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Home arrow Digital Camera Reviews arrow Canon > arrow Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Digital Camera Review


Digital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker


If you’ve been shooting with a lower-end compact camera and are ready to progress your photography to another level, but are worried that the jump straight to a digital SLR may be too drastic for you, a camera like Canon’s PowerShot SX1 IS may well be a solid compromise.

In terms of appearance, this unit literally looks like a shrunken DSLR with a ‘meaty’ handgrip to support the weightier body and a strikingly similar layout and design overall, not to mention comparable colourings.

But, of course, appearance is one thing and performance a whole other ball game.

Having said that, the PowerShot SX1 IS is Canon’s first non-DSLR to house a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor (as opposed to a more commonly used CCD sensor), which is better able to support technologies such as high definition movie mode in 1080p format and high-speed full resolution image capture at four frames per second.

RAW image capture has been made available (being another feature previously reserved only for DSLRs), which allows for greater direct control over white balance, sharpening and noise reduction when processing images in post-production.

In RAW mode, the camera won’t automatically compress digital information within image files as it would when or if shooting in standard jpeg mode and so the photographer is offered slightly greater control in terms of the final ‘look’ of images.

While image quality overall of the SX1 IS is certainly not seriously competing against that produced by a DSLR, it is leaps and bounds ahead of standard lower-end compact cameras and as stated earlier, a good compromise between the two.

A fantastic feature for the PowerShot SX1 IS, and one that many DSLRs cannot boast, is its 2.8-inch 270-degree vari-angle LCD that extends shooting possibilities out to a whole other level.

It makes it easy to compose and shoot images (or high definition movies for that matter) while hand-holding the unit above your head, down at your feet, at hip level etc. or in any other strange position you may find yourself in. Never suffer dodgy self-portraits again!

Users can also ‘close’ the screen by turning it in towards the camera whilst not shooting to help protect it from dust and scratches etc.

Not only does the flip LCD make shooting an array of situations easier, it also makes the shooting process more fun. It opens your imagination up to a whole new way of seeing and photographing and Canon should be applauded for encouraging higher-end compact users to push their visual boundaries.

A digital viewfinder is available for those who prefer this to use this method of composition but it does appear more difficult for the eye to ‘read’ than the preview offered on the LCD.

While the preview on the 2.8-inch screen doesn’t extend to fill its entire length (it is cropped approximately 8mm in on each side so the actual preview you receive is only 47mm wide and approximately 2.6-inches on the diagonal), the preview offered is both sharp and bright and seems to automatically adjust well to changing lighting conditions in terms of both exposure and white balance.

As mentioned, full high definition movie mode is available at 1920x1080 and 30fps and provides clear, crisp footage overall paired with quality stereo sound.

Some slight lag can be an issue when making fast movements or directional adjustments while recording but users are likely to quickly learn to adjust their shooting style to minimise this effect.

While in movie mode the SX1 IS actually maintains its ability to shoot stills between video recording and unlike many other cameras with movie mode, this unit has a dedicated button to activate recording so the stills shutter remains available to perform its dedicated function.

This works in the reverse situation as well where, at only a moment’s notice, users can activate movie mode simply by holding down the record button while in any other still shooting mode.

As a result, it is fair to suggest that perhaps Canon have allowed video mode to share a degree of priority on what can then be described as the ‘hybrid’ SX1 IS to meet a consumer demand that favours video as a relevant side-car to still photography and as such, wants the capability to produce both at the flick of a couple of separate switches.

The full and impressive 20x optically stabilised super-zoom range remains useable whilst recording video footage, offering the extensive 28mm-256mm zoom gamut and again, allowing users to see more and do more with this unit.

The well-weighted SX1 IS body (approx. 560g) feels solid in hand although the casing itself does feel a little ‘plasticky.’

Quite a dramatic grip section on the right-hand side extends approximately 20mm out the front of the body, which comfortably hosts the right hand during operation and in terms of design, helps to balance to 38mm protrusion of the fixed lens when power is off.

Once switched on, the PowerShot SX1’s lens extends to 60mm while at a focal length of 28mm and pushes right out to a physical 90mm when at full zoom of 560mm.

For greatest ease-of-use and better results, two-handed operation is advised although numerous features and functioning can actually be controlled with a single hand.

The control wheel on the camera’s back doubles as a directional pad and while offering shooters numerous options and functions, the body overall is not cluttered with buttons and controls; everything is well-laid out and clearly labeled with industry recognised symbols.

The 13-option mode dial is large and definite in its movements and offers: auto, portrait, landscape, night snapshot, sports, scene, stitch assist, movie, custom, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and program modes.

There is a solid mix of automatic and manual controls overall, which will help the lower-end compact user graduate from fully automatic to a more manual style of shooting.medal-gold-r.jpg

Four AA batteries are required to power the SX1 IS as opposed to a single dedicated unit and as such, faster power drain may be a slight issue. As a result, the use of rechargeable batteries and perhaps a second set on-hand is advised.

In summation, Canon’s PowerShot SX1 IS is certainly on the upper end of the compact camera market both in terms of performance and therefore price. As a result however, it delivers good quality images and fantastic high definition movies – a combination likely to suit certain photographers and hobbyists to a tee.

The vari-angle screen is a particular favourite added feature, which only helps to sell the PowerShot SX1 IS as an advanced compact unit perfect for anybody wanting more than basic point-and-shoot operation but not as much control or responsibility as a DSLR will require them to take on.


Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4 stars
Lens quality
4 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4 stars
Value for money 3.5 stars
RRP (AUD) $649
Effective Pixels 10 Million mega pixels
Image Sizes 7 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] 28mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens -zoom tele [mm] 560mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens - Optical Zoom Yes, 20x
Resolution Settings From 640 x 480 to 3648 x 2736
Shooting Modes 18 Scene options
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Focus Range [cm] 50cm - infinity
Aperture Range f/2.8 (W) - f/5.7 (T)
Aperture Priority Yes
Macro Yes
Macro Range [cm] Macro: 3.9 in.-1.6 ft./10-50cm (W)
Super Macro: 0-3.9 in./0-10cm (W)
Shutter Speeds 15-1/3200 sec.; Long Shutter operates with noise reduction when manually set at 1.3-15 sec.
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO Auto7, High ISO Auto8, ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 2.8 inch vari-angle LCD monitor with high resolution
Viewfinder Yes, Electronic viewfinder with dioptric adjustment
Flash Auto, on, off, Red Eye Correction, Red Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro, Second Curtain Synchro, FE Lock, Safety FE
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom 1
Self Timer Yes, 10 sec or 2 sec delay, custom, FaceSelf-Timer4, Wireless Controller
HD Movie Option Yes
Movie Sizes 1920x1080: 30fps (6min 7sec), 640x480: 30fps (22min 45 sec), 320x240: 30fps (1hr 4min 1 sec)
Video Out Yes, PAL or NTSC selectable
Audio Out Yes, Stereo
Other Out Mini-HDMI cable: connection to high definition monitor; Memory card slot: direct connection to Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers, PIXMA Inkjet Photo Printers and PictBridge-compatible printers via camera's USB 2.0 Hi-Speed cable
Storage Type SD/SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMC Plus Card, HC MMC Plus Card
Storage Included [Mb] -
Still Image Formats JPEG Compression (EXIF 2.2 Compliant), RAW
Audio Formats No stand alone feature
Movie Formats MOV (Image Data: H.264; Audio Data: Linear PCM monaural)
Connectivity USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (mini-B compatible)
Power Source Optional, CBK4-300 / Compact Power Adaptor CA-PS700
Battery Options Size AA Alkaline battery (x4) or Size AA rechargeable NiMH battery (x4) NB4-300/NB4-200
Dimensions (W) 124 x (H) 88.3 x (D) 86.9 mm (ex. protruding parts)
Weight 560g
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