Canon SD600 Review

 
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Canon SD600 Design

The Canon SD600 is not the most stylish model in the Digital ELPH line -- that honor would probably go to the SD630 or the SD700 IS -- but it definitely carries on the classic ELPH style which has enduring appeal. Measuring 3.39 (W) x 2.11 (H) x .85 (D) with its lens retracted, the camera is small enough to fit in most pockets but with enough weight -- 5.5 ounces (156 grams) with the battery and a card -- provided by its metal chassis to let you know you're shooting with a solid digital camera, not a toy. While it may fail to dazzle the way it used to, that just shows how much the rest of the digital camera market has caught up to Canon's early design concepts.

The front of the Canon SD600 is distinctly ELPH-like, with the lens slightly off-center to the right, and both the viewfinder and flash just above it. A light emitter, next to the optical viewfinder, serves multiple purposes, including autofocus assist, red-eye reduction, and the self-timer countdown. The camera's telescoping lens moves into place quickly, projecting about 5/8-inch from the front of the camera when powered on, and retracts fully within the camera when switched off to maintain a flat profile. To the left of the lens is a tiny hole for the camera's microphone. No finger-grip is provided on the PowerShot SD600 but the change in placement of the mode switch on the back so that it's on the right does provide a convenient thumb rest.

The Shutter button, Zoom ring, and Power button are all located at the right of the Canon SD600's top, with the former two protruding from the surface, while the latter is indented and features an LED in the center to indicate that the camera is switched on.

On the right side of the PowerShot SD600 (as viewed from the rear) are the AV Out and USB ports, concealed by a hinged, plastic door that lifts upward to reveal the ports. The door features a metallic finish, and fits very snugly back into place with a gentle press. Below the door is the wrist strap attachment eyelet.

The opposite side of the Canon SD600 is bare, with only a couple of screws visible, plus four tiny protrusions in the corners that let the camera stand vertically on its end.

The remaining camera controls are on the PowerShot SD600's rear panel, along with the optical and LCD viewfinders. The LCD monitor is 2.5 inches diagonally, which a year ago would've been considered large for a subcompact camera but now is only average. Because of the screen size, all controls are located to the right. As mentioned previously, the speaker and mode switch on the back of the camera have been flip-flopped from the SD450, allowing easier access to the switch with your thumb. The switch serves as a good thumb rest and ensures a better grip on the camera as well as providing its basic function which is letting you select between Still Record, Movie, and Playback mode. Because of the placement change, the speaker is not covered up with your thumb as it had been on the SD450. Below the speaker is the Print / Share button, which features a blue LED in the center that lights when the camera is ready to print or transfer images, and blinks when either is in process. A Four-Way Arrow pad incorporates most of the quick settings, with the outside buttons handling both navigation and items like Macro, ISO, and Flash modes. The Function button nestles in the middle of the Four-way Arrow pad, also serving as the Set button for making menu selections. Below this arrangement are the Display and Menu buttons. Finally, two LED lamps next to the PowerShot SD600's viewfinder report camera status, lighting to indicate when focus is set or the flash is fully charged.

The Canon SD600 features a nice, flat bottom panel, which holds the metal tripod mount and the battery / memory card compartment. The tripod socket is centered under the lens, good for panorama shooting. Inside the battery / memory card compartment, the battery and SD memory card slots line up side by side. A small spring-loaded latch ensures the battery won't accidentally fall out when you open the compartment cover. Unfortunately the tripod mount is also right alongside the battery / card compartment door, so you have to remove the camera from a tripod if the battery life or flash card space is exhausted (although in fairness, this is hardly a camera you'll shoot with in a studio anyway).

 

Canon SD600 External Controls


Shutter Button
: Located on the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. If the Self-Timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the countdown.

Zoom Lever (see image above): Surrounding the Canon SD600's Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, the wide-angle end activates first a nine-image index display, and then a "jump" mode that allows you to page through screens of nine thumbnails at once. The telephoto setting zooms in on captured images for closer inspection of fine details.


Power Button
(see image above): To the left of the Shutter button on the Canon SD600's top panel, this button turns the camera on or off. A green LED in the center of the button illuminates whenever the camera is on.


Mode Switch
: Next to the top right corner of the Canon SD600's LCD monitor on the camera's rear panel, this sliding switch controls the camera's operating mode, offering the following selections:

  • Still Record Mode: Sets the camera for still image capture, with varying exposure options available through the Function menu.
  • Movie Mode: Captures moving images with sound in four different modes.
  • Playback Mode: Replays captured images and movies, with options for image management and printing.


Print/Share Button:
Just below the speaker, the Print/Share button is used for activating uploads to Windows computers or connections to a variety of compatible printers, including those complying with the PictBridge standard. The button glows blue when ready to print or transfer images, and flashes blue when printing or transferring images.


Four-Way Ring Selector
: This four-way rocker ring is located to the right of the PowerShot SD600's LCD monitor and serves multiple functions. In any Settings menu, the ring navigates through menu selections depending on which section is pressed. The top part of the ring cycles through ISO speeds from Auto to 80, 100, 200, 400, or 800 ISO equivalents. The left side controls Macro and Infinity focus modes, and cycles back around to the normal AF mode. The right side accesses the camera's flash modes, cycling through Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced Off, and Slow-Sync settings. Finally, the bottom part of the ring activates the Self-Timer and Continuous Shooting modes, or returns to the normal exposure mode.

In Playback mode, the up section calls the Jump menu, and the bottom section calls the Delete menu, while the right and left sides scroll through captured images and movie files. When you zoom in on an image, all four sides pan the view.

Function / Set Button (see image above): Occupying the center of the four-way control ring, this control activates the Canon SD600's Function menu in any record mode, and confirms selections once any menu has been invoked. When used to activate the Function menu, the following options are available (not all options being available in all modes):

  • Shooting Mode: Selects among the available shooting modes: Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, My Colors, Scene, and Kids & Pets.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
  • Long Shutter: Accesses longer shutter times, with thirteen steps from one to 15 seconds. (Only appears when enabled through the Record menu, and is accessed by pressing the Menu button while the Exposure Compensation option is highlighted.)
  • White Balance: Controls the color balance of images. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual setting).
  • My Colors: Enables Vivid Color (high color saturation), Neutral Color (low color saturation), Sepia, Black-and-White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color, or turns My Colors off.
  • Metering: Sets the camera's metering mode to Evaluative, Center-Weighted, or Spot.
  • Compression: Sets the JPEG compression to Superfine, Fine, or Normal.
  • Resolution: Specifies the image resolution. Still image resolutions are 2816 x 2112, 2272 x 1704, 1,600 x 1,200, and 640 x 480 pixels; a Postcard mode also takes the resolution to 1,600 x 1,200 and locks the resolution to Fine; a date stamp can be printed on the image in this mode, and the top and bottom of the screen are greyed out when you half-press the Shutter button, showing the portions of the image that won't fit on a 4x6 postcard. A Widescreen mode shoots in 16:9 format at 2816 x 1584 with portions not recorded left black. This mode is for playback on widescreen televisions or printing on wide paper. Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels.


Display Button: Lower left of the Four-way rocker button, this button cycles through the LCD image and information displays and in Record mode includes an LCD Off state for power saving when desired. In Playback mode, this button cycles through the image only, information display, and info display with histogram modes.


Menu Button: Lower right of the Canon SD600's Four-way nav controls, this button accesses the LCD menu system in both Record and Playback modes.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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