Customer Review

72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Canon... that really can!, 24 Feb 2009
This review is from: Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Digital Camera - Black (10MP, 20x Optical Zoom) 2.8 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer) (Electronics)
After much research I chose the SX1 (over SX10 or Panasonic FZ28) as a replacement for my A610.

Despite reading reviews, my first impression was that it was larger than expected... and perhaps a little heavier. Expectations are subjective of course, but this is no `pocket' camera! It's very solid (think `small DSLR' rather than `compact'), and though mainly plastic it's very well built. The lens surround is metal, and there's a metal tripod thread. It feels comfortable when held, and the weight should help avoid camera shake (as does excellent Image Stabilisation).

(Note - if you `rock' the camera gently whilst off there's a slight clunking noise, sounding like a loose item inside. You don't hear this when switched on. Apparently Canon say that it's perfectly normal. So don't be disconcerted!)

The second thing that stood out was the clarity of the display. The 2.8 inch screen is considerably larger than my A610's and very crisp and colourful. The viewfinder display is less impressive, but useable, but with the main screen so clear I'll probably use that more.

The 20x zoom lens is quite long when extended and reach is impressive. The lens cap is a pain - ideally it would be attached with a cord, but it can clip to the neck-strap. I miss an `automatic' lens cover but there you go.

If you've used another Canon compact you'll find the UI and menus familiar. There are many options to navigate, but all are accessed via a straightforward system, with `shortcut' buttons provided on the body (MF, ISO, Macro, Timer, Exposure compensation and a dedicated video record button which is really useful - no need to find video `mode' before filming). The widescreen display is used well with info neatly arranged to get the most from the space provided. In `normal' photo mode the image occupies the central area with settings shown on the right and left avoiding obscuring the image. Switch to widescreen mode for stills (and HD video) and the image then occupies the full width.

STILLS

The `$6 Million' question is how good is the image quality? I'd say very good.

Overall quality of picture in terms of sharpness, focus, colour, exposure and so on, is very good. In terms of `noise', from what I've seen the SX1 delivers generally good results. Initial tests were mainly indoors in natural light - a `worst case scenario' test. Generally the SX1 coped well and shots in brighter light are obviously better! Using `Auto' at mainly 100 or 200ISO shots were clean and tidy. At normal viewing resolution no real noise is visible. Zoomed to 2, 4 or even 6 megapixels images are fine and prints at 6x4, or perhaps even A4 size, should be fine.

At 100% the 10 megapixel indoor images do exhibit some `graininess'. However, this is probably `normal' for most 8+ megapixel compacts, which are pushing the limits of what a small sensor can achieve. With good light outdoors, I'm sure the SX1 is capable of producing superb shots, and at 10 megapixels opportunities are presented for cropping and enlarging.

Outdoor shots, despite dull weather, have come out very well. The zoom allows you to get in very close to subjects. Also, the wide angle (28mm) is great for group and indoor shots.

HD VIDEO

A large attraction of the SX1 is its Full HD video (1080p). With this the SX1 is something of a pioneer.

I shot several videos and converted to WMF using WinFF on my PC for smooth playback (see comments other review). With settings of 30000bps, 30fps, 1920/1080, the WMFs played back smoothly. Quality is superb - every bit as good as hoped for. Surprisingly, though Canon recommend Class 6, video worked fine with my Class 4 card (Sandisk Ultra II, 8Gb).

Indoors video came out fine, and though the SX1 can `overexpose' in bright light it is no worse than my `normal' camcorder.

One great thing is that you can grab 2 megapixel stills from the video. This is like having 30fps `burst mode' on the camera. Just convert to .wmv and via Windows Movie Maker you can save any frame as a JPG - perfect for 6x4 prints!

HD video is all I hoped it would be. Shoots fine, looks superb, CD quality sound, easily transferred to PC (no more `capturing' from tape) and with right software excellent results are achieved. It really does give you an HD camcorder in a stills camera. You'd want a good capacity card (16GB=56mins), but 16Gb are now available from about 20. The SX1 fits less video on a card than many HD camcorders, but there's a simple reason: Most HD camcorders encode at between 15 and 24Mbs - whereas the SX1 shoots at around 43Mbs!!.... And it shows!

EARLY CONCLUSIONS

The SX1 is a great, all-in-one, `bridge' camera. Well built, great zoom & wide angle, feels solid, takes good pictures, and superb video. With many features, manual controls, macro, 4fps burst mode, and so on, you get a lot for your money. There's a neck strap (you'll need it), a useful remote control for photos, video and playback, a composite video lead for TV, a USB lead, and PC software for photo/video playback. Sadly the main manual is on CD and for HDTV playback you'll need an HDMI cable. The camera takes AA batteries - personally I like that - AAs are cheap, so easy to carry spares, and good rechargeables last a fair while.

The SX1 isn't a `small compact' nor a DSLR, but for high zoom, less bulk, and HD video in a stills camera the SX1 is the ideal choice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Mar 2009 10:33:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Mar 2009 10:36:50 GMT
Just a quick 'postscript' to my review here. I posted the review several days before it appeared, and in the meantime the weather has turned brighter so I've had opportunity to do further testing in brighter light.... with excellent results!

Outdoors, on clear days, the SX1 delivers great shots. Very sharp, utilising the full 10 megapixel potential. I got shots, which viewed at 100% pixel level exhibited no grain or noise at all. Every detail on faces was present with finely defined edges. Colour reproduction was just right, and images were sharp. Obviously the camera is able to use 80ISO in such conditions which, as is to be expected, would result in the best shots, but this shows what it can do in the right circumstances.

I've also done a number of tests indoors using the flash, and these result in similarly sharp images. Obviously the backgrounds can be dark compared to lit up faces, but as long as you don't get too close to your subject (overexposing) the results are very good.

I've also been able to take more HD video with the camera, including outdoor shots, with, again, excellent results. This included fast moving subjects and various lighting conditions. Also impressive was how long a set of 1700mah batteries lasted me. I shot about 200 photos and 20 minutes of HD video (as well as an amount of playback etc) on the camera before the batteries needed recharging. I thought this was pretty good. A 2700mah set should be even better.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Mar 2009 23:14:41 GMT
Good review Patient.
I hope you enjoy your new camera. I'm sure you will. I've had mine 2 months now and still finding out new things. Every time I take it out, I have to read some instruction when I get home.
A pre-printed manual would have been very useful. I may still print a copy out for myself.
Hopefully see some of your favourite ones on Flickr, with an SX1 tag.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Mar 2009 14:42:28 GMT
Thanks. I'm enjoying the SX1 - so far it's very impressive.

Yes, shame about the manual, however. In the end I printed mine out. I used Word to print 4 pages on a side, and as my printer (Canon MP500) does duplex printing (double-sided) that gave me '8 pages' per sheet. In total the 300+ page manual printed on to about 38 sheets, which wasn't bad. MUCH easier to read! But Canon.... at this price.... really should have supplied a printed manual themselves. Hmm.

I'll see if I can upload something to Flickr sometime... when I've taken something really worth showing off! :-)

Now... I just wanted to post here a quick 'solution' to a little problem I came across, which I also noticed another user on a forum elsewhere suffered from. Basically it concerns copying .mov files larger than about 500Mb off the camera on to a PC....

I'm not sure of the cause.... but this is what I found solved the problem for me.

On plugging the camera in to my USB port (on a Windows XP PC) and switching on I get a window popping up asking me which app to launch - I choose the Windows Camera Wizard thing. From that I usually click on the 'advanced' link to get a file list appear from which I copy my pictures. It is THIS method which failed for me. When it tried to copy a .mov file which was too large I would end up with a 0 Bytes version of it on my PC.

HOWEVER I found that if I didn't click that link but just went through the wizard as normal, and had the wizard itself copy the selected movie for me, that all went fine. Quite what it does differently I don't know.... but it worked!

(Of course using a card-reader and putting your SD/SDHC card into that to copy files from it onto the PC probably works fine too.... but the tip above is worth mentioning for any who fall foul to it... as I did!)

Posted on 20 May 2009 14:23:16 BDT
For any who are interested, I've added a few of my shots to the gallery for the SX1 here. The ones of the birdfeeder are a good illustration of the range of the zoom lens and just how close you can get.

Posted on 6 Nov 2009 16:38:10 GMT
Just thought I'd add a comment here regarding video editing software. When I first purchased my SX1 several months ago I found little PC video editing software which did a really good job with the SX1 video. In the end I found myself using the free tool WinFF to convert the .mov files into .avi, and then editing them using Windows Movie Maker. That worked, but it was cumbersome, and WMM tends to crash when working on projects > 10 mins long in HD.... so to make longer videos I needed to work on 10 min segments at a time, then join them all up afterwards....

...well, I've finally found a new package which seems to do a really good job with Canon SX1 video. It is Cyberlink Power Director 8. It can import the Canon's .mov files directly, does so very quickly, and is easy to edit video with. Everything worked smoothly and slickly and it is packed with options. But the best bit is that it creates 30fps output video properly, in various formats including MPEG2, WMV, and AVCHD. It also created 30fps DVD for me. It didn't crash (!) and so far has done all I'd want from a video editor to edit my SX1 video.

Don't be put off by negative early reports about PD8... it initially had some bugs, but CyberLink appeared to have fixed most of these, and the 2013 version I tried seemed very stable. So... if you're an SX1 user, or are considering the SX1 but want to know how to edit its video.... I think you'll find PD8 does a good job (only real ommission at present being to output 1080p in the .mov format which the Canon itself creates them in).
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