Canon PowerShot Zoom Review

November 13, 2020 | Tim Coleman | Rating star Rating star Half rating star


When Canon crowdfunded last year for a range of 'concept' cameras that included a tiny monocular-style camera, it met and exceeded the funding target in next to no time. Fast forward to today and we have in our hands the fruit, the dinky Canon PowerShot Zoom.

Clearly then, there's an interest for a niche product like this in the camera market. Yes, variety is the spice of life and, truth be told, compact cameras need to do something different to stand out against ever-improving, ever-evolving smartphones.

This may be a PowerShot by name, but it's perhaps best to understand the Canon PowerShot Zoom as a digital monocular that can take reference pictures, rather than pin your hopes on its performance as a camera.

In short, we've been disappointed by the image quality. However, as a truly pocketable and lightweight stabilised digital monocular that gets you close to the action, the PowerShot Zoom fares much better.

At the push of a button its three-step zoom jumps from the 100mm to 400mm settings and extends up to 800mm digitally. You'll get a smooth, stabilised viewing experience through the 2.36-million-dot EVF. Sounds promising, right?

The Canon PowerShot Zoom is available in white only and currently for pre-order with an estimated shipping in December 2020. It is priced at £299 / $299 on the Canon website.

Ease of Use

Canon PowerShot Zoom

Let's set things straight first. The Canon PowerShot Zoom is trying to do things differently in the compact camera market, but really its best attributes are as a digital monocular.

What you have is a palm-sized device weighing a mere 145g that will comfortably slip into your pocket. It features a 100-400mm optical zoom, plus 2x digital zoom that extends the reach to 800mm.

It's a three-stepped zoom starting at the widest 100mm setting. Press the zoom button and you're instantly at 400mm, press it again for the 2x digital zoom and then a third time to return to 100mm. Simple.

The scene is viewed through a 2.36-million-dot EVF that we understand is the same 0.39-inch OLED unit as found in the Canon EOS M50. It's a lovely display with 60fps refresh rate, that presents the scene even better than how your photos and videos come out (but we'll get onto image quality later).

Crucially, what sets the PowerShot Zoom viewing experience apart from much less expensive optical monoculars is that has an always-on 4-axis optical image stabilisation.

Canon PowerShot Zoom

When viewing a scene at such high magnifications of 400mm and beyond, slight hand movements are magnified and such extreme shake can make viewing nauseating. Stabilisation transforms the handling, countering those movements, smoothing out the viewing experience.

Certainly, when the photo button is semi depressed to focus, stabilisation is very effective and it's possible to pan with subjects such as birds in flight with relative ease. That photo button is a tad sensitive though and the electronic shutter is silent, so you may find yourself taking shots unawares instead, when you didn't necessarily want to.

Should you opt for video capture, stabilisation is pretty good but not perfect. At 100mm it's fine, but at the 400mm and 800mm settings it's understandably a bit shaky and you'll need a really steady hand.

We know that this is a pocket device, but a thread on the underside to attach a tripod would have been really handy - we certainly could have made use of one during this test for capturing steadier video.

All being said, if your main goal is to view a scene and make some snapshots, then the EVF combined with stabilised lens serve the purpose really well.

Canon PowerShot Zoom

In every sense of the word, the PowerShot Zoom is a fair weather device. For instance, the body is plastic and not weather-sealed. The EVF, despite providing a crisp display, is still digital and it does suffer from noise a little too soon once the sun has gone. And of course the image sensor is tiny, so image quality plummets as the light fades. (But again, we'll get onto IQ that later.)

A short tour around the camera. It features five buttons; power, zoom, menu, photo and video. Each button is entirely logical in its function - the latter two are used to start and stop image and video capture, while the zoom button cycles through the three-stepped zoom.

The layout is intuitive enough. Give it time and it's possible to memorise the layout well enough to operate the controls without taking your eye away from the viewfinder.

Overall, we do like the form factor and design of the PowerShot Zoom. It fits comfortably in the hand and the buttons are at your fingertips. We'd tweak the position of the power button, really it's too close to the zoom button which is your most commonly used control.

You'll twig that there is no LCD screen. Therefore, liveview, image playback and menus are all seen through that EVF. Menu navigation is made entirely by those buttons - there's no control wheel. What you're seeing underneath the viewfinder is the diopter adjustment (-3 to +1m), so you'll be able to focus the screen properly whatever the condition of your eyesight.

Canon PowerShot Zoom

To cycle through the menu, you'll need to keep pressing the photo (up) and video (down) buttons and select using the zoom button. It's simple enough once you get the hang of it and honestly there is so little in the menu that you'll reach your desired control soon enough.

In fact, after half a day's use, we opted to set the camera up how we like it and have rarely needed to use the menu since. With pretty much everything automated, from exposure control to image size and so on, plus very few features, you don't really need a control wheel.

So what changes can you make? There's a choice between single and continuous shooting. The latter is 10fps and you'll squeeze around 30 shots out of this mode before the camera slows up.

Given this really is a viewing device for action, we kept the camera in continuous shooting mode. Also, that very thought process informed our choice of tracking AF over single point AF (fixed centre).

One other manual selection is exposure compensation. The camera automatically selects ISO and shutter speed while aperture is fixed, so if the exposure is off then exposure compensation is one method to fix the problem.

Canon PowerShot Zoom

Honestly, auto exposure acquired by the 384-zone evaluative metering is too bright for our liking, especially in the shade, and often resulted in blown out highlights in photos. We quickly opted to leave exposure compensation to -1EV.

A different technique for exposure is to find a brighter area in the scene around your subject - for instance point to the sky - then semi-depress the shutter to take an exposure measurement and then recompose the scene. It's a real faff.

The recomposition technique is needed too much for our liking because it also fixes another issue; poor autofocus. Quite possibly, autofocus has been our biggest handling frustration, plus there is no manual focus option.

When tracking subjects at a distance in good light, the contrast-detection autofocus is OK enough. It will track a bird in flight pretty well. But as soon the scene is close and cluttered - take a bird on a branch 15ft away, you'll struggle to acquire a sharp focus.

What happens in closer-range scenarios with both fixed-centre-single-point AF and tracking AF is a focus hunt that usually results in a focus drop to the background. You'll often have to scour the surroundings at a similar distance to your subject in the hope of picking up a sharp focus to then recompose the scene. Yes, what a faff.

Canon PowerShot Zoom

Another hindrance is the surprisingly limited minimum focus distance. At 100mm it's 1m which is OK, but more restricting is the 4.5m minimum focus distance at 400mm. To put this into context, you wont get anywhere near filling the frame with small birdlife when using the 400mm setting. Sure, the PowerShot Zoom gives you a closer look, but it's not close close.

Those auto exposure and auto focus hindrances do affect the handling of the PowerShot Zoom, but pose an even greater adverse impact on the images and videos you can make.

Photos and videos are recorded onto a micro SD card - there's a blast from the past! Inside the same door is a USB-C slot through which the PowerShot Zoom is charged.

According to Canon, on a full charge you'll get about 70 minutes of EVF time, 60 minutes of video record time or 150-shots. We've been able to squeeze significantly more shots out of the PowerShot Zoom when using the 10fps continuous shooting mode.

Canon PowerShot Zoom

The PowerShot Zoom has a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi function in order to pair with the Canon Camera Connect app. At the time of writing, the app was not updated for compatibility with the camera, so we were unable to check it out.

Without a tripod mount, we can't see the camera being used for remote shooting through the app, although for easier image playback it will be handy, plus GPS data can be recorded.

That's a look around the Canon PowerShot Zoom. Now let's explore its photo and video quality.

Image Quality

Try thinking of the Canon PowerShot Zoom as a digital monocular that can take 12MP JPEG pictures and full HD videos for reference, rather than a competent compact camera with an unusual design.

In short, image quality is a real let down. Perhaps it's not the point, but don't stop us dreaming.

The lens construction is actually quite complex, comprising 11 elements in 8 groups. The 100mm setting has a fixed f/5.6 aperture and is the sharpest focal length of the lens. At 400mm, the aperture is fixed to f/6.3 and this setting is a little softer, although there are other factors at play too, such as atmospheric haze and so on. Of course, the 800mm digital setting is the worst of the bunch for pictures.

Using the older Digic 8 processor, the Canon PowerShot Zoom offers one picture format of 12MP JPEG pictures (4000x3000), plus Full HD videos at 30fps capped to ten minutes. Really, there is some dated tech in here and you'll experience a performance lag post capture.

Images are recorded using a tiny 1/3in sensor - that's smaller than a standard smartphone sensor. It's no surprise then that the PowerShot Zoom really is a fair weather camera. In anything but sunlight, pictures a mushy. Frankly, even in good light it is clear that we're looking at digital pictures.

There is very little control over image making and virtually every setting is automatic, which for such a camera is no bad thing. Shutter speed, fixed aperture, auto ISO (with a ISO 100-3200 range), no picture profiles.

You can't shoot RAW format, so exposures need to be right or else you won't be able to recover detail lost in blown out highlights or dark shadows. We've already mentioned the challenges that evaluative metering poses.

To put image quality into context, we made virtually identical pictures using the Canon Powershot Zoom's 100mm setting and the Vivo X51 smartphone's 5x telephoto lens (128mm) and picture quality was better with the phone.

The Powershot Zoom does have the upper hand over smartphones in that it is able to optically zoom to 400mm. Again though, if image making is the concern, you have better options at 400mm for the same price tag - think of a camera like the Panasonic Lumix TZ90.

With its tiny sensor, a maximum f/6.3 aperture at 400mm and fast shutter speeds needed to obtain a blur-free image given the telephoto focal length, the Canon PowerShot Zoom is pushed to its limits in anything but bright sunlight.

Cloudy day images need a high sensitivity setting of around ISO 1000 - it sure is noisy. Anyway, you get the picture. The Canon PowerShot Zoom is a competent monocular but image quality is not its strength.

Focal Range













Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot Zoom camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 72Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 68 second movie is 244Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 29 second movie is 109Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon PowerShot Zoom
Canon PowerShot Zoom
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Canon PowerShot Zoom
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Canon PowerShot Zoom
Canon PowerShot Zoom
Canon PowerShot Zoom
Canon PowerShot Zoom
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Canon PowerShot Zoom
Canon PowerShot Zoom


Well, the Canon PowerShot Zoom grabbed our attention. From its curious design and function, this quirky 'camera' does stand out and Canon should be commended for venturing out-the-box. Unfortunately, the delivery is more miss than hit.

Let's start with the positives. We like the design. The PowerShot Zoom is tiny, lightweight and its button layout is logical enough. After some adjustment, you should be able to operate the zoom single-handed with you eye up to the viewfinder.

The 0.39-inch EVF with 2.36-million-dot resolution and 60fps refresh rate provides a clear and smooth viewing experience, being paired with the decent optical stabilisation. This is fundamentally the single and most important reason to consider the PowerShot Zoom.

Is the smooth and stable handheld viewing experience alone enough to merit the significant higher price over an optical monocular? Well, maybe, but the PowerShot Zoom can take photos and videos, too.

Sadly, we cannot recommend the Canon PowerShot Zoom as a photographic tool. Image quality is poor, while autofocus performance and limitation is frustrating when closer to subjects. This is some old tech in a new monocular shell.

Shift your stance on the PowerShot Zoom a little, considering its photo and video capability purely as a bonus to its versatility as a digital monocular, and it fares better.

2.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3
Features 2.5
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 2
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Canon PowerShot Zoom.

Canon PowerShot SX420 IS

The Canon PowerShot SX420 IS is a super-zoom bridge camera with a whopping 42x zoom lens. Available in red or black, the Canon SX420 also features a 20 megapixel sensor, a 3-inch LCD screen and 720p HD video recording. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot SX420 IS review now...

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

The new Canon PowerShot SX70 HS super-zoom camera features a 65x zoom lens with a massive focal range of 21-1365mm, a new 20 megapixel image sensor, Digic 8 processor, 4K video recording, 10fps burst shooting, 3 inch vari-angle LCD screen, electronic viewfinder, full manual controls, RAW format support, and built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Read our Canon SX70 HS review now to discover if this is the ultimate all-rounder camera...

Nikon Coolpix P950

The Nikon Coolpix P950 is a brand new super-zoom bridge camera with a whopping 83x zoom lens, which provides a focal range of 24-2000mm! The Nikon P950 also offers 16 megapixels, 4K video recording, Raw file support, an improved 2.4-million-dot electronic viewfinder, a 3-inch 921K-dot vari-angle LCD screen and 7fps burst shooting. Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix P950 review now, complete with full-size sample images and videos.

Nikon P1000

The Nikon Coolpix P1000 is a new super-zoom bridge camera with an astonishing 125x zoom lens, providing an effective focal range of 24-3000mm! The Nikon P1000 also has a back illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3.2-inch vari-angle LCD screen, electronic viewfinder, 4K Ultra HD movie recording, and RAW file support. Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix P1000 review now...

Panasonic Lumix TZ95

The Panasonic Lumix TZ95 is a new travel-zoom compact camera for 2019. The 20-megapixel TZ95 (also known as the Panasonic ZS80) now offers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functionality plus a new high-resolution Live viewfinder. Features retained from the previous TZ90 model include a 30x wide-angle zoom lens, tiltable 3-inch LCD touchscreen, 4K video recording, and support for the RAW file format. Read our in-depth Panasonic TZ95 review now...

Sony Cyber-shot HX95

The Sony Cyber-shot HX99 and HX95 are the World’s smallest travel high zoom cameras with 4K movie capability and an upgraded image processor. Both models offer a truly versatile zoom range from 24mm at the wide end up to 720mm super-telephoto, 4K video with full pixel readout and no pixel…

Sony Cyber-shot HX99

The Sony Cyber-shot HX99 is a new premium travel-zoom camera with a 30x, 24-720mm zoom lens. The HX99 also features an 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, pop-up electronic viewfinder, lens barrel control ring, flip-up LCD touchscreen, built-in wi-fi, NFC and Bluetooth, 4K video with stereo sound, Eye AF mode, 10fps continuous shooting, ISO range of 80-6400 and Raw support. Read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 review to find out if it's the best travel-zoom camera on the market...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot Zoom from around the web. »

We really like the concept of the PowerShot Zoom, which is a stabilized monocular-style camera that jumps from 100mm to 400mm focal lengths at the push of a button. Sadly, with poor image quality and handling, it's a much better monocular than it is a camera.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

  • Type
    1/3-inch CMOS
  • Effective Pixels
    Max approx. 12.1 megapixels

Image Processor

  • Type
    DIGIC 8


  • Focal Length
    [100/400 mm (35mm format)
    Digital zoom: x2 (800 mm equivalent)] 1
  • Zoom
    1.2x / 4.8x / 9.6x (at 100/400/800 mm)
  • Maximum f/number
    W: f/5.6, T: f/6.3 2
  • Construction
    11 elements in 8 groups
  • Image Stabilisation
  • Real Field of View (Stills)
    24.5° / 6.2° / 3.1° (at 100/400/800 mm)
  • Real Field of View (Movie)
    22.6° / 5.7° / 2.8° (at 100/400/800 mm)
  • Apparent Field of View (Still)
    28.6° (at 100/400/800 mm)
  • Apparent Field of View (Movie)
    26.4° (at 100/400/800 mm)
  • 1000m Field of View (Still)
    434m / 108m / 54m (at 100/400/800 mm)
  • 1000m Field of View (Movie)
    400 m / 100 m / 49m (at 100/400/800 mm)


  • Type
    Contrast detection (Approx. 100% coverage)
  • AF System / Points
    One-Shot AF
    Movie Servo AF
  • Closest Focusing Distance
    W: 1m / T: 4.5m

Exposure Control

  • Metering Modes
    Evaluative metering (384-zone)
  • Exposure Compensation
    ±3 levels in 1/3-level increments
  • ISO Sensitivity
    AUTO (fixed 100 – 3200)


  • Speed
    AUTO (1/8000 - 1/30)4

White Balance

  • Type


  • Type
    0.39-inch EVF OLED
  • Dot Count
    2.36 million dots
  • Coverage (Vertical/Horizontal)
    Approx. 100% 5
  • Eyepoint
    Approx. 22 mm
  • Dioptre Correction
    Approx. -3 to +1 m-1 (dpt)
  • Refresh Rate
    59.94 fps

LCD Monitor

  • Type
    Viewfinder only


  • Modes
    AUTO 6
  • Continuous Shooting
    Max. approx. 10 fps 7
  • Interval Timer

File Types

  • Still Image Type
  • Image Size
    4000 x 3000 (4:3)

Recording Pixels / Compression

  • Movie Type
    MP4 (NTSC/PAL)
  • Movie Size
    1920 x 1080 
    29.97/23.98 fps (NTSC), 25.00 fps (PAL) 9
  • Microphone
  • Speaker

Other Features

  • Menu Languages
    31 languages


  • Wired Connectivity
    USB Type-C 10
  • Wireless Connectivity
    Wi-Fi, IEEE802.11b/g/n, 2.4GHz 11
    Bluetooth (BLE, V4.2)


  • Type
    microSD / microSDHC / microSDXC


  • Other
    Compatible with Camera Connect

Power Source

  • Batteries
    Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery Life
    Viewing time: Approx. 70 min.
    Number of possible shots: Approx. 150
    Movie shooting time: Approx. 60 min.
  • Power Supply & Battery Chargers
    Can be charged/powered with USB Type-C 12


  • Other
    Wrist strap, interface cable, and instruction manual

Physical Specifications

  • Operating Environment
    Temperature: 0˚C - 40˚C
    Humidity: 10 - 90 %
  • Water/Dust-Resistance
  • Dimensions (W x H x D)
    33.4 mm x 50.8 mm x 103.2 mm
  • Weight
    Approx. 145 g 13
  1. "3 step zoom", switchable: 100 → 400 → 800 → 100…
  2. Fixed aperture
  3. Equipped with Optical IS control to improve stills and video shooting, and the appearance when using the EVF. (CIPA standard measurement not possible)
  4. Electronic shutter; during movie recording the camera use shutter speeds between 1/4000 - 1/30 second
  5. At eyepoint approx. 22 mm
  6. AE line similar to sports mode
  7. AF fixed using One-Shot AF
  8. Complies with DCF 2.0 and Exif 2.31
  9. Maximum recording time is 9 min. 59 sec. at one time. During Wi-Fi connection movie recording is not possible.
  10. USB-PD compatible
  11. Movie recording is not possible during Wi-Fi connection.
  12. No charger supplied with the camera. Minimum charging requirement is a USB PD compliant power source providing a minimum of 5V, 1.5A with a USB Type-C output and using the provided USB Type-C to Type-C cable. When shooting video or stills, power is only supplied to camera without charging the internal battery. Charging time with Canon PD-E1 is approx. 1 hour 50 mins.
  13. The product's weight, including a compatible memory card and the built-in battery, based on CIPA guidelines.

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