Canon PowerShot SX210 IS review


Update 4-11-10

I went on vacation to Pittsburgh with the Canon SX210 IS. My opinion about the camera has changed. I've been asked by many people how big a deal the 14x zoom is. Some want to know how it compares to the Sony something....HX5? with the 10x zoom. I don't know anything about that camera. I'm not even interested to know about it. Look at the new sample images from Pittsburgh down below. The 14x zoom made all the difference in the world. I posted a widest angle and an zoom shot from the same position. I was delighted by the range of zoom. My daughter was shooting the same subjects with my old 3x zoom. What a huge difference between 3x and 14x. Just look at what it does in the samples.

My opinion has changed as I've said. This a fantastic camera. The SX210 was great on vacation. The zoom while shooting video was great. The video picture quality was great. Left in the AUTO position, the camera almost always takes a great picture. I still don't know every menu, but I'm getting better at navigating the camera. Even with all the manual options I stuck to AUTO most of the time and was usually very happy I did. Battery life was excellent. I'd charge the camera every night at the hotel. I never saw it display anything less than full.

Oh and look at the macro sample I added as well. The lens on this camera is so versatile.

I'm very glad I bought it.


Posted 3-29-2010

I am excited about Canon SX210 IS camera. I read the specs Canon published back in February 2010. It had features I was looking for. I pre-ordered this camera before reading any reviews.

Here's what I liked about this camera:

- Quality of pictures
- HD 720p video
- 14x optical zoom with image stabilizer.
- Optical zoom functions when shooting video (a biggie)
- Mode wheel
- Secondary 4-way controller with scroll wheel
- Face detection

I have, up until buying the SX210, always bought Casio Exilim cameras. I really liked how thin they are and how long the battery lasts. They take good pictures outdoors, but their smaller optics make indoor shooting a challenge. The Casio movie mode has always been very strong. My Casio EX-V7 is a very small camera with a folded optics 7x zoom. It can zoom while shooting video. One of the few cameras capable of doing that. I shot my entire trip to Disney World on this one camera with very good results. Nothing matched the versatility of the Casio's until now.


The SX210 is not a tiny camera like my Casio EX-H10 or even the EX-V7. It's about an inch and a quarter thick including the extension for the lens. Double the thickness of my Casio EX-H10. It's about half and inch wider than the smaller Casio. It is still very pocketable. But you can't put it in the front pocket of your jeans like you can the thinner Casio. I'm fine with the size. I usually wear carpenter pants with an extra pocket on the side. The camera fits in the extra pocket just fine. Considering the wonderful zoom I have no right to fault the camera size. That said, if you need an ultra compact camera to slide into a narrow pocket, the SX210 IS may not be the right choice.


The zoom lens is pretty remarkable. It extends out from the camera about 2.5". It can shoot a wide angle shot of a building and then zoom in on the door close enough to read the numbers. Check out the clock tower picture in the samples. What incredible range this lens has. It's quiet and smooth as it moves. The zoom has two speeds. It can be hard to move only at the slower speed. The zoom button is quite small. It's hard to hold it with consistent pressure. Is it a problem? No. It's just a trade off with a small camera. The macro mode is excellent too.

HD video with zoom was a must for me. I have a Sony HDR-HC5 HDV camcorder. It takes very good videos. Ever since I've had it, the standard def video of my cameras just hasn't been desirable to me anymore. This SX210 shoots video at 720p or 1280 x 720 px. My HDV shoots at 1440 x 1080 px. The video is interlaced. The Canon SX210 video is progressive scan. The difference will be apparent in the sample I'm posting. Overall the Canon video quality is very good. The ability to zoom while shooting is fantastic. I recorded my daughter at her swim class and was able to keep her full frame for the length of the pool.

Mode wheel. The more camera's I've had the more I want this feature. I used to love the novelty of the 'on screen' interface. I've grown tired of it. Of course it is necessary because of the enormous number of parameters which can be changed. The mode wheel on this camera can get to selections which are 10 menu button clicks deep on the Casio. I like the Portrait, Landscape, and Movie are points on this wheel. So just by turning this knob to the icon the camera switches into this mode immediately. In bright sunlight I don't have to even look at the screen to know I'm a new mode. The movie mode on the knob is great, but Canon did one better and made a dedicated movie button. When you're in any mode you can click the red button and immediately start shooting movies. Casio has always done this and I love the feature. The red button is configurable to do a variety of things, movie mode is the default.

The camera has, what is now a standard, 4-way control disc. You click up, down, left and right with a select button in the middle. The 4-way controller on this Canon is also a scroll wheel. So when you are moving between pictures in playback mode you can quickly shoot between images by turning the wheel quickly with your thumb. This scroll wheel is used to navigate the camera menus too. The optical zoom controller also works in playback mode. You can zoom back so 50+ thumbnails are on screen. All actions are very very quick. No lag or waiting for the images to display and move.

The flash is great too. Not for it's performance, though it seemed to work fine. I didn't really test it much. I like the way it works. It pops up when the camera is turned on. 90% of the time when I turn the camera on my finger is on top of the flash and it doesn't pop up. Not a problem, blocking it doesn't harm it. If I need it I just pull it up to turn it on. I like this very obvious and direct control over the flash. I don't like to have to click a menu 4 times to turn it on or off. Many times I'm at a venue where flash isn't allowed. Using an on screen menu isn't nearly as obvious pushing the flash down and knowing with certainty it will not fire.

The SX210 has great face detection. I like this feature because it draws green boxes around faces it recognizes and guarantees the face you want will likely be in focus. I know many many cameras do this, but this one seems quicker to find the faces and focus. The wink shutter is a neat idea. We tried it and had to wink several times to invoke it. I'm sure with practice I could make it work more reliably. It's fun but also a feature I'm unlikely to use often. Still fun to play with. Smile shutter takes pictures automatically any time it sees a smile. This could be fun to set up for a party. I find it incredible that a camera now truly 'sees' what it's taking pictures of. It recognized the face of a statue I took a picture of, as well. You can see it in the sample images.

The camera has continuous focus. Instead of pushing the shutter button halfway down to force focus the SX210 is always focusing. I like it.

There is much more to this camera than I've covered here. Other review sites will be more thorough with scientific tests. I put this site up to give a perspective professional sites can't give. I'm not an expert, I'm an average user. I wanted to note what's important to me. Odds are there are other people out there who will use a camera the same way I do. I hope you found this site useful.

Sample images

These images were shot at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI campus. You'll see Burton Tower, the Women' League, Hill Auditorium and other buildings around a beautiful fountain. If I shot a wide angle and a close up, they were taken from the same location to demonstrate the ability of the zoom lens.

Things to look for:
-Look for a wide campus shot and then a close up of the American flag. I didn't move an inch, just zoomed in.
-Look at the tower shot. You can count the screws holding the minute hand in place on the clock face! You can tell they are standard screws, not phillips. It's not a zoom, it's a telescope! They probably use one of these cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope :).
- Look at the fine detail in the fountain close up. Really good. Again I didn't move an inch. I only zoomed.

Click on images below for a full 14.1 Mega Pixel original.

Pittsburgh trip zoom examples


Video Sample

I took my Sony HDR-HC5 and the Canon SX210 IS and turned 360 degrees in about 1 minute. I zoomed to full stop on each camera twice. The videos don't line up that well, but you can get a good idea of the difference between an HD camcorder and the SX210. The camcorder image stabilizer is a smoother shooter over all. My camcorder only has a 10x optical zoom. Stabilization a full zoom is noticeably better than the SX210. No surprise. A tripod would do wonders. What is a surprise is how good the color is on the SX210. It's a very reasonable alternative to an HD camera. I don't like the stereo mics on top of the camera because it picks up so much ambient noise. Mics on top of any camera or camcorder are a bad idea, IMHO. Overall, I think the SX210 does a great job with video. It's half the size of any camcorder and an excellent 14.1 mega pixel still camera to boot.

What are you really looking at??? I took the HDV video and the MPEG4 from the SX210 and put them on a HDV timeline in Final Cut Pro. I exported them to 1280 x720 px Quicktime Prores HQ file. Then I scaled it to 960x540px @ 2.5Mbps no audio for display in the browser. The real file is better quality than what you're seeing, but it wasn't realistic to post the real file. So this is a taste of what you'll get. The real file from the SX210 was 246MB.

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