Canon SD700 IS Review

 
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Canon SD700 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slight oversaturation in reds and blues, but good overall color and hue accuracy.

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 Canon PowerShot SD700 does boost some colors a bit, but less so than many of its competitors, making for color that is bright and pleasing without seeming the least bit overdone. 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. The SD700 did render skin tones just slightly on the pink side in most cases, but only to a degree that most consumers will probably find "heathy-looking."

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the SD700 also performed pretty well, though it shifted oranges and yellows a bit toward yellows and greens, respectively. It also shifted cyan colors a fair ways toward blue, a common tactic most likely meant to produce better-looking sky colors.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with both Incandescent and Manual white balance settings, about average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV
 
Manual White Balance +1.0 EV  

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting looked pretty good with both the Incandescent and Manual white balance settings. Skin tones were a little reddish (more so with the Incandescent than the Manual option), but much better than most cameras average with this tough light source. The auto white balance setting yielded disappointing results though, producing a very warm color cast. (With the SD700, it's well worth taking the time to learn how to use its various white balance options.) The Canon SD700 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color looks very good, although the blue flowers were rendered a little dark. (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, fairly bright colors. About average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure overall, although harsh lighting tended to produce slightly bright highlights and deep shadows. The camera held onto shadow detail fairly well, and overall color outdoors looked very natural and pleasing, if slightly dark in some instances. Exposure accuracy overall was about average, the camera typically requiring the same amount of exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams.

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

Resolution
High resolution, 1,200 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,200 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,700. (The camera did produce 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. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,500 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to 1,200 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,200 lines vertical

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. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Canon PowerShot SD700's images are quite sharp, with almost perfect in-camera sharpening applied. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone. This sometimes results in visible "halos" around objects, but the SD700 seems to avoid this while still delivering plenty of fine detail.)

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 above right shows this very slightly in areas where the contrast between adjacent strands of hair is low. The amount of blurring present here is a fair bit less than average though. Bottom line: An excellent job of balancing detail, sharpness, and image noise.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though much higher noise that blurs detail at the higher settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 High Sensitivity Setting

The Canon PowerShot SD700's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. Starting at ISO 400, the noise level jumps and is more visible, with increased blurring, with a similar increase as you move to ISO 800. That said, even shots at ISO 800 will make 8x10 inch prints that will be acceptable to some users, and ISO 400 shots look surprisingly good when printed that large. All in all, the SD700IS does a much better than average job at high ISO when compared with much of its competition.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though slightly high contrast. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and much darker conditions.

+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 PowerShot SD700 produced slightly high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, though the shadows do hold onto a fair amount of detail. Noise is somewhat high in the shadow areas, contributing to the loss of detail, but overall performance is above average in this regard. The +0.7 EV exposure produced the best looking results overall, as the +1.0 EV shot resulted in very hot highlights. This is a bit less exposure compensation than this shot normally requires with the cameras we 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
80
Click to see SD700LL0803.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
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5 sec
f2.8
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10 sec
f2.8
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15 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL0807.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
Click to see SD700LL1003.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL1004.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL1005.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
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15 sec
f2.8
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15 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see SD700LL2003.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL2006.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL2007.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see SD700LL4003.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL4004.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL4005.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL4006.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL4007.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see SD700LL8003.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL8004.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL8005.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL8006.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700LL8007.JPG
4 sec
f2.8

Low light:
The Canon PowerShot SD700 performed well on our low light test, with good color from the Auto white balance setting. At the lower ISO settings (80 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 800, images were bright down to the lowest light levels we test at. 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 at 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 slightly limited flash range. Our indoor shots required about average positive exposure compensation.

35mm equivalent 140mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.0 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.3 EV

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle, much better at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the SD700 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get reasonably bright results. (This is quite common on this shot though, most cameras we test require about +1EV of exposure boost.) The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. Here, the camera required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost for the best results.

Flash Range: Wide Angle (ISO 100)
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
Click to see SD700FL06W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL07W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL08W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL09W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL10W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft
Click to see SD700FL11W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL12W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL13W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL14W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD700FL15W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8

Flash Range: Telephoto (ISO 100)
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
Click to see SD700FL06T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL07T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL08T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL09T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL10T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft
Click to see SD700FL11T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL12T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL13T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL14T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5
Click to see SD700FL15T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.5

At ISO 100, flash power remained fairly bright to the 14 foot test distance at wide angle, but falloff began at around the eight foot test distance with telephoto.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see SD700FL_MFRW115IAXXXX.JPG
11.5 feet
Auto ISO
(Unknown ISO value)
Click to see SD700FL_MFRT066IAXXXX.JPG
6.6 feet
Auto ISO
(Unknown ISO value)

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 SD700IS 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 SD700's flash photos are very clean and free of image noise.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent print quality, great color, very usable 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 images look good at 8x10 inches, ISO 800 ones are marginal there, great at 5x7 inches.

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 iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

The Canon SD700 performed beautifully in our print tests, producing sharp prints with very appealing color when output on the Canon i9900 printer. At 13x19 inches, the prints began to look slightly soft, but they'd be more than adequate for wall display. At 8x10 inches, prints were tack-sharp.

As always, the real challenge for print size came in the high-ISO realm, but the SD700IS did better than we expected here as well. At ISO 800, 8x10 inch prints were visibly soft and noisy, but not nearly to the extent that we'd normally expect from a compact consumer-level digicam. While a bit soft, we suspect that most consumers would find 8x10 inch prints from ISO 800 shots to be perfectly acceptable to display on a wall or table. At ISO 400 (the point at which most consumer digital cameras start to run out of steam), the SD700's prints were surprisingly sharp and clean-looking.

As we noted earlier, when it came to color, we found the SD700's images to be very bright and colorful, without seeming overdone (overly saturated). The camera's color always seemed bright but eminently believable. - High marks all around for the Canon SD700's print quality!

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Canon SD700-IS

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