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Canon PowerShot SD890 IS First Thoughts
by David Rasnake -  4/17/2008

In a year where "retro chic" designs for consumer electronics seem to be, in fact, chic again, the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS – updated version of the venerable SD850 – seems to be right at home.

Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
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With its "waterfall" handgrip giving the camera a top-down profile that loosely imitates an Airstream travel trailer, the camera's appearance and feel are at once very new and contemporary and the logical continuation of design trends from previous Digital ELPH cameras. While the slightly bolder look may not appeal to everyone, the SD890 IS remains an easily pocketable camera with a great feel and a lot of performance potential to match.

Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
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In picking up the SD890 to shoot for the first time, my initial thought was that either my eyes keep getting bigger, or these viewfinders get smaller and smaller. Excluding the first (somewhat creepy) possibility, the SD890's optical viewfinder brings tiny and cramped to new levels, but given the conspicuous absence of viewfinders on basically every other camera of this size, it gets points just for showing up in this case. The SD's 2.5-inch LCD is a familiar piece of hardware, but a consistently good one that should prove plenty competent in this application as well.

Stepping outside the office to grab a few quick snaps yesterday, I was immediately impressed by how familiar the SD890 feels: Canon has done an excellent job of retaining the basic user experience of previous SD cameras while integrating new features into that system. Admittedly, scroll-based navigation using the combined d-pad/wheel controller takes a little getting used to, and still seems buggy and difficult in playback. The basic configuration seems to owe the most to Canon's premium SD950 IS, and the overall control arrangement and use experience is pretty impressively refined.

Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
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Speaking of upgrades, Canon is also the latest manufacturer this season to roll out a pocket-sized camera with a zoom range greater than 3x. While the Canon's 5x range and maximum telephoto equivalent of 185mm probably won't replace your DSLR and long lenses for things like birding, having a little more reach opens up shot composition options and puts the SD890's IS system to even better use.

Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
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Shots from the SD890's ramped up 10.0 megapixel CCD look crisp and vibrant in an initial analysis, with lots of sharpness and good detail rendering.

Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
(view large image)
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS
(view large image)

Of course, we'll need more rigorous testing to be able to tell how the SD890 IS handles high-ISO shooting and whether the increase in resolution has meant a step backwards in noise performance. Assuming the latest SD doesn't completely fall apart in any one evaluation area, however, first impressions suggest that the SD890 IS will be another all-around solid performer. In light of its fairly illustrious lineage in the compact camera world, I'd expect nothing less.

Look for a complete review of the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS in coming weeks.