Canon SX200 IS Review

 
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Canon PowerShot SX200 IS Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good overall color and saturation, with slight oversaturation in strong reds. Good accuracy as well.

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.

Saturation. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS oversaturates strong reds and blues only slightly, much less than is common among consumer digital cameras. Yellows are actually undersaturated a small amount. 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 SX200 IS' Caucasian skin tones had a slight pink cast, while darker skin tones were pushed toward yellow a bit. 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 SX200 IS showed just a few small color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, pushing cyan toward blue, red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Performance here is about average though, and overall color is generally good. Hue is "what color" the color is.



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

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Best color with Manual white balance, pretty good exposure as well.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was just a hint warm in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting produced a strong pinkish cast. Manual mode produced the most accurate overall color, though it too appeared just a little warm in some places (such as the model's skin tone and hair). However, white values measure out to be almost perfect in Manual mode. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS required a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a bright exposure, which is about average, though results at the default setting aren't too bad either. 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.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Slightly below average exposure accuracy, but good color.

Auto White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS handled harsh lighting fairly well, producing high contrast but pretty good midtones. Shadow detail is somewhat limited, due mostly to the camera's noise suppression efforts. The camera underexposed the outdoor portrait shot at the default exposure, requiring a higher than average exposure compensation of +1.0 EV to keep the face bright, but overexposed the house shot slightly at the default exposure. Overall color looks good, with vibrant greens, blues and reds.

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

Resolution
High resolution, 1,900 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,900 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,900 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,900 lines per picture height in both directions. While lines are distinguishable here, they aren't overly clear. Extinction began around 2,050 lines. 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.

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

Sharpness & Detail
Fine detail is slightly soft from noise suppression, though high contrast areas show noticeable edge enhancement.

Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's some
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 SX200 IS captures a lot of fine detail, though detail definition suffers from noise suppression. In high contrast areas, the camera produces only faint enhancement artifacts, such as along the trim in the crop above left. 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 strong noise suppression, with even the more moderate shadow areas of hair showing limited detail. Individual strands become lost even in the lighter shadows. 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 even at the moderate settings, noise suppression becomes fairly strong.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1,600
ISO 3,200
1,600 x 1,200

The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS handles image noise pretty well at ISOs 80 and 100, with pretty good detail definition. At ISO 200, the noise level becomes noticeable, though fine detail is still good. Starting at ISO 400, noise suppression efforts intensify, blurring detail quite a bit. By ISO 1,600, the entire image looks like it was captured with a soft filter over the lens. At ISO 3,200, image size is restricted to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, but results are still quite blurry. It's important to remember, though, that what you see here at 100 percent onscreen won't necessarily show up in common print sizes, thanks to the Canon SX200's 12.1-megapixel resolution. See the Print Quality section below to find out what the recommended maximum size print is at each ISO setting.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, though limited shadow detail. Fairly strong contrast, but still good results overall. Good low-light capabilities.

Default Exposure +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS performed fairly well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, though contrast is high and high exposure compensation was required to sufficiently brighten the skin tone exposure. Shadow detail is limited, mostly due to noise suppression. At +0.7 EV, the highlights on the white shirt border on becoming too hot, but the default exposure was too dim overall, so we've picked the +1.0 EV shot. The PowerShot SX200 IS features an Intelligent Contrast setting, which did decrease contrast and even out tones, though with a slightly brighter exposure. The camera's Portrait mode also produced a better exposure for this shot than the default, however contrast was still high resulting in some lost highlights. 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 at 1 foot candle, or 11 lux
Click to see SX200IhLLI0080.JPG
4 sec
f3.7
Click to see SX200IhLLI0100.JPG
2.5 sec
f3.6
Click to see SX200IhLLI0200.JPG
1.2 sec
f3.6
Click to see SX200IhLLI0400.JPG
0.6 sec
f3.6
Click to see SX200IhLLI0800.JPG
0.3 sec
f3.6
ISO
80
ISO
100
ISO
200
ISO
400
ISO
800
Click to see SX200IhLLI1600.JPG
1/6 sec
f3.6
Click to see SX200IhLLI3200.JPG
1/13 sec
f3.5
Click to see SX200IhLLNIGHT03.JPG
1/8 sec
f3.5
Click to see SX200IhLLAUTO03.JPG
1/8 sec
f3.5
ISO
1600
ISO
3200
ISO
233
Night
ISO
800
Auto

Low light. The Canon PowerShot SX200 IS performed pretty well under low lighting, with bright results at 1 foot candle (11 lux) and the lowest ISO setting. Night shot mode left the overall scene dark to allow city lights to stand out against a darker background, so it's behaving as intended, raising the ISO to 233. Auto mode assumed a handheld shot, limiting exposure duration to 1/8 second and raising the ISO to 800, producing a dim shot.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to shoot good-looking photos of street-lit scenes; however, note the shutter speed to see whether those shots would be handheld or would require a tripod.

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
Bright flash at close range, with somewhat uneven coverage. Auto exposure with automatic flash produced bright results in our portrait shot.

28mm equivalent 336mm equivalent
Normal Flash, Default Exposure

Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was uneven at wide angle, with about average fall-off in the corners of the frame. However, the PowerShot SX200 IS' flash is no match for its 12x optical zoom lens, so the target is pitch black at full telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS' flash produced fairly bright results in auto mode and autoexposure.


Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see SX200ISFL06W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL07W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL08W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL09W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL10W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL11W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see SX200ISFL12W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL13W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL14W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL15W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL16W.JPG
1/64 sec
f3.6
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see SX200ISFL06T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL07T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL08T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL09T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL10T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL11T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see SX200ISFL12T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL13T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL14T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL15T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see SX200ISFL16T.JPG
1/64 sec
f5.4
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. At wide angle and ISO 100, flash intensity began to decrease from about 6 feet on at wide-angle, and was never sufficient even at six feet at the full telephoto setting.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see L210FLMFR_154WA0240.JPG
9.8 feet
ISO 320
Click to see L210FLMFR_082TA0160.JPG
6.6 feet
ISO 250

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the PowerShot SX200 IS performs as Canon says it will, though it had to raise the sensitivity to ISO 320 at wide angle and ISO 250 at telephoto. 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.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality at 16x20 inches. ISO 400 images are good at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are better at 8x10, ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 5x7.

ISO 80 shots at 20x30 were a little pixelated, but 16x20-inch prints looked quite good from the Canon SX200. ISO 200 shots looked a little better at 13x19 inches, though they were still a little soft. They tightened right up, though, when printed at 11x14.

ISO 400 shots look good at 11x14, though the shadows start to plug a bit in the JPEGs. ISO 800 shots still look good at 8x10, though a little softer than the shots at ISO 400.

ISO 1,600 shots are too soft at 8x10, but better at 5x7. And surprisingly the pixel-binned ISO 3,200 shots are soft but usable at 4x6. It is unusual for these lower-res images to be useful for anything, but you can get a usable shot out of this Scene mode setting with just a little sharpening in Photoshop.

Impressive printed results from the Canon SX200 IS.

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 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II 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 SX200 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 SX200 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.

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