Canon PowerShot D10
by Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins, and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 06/08/09
The Canon PowerShot D10 is a rugged waterproof / shockproof / freezeproof camera based around a 1/2.3-inch 12.1-megapixel CCD image sensor, DIGIC 4 image processor, and a Canon-branded 3x optical zoom lens. The Canon D10's lens offers focal lengths ranging from a 35mm wide-angle to a 105mm telephoto, and features true optical image stabilization. Maximum aperture varies from f/2.8 to f/4.9 across the zoom range, and macro focusing is possible to just three centimeters. Continuous shooting is possible at 1.1 frames per second, and the PowerShot D10 can be operated at depths up to 33 feet underwater, is shockproof for falls from up to four feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
There's no optical viewfinder, with the Canon D10 instead opting solely for a 2.5-inch LCD display with 230,000 dots of resolution. The maximum recordable image dimensions are 4,000 x 3,000 pixels, and the Canon D10 offers a 30 frames-per-second VGA (640 x 480) movie mode as well. Sensitivity ordinarily ranges from ISO 80 to ISO 1,600 equivalents, and can be extended to ISO 3,200 equivalent in a high-sensitivity Scene mode. A built-in flash is rated as good to 10.5 feet (3.2 meters) at wide-angle, and 6.6 feet (2 meters) at telephoto. Images and movies are stored on SD cards, NTSC / PAL standard definition video output and USB 2.0 High-Speed computer connectivity are on offer, and the Canon PowerShot D10 draws power from a proprietary NB-6L lithium-ion rechargeable battery.
The Canon PowerShot D10 ships from early May, with pricing of US$330. Optional accessories include interchangeable face plates, customized straps, and a carabiner hook.
Canon PowerShot D10
by Shawn Barnett
After a long hiatus, Canon returns to the Waterproof market with the PowerShot D10, a more durable model than they've ever made. I've owned two Canon waterproof cameras, both of them film models, and they were great. Neither was necessarily great for their photographic excellence, but they were great because they worked in rough, wet conditions and got the shot that no other camera would, at least not in a small package. It seems like most manufacturers drop a waterproof camera on the market now and then, but they seldom update it, and often it disappears in a year or two. Olympus and Pentax are the only companies consistently producing waterproof cameras. Let's hope the Canon D10 is just the beginning of a long line of Canon waterproof cameras, because I had a great experience with this unique digital camera.
To be completely accurate, Canon has kept up their line of waterproof housings for just about every PowerShot they make, so while it wasn't impossible to shoot with Canon products in and around water, it did cost more, and the cameras were considerably larger in the housings than out.
Look and feel. Of course, the Canon PowerShot D10 isn't exactly a slim pocket design. It's quite bulbous. Then again over the weekend I did everything, including swim, ride my bike, and lay on a beach chair with it stowed almost unnoticed in my swim trunks and cargo shorts.
Appropriate to its purpose, the Canon D10 looks a lot like a diving bell, with a solid shell out front and a hefty porthole-like bezel sealing the lens inside. All other digital cameras on the market are relatively slim pocket designs with folded optics inside to allow zooming. They're getting better and better with each generation, but folded optics are usually a compromise. They're essentially a periscope, with the lens optics running inside the body, gathering light via a mirror angled at 45 degrees. It's usually the mirror that causes most of the problems, far as I can tell; but whatever the reason, Canon has once again opted to avoid the folded optic, instead protecting the more traditional zoom mechanism behind the PowerShot D10's bulbous nose.
Controls. All the Canon D10's controls are on the top and back of the camera, and all are buttons. Switches and dials are harder to seal, so most waterproof digital cameras are button-only (not all). Note also the eight main screws hold the two major shells together.
Power and shutter buttons are on top, and the rest are on the back. The Power button is a little larger than most Canon PowerShots, good for using in wet conditions or with gloves, but I did sometimes have to press harder to activate it. The shutter button is a little mushier than I'm used to from Canon as well, with a long throw before you get to the second stage where you capture a picture. I missed more than a few shots underwater until I got used to this tendency.
Across the top are the Mode buttons: Print/Share, Record/Movie, and Playback modes. I was happy to see that the Print/Share button can still be set to activate a function of your choice, which I always set to Movie Record so I don't have to switch into Movie mode for movies. Pressing the Record/Movie button takes you to a submenu where you can choose among Auto, Program, Scene, and Movie modes. It's not complicated, but I generally leave it in Program mode and use the Print/Share button as I've described for greatest utility. Pressing the Playback button takes you to Playback mode whether the camera is on or off. If it was off, pressing it again does indeed turn it off rather than taking you to Record mode, as many cameras will do. Pressing the Shutter button halfway, however, will take you to your last-selected Record mode regardless of how you powered on the camera.
Just right of these three buttons is a power lamp, something I appreciate on any camera, because LCDs do time out while the camera's still on.
I'm not really fond of zoom buttons, and for me these two are backward. Telephoto is right and wide-angle is left in my mental map, but here they're reversed. Of course, these are more above and below than left and right, and up should be tele up and wide-angle down, as they are. Let's just say my mental map is frustrated by these two controls. Zoom is quiet, if a little slow to respond. It's also tough to zoom just a small amount, which is why I prefer zoom dials that surround shutter buttons. But we already know why they're not here (the waterproofing and impact issues), so that's just the way it is.
The navigation buttons, on the other hand, are the best Canon's made so far. They're little finger-friendly ramps that would be a fun challenge on a skateboard or bike if they were larger (much larger). At their current size, they should replace every other nav cluster on Canon PowerShots. The center Func/Set button is tall and domed; easy to differentiate from the others by touch. I can't say for sure how they'd do with gloves--probably not well, and worse as the gloves thickened--but in a pool or most other watersports that require gloves other than cold-weather action, they'll do well.
Coolest wrist strap. One of the more curious elements on the Canon D10 is the lanyard mount. There's not just one, but four. Indeed, they're the most unique--and most frustrating--elements on the camera. You get one lanyard with the Canon D10, a durable, thick design with a locking slide, and one mounting device. The Canon D10 has four mounting points, one on each corner. Choosing which to use is the frustrating part. I keep defaulting to the upper right corner (as viewed from the back), but it bugs me because it blocks the shutter button. So mount it on the bottom right corner, right? That, unfortunately, lifts it up enough that the two right feet, part of the battery/card door, are rendered useless, and the camera too often flops forward or backward. The same is true on the bottom left corner. Sigh. Okay, how about the upper left corner? As a right-hander, that raises the risk that the cord would go in front of the lens too often.
Might this be the first digital camera designed to favor left-handers in one minor way? If so, it's about time. Go for it, lefties: strap it to your left wrist and only use that other hand when it's time to press the shutter.
The mechanism itself also belongs on all Canon cameras from here out. It's a unique and marvelously secure design that requires two buttons and a turn to release. I'm sure some circumstance could conspire to release it without someone's intent, so please don't consider this some kind of guarantee, because I'm not making it. But I can guarantee that if you're like me, you'll attach and detach it more than once just to watch it work.
Optional accessories include a Shoulder/Neck strap, a Carabiner strap, a soft case with a carabiner, and interchangeable covers: orange, camo, and gray. It's unclear, but it seems these items are sold as a kit, not as individual components: AKT-DC1, $129.
This, by the way, is the kind of geekery that sells this kind of camera. It's like the little lamp on the Olympus and Panasonic waterproofs, or the altimeter built into some of Oly's models. None of it is essential for most photo opportunities, but it doesn't hurt the sale at all.
Lens. Ranging from 35 to 105mm equivalent, the Canon D10 doesn't break any records for either wide angle or telephoto, which suggests that there's some room for growth if the line proves popular enough. The bell housing, though, is clearly a limitation that keeps both wide-angle and longer telephoto focal lengths more remote possibilities.
Regardless, the lens is optically stabilized and performs reasonably well... for a waterproof camera. Remember how I said that the folded-optical designs were compromises? Well, shooting through a porthole glass also has its drawbacks. See the Lens report below for full details, but the Canon D10's corners are very soft, more than I expected. Looking through my personal snapshots, I didn't notice, but our test shots are quite revealing. So, as I say about almost every other waterproof digital camera: though the Canon PowerShot D10 is a great outdoor adventure camera mostly because it'll take pictures in conditions others can't, it might not be your best choice for general all-purpose photography.
Auto Scene Modes. Canon's added their Smart Auto mode to the D10, available in Full Auto mode, designed to pick the Scene mode for you based on what the camera sees in the image. If the Canon D10 sees a set of faces framed tightly, the camera switches to Portrait mode and snaps its shot. If you're paying attention while it does that, you'll note that the icon in the upper right corner will change when the camera detects a face.
Menu. Canon's simplified menu made it into the PowerShot D10, with its new shading and more modern color scheme. It consists of two tabs and a scrolling list in each. The Playback menu consists of three tabs.
More commonly accessed menu items, like ISO, white balance, My Colors, metering, drive mode, quality, and resolution, are accessed via the Function menu. This neat distribution of controls will be familiar to most Canon users.
Storage and battery. The Canon D10 stores images on SD/SDHC memory cards, for a current maximum capacity of 32GB per card. That'll be sufficient for most needs with this camera, and indeed a 4 to 8GB card should be sufficient unless you plan to shoot a lot of video with the Canon D10.
The Canon D10's battery is a 1,000mAh, 3.7 volt lithium-ion design, model number NB-6L. The flat, rectangular battery latches in place next to the SD card under the Canon D10's waterproof door. A single charge is good for about 220 shots. That's a little less than average, so consider buying a spare battery for longer outings, especially those involving video.
Shooting. Aside from items I've already mentioned, like the mushy shutter and odd zoom controls, using the Canon D10 is a pretty good experience. The LCD is very nice, refreshes fast, and looks vibrant and crisp. It also works well in the daylight, but unless you have goggles, it's nearly useless for framing underwater. Of course, that's not a fault of the camera's, but of human eye design.
Getting underwater shots was where I had the most trouble with the Canon D10, because it was hard to know when the camera was focused and would finally take the shot (this would have been easier with goggles, as I mentioned). Unless you're intent on getting flash shots of things like fish and coral, I advise turning the flash off, because this introduces even more delay into the question of when the image will actually be captured. When diving, just watch the flashing lightening bolt to see when it shines steady, then take your next shot.
Shooting video was also fun and easy. Just frame, focus, and hit the Print/Share button to start recording. See the video at right for a sample. Resolutions are 640x480 or 320x240, both 30 frames-per-second. Underwater audio quality is similar to what one's ears hear, and audio playback is via the speaker on the bottom.
The Canon PowerShot D10 is really easy to use and quite a lot of fun. Image quality is the final thing to consider, which we go over below. I'm a little disappointed that it wouldn't serve as an everyday camera for me, because I'd like to have a nice all-purpose digital camera that also goes underwater. But the combination of a smaller optic, the Canon D10's strong coverglass, and the high resolution sensor leaves corners too soft for anything but sports and underwater shooting.
Canon D10 Lens Quality
Sharp at center
Sharp at center
Fairly soft lower right corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot D10's zoom is very
soft in the corners, and quite noticeable in its wide angle images. At telephoto,
the corners are also somewhat soft, but not nearly as severe as what we see
at wide angle.
Wide: Moderate barrel distortion (0.9%); noticeable.
Tele: No visible distortion.
Geometric Distortion: Barrel distortion at wide-angle is about 0.9%, which is slightly higher than average compared to
other digital cameras. However, there is
no perceptible distortion of any kind at telephoto.
Wide: Moderately high and bright
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderately
high, with bright red and green pixels. At telephoto, the effect is moderate,
with fairly bright red and blue pixels.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Canon PowerShot D10's Macro mode captures a sharp image at
the center, with noticeable softness creeping in from the corners. (Many digital
cameras have some blurring in the corners at macro.) Minimum coverage area is 1.47 x 1.1 inches (37 x 28 mm). The camera's flash is blocked
by the lens, which creates a very dark shadow over the lower half of the frame.
Thus, external lighting will be your best bet in macro mode.
Canon D10 Image Quality
Color: Surprisingly neutral color comes from the Canon D10, with only the reds oversaturating, and even those are less pumped than usual. Cyans make the standard hue jump toward blue for better skies, and dark skin tones move toward orange a bit. Other than that, the Canon D10 produces surprisingly accurate color. That sounds good, but consumers are used to more vibrant colors, so be prepared to be underwhelmed with the Canon D10's output.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is fair at ISO 80 and 100, with some softening beginning as early as ISO 200. Chroma (color) noise is pretty well controlled at all ISOs, but luminance noise becomes a problem. Images at ISOs 800 and up are quite blurry, with very little fine detail, though color balance remains fairly good. ISO 1,600 and 3,200 are too soft for most purposes.
See printed results below for more on how ISO affects printed output.
at ISO 250
at ISO 250
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows slightly
dim flash intensity at the camera's rated distance of 10 feet. The telephoto
test came out moderately bright at 6.6 feet. Note though, that the camera had
to raise the ISO to 250 at both zoom settings to achieve its rated performance
Incandescent: The Auto and Manual white balance settings handle our tungsten lighting test better than Incandescent mode, with the latter rendering a very reddish image. Both Auto and Manual settings result in very slight color casts, leaving it up to personal preference really, though the Manual option is closest to accurate.
Printed: At ISO 80, printed output looks pretty good at 13x19 -- in the center. The sides and corners, unfortunately, look soft until you print at 5x7. As we noted above under ISO, image quality starts to degrade somewhat at ISO 200, yet you can still produce a good 13x19-inch print so long as you don't look too closely, at 11x14 inches, this is even better. ISO 400 shots are also usable at 11x14, though color starts to darken somewhat and subtle detail starts to suffer. This largely disappears at 8x10. ISO 800 shots have good detail at 8x10 in high contrast areas, but low-contrast detail is obliterated by noise processing. This obliteration continues even as you reduce the size to 5x7 and 4x6 among certain colors, especially red. ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 4x6, but with the same problem in the reds.
Printed performance over most of the center of the images is not bad for a 12-megapixel camera, but the corners and sides of the images are disturbing at any size and any ISO. Underwater and in sports shots, you're less likely to notice, but we have to give fair warning that you'll get better everyday performance from Canon's other, non-waterproof 12-megapixel digital cameras.
Canon D10 Performance
Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.47 second at wide angle and 0.56 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.07, quite fast.
Cycle time: Cycle time is about average for a point & shoot digicam, capturing a frame every 2.0 seconds in Single-shot mode, and every 0.87 second for a burst rate of 1.15 frames per second in Continuous mode, also about average.
Flash Recycle: Canon PowerShot D10's flash recycles in 6.5 seconds after a full-power discharge, a little on the longer side of average.
Canon D10 Conclusion
From a user's perspective, the Canon PowerShot D10 is a unique, solid underwater digital camera with above-average depth capability, and resistance to freezing weather and impact. The interface is well-designed and familiar to existing Canon users. It's also a kick to use in the water, and fun in any outdoor activity. Speed is good, about as fast as the average digital camera, and its video mode also works well above and below the water. Where it has trouble is in the corners and sides of images, which are softer than we like to see. You won't notice this softness in your underwater pictures, just the open-air shots. But that limitation alone keeps the Canon D10 from serving as an all-purpose digital camera unless you only plan to print 4x6-inch images -- which was true of my old waterproof cameras. However, I wouldn't hesitate to bring the Canon D10 on a water-bound adventure, be it whitewater, snorkeling, diving, waterskiing, spelunking, or snow skiing. Most waterproof digital cameras have this corner sharpness limitation, so though it would miss the mark without the waterproof designation, we can't help but give the Canon D10 a Dave's Pick for all the other reasons. Just remember to bring the other digital camera along if you're planning on making pictures big enough to make your den feel like your last outdoor adventure.