We've adjusted this camera's final score to four stars. We didn't find anything wrong with it, but given current standards, the limited screen and lack of zoom in video are problems we are less tolerant of now.
The new Canon PowerShot SX200 is much more than an update of the range (SX100, SX110 tested here), but rather a new model altogether that competes with the Panasonic TZ5 and the new TZ7. With its 12x stabilised zoom and 28 mm wide-angle lens, 720p video function and 3 inch screen, is the SX200 armed to measure up to Panasonic's new machine?
The least you can say is that the new SX200 changes things radically with a much more compact casing than its predecessors. It is nevertheless large enough for ease of handling. Note the slightly inward curve on the front of the casing (see right) for ease of handling. The camera's finish is of excellent quality and inspires confidence as a whole. The front of the camera has an impressive optical zoom and a wide barrel that seems out of proportion. If you simply compare the tech specs, the Canon's zoom is less impressive than that on the Panasonic TZ7: the Panasonic is more ambitious (25 mm as against 28 mm) and is slightly brighter: f/3,3-4,9 as against f/3,4-5,3. Nothing too extreme then, but the 25 mm wide-angle lens is practical in some situations. Still at the front, you find the microphone in the form of a tiny hole. No stereo sound on the SX200. The zoom gets into position rapidly (1.7 seconds) and is capable of slower movement and silence. However, it is not operational when capturing video which is a shame.
The LCD screen takes up a lot of space on the back of the camera and the interface is relegated to a thin portion of the camera. The commands are relatively large but the scroll is fairly small, although still practical for rapidly selecting camera settings, especially in priority modes M,A and S. The graphics interface has changed considerably, all the information now concentrated on the right of the screen. It remains however in line with the rest of the series in as much as the camera is available as soon as you activate the shoot.
The SX200 has both auto and manual modes. The Auto mode brings numerous auto functions into play such as detection of scenes, faces and squinting. You also have P,S,A and M modes. P mode cannot be adjusted and astonishingly the autofocus is limited to a central zone (two sizes). The AiAF mode is not available in auto mode. The autofocus also has a continuous option that allows the camera to focus in a constant way so as to reduce focusing time. However this mode uses more power.
In auto mode, the focus is fairly rapid and homogenous. Whether in wide-angle or telephoto you need to wait between 0.7 and 0.9 seconds before shooting. In low light, the camera is a little less rapid but remains fairly fast. Burst mode is disappointing at 1 i/s.
The combination of a 12 megapixel sensor, a DIGIC 4 image processor and lens is the least photograhers who want a high performance compact expect. The 12 megapixel sensor is far from miraculous and digital noise is present on the images fairly quickly. The DIGIC 4 brings additional smooothing of electronic noise.
Up to 200 ISO, the billowing is fairly contained and A4 prints are very nice. At 400 ISO, granulation is much more visible, but largely acceptable on an A4 print. At 800 ISO there is much more pronounced smoothing of detail and even more so at 1600 ISO with fine detail very diluted. On one print, this gave the impression of having a light veil over the image. After smoothing the results are much better than on the previous series where the details were retained but pixelation much more obvious.
The SX200 has good exposure but the small sensor has a tendency (quite usual on compacts) to burn quickly in strong light. The problem of coloured edges is still there on contrasted zones and chromatic effects are quite visible on the border of the image. In our studio, the white balance is pretty neutral, even a little cold.
Canon once again displays its know-how in terms of optical stabilisation with a series of sharp Barbies at ¼ s. Not bad. The flash gives good results with a good dose of light colours and accurate white balance.
You also have video mode on the SX200, with a nice HD mode at 720 p and H.264 compression. The video format is in Quicktime, not the easiest format for Windows. No matter. Video quality is good with a nice image that does however tend to get noisy in low light.
It is disappointing to find that the sound is not stereo and of debatable quality and that the 12x zoom is not available when shooting video. You have to make do with a sorry digital zoom. Note however that there is an HDMI socket so that you can watch your HD footage on a compatible television.
Versus the Panasonic TZ7?
Of course, Canon SX200 versus Panasonic TZ7 is the duel we've all been waiting for: both have the same 5 star score! Here at editorial, we do slightly prefer the Panasonic TZ7: the iA mode is a real advantage and the AVCHD stereo video is way out in front of the competition. However, priority modes (a longterm gripe) still aren't there and the Canon screen, though with lower res, is better outside. Although neither of the cameras is a bad choice, you should consult the negative and positive on both so as to go for the model that suits you.
- Wide angle lens zoom and effective stabilizer
- 720p video, 30 i/s
- A,S and M priority modes
- Overall nice and responsive
- HDMI link on the camera
- Burst a bit slow at 1 i/s and no Raw
- No exposition histogram when focussing
- No optical zoom during video
- No stereo sound in video
- LCD screen only 230,000 points
The Canon SX200 is an excellent choice both for the camera dunce and the better informed aficionado. Rapid and giving good quality images when there's enough light, it joins the direct competition, the Panasonic TZ7, at the top of the podium with however some features annoyingly missing (zoom in video, no stero sound).