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Canon PowerShot SX100 IS Optics


Lens

Zoom
A generous 10x optical zoom with good performance. Digital zoom performance is a little better than average.

36mm 360mm 4x Digital Zoom

The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS's optical zoom covers the equivalent of a 36-360mm, a much larger range than the average consumer digital camera. Details are slightly soft at wide angle throughout most of the frame, but not unusually so. I noticed some blurring in the corners, but it wasn't bad. Coma distortion was moderately low. At telephoto, details are much sharper, but bright chromatic aberration was visible in high contrast areas toward the edges of the frame. Details are soft with the 4x digital zoom enabled, with visible artifacts, but results here are actually pretty good for digital zoom. The image would be quite usable if kept to a small size.

Macro
A tiny macro area with good detail and high resolution. Pretty good performance with the camera's flash as well.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS' macro setting performed quite well, capturing a very small minimum area of 1.08 x 0.81 inches (28 x 21 millimeters). Detail and resolution were both excellent at the center of the frame (the dust on the edge of the coin is very well defined), with minimal softening in the corners from the lens, but a fair amount of chromatic aberration. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) Exposure is quite uneven, with a very strong hot spot along the left edge of the frame. The SX100 IS' flash throttled down for the macro area pretty well, and though the exposure is a little uneven and dim, actually resulted in a better image.

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion, though low pincushion.

Barrel distortion at 36mm is 0.8%
Pincushion at 360mm is 0.2%

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto). The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS' 0.8% barrel distortion at wide angle is on the high side of average among the digital cameras we test, though I think this level is too high. At the telephoto end, the SX100 IS' 0.2% pincushion distortion is moderately low.

Chromatic aberration
High and bright at both wide angle and telephoto.

Wide: High and bright,
top left @ 200%
Wide: Very bright,
top right @ 200%
Tele: High and bright
top left @200%
Tele: High and bright,
lower left @200%

Chromatic aberration is quite high at both wide angle and telephoto, showing a wide swath of very bright coloration on either side of the target lines. The effect is quite noticeable in several of the SX100 IS' images. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
Strong blurring in the corners of the frame at wide angle, no blurring at telephoto.

Wide: Very soft in the
corners (upper right).
Wide: Sharp at center.
Tele: Slightly softer in the
corners (lower left)
Tele: Sharp at center.

The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS produced very soft corners of the frame at full wide angle. At full telephoto, blurring was not an issue. The effect is noticeable in quite a few of the camera's wide angle images.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Very good accuracy with the Canon SX100 IS's LCD monitor.

36mm eq., LCD 360mm eq., LCD

The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS's LCD monitor showed about 102% coverage accuracy at wide angle, and about 100% at telephoto. Very good performance here.