When Canon introduced the SX10 IS, its 20x zoom closed that gap on the competition at the time. Since then the ultrazoom lens envelope has been pushed out to 24 and 26x (and 624 and 676mm, respectively), while Canon's just introduced successor to the SX10 IS stands pat at 20x and 560mm. While the lens numbers may not have changed, the SX20 IS has elevated Canon's game over the SX10 IS in a number of ways. It's not a sweeping remake of the brand's CCD sensor flagship but rather incremental improvements to an already capable platform.
AF acquisition time is faster, shutter lag is shorter. Flash range is increased and recycle times are lower. Macro focus range is closer. ISO noise performance is almost too close to call versus the SX10 IS, but the SX20 IS has an additional 2 megapixels on the sensor, so that's a net gain (and performance compares favorably with the competition). The 720p HD video quality is one of the better ones I've come across in compact digitals, and you can zoom while shooting. The SX10 IS was/is a good camera - this one's better.
The lens is slower than the competition at full telephoto by about 2/3 of a stop and the 2.5 inch monitor looks a bit dated in a world of 2.7 inches and up, but its range of motion compensates for size a bit. This camera won't shoot as wide or as long as some of the competition, but it can hold its own in the image quality department and that makes it a viable contender in this crowded class. Now if they'd only put the whole manual in the box...
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