Canon SD800 IS Review

 
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Canon SD800 IS Design

Canon's Perpetual Curve design, which has graced the Digital ELPH line for some time now, adds a chrome lip and cover to the top end of the image stabilized SD800 IS' smooth case. Its pocketable dimensions of 3.52 x 2.28 x 0.99 inches (89.5 x 58.0 x 25.1 millimeters) weigh just 6.17 ounces (175 grams) with its battery and a card, about average for its class. The Canon SD800 IS, which can stand on its side or its end, looks comfortable either way. It's not the slimmest digicam you can find, but it fits your hand like a bar of soap.

The front of the Canon SD800 IS will be familiar to fans of the ELPH line. The lens dominates on the right side with the flash tucked into the top right corner. Right above the lens is the self-timer lamp with the viewfinder window just to its left. The lens telescopes out and back in very quickly, above average for its class, extending about five-eighths of an inch from the body in two sections.

Controls are located nearest the right hand with the large Shutter button surrounded by the Zoom lever most prominent at the right side of the top panel. To their left and toward the front edge you'll see the small hole for the microphone. In the middle of the panel adjacent to the stylish swath cut by the edge of the two body panels is a plastic crescent-shaped Power button that lights up green when you press it to turn on the camera. The speaker grill is further to the left.

On the right side of the Canon SD800 IS (as viewed from the rear) are the AV Out and USB ports, protected by a hinged, chrome plastic door that swings out and downward to reveal the ports. Below the door is the wrist strap attachment eyelet that does not protrude from the body profile.

The opposite side of the camera is bare, showing only two screws and the four small feet that let you stand the Canon SD800 IS up vertically.

On the back panel, the 2.5 inch LCD dominates the left two-thirds just below two small indicator lamps and the tiny viewfinder eyepiece. The lamps indicate the camera's status (ready to shoot, recording, flash ready, camera shake for the green/orange upper indicator and focus mode, focus difficulty for the yellow bottom indicator). The controls aligned to the right of the LCD are topped by the Mode dial, with options for Playback, Auto, Manual (actually a Programmed Auto), Scene, and Movie modes. Below that is the Print/Share button, followed by the Four-way navigator with the usual four arrow keys and options for ISO/Jump, Flash, Erase/Continuous/Self-Timer, and Macro/Infinity settings. In the middle of the dial is the Function/Set button that brings up the shooting menu and confirms menu choices. Below the dial are the Display and Menu buttons.

The bottom of the SD800 IS has six feet to stand on, a metal tripod mount centered off the LCD but right next to the card/battery compartment cover, which has a small flap for the DC coupler terminal (or dummy battery). Inside the compartment, the battery and SD memory card slots line up next to each other. A small spring-loaded latch ensures the battery won't accidentally fall out when you open the compartment cover.

 

Canon SD800 IS 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 SD800 IS' Shutter button on the 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: To the left of the Shutter button on the Canon SD800 IS's top panel, this button turns the camera on, or off. When on, the opaque plastic button turns green.


Mode Dial: At the top of the right side of the back panel, this rotating dial controls the camera's operating mode, offering the following options:

  • Playback Mode: Replays captured images, and movies, with options for image management, and printing.
  • Auto Still Record Mode: Sets the camera for still image capture, with limited user options.
  • Manual Still Record Mode: Sets the camera for still image capture (actually a Programmed Auto mode), with varying exposure options available through the Function menu (though still no direct aperture or shutter speed controls).
  • Scene Mode: Accesses the 10 preset Scene modes, which include: Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, and Underwater modes.
  • Movie Mode: Captures moving images with sound in several different modes.


Print/Share Button: Below and to the left of Mode Dial on the rear panel, the Print/Share button starts uploads to Windows computers, or connects to a variety of compatible printers, including those that understand the PictBridge protocol. The button glows blue when ready to print, or transfer images, and flashes blue when printing, or transferring images.


Four-way navigator: This four-way rocker ring is located to the right of the Canon SD800's LCD monitor, and serves multiple functions. Canon actually doesn't give it a name on the SD800, instead preferring to call out only the buttons. For continuity, we'll refer to it as the Four-way navigator.

In any settings menu, the ring navigates through menu selections depending on which section is pressed. In Record mode, the top part of the ring cycles through ISO speeds from Auto to Auto High, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1,600 equivalents. The left side cycles the focus modes between Macro, Infinity, and 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 portion activates the Self-Timer and Continuous Shooting modes, or returns to the normal exposure mode.

In Playback mode, the top of the ring calls the Jump menu, and the bottom 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 directions pan within the view.

Function/Set Button (see image above): In the center of the Four-way navigator, this button activates the Canon SD800'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 shooting options available in the Record mode selected on the Mode dial. Auto offers none. Manual offers Manual, Digital Macro, Color Accent, Color Swap, Stitch Assist Right, Stitch Assist Left. Scene offers Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, and Underwater. Movie offers Standard, Fast Frame Rate, Compact, Color Accent, and Color Swap.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases, or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents in one-third-step increments.
  • Long Shutter Mode: If Long Shutter mode is enabled through the settings menu, this option lets you select the shutter speed from one to 15 seconds.
  • 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 (Still): Sets the JPEG compression to Superfine, Fine, or Normal.
  • Frame Rate (Movie): Sets the movie frame rate to 30 or 15 frames per second.
  • Resolution: Specifies the image resolution. Still image resolutions are 3,072 x 2,304, 2,592 x 1,944, 2,048 x 1,536, 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 4 x 6 postcard. A Widescreen mode shoots in 16:9 format at 3,072 x 1,728. This mode is for playback on widescreen televisions, or printing on wide paper. Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 pixels.


Display Button: Below the Four-way navigator and to the left, this button cycles through the LCD image, and information displays. In Playback mode, it cycles through the image only, information display, and info display with histogram modes.


Menu Button: To the right of the Display button, this button accesses the LCD menu system in both Record and Playback modes.

 

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