We've provided this printable version of our review for your convenience. Please remember that your shopping clicks support this site. If you think this camera is a good choice for you, please consider returning to the link below to check prices and make a purchase via our shopping links.

Also note that this is just one of the pages from this review. Full reviews have several pages with complete analysis of the many test shots we take with each camera. Feel free to download and print them out to see how the camera will perform for you.

Full Review at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD800IS/SD800ISA.HTM

 

Canon SD800 IS Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color and hue accuracy, slight oversaturation in bright reds and blues, undersaturation in yellows and yellow-greens.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The SD800 tends to leave the reds alone, unlike most Canons, but amps the blue tones skewing them toward cyan for more appealing skies. We found its color pleasing on a wide range of typical subjects though. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the SD800 IS performed well, with only slight warmth.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The SD800 IS showed small color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, and pulled oranges toward yellow, but overall had more hue-accurate color than most consumer cameras we test.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm casts with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. About average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.7 EV
Incandescent WB
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was just a bit warm and reddish in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting resulted in a more yellow color balance that actually looked more pleasing overall. Manual white balance got it just about right. The SD800 IS required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color is a bit dark and yellow in Auto mode, making the blue flowers very dark and purplish. (A very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Good color balance overall, with fairly bright colors. Heightened contrast under bright outdoor conditions.

Auto White Balance, +0.7 EV Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots showed better than average exposure accuracy, though with notably high contrast under harsh sunlight. Strong highlights tended to produce slight underexposures, as in the house shot above, with a limited midtone range, but exposure accuracy was still better than average when compared to many other consumer digicams. Overall color looked pretty good, with bright reds and blues that nonetheless didn't look too overdone.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,250 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to 1,250 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,250 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,250 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,900. (The camera produced slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. So the lines you see at 1,400 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images with excellent detail. Minor blurring of detail from noise suppression in areas of subtle contrast.

Very good definition of high-contrast elements. Even the pine needles in the distance can be made out. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the even shades of Marti's hair here; however, note the high resolution delivered and compare to other cameras.

The Canon SD800's images are quite sharp with just a little softening in the corners. Very little evidence of edge enhancement. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this somewhat, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing limited, blurry detail, though individual strands are visible where a lighted strand passes in front of a darker shadow area. On balance, the SD800 IS shows less detail loss to noise reduction at low ISO settings than average, but more at high ISOs.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, but very high noise and strong blurring at the higher settings, especially at ISO 1,600.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600

The SD800's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. (As noted above, better than average in this respect.) However, starting at ISO 400, image noise begins to dominate areas of fine detail. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise is so strong and blurring so significant, that resulting images are practically useless for printing. Also, by ISO 800 skin colors start to deteriorate, taking on an unflattering purple cast.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but high contrast limits both highlight and shadow detail. Limited low-light capabilities, but sensitive enough to capture bright images under typical city street lighting.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Canon SD800 IS had a hard time with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Shadow detail is limited, with the effects noise suppression very evident in the form of smudged detail in deep shadow areas. The camera required a slightly less than average amount of positive compensation at +0.7 EV, making its metering a bit more accurate than most in this particular test. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

 

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
79
Click to see SD800LL00803.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL00804.JPG
5 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL00805.JPG
9.9 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL00806.JPG
16 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL00807.JPG
16 sec
f2.9
ISO
100
Click to see SD800LL01003.JPG
2 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL01004.JPG
4 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL01005.JPG
8 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL01006.JPG
12.6 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL01007.JPG
16 sec
f2.9
ISO
200
Click to see SD800LL02003.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL02004.JPG
2 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL02005.JPG
4 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL02006.JPG
6.3 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL02007.JPG
16 sec
f2.9
ISO
400
Click to see SD800LL04003.JPG
0.5 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL04004.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL04005.JPG
2 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL04006.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL04007.JPG
8 sec
f2.9
ISO
800
Click to see SD800LL08003.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL08004.JPG
0.5 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL08005.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL08006.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL08007.JPG
4 sec
f2.9
ISO
1600
Click to see SD800LL16003.JPG
1/9 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL16004.JPG
0.3 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL16005.JPG
0.5 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL16006.JPG
0.7 sec
f2.9
Click to see SD800LL16007.JPG
2 sec
f2.9

Low light:
The Canon SD800 IS performed well on our low light test, with good color from the Auto white balance setting. At the lower ISO settings (79 and 100), images were bright down to 1/8 foot-candle, which is about 1/8 as bright as average city street lighting at night. From ISO 200 to 1,600, images were bright down to the lowest light levels we test. The camera's autofocus system also worked very well, able to focus on the subject down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and well past the darkest light level we test with the AF assist lamp enabled. Keep in mind that the long shutter times here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
A useful flash range, and moderate orange cast with incandescent lighting. Our standard shots required +0.7 EV compensation.

28mm equivalent 105mm equivalent
Normal Flash, +0.7 EV Slow-Sync Flash, +0.7 EV

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle, but more even at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Canon SD800's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring use of +0.7 EV exposure compensation to get reasonably bright results. Even here, the exposure is a little dim, with a noticeable orange cast. The Slow-Sync flash mode also needed +0.7 EV exposure compensation, though it resulted in more even lighting (and a stronger orange cast).

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see SD800FL06W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL07W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL08W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL09W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL10W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL11W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see SD800FL12W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL13W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL14W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL15W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL16W.JPG
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see SD800FL06T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL07T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL08T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL09T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL10T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL11T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see SD800FL12T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL13T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL14T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL15T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100
Click to see SD800FL16T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.9
ISO 100

At ISO 100, flash power remained fairly bright to the 16 foot test distance at wide angle but falloff began about the 12 foot test distance with telephoto.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see SD800FL_MFR130WAXXXX.JPG
13.0 feet
Auto ISO
Click to see SD800FL_MFR066TAXXXX.JPG
6.6 feet
Auto ISO

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of their claims. In the shots above, the SD800 IS seems to perform exactly as Canon says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto. While the range is rather limited, the good news here is that the camera isn't significantly boosting its ISO. This would produce greater flash range, but at the cost of higher image noise. In Auto ISO mode, the SD800's flash photos are nearly free of image noise; except at telephoto, which shows moderate chroma noise.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Great print quality, great color, crisp prints at 11x14 inches, usable ones at 13x19. ISO 400 images are usable to 11x14 inches, better at 8x10. ISO 800 is usable at 8x10, but ISO 1,600 is only good at 4x6.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

The Canon SD800 IS produced crisp prints at 11x14 inches, and somewhat softer but still acceptable ones at 13x19. As always though, the real test of print size came at the higher ISO settings. Here, the SD800's ISO 400 images held up reasonably well at 11x14, but were quite good at 8x10 inches. The highest size we recommend using is ISO 800, which also turned in usable 8x10 images; not bad for such a small camera. 5x7 and 4x6 shots at 800 are quite good, with very good color. ISO 1,600 images are only good at 4x6, an then only when held about two feet away.

Color-wise, the Canon SD800 IS did quite well, with bright but natural-looking color and good-looking skin tones.

Bottom line, low-ISO shots from the SD800 IS look excellent and hold together well at large print sizes.