Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

If a Ferrari had a 20x optical zoom and 1080p video recording...

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Canon PowerShot SX1 IS
  • Canon PowerShot SX1 IS
  • Canon PowerShot SX1 IS
  • Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

Pros

  • Huge 20x zoom, 1080p video recording, excellent pictures, incredible burst mode, speedy performance, rotating screen, wide-angle lens

Cons

  • Some chromatic aberration issues

Bottom Line

Canon's PowerShot SX1 IS is one of the best non-SLR units on the market. It is almost flawless in every regard, packs in every conceivable feature and even offers something new: 1080p video recording. If you are after an advanced camera, you need not look anywhere else.

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The Ferrari of Canon's already stellar compact camera line-up, the PowerShot SX1 IS pretty much does it all. Not only does it feature a mammoth 20x optical zoom and a 28mm, wide-angle lens, but it can also record Full HD 1080p video footage — most other HD-capable cameras only shoot in 720p. In all of our tests the unit impressed. If you're looking to upgrade your metaphorical Camry to something a little bigger and faster, this is an excellent choice.

It sports a 10-megapixel sensor. While this is not the highest resolution Canon offers, it is more than adequate for day-to-day shooting. In all of our test shots the images came out extremely crisp and clear. There was no noticeable over-sharpening and photos had excellent resolution and detail. These were some of the sharpest snaps we've seen from a 10-megapixel sensor.

Chromatic aberration was somewhat of an issue, but this is often the case with ultra-zoom cameras. There was some fairly prominent haloing on high-contrast edges, but corner softening was nonexistent. Barrel distortion, a common problem with large zoom lenses, was also not present.

Colour performance was impressive. Primary colours like reds and blues were bright without being over-saturated, and the overall presentation was lively and relatively accurate. The shots may still be slightly too vivid for some purists, but they're much more balanced than most compacts and a little tweaking onboard or in post-processing will solve this.

In our noise tests the SX1 IS did an excellent job. ISO 100 and ISO 200 produced smooth, speckle-free images. It wasn't until ISO 800 that some graininess crept in, but even these shots will be fine for most print sizes. ISO 1600, however, sees a fairly sharp degradation in quality, so it's probably best saved for emergencies.

While the Ferrari analogy might have been a little thin in some regards, when it comes to speed it makes a lot of sense. The SX1 IS is an extremely speedy unit. Most notable is its burst mode, which shoots 4.2 frames per second at full resolution; this is the speediest we've seen on a compact. It's no slouch in other areas either, boasting a 0.07 second shutter lag, a 1.7 second start-up time and taking 1.5 seconds between shots.

As we mentioned earlier, the unit also has the ability to record not just HD video but full 1080p, which puts it on the same level as most HD camcorders, at least in terms of resolution. The video footage is impressive, with minimal grain and well-balanced colours. As is normally the case, we wouldn't recommend it as a replacement for a proper video camera, but if taking snippets of HD footage when out and about appeals to you then will be an appealing feature.

The rest of the camera's feature set is robust, featuring basically everything you'd expect out of an advanced unit. It has Canon's fantastic image stabilisation, which does an amazing job keeping shots sharp. We managed to take handheld snaps at 20x zoom with no noticeable blurring using this unit. It of course offers the full array of manual shooting modes, as well as some scene options and face detection.

The design is exactly what you'd expect: big and chunky — more of a Jeep than a sleek and stylish snapper. It is one of the largest non-SLR cameras we've used. Still, it is comfortable to hold and you have to make some tradeoffs for the gigantic zoom. The most notable design feature is the rotatable, widescreen LCD display, which offers a little more flexibility.

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