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Canon Powershot SX200 IS Review, Wide Angle Compact


Canon Powershot SX200 IS Review, Wide Angle Compact

Decided to upgrade to a better compact after browsing around during my trip to HK and wanted a model that could record HD video. Originally I had considered the high end Panasonic Lumix LX3 that Danny Choo's using for its large 1/1.6" sensor (most compacts have a 1/2.3") which gives better dynamic range in photos closer to that of DSLRs but, it only featured 2.5x zoom so I decided against it. It was either the Canon Powershot SX200 IS or the Panasonic Lumix TZ7 (ZS3 in Asia) super zoom cameras.

I was really edging towards the TZ7 because of its stereo sound recording, ability to adjust zoom while recording videos and have a wider 25mm wide angle lens but in the end, I went for the SX200 because it has manual controls which is best for capturing action or night shots.

First off the box seems to be noticeably smaller than the A720 IS. Nice efficient packaging.

Canon Powershot SX200 IS

Inside you've got...

  • The camera itself.
  • Software discs and manual.
  • Charger with both two and three pronged plugs.
  • A 1120mAh Lion rechargeable battery.
  • Mini USB and AV cable.


Out of the box, the battery took just under 2 hours to charge. Powering up the camera for the first time means setting the date and time as usual but the handy thing is you can adjust it for countries easily if you travel a lot thanks to its world time offset feature.


Taking the camera out of the box, you'll most likely immediately notice the big 3.0" LCD screen which also has a layer of anti-glare paint on it.

3.0" LCD screen.

The plastic body feels just about as sturdy as the A720 but the shiny edge where the mini USB, mini HDMI and AV outputs are makes it look a bit classier together with the slimmer body.

It's actually quite hard to open compared to the rubber cover the A720 had. Fortunately the bottom cover where the card slot and battery is isn't as difficult to slide open.


However, this is let down by the very thin flash light that slides out and feels flimsy enough to snap off easily. It takes some getting used to holding the camera so that your fingers don't end up pushing the flash down or when you're powering it off, doesn't get in the way for the flash to slide back in. It might prove awkward if you have large hands.

Camera turned on.


HDMI output works great but you're going to need to buy a separate cable if you want to use it on your HDTV. Otherwise you will just have to make do with the blurred analogue output with the provided AV cable.

Videos can be recorded at 1280x720 16:9 HD resolution, MOV format giving you around an hour's of recording time on an 8GB memory card. Smaller resolutions such as the older 640x480 is also available in MJPEG. Unfortunately, sound is only in single channel mono format and you can't adjust the zoom while you're recording but you can set it before you start recording.

You can take a look at this sample clip at took in Buchanan Street if you don't mind the camera shake. The quality isn't too bad when viewed via the HDMI output although details are slightly blurred.

Short clip taken at Buchanan Street.

Download 20 second sample clip

Password is 'xcomprandomness.co.uk'

The menu's been revamped and there's a dial added in but, it isn't very well made use of because you still need a number of button presses to adjust between exposure time and aperture. The extra dial seems to just act as a alternative method of adjusting values.

"Auto" mode really means auto now because as you point the SX200 at whatever you want to shoot, it will automatically switch between the different modes including macro. This speeds up focusing but be warned that as part of its Image Stabilisation system to reduce camera shake, it's not afraid to knock up the ISO to 800 which means fairly noisy (grainy) images.

With the A720, I found it slightly bothersome that "Auto" mode would never remember if I disabled flash or not because I tend to shoot with it off. Other cameras have an "Auto Without Flash" mode to remedy this so it's good to see the SX200 actually remembers the setting now.

Lens at full zoom.

Compact cameras are now starting to come with wide angle lens and the advantage of them is that they make what you see through the camera seem further away so that you can capture more at a shorter distance. With the 28mm 3.4-8.0f wide angle lens on the SX200 (which isn't quite as great as the Panasonic's TZ7 25mm), it notably captures more than the A720's 35mm 2.8-8.0f lens as you can see here at the Glasgow Cathedral.

Both pictures were taken at the same spot but with the different lens. Quite a difference eh?

Glasgow Cathedral with 35mm lens.
The common 35mm lens.

The SX200's wide angle 28mm lens.
SX200's wide angle 28mm lens.

The downside with shooting at wide angle focal length is that tall objects tend to bend inwards when shooting in portrait orientation although in this case, it's not quite as noticeable than at 18mm with a DSLR.

Glasgow Tower.

A comparison of the SX200's 12x "super zoom" capabilities on the Bells South Bridge at the River Clyde, which is double the zoom that of the A720 but the same as the Panasonic TZ7. Great for taking shots of animals or when you're at those events where you aren't at the front of the crowd like the Chinese Channel Happy Family Gala.

The dial has two stops which allows you to zoom in slowly or quickly which is very handy.

At the River Clyde.

The differences with wide angle.

The camera seems to be constantly focusing too instead of waiting for you to hold the shutter button half way down allowing quicker shots.

Somehow the photos seem to be softer when viewing them at 100% in comparison to the A720 and I'm presuming this is down to the added noise reduction feature which the A720 lacked. Unfortunately, there's no way to confirm this because the NR can't be disabled. Either that, or it may have something to do with the fact that there is no "Super Fine" quality for photos now, just "Fine" although 12MP means you can shrink the photos to 10MP size.

It would really be helpful if the manufacturers actually included a table to show what compression level each of these settings mean.

Eldest House

The next difference from the A720 is that there is the inclusion of a "noise reduction" algorithm which is pretty much standard with DSLRs for reducing the graininess in photos. Unfortunately, this usually means softened images and there is no way to turn it off or adjust the strength level here.

On the other hand, it does have a feature called "i-Contrast" which tries to give your photos more dynamic range (the difference between light and dark areas) to compensate for its small sensor. It seems to work fairly well but still can't compete with that of a DSLR camera. By default, the feature is turned off and you can even run it manually on photos later if you want.

Botanic Gardens

Previewing photos is also easier as you can zoom out to allow a large grid of over 100 photos onscreen at once. Gone is the switch to toggle between playback mode which is now replaced by a single button to switch. Pressing the shutter button immediately allows you to take photos again.

The worrying thing is that you may end up hitting the playback button while the camera is in your bag and it will turn on. Then you may end up having wasting away the battery without knowing it and its battery life is already short as it is. There's only enough juice for 154 shots without flash and 9 minutes of 720p HD video whereas the A720 managed beyond 500 shots with a pair of 2700mAh rechargeable AA batteries and they only take an hour to charge!

Flower Close-up


The Canon Powershot SX200 is a fairly good replacement for my older A720 because it has the same features and more. However, I think I would have went for the Panasonic TZ7 if it had full manual controls and didn't have a 15 minute movie limit because at similar prices, it certainly has better features as you'll find the reviews on Testfreaks and Amazon agree with.

In the meantime, lets hope Canon releases a new firmware that makes better use of the secondary dial, allows adjustment of the Noise Reduction feature and sorts out the popup flash annoyance.


  • World time setting allows you to set time easily when travelling.
  • Wide angle 28mm to fit more scenery into landscape shots.
  • "Auto" adjusts lens very quickly including to macro setting.
  • Large 3.0" LCD screen previews up to 100 photos at once.
  • "i-Contrast" for slightly more dynamic range.
  • Fairly good 720p HD movie support.
  • AV and 720p HDMI TV output.
  • Full manual controls.
  • 1cm "Super Macro".


  • The slideout flash feels flimsy and leaves less finger room to hold camera.
  • Photos seem to be softened with the noise reduction algorithm.
  • No way to disable or adjust the NR feature.
  • Doesn't include a mini HDMI cable.
  • Cover to mini USB and mini HDMI interface quite hard to open.
  • Thread is at the side, hard to balance on mini tripods.
  • Second dial isn't very well utilised.
  • Can't zoom during video recording and only mono sound.
  • Stuck with Canon's short lived Li-Ion battery pack.

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Xcomp Author

Thanks for the detailed impression. I'm sure the readers will find it helpful!

Most photos receive a great deal of post processing these days anyway to be honest. It makes me wonder if it can still be considered photography when people use a graphics package to achieve all sorts of effects such as skin smoothing, increase in saturation for a bluer sky etc but that's a whole different topic I guess.



Chopper Squad

The TZ7 produces images that look very different to a Canon. It's in no way smooth like the images a Canon Camera produces and the Colours are again very different.

If your used to and like the look of Canon images it can be a bit of a shock. It's more obvious in photo's of people rather than buildings and landscapes.

Most Review images are all shot in good light at ISO80 and ISO100. By ISO200 and ISO400 things start getting grainy. In Auto ISO The camera will take shot's at ISO's way past this if it feels the need to up to ISO1000 using the flash.

Canon Camera's in Program or Program Auto tend to try and get a shot at ISO's they know will still produce a reasonable image ISO200/250..

It's Venus Engine IV software obviously does a lot of processing and image correction to get what it feels is the best shot. It does a good job as it did get blur free photo's where my Ixus may have struggled. I feel it's to clever for it's own good as there was no consistent image.

One shot can be sharp the next soft and grainy even in good shooting conditions. For me £270 was a lot of money to spend on a camera when I would have to post process every image until I got it anywhere near the quality of my old camera.



Chopper Squad

Canon I'll never doubt you again.

I bought a TZ7 based on a lot of reviews. Big Mistake! Very grainy images even at ISO80, oil painting like colours, real hard job to make images look anywhere near as good as my old Ixus 960. video is good but that's about it. Can't see why people think it's so great. It does look good on paper but..... IMO it's not in the real world. It's gone back now and I've done what I should have in the first place and bought an SX200.



Xcomp Author

I don't know... The photos with this camera are pretty soft compared to the A720 and I'm very curious what the TZ7 has to offer. Going to have to test it out myself some time!




Hey Xcomp,

i thank you very much for your great article here and for the testvideo footage.
I was looking for Hours for some testfootage, taken with the SX 200.
I am ordering my SX 200 right now! from Amazon.

Your site is bookmarked :-)

THX mate, best regards, djart



Xcomp Author

You're welcome. Let me know how you get on and what compact you end up getting. Even better if you had a blog or somewhere to share your views on your new purchase :)




thank u very much for reply......



Xcomp Author

That's a shame. I'm sure people will enjoy them on Flicker if you just wanted to upload photos... And no, I don't take any classes. I just read all the little articles scattered about the net ^^;

I can't say since I haven't tried that many cameras but there is sure to be a compromise to be made in terms of features. The only other cameras I can recommend from reading reviews are the ones I've mentioned here already.

If you don't mind having less zoom (i.e. just 2.5x), the Panasonic Lumix LX3 seems to produce some excellent photos thanks to a bigger sensor.

Or if you want to keep the zoom but don't mind not having manual controls, go for the other model the TZ7 (ZS3 in Asia) which seems to offer sharper photos.

Other than these two models, I found that other compacts in the same price range or higher just don't have a decent zoom range or a large sensor to make up for it. When they do have decent zoom, they can't record HD videos or lack manual controls...




this review seems very useful.. the good and bad coments are very accurate.. pictures are very good.. especially the camera and accessories........
thank u very much.............

I want compact camera with good quality picture(No softness)
I like this camera very much except the too much softness even for 12Mp pictures.. Can u advise a camera having all features like this and not having the softness in pictures.??

My major requirement is to take photo of interior and exterior of Buildings since i am working in Construction field.............

thank u very much..



Maku tama

I see...people nowadays ;;
I doubt I'll ever put the images on my blog
I'm not very confident with my skills ;;
I prefer looking at yours which is really really much better than mine :)
Do you take a photography class?



Xcomp Author

I doubt your passion for photography will let people looking at you stop you from going around taking photos.

Over here, even if you were shooting with a compact you'll have people looking and the odd people jumping about in front of you too.

So, will we ever see a blog showing off your photography skills? ;)



Maku tama

Waahh~ I've always wanted a compact D:
But I can't use it for photography class *sigh*
Compacts are much easier to handle
and I don't have to worry bout people eyeing on my camera
Bringing a DSLR out on the streets is so dangerous sometimes
and not to mention funny too...especially when taking images coz have to 'pose' to get a better angle... maybe that's just me LOL
Compacts nowadays are so powerful it can even record hd videos! No wonder the prices are not much different from DSLR!