powershot SX200 IS offers Program and a comprehensive range of different scene modes aimed at the user who just wants to point and shoot, making this camera particularly well-suited to the beginner. The SX200 IS also offers Smart Auto Mode. Similar to Panasonic's Intelligent Auto, Smart Auto Mode automatically determines the subject's brightness, contrast, distance and overall hue, then selects the best scene setting from 18 possible modes, which is more than most competitors. The SX200 IS uncannily selected the right kind of scene mode for almost every environment that I tried it in. There's also the improved Easy Mode, where the camera automatically sets every shooting setting, preventing the inexperienced user from changing anything at all, apart from turning the flash on and off. In addition Easy Mode works in the same way as Smart Auto Mode - it really does turn the SX200 IS into a true point and shoot camera, perfect for use by children for example.
The SX200 also has a comprehensive Face Detection system that makes it easier to take great portraits. It detects up to 35 faces in a shot and adjusts the focus, exposure, flash settings and white balance automatically. The Face Select & Track feature allows a particular face to be chosen as the principal subject in a photo, and ensures that that face is always sharp and well exposed. FaceSelf-Timer is a novel idea that makes group photos much easier, automatically taking the shot when an extra face is detected in the frame, so that you can join in rather than be stuck behind the camera.
More experienced photographers will be delighted to hear that Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and full Manual shooting modes are also available. With apertures ranging from f/3.4 to f/8 and shutter speeds from 15 - 1/3200 sec, this is a real advantage over the Panasonic Lumix DMX-TZ7, which doesn't offer any such controls. The navigation pad on the rear of the camera is surrounded by a thin control wheel that's used to set the aperture and shutter speed, either by moving it anti-clockwise to choose a lower value, or clockwise to choose a higher one. It's reminiscent of the much larger control wheels found on the back of most Canon DSLRs, but due to its tiny dimensions on the SX200, it is more difficult to control than I'd like (although still more welcome than repeatedly pressing either up/down or left-right on the navigation pad).
The HD video capability of the SX200 IS is one of the major features of this camera. The SX200 IS can record 720p video at 1280x720 pixels at 30 or 15 fps in the Quicktime .MOV format. Unfortunately this format choice results in some massive file sizes that quickly fill up your memory cards, which doesn't compare well to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7's more frugal AVCHD Lite and Motion JPEG formats. Sound quality is also less impressive on the SX200 IS, with the usual background noise that accompanies movies shot with cameras that only have mono sound. Even worse, you can't use the optical zoom at all during movie recording (there's an optional 32x digital zoom setting instead), and areas of the video will be blurred before becoming sharp again as the camera tries to refocus. The HDMI port allows you to connect the SX200 IS to a high-def TV set, but only if you purchase the optional HDMI mini-cable. The SX200 is certainly no replacement for a dedicated camcorder, and doesn't compare well to its main competitor.
Memory Card Slot
The Canon Powershot SX200 IS has an anti-shake system, dubbed IS Mode - turn it on in the menu system and the SX200 IS automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds. There are three different modes. Continuous is on all the time including image composition, Shoot Only is only on when you press the shutter button, and Panning as the name suggests is best when using the camera to track a moving subject. In practice I found that it does make a noticeable difference, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page. You don't notice that the camera is actually doing anything different when anti-shake is turned on, just that you can use slower shutter speeds than normal and still take sharp photos. As part of a belt and braces approach, the anti-shake system is also newly backed up by motion detection technology that assesses camera or subject movement. The latter is effectively what rivals would refer to as digital anti-shake, as, activated in high ISO auto mode, it boosts ISO to a level (between ISO 80-800) it considers will compensate without hopefully introducing too much noise. Still, you do get both in the same camera.
The start-up time from turning the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS on to being ready to take a photo is quick at around 2 seconds. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest is very slow at around 4 seconds, but focusing is quick in good light and the camera achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, even at the tele-photo end of the lens in low-light situations, helped by the focus-assist lamp. It takes about 1 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is a very brief LCD blackout between each image. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS has a much slower continuous shooting mode than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7, which enables you to take just 0.8 frames per second at the highest JPEG image quality for an unlimited number of frames (the TZ7 offers 1.8fps for unlimited shots or 2.3fps for up to 3 Fine JPEG images).
Once you have captured a photo, the Canon Powershot SX200 IS has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 100 thumbnails, zoom in and out up to 10x magnification and filter images by date, category. folder and file type. You can also view slideshows, delete, protect, resize, trim and rotate an image, and set the print order and the transfer order. The Red-eye Correction options fixes red eye after you have taken a photo (useful if you forgot to activate it before) and i-Contrast improves the shadow/brightness areas, with Auto and Low, Medium and High settings (if you select i-Contrast before taking a photo, only Auto and Off settings are available). MyColors allows you to apply any of the 10 different effects on offer to a photo. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, and there is a small histogram available during playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure. A third press of the Display button shows the image alongside a small, magnified section, useful for quickly checking the sharpness.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is a fairly compact camera that offer an incredibly versatile focal range, intuitive handling a range of shooting modes that will suit both beginner and keen shutterbug alike. The flawed HD movies, slow burst shooting rate, and curious pop-up flash are somewhat less impressive though.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS produced images of very good quality during the review period. The 1/2.3 inch, 12.1 megapixel sensor recorded noise-free images at ISO 100 and 200, with ISO 400 also looking good, although there's slight loss of saturation. ISO 800 shows more noise and some very obvious softening of fine detail, and ISO 1600 is even worse, looking as though someone has smeared vaseline on the lens. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate exposure. The night photograph was good, with the maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds allowing you to capture plenty of light. Anti-shake is a feature that sets this camera apart from its competitors and one that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is amazing, allowing you to focus as close as 0 cms away from the subject! The images were a little soft straight out of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 80 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
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. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes via the My Colors menu option.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.
12M Fine (2.60Mb) (100% Crop)
12M Normal (1.14Mb) (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 0cms 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.
The flash settings on the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS are Off and On, with Flash Mode (Auto, Manual), Flash Exp. Comp, Flash Output, Safety FE, Red-eye Correction and Red-Eye Lamp settings available via the Flash Settings main menu option. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Off - Wide Angle (28mm)
On - Wide Angle (28mm)
Off - Telephoto (336mm)
On - Telephoto (336mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the On or the Red-eye Correction settings caused any red-eye.
On (100% Crop)
Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.
Shutter Speed / Focal Length
Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)
Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
1/15th / 28mm
1/15th / 336mm
This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS is an excellent first attempt at a travel-zoom camera, but ultimately it can't quite match its main rival, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7. Starting with the positives, the SX200 IS's main point of differentiation is the PASM creative shooting modes, which will instantly grab the attention of the seasoned photographer looking for a pocket camera that they can really control. All of the other competitors in this category are purely point-and-shoots, so providing Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes is a big advantage for the SX200 IS. The 12x zoom lens is also a real highlight, with an incredibly versatile focal range of 28-336mm that will cover virtually every photographic situation that you'll encounter. It's not quite as wide as the DMC-TZ7's 25mm lens though, exhibits a little more distortion at either end, and is substantially bigger in size, making it less well-suited to more candid photography. The same can be said of the SX200's general dimensions, being bigger and heavier than its rivals - maybe only by a few grams and millimeters, but important none-the-less in an area of the market where size is everything.
The SX200 IS does lead the way in the megapixel wars, with a 12 megapixel sensor that produces the usual quality images that we've come to expect from Canon. ISO 100-400 is a usable range for most photos, on a par with most of its main competitors, with the rather soft and desaturated ISO 800 setting best reserved for emergencies. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, macro performance is an amazing 0cms, and the image stabilization system really makes a big difference when hand-holding the camera at slower shutter speeds. Video is another story though. Although you can record 1280x720 pixel HD footage, it quickly fills up your memory card thanks to the space-hungry Quicktime format, suffers from the usual muffled mono sound, and worst of all doesn't allow the zoom to be used during recording. The HDMI port makes it easy to connect the SX200 to a HD TV, although we would have liked to see a suitable cable included in the box. Overall, it doesn't compare well to video shot with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7.
Unfortunately for the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS, this is also true of quite a few other key areas too. The 3 inch LCD screen has a lower resolution, the continuous shooting speed is over twice as slow, the lens is a little slower, the flash inexplicably pops-up for every shot, and Smart Auto Mode isn't quite as smart as Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode. Which leaves us with a still very capable camera that will particularly appeal to the more experienced photographer, but also a camera that comes a clear second in the race, rather than occupying the top spot on the winners' podium.
Ratings (out of 5)
Value for money
Reviews of the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS from around the web.
Canon’s PowerShot SX200 IS is a 12.1 Megapixel compact with a 12x optically stabilised zoom and a 3in screen. Announced in February 2009, it’s Canon’s first attempt at a pocket super-zoom and directly targets Panasonic’s enormously popular travel-zoom series. Like Panasonic’s latest Lumix TZ7 / ZS3, the PowerShot SX200 IS packs an impressive 12x optical zoom range into a relatively pocketable form factor, while keeping up with the latest gadgets and features.
Read the full review »
The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS ($349) is a compact ultra zoom camera with a 12X wide-angle zoom lens, image stabilization, full manual controls, HD video recording, and a 3-inch LCD display. That sounds an awful lot like Panasonic's ultra-popular Lumix DMC-TZ5 -- easily the best camera in this class in 2008 -- though that camera is soon to be replaced with the even more impressive DMC-ZS3 (also known as the TZ7). Regardless, the SX200 is a pretty nice step-up from the SX110 that came before it.
Read the full review »
Up until about 18 months ago, if you wanted a pocket-sized compact camera with a decent zoom range, you had a simple choice; either a Ricoh R-series or a Panasonic Lumix TZ-series. The latter especially proved to be very popular, particularly the excellent TZ5, helping to place Panasonic at the top of the compact camera market and prompting several other manufacturers to try and get in on the "travel camera" action. Canon's first attempt was the PowerShot SX100 IS, followed last Autumn by the SX110 IS, both of which had all the right features and an affordable price tag, but lacked the TZ5's compact shape and robust build quality. Other rivals include the Olympus mju 9000.
Read the full review »
Canon did a good job selecting the features to put in this digital camera, giving a very flexible zoom range and a complete set of manual controls while avoiding the least used features such as a viewfinder and hot-shoe. Since the majority of consumers do not use those features, it is very reasonable for Canon to remove them from budget models and keep them in more advanced models such as the Canon Powershot SX20 IS.
Read the full review »
Colour Filter Type
DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology
5.0 - 60.0 mm (35mm equivalent: 28-336mm)
Optical 12x. Digital approx. 4x (with Digital Tele-Converter approx. 1.5x or 2.0x and Safety Zoom ¹)². Combined approx. 48x
f/3.4 - f/5.3
11 elements in 9 groups (1 aspherical element)
AF System/ Points
Face Detection, 1-point AF (fixed to centre or Face Select and Track)
Single, Continuous, Servo AF¹
AF Point Selection
Size (Normal, Small)
AF Assist Beam
Closest Focusing Distance
0cm (W) from front of lens in macro
Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Centre)
+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
AUTO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
1 - 1/3200 sec (factory default)
15 - 1/3200 sec (total range - varies by shooting mode)
Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
3.0” TFT, approx. 230,000 dots
Adjustable to one of five levels
Auto, Manual Flash On / Off
Slow Sync Speed
Flash Exposure Compensation
+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments. Face Detection FE. Safety FE.
Flash Exposure Lock
Manual Power Adjustment
3 levels with internal flash
Built-in Flash Range
50cm-3.0m (W) / 1.0m-2.0m (T)
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Auto*, Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Easy*, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Special Scene (Night Scene, Sunset, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, ISO 3200¹, Color Accent, Color Swap, Stitch Assist), Movie
*with Scene Detection Technology and Motion Detection Technology
Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
HDMI Mini Connector. A/V output (PAL/NTSC)
SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, HC MMCplus.
SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEM
PC & Macintosh
Windows XP SP2-3 / Vista (including SP1)
Mac OS X v10.4 - 10.5
Browsing & Printing
ZoomBrowser EX / ImageBrowser
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-5L (battery and charger supplied)
Approx. 280 shots ¹
Approx. 300 min. playback
A/C Power Supply
Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC30
Cases / Straps
Soft Case DCC-1000
High Power Flash HF-DC1
Power Supply & Battery Chargers
AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC30
Canon HDMI Cable HTC-100
0 – 40 °C, 10 – 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD, excl. protrusions)
103.0 x 60.5 x 37.6 mm
Weight (body only)
¹ Depending on the image size selected.
² Digital zoom available for still image and standard movie modes only. Optical zoom may not be available during movie recording.
¹ Some settings limit availability
¹ Recording pixels fixed at 1600 x 1200.
¹ Under conditions where the flash does not fire.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
¹ The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: 1280 x 720, 30fps Speed Class 4 or above. 1920 x 1080, 30fps Speed Class 6
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
¹ Using the batteries and memory card format supplied with the camera (where included), except where indicated.
* Standard Output Sensitivity / Recommended Exposure Index.
According to ISO 12232:2006 (20th April 2006) which specifies the method for assigning and reporting ISO speed ratings for digital still cameras.
All data is based on Canon standard testing methods (according to CIPA Standards) except where indicated.