Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Performance

Timing and Performance

About average performance for a long zoom digicam, though some times are noticeably sluggish.


Power on
to first shot

2.4 seconds

Time it takes for LCD to turn on and lens to deploy and capture a picture.


1.8 seconds

How long it takes to retract lens.

Buffer clearing time

1 second*
(after 20 LF JPEG frames)

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't retract their lenses and shut down until the buffer is cleared.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB SDHC memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly longer clearing times.

Good startup and shutdown times here for a megazoom. Pretty fast buffer clearing with a fast card, too.


Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

2.2 seconds

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

2.4 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

recorded image

1.4 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching times are about average, except for Play to Record, which is quite slow.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus Wide

0.54 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at wide-angle position.

Full Autofocus Tele

0.52 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at telephoto position.

Full Autofocus
Flash enabled
0.84 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, zoom lens at wide-angle position, Auto flash enabled.


0.072 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.55 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.44 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused."

Full AF shutter response is about average at wide-angle, at 0.54s. At full telephoto, it is faster than average for a long-zoom, at 0.52s. Enabling the flash increases lag time to 0.84s due to the preflash metering involved, but is also better than average. "Prefocusing" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure results in a lag time of 0.072 second, which is quite good, though not as fast as some. Times for continuous autofocus and manual focus are also good, at 0.55s and 0.44s respectively.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
2.26 seconds

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Early shutter


Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
AF fixed at first frame
Large Fine JPEG

0.95 seconds (1.05 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
1 second to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Continuous mode
AF enabled

Large Fine JPEG

1.33 seconds (0.75 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
1 second to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length or 20 shots, whichever came first.

Flash recycling

2.3 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB SDHC memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity also affects cycle times and burst mode performance, with higher ISOs generally increasing cycle times and reducing burst performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times are a bit on the slow side, at about 2.26 seconds for large/fine JPEGs.  The Canon SX20's continuous shooting modes were also sluggish, capturing large/fine JPEGs at about 1.05 frames per second. This rate slows to 0.75 frames per second with autofocus (tracking) enabled. Buffer sizes were good, though, at over 20 frames with a fast card. (Note that slow memory cards may force the camera to stop and wait for them after fewer frames.) The flash takes only 2.3 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is excellent.


Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

6,053 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, download speeds are very good.


Bottom line, the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS' performance is a mixed bag. Startup, shutdown and some autofocus times are faster than average for its class, but mode switching, cycle times and continuous modes are slower than average. Still, the Canon SX20 should do fine in most shooting situations other than fast action.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Very good battery life with AA alkalines, excellent with NiMH rechargeables.

Battery Type / Operating Mode Number of Shots
4 x Alkaline Disposable Batteries,
LCD Monitor / EVF
(CIPA standard)
340 / 350
4 x NiMH Rechargeable Batteries,
LCD Monitor / EVF
(CIPA standard)
600 / 620

The Canon PowerShot SX10 IS uses four AA-type batteries for power, and battery life is very good. The camera ships with a set of ordinary alkalines. As always, we recommend you pick up a couple of sets of good-quality NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good-quality charger, as they'll save you many times their cost over the life of the camera.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery as appropriate), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS accepts SDHC/SD/MMC memory cards, and does not include any built-in memory or a starter card. Canon recommends Class 4 cards or faster.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal
4,000 x 3,000
(Avg Size)
3.3 MB
1.6 MB
11:1 23:1
3,264 x 2,448
(Avg Size)
2.2 MB
1.1 MB
11:1 23:1
2,592 x 1,944
(Avg Size)
1.5 MB
766 KB
10:1 20:1
1,600 x 1,200
(Avg Size)
633 KB
333 KB
9:1 17:1
640 x 480
(Avg Size)
200 KB
133 KB
5:1 7:1

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4 or 8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings or video. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)


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