Canon SX100 IS Review
|Full model name:||Canon PowerShot SX100 IS|
|Sensor size:||1/2.5 inch
(5.8mm x 4.3mm)
|Extended ISO:||80 - 1600|
|Shutter:||1/2500 - 15 sec|
4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 in.
(109 x 71 x 46 mm)
|Full specs:||Canon SX100 IS specifications|
4.5 out of 5.0
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS Overview
by Michael R. Tomkins
Review Date: 12/18/07
It's not going to fit in your pocket, but if you can live with that limitation, the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS gives you a lot of camera -- and a very useful 10x optical zoom lens -- in a body that's still reasonably compact. The lens is coupled to an 8.0-megapixel CCD image sensor, and although that's not as high resolution as some of the latest digital cameras on the market, it's plenty for most uses and should yield less noise than a higher-res sensor of equivalent size would. Fairly approachable for beginners with a range of automatic controls and scene-mode options, the Canon SX100IS also offers a wide range of functions including a fully manual mode that will please more experienced users.
The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS stores images on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCard media, including the newer (and higher capacity) SDHC types. Images are framed and reviewed on a 2.5-inch color LCD display with 172,000 pixels -- not particularly high resolution, but not unreasonable given the price. The display is bright and colorful, but does tend to wash out a little in direct sunlight. To help combat this, Canon offers what it calls a "Quick Bright" function, which switches the LCD to its brightest setting (or back again) by holding in the display button for one second.
The Canon SX100IS's 10x optical zoom lens covers a broad range equivalent to 36-360mm on a 35mm camera -- a moderate wide angle to a useful telephoto. With a lens offering this kind of telephoto power, camera shake can become a real problem, and so Canon added a true optical image stabilizer, which works to correct camera shake by moving lens elements to counteract the motion. Three modes are available: one that operates continually while framing images, another that saves a little battery by only operating during exposure, and a final mode that optimizes the anti-shake algorithms to cope with stabilizing panning shots.
Canon's implementation of face detection is included, and capable of detecting up to nine faces in a scene. The camera can automatically prioritize which face to focus on, and the face detection functionality is also linked to the exposure system to ensure correct metering of portraits as well; if you prefer, face detection can be turned off altogether and center AF used instead. When focusing in dim light, a very bright orange LED provides for AF-assist. For the more experienced photographer, there's a wide range of adjustments and customizations on hand, including a range of ISO sensitivities (from 80 to 1,600 equivalent), metering modes, autoexposure and flash exposure locks, flash output control, white balance options, and adjustable image sharpness, contrast, and color options.
The Canon SX100IS offers eleven preset shooting modes, of which four have their own positions on the Mode dial, while the remainder are accessed through a special Scene position. These scene modes make it easier for beginners to tailor the camera's settings to their intent without really needing to understand them, and the modes on offer include Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Night Scene, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Aquarium.
Retail pricing for the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS is set at US$300, and reputable retailers are currently offering 10-15% discounts on this...
Canon PowerShot SX100 IS User Report
by Michael R. Tomkins
Much of the Canon SX100 IS's feature set, ergonomics, and menu design will be instantly familiar to anybody who's used a Canon digital camera in the last few years, but this budget-friendly model has several standout features that differentiate it from the crowd. Pick it up, and the first thing you'll notice is that whopping 10x zoom lens -- something you'll find far more useful than the 3x to 5x zooms on most digicams. Add in Canon's choice of true optical image stabilization to help fight camera shake -- the bugbear of long-zoom digicams -- and you'll find yourself getting good shots in conditions that would challenge many other digicams.
Overall, the Canon SX100 IS is an excellent choice if you're looking for a fairly compact, versatile, and affordable camera. It's well built, handles well, is relatively easy to learn, and since it doesn't skimp on basics like manual controls, it will offer plenty of room to grow along with its owners photographic skills.
Look and feel. Attractive and nicely made, the Canon SX100 IS isn't exactly pocket friendly, but is not unreasonably large for a camera with a 10x optical zoom lens. The Canon SX100IS should still fit nicely in coat pockets or larger purses, with dimensions of 4.3 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches (109 x 71 x 47 millimeters). Body-only it's reasonably light at 9.4 ounces (265 grams), but with a flash card and two AA batteries loaded, the PowerShot SX100 IS feels reassuringly weighty, with a nice balance to it. The camera fit my large hands reasonably well, although I personally found the sculpted grip rather uncomfortable. With only limited purchase for my fingers, I found I generally had to tuck a finger or two underneath the camera rather than around the grip, steadying it but making it somewhat more tiring to hold. With smaller hands than mine, this is likely a non-issue.
The Canon SX100IS is nicely designed for shooting one-handed, with no sensors, microphones or flash strobes to accidentally cover with a finger, and most important controls within easy reach. An included wrist strap offers peace of mind, and connects to an eyelet on the camera's right side that protrudes just slightly from the surrounding body -- nicely positioned to allow single-handed shooting with your wrist through the strap. Given its weight though, shooting double-handed generally makes for less camera shake, although I found that when I did so my fingers tended to cover the speaker grille on the top of the camera.
The Canon SX100's control layout is simple and intuitive. The mode dial falls under your right thumb, adjacent to a nicely recessed power button and a zoom rocker with central shutter button. The mode dial has deep notches that make it easy to grip and turn, a reassuringly firm click as it moves to a new position, and has just enough resistance to ensure it won't be accidentally bumped during a shoot. When the dial is turned, an intuitive animation on the camera's LCD indicates the change, showing the available modes scrolling past with the current selection highlighted.
The scroll wheel has a hidden secret: it also acts as a four-way arrow pad, detecting presses at top, bottom, left, or right. The wheel itself clicks softly as it turns, and has a very smooth action - but I found it rather too easy to accidentally bump, given its position. This isn't a problem in some modes where the wheel has no function, but in other modes it could lead to accidentally changed settings. The idea's great, but it would perhaps be better if the scroll wheel didn't function unless another button was being held down simultaneously.
Occupying much of the Canon SX100's rear panel is a reasonably generous 2.5-inch LCD display. Fortunately, given that it is the sole method of framing images, the display is bright and colorful, and fairly easy to see in most lighting conditions. I did find that in direct sunlight it tended to wash out somewhat, however, and the extremely glossy plastic panel that offers protection for the LCD is prone to reflections. Both of these can be solved by shading the display with your left hand, though. Perhaps more of an issue is that the display has only a relatively narrow viewing angle, with the look of the image changing fairly radically when viewed from an angle.
Canon opted to include a true optical image stabilization system in the SX100 IS, helping to combat camera shake by moving lens elements to counteract camera motion. Usefully, you can opt to have the system function only when the shutter is tripped, helping extend the camera's already noteworthy battery life. There's also a panning mode that makes the stabilization function more useful for sports photography, where you often have to track a fast-moving subject at a significant distance.
The zoom was quick to respond, and generally quite accurate, although it does sometimes zoom back in a little when you let off the zoom lever while zooming out. Maximum aperture varies from a fairly bright f/2.8 at wide angle to f/4.3 at telephoto. The lens does display quite a bit of chromatic aberration at both ends of the zoom range, and this does extend fairly far into the image. However, this is true of most fixed lens long-zoom digicams, and the Canon SX100 IS is really no worse than its long-zoom rivals in this regard. Perhaps more importantly, distortion is quite well controlled and the lens is quite sharp across the zoom range. The Canon SX100's lens has one more hidden surprise as well, in the form of very good macro performance. In fact, it lets you get so close that it can be a little challenging to get any light around the lens to your subject!
The shots above demonstrate the strength of the PowerShot SX100 IS's zoom lens, and are all taken from the exact same location -- showing how even in a scene that initially seems to offer little, a good zoom can bring you in to find details like the graffiti in this shot that can surprise you. The digital zoom is somewhat soft as you might expect, but not unusually so; and with digicams in the mainstream these days, it could certainly prove useful for those who make prints straight out of the camera and don't want to edit their photos on a PC.
Focusing is very fast and pretty accurate as well, with the Canon SX100 IS yielding few out-of-focus images, and seldom refusing to achieve a focus lock in my usage. Manual focusing is possible, and a sophisticated Face Detection AF system locates up to nine faces in an image, automatically prioritizing the dominant subject and using the face locations to set focus and -- if in evaluative mode -- exposure of the image. Alternatively, if the camera doesn't recognize a face in the scene it defaults to center focusing - which you can also manually set as the default. A powerful AF assist lamp helps the camera achieve a focus lock in poor light, and a Safety Manual Focus mode lets you focus manually, and then performs an autofocus fine-tuning of your manual setting to ensure accurate focus in the final image. Whenever focusing manually, you can opt to have the center of the frame magnified to aid in confirmation of focus.
Face detection might be everywhere these days, but Canon has implemented it very nicely -- particularly with the playback mode "Face Detect" function, which can take a few minutes to learn, but quickly becomes second nature and makes short work of checking group portraits for poor focus or exposure, or that one person that always blinks or pulls a funny face as the shutter is tripped.
Interface. Canon's user interface on the PowerShot SX100IS is for the most part effective and intuitive, albeit with a few slight quirks. The control layout is completely comfortable when shooting double-handed, and the most important controls are also easily reached when shooting one-handed. Although beginners will most likely need to read the instruction manual to get the most from the camera, more experienced photographers will find the controls easy to understand.
The menu system should prove familiar to anyone who's used Canon's digital cameras over the last few years. New photographers or those migrating from other brands might need a little while to learn which options reside in each menu, but should find it fairly easy to adjust. Importantly, the menu system is very responsive -- and since the Canon SX100 IS has a scroll wheel, you can absolutely fly through the menus to your desired option, once you're familiar with where all the various options are located. That could mean the difference between getting a shot, or missing it while you struggle to set the camera correctly!
The Canon SX100's display modes are for the most part pretty standard fare, allowing you to choose whether to concentrate on your subject and see only the most vital setup info, or to view a fairly comprehensive overlay of setup info on top of your subject. A rather nifty "Focus Check" display in Playback mode shows a reduced scale version of the scene, highlighting any faces detected -- even if the photo wasn't initially shot using face detection AF. Repeatedly pressing the "Face Selector" button cycles through the detected faces in a scene, showing a crop of each face to allow it to be checked for focus and pose -- and you can zoom or pan from the detected positions as you like. It takes a few minutes of playing to get the hang of how this display mode functions, but once you do so you'll find it an excellent way of quickly checking pose, focus and -- to a lesser extent, since there's no blinking highlight warning or histogram in this mode -- proper exposure of your subjects.
Modes. Canon has included a fairly wide range of exposure options in the PowerShot SX100 IS, given that it's a fairly budget-minded, consumer digital camera. Beginners will find the Auto, Program, and eleven Scene modes (including Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Night Scene, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Aquarium) to be simple and approachable. More experienced photographers will enjoy the Aperture-priority (f/2.8 to f/8.0), Shutter-priority (1/2,500 to 15 sec.), and Manual exposure modes, where you can unleash your creative side to get the exact effect you want in each shot. Usefully, in the fully manual mode the camera still meters exposure and provides an indication of whether the settings you're using are likely to lead to an under- or over-exposed image, a nice touch that helps photographers hone their instincts. One quirk could be an issue for shooting high-speed action however - shutter speeds faster than 1/1,600 second may not be available, depending on the zoom and aperture settings.
As well as the usual Auto ISO mode and the ability to select from any of the available ISO settings manually -- ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600 equivalents -- there's also a High ISO Auto mode which will allow the camera to choose higher ISO sensitivities than would ordinarily be possible automatically. Canon's Auto ISO Shift function is a great idea that boosts ISO sensitivity if the camera detects that shake is likely to result in a blurred image, a very nice touch -- and doubly so because it is possible to configure the camera to show the predicted change in ISO sensitivity while shooting, allowing you to override the change if you feel the scene wouldn't best be served with a higher sensitivity. High ISO noise performance is discussed later in this review, but briefly while noise has a greater effect than we'd like to see, it is not unusually obtrusive as compared to other cameras of similar resolution and sensor size.
The Canon PowerShot SX100 IS has quite a complement of features that give you further control over your images -- frequently while assisting the photographer in preventing common photographic problems. These including choices of metering modes (spot, center-weighted, or evaluative), white balance (with a custom hold mode), and - through what Canon calls the "My Colors" menu - sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color modes. In both priority modes, there's also a Safety Shift function that prevents values that would result in a poor exposure from being set. About the only thing missing that would have been nice to have is Exposure Bracketing, something not offered on the Canon SX100 IS.
The Canon SX100IS' built-in flash strobe is raised and lowered manually, but offers only average strength. Flash output strength can be set manually, and there's also a flash exposure compensation function that allows you to let the camera meter the scene, but bias the flash strength as desired. The Flash Exposure Lock function allows the user to bias the exposure toward faster shutter speeds and wider apertures, or vice versa. There's also a Safety Flash Exposure function in Program, Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority modes that can override the aperture or shutter speed as required to minimize the risk of blown highlights. Canon takes a two-pronged approach to combatting red-eye, with an optional burst of light from the camera's AF Assist lamp to reduce red-eye problems before the fact, while a Red-Eye Correction function in playback mode allows you to fix red-eye problems once the photo has already been captured.
Finally, the PowerShot SX100 IS has a Movie mode for recording 30 frames-per-second movies with sound at 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels, with two quality options at the highest resolution. At the lower resolution, clips are limited to three minutes to ensure file sizes suitable for emailing. At the higher resolution, clips are limited to either one hour or four gigabytes, whichever comes first. Sadly the focus and zoom are locked from the first frame of the movie, but unusually the Canon SX100 does allow you to control the exposure with an "Exposure Shift" function, pressing the ISO button to lock exposure and then rolling the Command dial to bias the exposure in either direction. Pressing the ISO button a second time cancels the Exposure Shift, and returns the movie to auto exposure.
Storage and battery. Unlike many cameras these days, the Canon SX100 IS has no internal memory, with Canon instead opting instead to include a 16MB flash card in the camera bundle. Considering that at the highest resolution and lowest compression this fits only around four photos, it is frankly rather pointless, and just adds a little to the camera's cost. I'd much rather see Canon either opt for a significantly larger bundled card, use internal memory (which at least is always available as a useful stop-gap should you forget to bring a flash card with you), or just drop the memory from the bundle altogether. The Canon SX100 IS stores its images on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCard media, including the newer (and higher capacity) Secure Digital High Capacity or SDHC types.
Power-wise, the Canon SX100 IS accepts two AA batteries -- either alkaline disposables (which are included in the product bundle), or NiMH rechargeables. Canon claims that a fresh set of Alkaline disposables will yield about seven hours of playback or 140 images of record-mode battery life, and using the company's own NB-3AH NiMH rechargeable batteries is said to boost this to about 10 hours of playback or 400 images captured. These figures are based on CIPA test standards, and match up well with my own experience in the field. Using a pair of 2100mAh NiMH rechargeables on my gallery shoot around downtown Knoxville, I took over 200 shots in the space of just under three hours, with the camera switched on for probably half this time, then brought it home and continued with several more hours of intermittent use while writing part of this review, all from that same charge of just two AA batteries. In the past I've tended to prefer custom lithium-ion batteries because of their generally superior battery life, but if every camera had battery life like the Canon SX100 IS I just might be persuaded to change my mind! The SX100 IS does not come with an AC adapter or charger, so if you're planning much studio shooting you'll want to shell out for the optional AC adapter kit.
Shooting. I have to admit, I greatly enjoyed my time with Canon's SX100 IS digital camera. For a camera with as many features as this (and yet relatively few external controls), I found it fairly easy to come to grips with. Partly, this is because Canon has done a great job of making its various digital camera products feel like a coherent group with sufficient sharing of user interface elements that as you learn what to expect of one Canon camera, much of that knowledge can be shared with the company's other models. This was my first personal experience of Canon's face detection system, and although I did need to crack the manual open to get the full benefit of that, particularly in record mode when selecting faces, it quickly became second nature. The Canon SX100 IS was comfortable for one- or two-handed shooting, although with its size and weight made two-handed the better option most of the time. The SX100 IS has a nice balance to it though, just feeling "right" with batteries and flash card loaded. In fact, its reassuring heft possibly made it easier to hold steadily than a more pocket-friendly camera might be.
Outdoors, I was generally satisfied with the LCD display. In all but direct sunlight it was easily bright enough to make framing easy, and on the rare occasions it wasn't up to the task, it was easy enough to shade the LCD with one hand. Checking focus was equally easy, and in playback mode the histogram made it a snap to check exposure. It would have been nice to have a histogram in record mode, too, though. I greatly enjoyed the face select function in playback, quickly learning to page through the faces in portrait photos; although sadly I can't provide photos, as my friends aren't keen on becoming internet celebrities. ;-)
I was quite happy with image quality on the Canon SX100 IS, with the one proviso that I'd personally trade some sensor resolution for better high ISO performance. Canon shouldn't be unfairly singled out for this though. The digital camera industry as a whole really needs to move on from letting consumers obsess over megapixel ratings, when the image quality story involves so much more... Images were generally sharp, with good color and white balance in most situations, and minimal distortion. As is common with long-zoom digicams, there was a fair amount of chromatic aberration extending well into the image at both ends of the zoom range, but most users will happily accept this for the versatility that extra zoom range brings to your photography.
In terms of performance, I found that shutter lag was very good, ranging from 0.53 second at wide angle to 0.48 second at telephoto for full AF lag. Prefocused it drops to only 0.088 second, very fast indeed. Startup and shutdown are decent if not spectacular, at 1.9 and 1.8 seconds respectively. Cycle times are only average at a little under two seconds in single-shot modes, improving to 1.08 frames per second in continuous mode. Even in relatively low light, focusing was generally fairly quick and accurate, especially if the AF assist light was within range of subjects. Full-power flash recycle time was quite slow at 12 seconds, and flash power was only average. Download speed was quite good at some 1,746 KB/second.
All things considered, the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS was a camera I felt confident would get the shots I wanted most of the time, and within a day or so I was mostly free to concentrate on finding opportunities to enjoy the power of the zoom lens, rather than getting stuck trying to figure out how to achieve camera setups.
Image quality. The Canon SX100 IS yields pretty nice photos, showing quite good color without the oversaturation common in entry-level cameras, and generally accurate exposures as well. There's a little hue shift of yellows toward green and oranges toward yellow, plus the usual cyan toward blue that most digicams do (we think to get good-looking sky colors). The Canon SX100 IS holds onto strong highlight detail pretty well even under harsh sunlight, but setting the camera to low contrast yields even better results. Contrast control is very good overall, but I found the saturation adjustment to be just a little coarse-grained for my tastes.
Detail is quite good at low ISOs, and with plenty of light, the PowerShot SX100 IS does a good job of holding onto subtle subject detail. At higher ISOs though, it tends to throw away a lot of detail in areas of subtle contrast, although the average user may well not pick up on this. Still, we really do lament the extent to which manufacturers are having to give up subject detail at high ISOs -- the result of cramming more and more pixels onto the tiny sensor chips these cameras use. It's an issue across the entire industry, but one we particularly lament with Canon's digicams simply because their earlier, lower-resolution designs were particularly good in this regard. It's hard to see Canon's image quality suffer due to a frankly rather pointless megapixel race.
At low ISOs, there's plenty of detail for nice-looking 13x19 inch prints. At ISO 400 under daylight conditions, 8x10 inch prints will be soft-looking in places, with subtle details blurred, but I suspect most users would be quite happy with the prints at that size and ISO setting. Under incandescent lighting, you're likely to lose a lot more detail in hair and other subtle textures, but even so, I think most consumers would still find 8x10 inch prints acceptable. At ISO 800, maximum print size is probably 5x7 inches, while you'll find yourself limited to 4x6 inch prints at ISO 1600 unless you're very forgiving of image noise.
One further noise-related note was noted early in the review process by IR lab tech Rob Murray. While performing our usual in-depth battery of tests, Rob found that the cycle times really increase when you shoot at higher ISOs - something which seems likely to be due to the extra work needed in performing the noise processing. Other than these noise-related issues, the Canon SX100's 8.0-megapixel CCD image sensor offers excellent image quality overall.
Appraisal. Overall, the PowerShot SX100IS is an enjoyable, versatile, and very well thought-out digital camera. A truly powerful zoom lens really frees you to get close to action you might otherwise have missed, and optical image stabilization ensures that when you do, the shots won't be a blurry mess. A range of manual controls and options ensure there's room to grow into the camera's capabilities as your experience increases, but simple presets and auto functions make sure that beginners can still get the shot without needing to understand camera jargon. Image quality, with the exception of some noise related issues, is generally great, with good color and exposure metering, and the ability to tweak output to your tastes. Face detection -- the must have feature for 2007 -- is implemented nicely in a way that genuinely helps improve your pictures without getting in your way, and the face select function in playback mode can really speed checking your images once you're familiar with how it works. You won't fit the Canon SX100 IS in most pockets, but it's still compact enough that it won't get left at home collecting dust. Battery life is excellent, and pricing is affordable as well. If you're in the market for a long-zoom digicam, the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS is definitely worthy of consideration.
- 8.0-megapixel CCD, delivering image resolutions as large as 3,264 x 2,448 pixels
- 10x zoom lens (equivalent to a 36-360mm lens on a 35mm camera)
- Autofocus with AF assist lamp
- 1.6x, 2.0x or 4.0x digital zoom
- 2.5-inch color LCD display
- Automatic, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes
- Built-in flash with five modes plus an intensity adjustment
- Secure Digital / MultiMediaCard / SDHC / MMCPlus/ HC MMCPlus slot (16MB SD card included)
- USB 2.0 computer connection
- Power from two AA alkaline or NiMH batteries, with 2 x AA alkaline single-use batteries included
- Software for Mac and PC
- Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Night Scene, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, and Aquarium scene modes
- Optical image stabilization prevents blur from camera shake
- Manual focus mode with enlargement of focus area
- Safety Manual Focus mode allows for manual prefocus with final autofocus to ensure accuracy
- Face Detection in record mode helps prioritize and set focus and exposure for pleasant portraits
- Face Select in playback mode helps quickly confirm correct pose, focus, and exposure of portraits
- Movie recording mode, with sound and ability to adjust exposure
- Auto or High-Auto ISO setting or 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600, ISO equivalents
- White balance (color) adjustment with seven options
- Two continuous shooting modes - either with or without autofocus between shots
- Self-timer for delayed shutter release, with the ability to set the duration and number of shots captured
- My Colors menu
- Flash exposure compensation
- Safety flash exposure mode adjusts shutter speed / aperture to prevent blowouts
- Safety-shift function prevents poor exposures in shutter / aperture priority modes
- Auto ISO shift adjusts ISO sensitivity to prevent camera shake, with manual override possible
- Spot, Center-Weighted, and Evaluative Metering modes
- Postcard (3:2, two megapixel) mode
- Email (VGA) mode
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,500 to fifteen seconds, depending on the aperture and zoom position
- Long exposure (1.3+ sec) noise reduction
- Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/8, depending on zoom position
- Auto-Exposure and Flash-Exposure Lock
- Image Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments
- Macro (close-up) lens adjustment
- In-camera panorama guide helps create images for stitching on a PC
- Display overlay with grid lines, 3:2 guideline, or both simultaneously
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing compatibility
In the Box
Included with the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS digital camera are the following items:
- 2 x AA alkaline disposable batteries
- 16MB Secure Digital card
- USB cable
- AV cable
- Wrist strap
- Software CD containing Canon PowerShot software and USB drivers
- Quick-guide manuals and registration information
- NiMH batteries and charger. (Read Dave's NiMH battery shootout page to see which batteries currently on the market are the best, and see our review of the Maha C-204W NiMH battery charger, still his favorite.)
- Large capacity SDHC/SD/MMC memory card
- Carrying case
The Canon PowerShot SX100IS offers a great value in an affordable, feature-rich long zoom digital camera that's user friendly and still reasonably compact. With an 8.0-megapixel CCD image sensor, the Canon SX100 IS has great image quality so long as there's plenty of light. Things get a little rougher in poor lighting as you need to ratchet up the ISO sensitivity, but is no worse than most of the competition in this respect. The combination of full auto for beginners and and full manual for the more experienced photographer, plus a really powerful zoom lens that has minimal distortion and great sharpness, combine to let you get in touch with your creative side. The lens is not perfect, to be sure. We'd like to see better control of chromatic aberration and a little more on the wide angle end (even if that means sacrificing some telephoto performance), but overall it's easily the equal of long zoom lenses from competitors at this price point. While the PowerShot SX100IS' performance is not quite up to Canon's claims in all areas, it is still a fairly responsive camera, and its Burst mode is likely to be plenty for most users shopping at this price point. The Canon PowerShot SX100IS is a really enjoyable camera to use, and if you're looking for a long-zoom, fairly compact digital camera that lets you roll your sleeves up and tweak each photo to your satisfaction, it is definitely worthy of a place on your shortlist, and worthy of a Dave's Pick.