Canon SD750 Digital ELPH Overview
by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 6/20/07
A feature-packed little camera, the Canon SD750 offers seven megapixels and a whopping 3 inch LCD display which serves as the only option for image framing -- it forgoes any form of optical viewfinder. The Canon SD750's 3x zoom lens covers a fairly average range from 35-105mm equivalent, a moderate wide-angle to a moderate telephoto.
Exposure is fully automatic, but the user can bias it up or down with 2.0 EV of exposure compensation in 1/3 EV steps to handle difficult lighting, and there's a reasonably generous collection of ten scene modes to make easy work of tricky subjects like beach and snow scenes, fireworks, even aquarium lighting. The Canon SD750 also sports a high-sensitivity ISO 1,600 mode (new to the PowerShot line this year), for better performance in dim lighting.
Canon also manufactures an excellent line of photo printers that offer a high level of integration with their cameras. The Canon SD750 is PictBridge capable, so is able to print to any printer that supports PictBridge directly, without the need for a computer in the middle. When connected to a Canon printer, though, you can set paper size, print quality, and a number of other parameters; capabilities lacking in basic PictBridge connections. Bottom line, the Canon PowerShot SD750 looks like a great choice for users looking for a compact, rugged, and stylish model for a "take-anywhere" digital camera that's also simple to use.
Canon SD750 User Report
by Mike Pasini
Intro. The Canon PowerShot SD750 Digital ELPH may be the prettiest ELPH of all. We had both a silver and black model available, the silver suffering the rigors of our test lab in Georgia, and the black model enjoying a little sightseeing in San Francisco with me (as it turns out, the one I had was better than the other).
The black SD750, which I fell in love with, is actually two-tone with a silver face plate that highlights the black lens area. The back panel itself is black, which shows off the gorgeous 3.0 inch screen. Designed to stand upright, it feels balanced in your hand and is easy to take along -- if you can stop staring at it long enough to actually use it.
Inside the cute Canon SD750's body is a DIGIC III processor, bringing face detection and ISO 1,600 to the ELPH. The lens is your basic 3x zoom with a 4x digital zoom. I found the digital zoom necessary, but not quite as sharp as I've come to expect from higher resolution digital cameras. The Canon SD750's lens pops out just 3/4 inch at wide angle, and only a hair more at telephoto.
Controls on the Canon SD750 are the basic Canon hierarchy polished with a touch-sensitive dial that I found a little insensitive to my feelings. More gimmick than convenience, I never really felt comfortable using it, except in the traditional way, which still works.
It's probably easier to move up to an ELPH than down to one. I did miss having a longer zoom lens, image stabilization, and the Creative Zone options Canon does not offer on the ELPHs. But as Luke Smith, who took the test shots, observed, "Small, light, fast, sturdy, decent battery, good color, it's a Canon." You can't really go far wrong with a PowerShot.
Design. The Canon SD750 is just a pleasure to look at, period. Especially, in my opinion, the two-tone black model.
You can sit the Canon SD750 down on its bottom panel (which holds just the battery/card compartment and the tripod mount), but Canon designed the camera to also sit on its short left side. The opposite side is sloped forward and has the AV out and USB ports, plus the eyelet for the included wrist strap. Standing upright, all the text on both the Canon SD750's face and the lens reads right. And you get the full effect of the tapered face design, slimming in toward the lens.
On top, the Canon SD750 has a small, triangular shaped Power button tucked between the large Shutter button with a Zoom ring around it and a slide switch to select between Auto, Scene, and Movie modes. I had a little trouble with the slide switch until I decided to push not only sideways but down. That helped me find the detent in the middle for Scene mode. Otherwise I was just skipping right over it. The Canon SD750's Shutter button, however, was very nice. Many small digicams skimp on this critical control, but Canon's smarter than that.
You can also power the Canon SD750 on with the Playback button on the back panel. The advantage is that you can not only share your images easily with your subjects on that beautiful 3.0 inch LCD, but the Canon SD750's lens will stay tucked behind its protective cover.
The LCD makes the back of the Canon SD750 as beautiful as the front. Our snapshot doesn't do it justice, really, but the minute you see it, you'll find it hard to resist whipping out a credit card.
The other main attraction of the Canon SD750's back panel is the touch sensitive navigator with Canon's traditional Function/Set button in the middle. It's surprisingly small, but all four arrows have functions assigned. There are two small but accessible buttons above it (Print/Share and Playback) and two below (Menu and Display), with room for a small LED status lamp above, too. It's a nice layout. And I had no trouble finding the button I needed.
The back panel also has a small thumb grip to the left of the Print/Share button. I actually found the navigator a better thumb grip. But the Canon SD750 was easy to hold in either portrait or landscape orientation. And the Shutter button was sensitive enough that pressing it didn't shake the camera. Good design there, finding the right balance between a lightweight camera and the touch of the Shutter button.
Canon has found a new place to hide the speaker: on the left panel, which is also the bottom when you stand it up on the left side. If you cup your left hand around the Canon SD750's speaker while playing back movies, you can improve the sound a little.
Another design innovation is on the wrist strap, believe it or not. With cameras getting smaller and spaces more and more narrow, it can be hard to open some of the small covers and even harder to extract things like memory cards. Canon has sculpted the small rubber slide on the Canon SD750's wrist strap to help.
The slide, which is often missing on wrist straps, has the job of fitting the strap to the size of your wrist, so your hand doesn't just slip out of the loop. But Canon has given it a small wedge to pop open the cover on the AV/USB ports, and an indention on the other side to help press the SD card down to release it from the tight battery and card compartment. The card does sit a bit lower than usual, making ordinary access a little trickier, but I was able to get the card in and out without the slide's help. Still, it's a nice touch, certain to be appreciated by the fingernail-challenged.
Display/Viewfinder. There's no optical viewfinder on the Canon SD750. There's no room for one, with that huge 3-inch display.
But here's the good news. The Canon SD750's big LCD is up to the job in full sunlight. Its anti-reflection coating really does work, and it's bright enough that you can compose your images with the sun falling on it. That's pretty good. A lot of big LCDs are just useless in full sun, which is where you tend to find yourself at the beach or on the slopes, or at picnics in the park.
It does smudge easily, so get yourself a microfiber cloth to polish it up every now and then. You'll only see the smudges when you turn the Canon SD750 off, but it's such a pretty little box, you won't mind polishing it up.
Performance. With a DIGIC III and a 3x zoom, you would expect pretty good performance from the SD750, and you get above average startup and shutdown times, autofocus lag, prefocus lag, cycle time, and download speed. That LCD also ranks above average.
Above average doesn't really describe it, though. The Canon SD750's performance numbers are really stellar (see the Performance Tab above and below for more).
The SD750 ranks average only in its 3x optical zoom and weight (which is not really a problem), although it's below average in flash recycling, at 8.9 seconds.
Zoom performance is one of those little things you may not notice until you use it. Some cameras step through a series of fixed settings, some smoothly zoom in and out. The Canon SD750's is a smooth zoom. It's responsive enough to stop zooming when you release the Zoom ring, too, so composing is precise instead of frustrating.
The Canon SD750's lens isn't stretching the boundaries of optical design at 3x, and it shows with rankings of very low 0.5 percent barrel distortion at wide angle and no measurable distortion at all at telephoto. Luke, however, noticed some significant softness in the corners.
Scene modes are not very extensive (how could there not be a Landscape mode?) but include some worth remembering. I had fun with the Canon SD750's Aquarium setting, but suspect I'd have gotten better results if the room were darkened (something I couldn't test at the doctor's office).
The Canon SD750's image quality was a surprisingly mixed bag.
One issue was the 4x digital zoom, which enlarges the cropped data to the full resolution size. Digital zoom is really just a crop from the center of the frame, and in this case Canon upsamples it to 3,072 x 2,304 pixels. That inevitably creates unwanted softness.
With 7.1 megapixels to play with, I'd have preferred a digital zoom that just cropped the image to a smaller pixel size, which is kinder to detail. The Canon SD750's digital zoom images are more than a little soft. Take a look in particular at the full-resolution digital zoom image of the bike rider in the gallery.
Another issue was a strong blue color cast in the Canon SD750's Digital Macro shots taken in open shade. There are three in the gallery (some graffiti and a key closeup) plus one more (the stitching on a bike glove) shot in sunlight that shows a perfectly normal color balance. All those shots were taken with Auto white balance, as you can confirm in the Full Exif Display. There's a hint of this in the Goddess shot where the white checks on the tablecloth are also quite blue.
My daylight shots of the city were taken several hours later than usual, probably explaining the bluer-than-normal sky.
The Canon SD750's image quality at high ISO was an interesting issue, too. I am more forgiving of image noise (something the DIGIC III tries very hard to minimize) than most because it lets me get a shot I wouldn't otherwise be able to capture, and I can always improve the image with noise removal software like Noiseware that can take its time, refer to a history of improvements and do a thorough job with my own input -- all things which in-camera noise reduction can't do.
So while there's significant noise starting at ISO 400, I found it acceptable even at ISO 1,600. The doll shots show something a bit more than that, though. The Canon SD750's very low-light images of the dolls all suffered a little camera blur below ISO 1,600 (look at the eyelashes and eyebrows of the full resolution images). Not surprising. Even at ISO 1,600, the shutter speed was very slow and hard to hand hold at just under 1/30 second. So ISO 800 was 1/14 and 400 was taken at 1/6. And that's why I missed image stabilization even on this modest 3x zoom lens.
The Canon SD750's battery life was unusually good. I didn't charge the battery for the first shots I took, scrambling up the hill quickly to get the city shots. I charged it after that and it was fine for days. Then, just to be prudent, I charged it again and it quickly recharged. It's always nice to have a spare battery, but in this case, it wouldn't get much use.
Shooting. After I take my zoom range shots on Twin Peaks, I take a few tourist shots. City Hall is a good one, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the shot up Market Street (which should show the Ferry Building at the far end). Those are all real world tests, the kind of pictures the people around me are taking.
With 7.1 megapixels to record detail, you can almost see the hands on the clock on the Ferry Building. That's pretty impressive. You may not think so as you're framing the shot, though. The Canon SD750 shows a rather coarse live image on the LCD. But as soon as you snap the shutter, the LCD displays the captured image at full resolution.
While I was up there, I thought I'd test the Canon SD750's Digital Macro mode, which locks the lens at its wide angle setting so you can get close to your subject, but then lets you use digital zoom to crop even tighter. That makes for some pretty intimate compositions. Take, for example, the key. The full resolution image is indeed soft, but looking at any of the thumbnails shows you what a little resampling and sharpening can do.
The FocusRange Exif tag indicates what shots were taken in Macro mode. The EasyMode tag indicates if it was Digital Macro. My flower shots, for example, were just Macro (with EasyMode at Manual).
The best detail is probably in the cable car shot, even though the aperture is f/3.1 That's a little soft in the background, although the front of the cable car is sharp. Tony Bennett's heart with Union Square behind it is sharp, too, at f/8.4 but there again the background isn't quite as sharp as I'd hoped or expected given my recent experience with other digicams. Unsharp mask in Photoshop or Canon's bundled software fixes that up, but you have to decide whether you're going to take that step (the SD750 has no in-camera sharpness adjustment).
Hanging around yet another doctor's office with the Canon SD750 the other day, I had the bright idea to shoot pictures of the aquarium (well, the reading material was all rather alarming). The best of that series is in the gallery. What's Aquarium mode do? To find out, I had to dig through the manuals (why, why, why does Canon insist of dividing its information between Basic and Advanced User Guides?). Aquarium mode sets ISO, white balance and color balance. Not Macro mode, though. I had to do that myself. The colors look pretty close, although at ISO 800, there's plenty of noise and the shots are pretty soft at f/2.8.
Actually getting a shot off was not hard, though.
Waiting for a bus, I saw a rather unusual cyclist rolling up to a stop light on his high wheel bike, the bike that occasioned the phrase "taking a header." I was able to get the Canon SD750 out of my pocket, turn it on and zoom in on him as he waited for the green light. And I was able to get a few more shots of him as he mounted the bike and crossed the street.
The Canon SD750 was fun to shoot with and pretty to look at, but I was less thrilled with the images as I studied them on my monitor. They appeared generally soft, and somewhat off color using Auto white balance with a bit too much contrast and saturation. Of course, some folks like contrasty, saturated images. As it goes, the Canon SD750 isn't their best, sharpest model, but it's pretty good for basic snapshots. Corners are soft, but that's to be expected for a camera of this size. I absolutely recommend against liberal use of the digital zoom (most of us here at Imaging Resource turn it off by default).
I also want to note that the Canon SD750 I received for review in San Francisco produced sharper images than the silver-accented sample that stayed in Georgia for testing. This latter camera had some serious blurring in the lower left quadrant of each image. Depending on the zoom setting, this wide blur area moved from left to right. We reshot a few of the targets when the black model made it back to the lab, but the FAR shots still show this softness, especially in the middle of the zoom. The best we can recommend is to test your own camera should you choose the Canon SD750. Our models had serial numbers in the single digits, so it could have been due to early production errors.
As beautiful as the Canon SD750 is, we're rather drawn to a slightly less expensive model for higher quality images: the Canon SD1000. It doesn't have the terrific screen of the SD750, but it did perform better in our testing.
- 7.1 megapixel CCD
- 3-inch color TFT LCD monitor, 230,000 pixels
- 3x, 5.8-17.4mm lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera
- Maximum 4x digital zoom
- 9-point AiAF autofocus system with face detection
- Canon's DIGIC III image processor
- Automatic exposure control with adjustable settings
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.9, depending on lens zoom position
- Built-in flash with three modes, plus slow-sync, FE lock, and Red-eye reduction
- SD/SDHC/MMC-compatible memory card storage, 32MB SD card included
- Power supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (charger included), or optional AC adapter kit
- Canon Digital Camera Solution Software v30.0 with Zoom browser EX 5.8, Photostitch 3.1, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms
- Print/Share button
- Adjustable ISO settings of up to 1,600 and ISO HI Auto setting
- 16:9 Widescreen still image capture mode
- Five Movie modes with sound (up to 640 x 480 pixels at up to 30 frames per second, with a 320 x 240 Fast Frame mode at 60-fps)
- Continuous Shooting mode
- Stitch-Assist left or right panorama mode
- Infinity and Macro focus modes plus "Digital Macro" mode
- Customizable "My Camera" settings
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release, plus custom timer with multi-shot feature
- Sound Memo option for recording captions
- Spot, Center-Weighted, and Evaluative exposure metering
- White balance (color) adjustment with six modes, including a Custom setting
- My Colors menu for color adjustment before capture
- My Colors menu for color adjustment after capture
- Unusual Color Accent and Color Swap features for special effects in still images or movies
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatibility
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)
- A/V cable for connection to a television set
In the Box
The PowerShot SD750 ships with the following items in the box:
- PowerShot SD750 Digital ELPH body
- Lithium battery pack NB-4L
- Battery charger CB-2LV
- 32-MB SD memory card SDC-32M
- Wrist strap WS-DC2
- USB cable IFC-400PCU
- AV cable AVC-CD300
- Digital camera solution CD-ROM
- Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card. These days, a 1GB or 2GB cards are quite affordable, so get the biggest you can
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
The Canon PowerShot SD750 Digital ELPH is one of the prettiest cameras I've had the pleasure to review. And it was indeed a pleasure. The Canon SD750's fast startup and shutdown times never got in the way, and the responsive shutter made me forget all about shutter lag. I even had some fun shooting with the Canon SD750's Digital Macro mode, and more fun shooting a tank of fish using Aquarium Scene mode.
I did miss a longer zoom than the Canon SD750's 3x optical lens could deliver, and found myself often resorting to digital zoom outdoors with often fuzzy results. I also missed image stabilization for low light shooting, since ISO 1,600 barely gave me a hand-holdable shutter speed. But the Canon SD750's image quality was the biggest disappointment. Most of my images were soft throughout, skies were strangely blued and shade shots showed a pronounced blue color cast. All of this was barely detectable on the Canon SD750's large, bright LCD, which just made for greater disappointment. Overall, the Canon SD750 is a pretty good choice, but we think the less expensive Canon PowerShot SD1000 is a better choice unless you just have to have the big, beautiful screen on the Canon SD750.