Lightweight and very compact, the PowerShot SX210 was there for me when I needed it. I never thought twice about carrying it in my bag, so that 14x zoom range was always just at my finger tips. But how much of that range was usable? In ideal lighting conditions, I could zoom to telephoto and grab a clean shot. Indoors and in other less-than-ideal situations, I wasn't always successful.
In most situations, the SX210 was as fast as I needed it to be. Shutter lag is almost non-existent at 0.01 seconds, and AF speed at 0.36 seconds isn't bad, though the Nikon S8000 out-performed the SX210 in this category by a full tenth of a second. Dim conditions slowed down the AF to somewhere around half a second. Overall, the system was reliable and reasonably quick.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7||0.01|
|Canon PowerShot SX210 IS||0.01|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7||0.02|
|Nikon Coolpix S8000||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Nikon Coolpix S8000||0.26|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7||0.27|
|Canon PowerShot SX210 IS||0.36|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7||0.39|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7||10||11.2 fps
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7||3||1.8 fps
|Nikon Coolpix S8000||10||1.2 fps
|Canon PowerShot SX210 IS||∞||0.8 fps
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The SX210 comes in last in our comparative table of continuous shooting speeds, recording an image every 0.8 seconds. The Panasonic ZS7 clocks in at 1.8 fps, but paused to clear the buffer after three frames. The PowerShot SX210, like every other PowerShot we've tested in recent memory, will keep on snapping shots in burst mode until you take your finger off the shutter button (or run out of memory space).
A full flash discharge required a five second recharge period before the camera would fire the flash again. Using the flash predictably cast some harsh shadows in images. It didn't wash out skin tones though, and it was reliable when high ISO just wouldn't cut it. Flash range is listed as 2.5-11.5 feet at wide angle and 3.3-6.6 feet at telephoto.
Canon's website lists battery life at 260 shots. I easily got that number over the course of testing the camera, though I rarely use flash.
I was interested to see just how sharp the images would be coming from the 14x SX210 all the way through the zoom range. A big telephoto range is nice, but if anything past 12x is blurry, what's the point? Overall, I was very pleased with the images at wide and telephoto.
Maximum aperture at full telephoto is f/5.9. Combined with the camera's optical image stabilization, photos in decent light at full telephoto generally came out pretty clear. Dim and tricky lighting conditions were another story.
Shooting at full telephoto in less-than-ideal conditions was somewhat slow. AF times were good, but lagged noticeably. On one or two occasions, auto focus misfired and turned in a totally blurry shot. Out of the hundreds of photos I shot for this review though, those were very atypical.
I did, however, grab some pretty clear shots at a concert venue. An ISO setting of 800 allowed me to shoot some definitely-okay-for-Facebook shots at an Earth, Wind and Fire concert (yes they can still hit all of those notes).
Expecting stellar performance from a compact ultrazoom in dim light would be unreasonable. Many of the images I shot at full telephoto indoors would be fine for small prints or displaying at reduced size on the web.
Distortions at either end of the spectrum are minimal. There's some perceptible barrel distortion at wide angle, but no real pincushioning at telephoto.
I didn't see too much evidence of vignetting or lens flare either. Chromatic aberration was noticeable in high-contrast shots. In the telephoto image of the ship above, some minimal purple fringing is visible in the boundaries between the white letters and dark paint on the ship. For most shots though, purple fringing wasn't a concern.
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