Canon SD890 IS Review
Canon SD890 IS Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color and hue accuracy, with only minor oversaturation of some colors.
Saturation. The Canon PowerShot SD890 IS pushed the strong red and blue tones a little, but overall saturation is just about right on. Thus, color was pleasing across a wide range of subjects. 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.
Skin tones. With the color balanced properly for the light source, the PowerShot SD890 IS's skin tones looked pretty natural, though slightly pinkish in some instances. 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.
Hue. When looking at the correct mathematical translation of colors
in its subjects, the PowerShot SD890 IS did push some hues. For example,
cyan is pushed toward blue, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green.
This is fairly common among consumer digital cameras. Hue is "what
color" the color is.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Pretty good results with both Auto and Manual white balances, compared to average performance here. Less than average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
The Canon PowerShot SD890 IS' Auto and Manual white balance settings performed well here, though the Auto setting did have a very slight reddish-pinkish tint overall. (The Incandescent setting produced a stronger pink cast.) Manual mode was the most accurate, with good color throughout the frame. At +0.7 EV, the SD890 IS required less than the average amount of positive exposure compensation, though results here are just on the verge of being too bright. Good results overall. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
High contrast outdoors, but still good overall exposure and a useful contrast adjustment. Good color too.
|Manual White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS produced high contrast under harsh lighting, with hot highlights and deep shadows. Despite the high contrast, both the shadows and highlights hold onto a lot of detail. The camera's adjustable contrast setting did a pretty good job of toning down the exposure, boosting shadows a little for a more even exposure. Color balance was good as well, though with oversaturated color.
Very high resolution, 1,550 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,550 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,550 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,550 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction didn't really occur. 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Very sharp images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Minor noise suppression as well.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with only
minor edge enhancement.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Minimal noise suppression
in the deeper shadows here.
Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot SD890 IS captured excellent detail. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left, but overall performance was quite good here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows some noise suppression among low contrast areas, yet there's still evidence of chroma noise. Still, performance is good here. 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.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with good results even at the higher settings. A big jump in noise at 1,600 equivalent though.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
Overall, the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS produced low to moderate noise, even as high as ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise level is higher, but results are still pretty good. The grain pattern becomes more pronounced at ISO 800, but even here, results are better than average. At ISO 1,600, the noise level takes a big jump however, blurring detail and altering color balance. Overall though, good performance.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Very high resolution with strong detail, though high contrast. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot SD890 IS produced high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above. Shadows were quite dark and highlights quite bright, though the shadow areas held onto a good level of detail. At +0.7 EV, the highlights on the white shirt area a bit too bright, but this is the best overall exposure. The Canon SD890 IS's contrast setting did help things considerably, and did a pretty good job of toning down the exposure. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
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.)
Low light. The Canon PowerShot SD890 IS performed pretty well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level at ISOs 200 and up. At the lower ISOs, images were bright to about 1/4 foot-candle. Color balance was pretty good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked well also, as it was able to focus on the subject almost down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted, and down to the darkest light level with the AF assist enabled. Keep in mind that the longer shutter times here demand the use of a tripod to prevent blurring from camera shake. (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.)
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
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.
Coverage and Range
A reasonably powerful flash (given the size of the camera), though uneven coverage. Our standard shots required average exposure compensation.
|37mm equivalent||185mm equivalent|
Coverage. Flash coverage was uneven at wide angle, with falloff in the corners of the frame. At full telephoto, the target was much dimmer, but coverage uniform. In the Indoor test, the Canon SD890 IS' flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get good results. (About average for this shot.) 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 at a slightly lower EV compensation setting.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained fairly bright out to a distance of about 10 feet, decreasing in brightness slightly from that point on. At full telephoto and ISO 100, intensity started out a little dim, and began to decrease from about 7 feet on.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 200
Auto ISO 200
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the wide angle shot above, the PowerShot SD890 IS performs roughly as Canon says it will, producing a good exposure at the rated distance with its ISO set to Auto (which selected ISO 200). The telephoto exposure is actually a little dim, but usable, and the wide angle shot is slightly overexposed. At telephoto, the camera again boosted ISO to 200 to compensate. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, good color, sharp 13x19-inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are better at 5x7.
The Canon SD890 IS at ISO 80 produces good quality output when printed at 13x19 inches, though with slightly soft corners. 16x19-inch images are also usable, but are softer when examined up close. ISO 100 images retain the same amount of detail, but the chroma noise starts to show up at 13x19 inches. ISO 200 images are good at 11x14, though fine, low contrast detail starts to soften. This softness gets stronger on close inspection at ISO 400, but the quality is still good enough at arm's length. Quality improves when printed at 8x10, however. ISO 800 images are just a bit too grainy even at arm's length when printed at 8x10, but they're better again at 5x7. ISO 1,600 images are blotchy at 5x7, and though they're still soft at 4x6, they might be acceptable to some.
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 images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot SD890 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 SD890 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!
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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.