Canon SX10 IS Review
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color accuracy, with only slight oversaturation in strong reds.
Saturation. The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS oversaturates strong reds, but this is fairly common among consumer digital cameras. Saturation throughout the rest of the spectrum looks about right, with only a slight push in the blues. 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. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the PowerShot SX10 IS' Caucasian skin tones had a very slight pink cast, while darker skin tones were pushed toward yellow slightly. However, performance here is still pleasing. 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. The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS showed only a few small color shifts
relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects,
pushing cyan toward blue and orange toward yellow. Hue accuracy is generally
very good. 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
Best color with Manual white balance, slightly more than average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was only a little warm and reddish in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting produced a strong pink cast. Manual mode produced the most accurate overall color, though it too appeared just a little magenta and cool in some areas. That said, the white values in Manual mode are just about perfect numerically. The PowerShot SX10 IS required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a bright exposure, which is a little more than average. 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, with limited shadow detail, but generally good color.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS responded to the harsh lighting with very strong contrast and a limited midtone range. Detail is minimal in the deep shadows, due to noise grain and some noise suppression. The camera's adjustable contrast setting did help even the exposure, however. Overall color is pretty good, though reds are quite strong in the portrait shot and greens are a little dark in the outdoor house shot. Still, fair results overall.
Very high resolution, 1,600 - 1,700 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,600-1,700 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,600-1,700 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600-1,700 lines per picture height in both directions. While lines are distinguishable here, they aren't really as smooth as they should be, due largely to luminance noise. Extinction was hinted at right before 2,000 lines horizontally, though didn't occur vertically. 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
Fairly sharp detail overall, though soft in areas of heavy noise suppression. Some edge enhancement artifacts on high contrast subjects as well.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of edge enhancement.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS captures a lot of fine detail, though detail definition suffers from noise suppression. In high contrast areas, the camera produces bright enhancement artifacts, such as along the trim in the crop above left. Luminance noise is also seen in the skies and particularly in the shadow under the eave. 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 moderately high noise suppression, with the darker areas of hair showing limited detail. Individual strands remain visible in the moderate shadows, but quickly lose definition. 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
Good noise handling at the lower sensitivity settings, though noise suppression becomes fairly strong at the higher settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
1,600 x 1,200 pixels
The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS handles noise pretty well at its lower sensitivity settings, with low interference from both noise and noise suppression to about ISO 200. Beginning at ISO 400, noise becomes a little more noticeable, and details begin to merge from noise suppression. ISO 1,600 results in higher noise and noise suppression, with slight shifts in color balance as well. The camera's ISO 3,200 setting is limited to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, but results here are still quite blurry. As always, see the Print Quality section below to learn what we recommend for maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, though limited shadow detail and high contrast. Good low-light performance.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS responded to the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above with high contrast and hot highlights. Shadow detail is limited, mostly due to noise suppression, and highlights have limited detail at +0.3 EV as well (though this exposure was best from skin tones). The PowerShot SX10 IS features an adjustable contrast setting, which does even out the tonal distribution slightly, though not severely. 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 SX10 IS performed well in low lighting, thanks in part to its maximum shutter time of 16 seconds. Images were bright to about 1/8 foot-candle at the lowest ISO setting, though you could argue for usable results at the 1/16 foot-candle setting here. Color balance appeared just slightly cool with the Auto white balance setting, but good overall. The camera's AF system was only able to focus down to just above the 1/4 foot-candle light level unassisted, but to complete darkness with the AF assist enabled.
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
Fairly strong flash power at close range, though coverage is slightly uneven. Our standard shots required about average exposure compensation, though slightly more was needed in Slow-Sync mode.
|28mm equivalent||560mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash, +0.3 EV||Slow-Sync Flash, Default Exposure|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was uneven at wide angle, and the flash was no match for the camera's 20x optical zoom, however. In the Indoor test, the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS' flash underexposed our subject only slightly at its default setting, requiring an exposure boost of +0.3 EV. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much brighter and more even results at the default exposure, though with a warm cast from the background lighting.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle and ISO 100, flash intensity remained fairly consistent throughout the test range. At telephoto, flash power maintained the same intensity to about 10 feet, decreasing in brightness only slightly at 11 feet and beyond.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 200
Auto ISO 200
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS performs almost as Canon says it will, though it had to raise the sensitivity slightly at both wide angle and telephoto settings. 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 at 13x19 inches. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are better at 8x10.
Printed results from the Canon SX10 are quite good, easily handling enlargement up to 13x19 inches at the lowest ISO settings, though with some visible luminance noise in solid fields of color on close inspection. ISO 400 looks better at 11x14 inches with sharp detail; shadows do exhibit some noise until you reduce to 8x10. ISO 800 images look good at 8x10, and ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 5x7, though with some mottled color noise in the shadows. ISO 3,200 shots were still too soft to be acceptable at 4x6 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 Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 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 SX10 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 SX10 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 SX10 IS
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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.