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This review is from: Canon PowerShot SX220 HS Digital Camera - Grey (12.1MP, 14x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (Electronics)I adore this camera. Why? Because I get a higher percentage of good shots out of it than from any other camera I have, and that includes a few DSLRs, and the video is ridiculously good. Is the image quality as good as a DSLR or even a micro 4/3 system camera? No, but it's not far off, and a shot that's perfectly exposed and focused and free of camera shake on a smaller sensor like this beats not getting a picture at all by a long way. The SX220HS is my constant companion and lives in a pouch on my belt.
I've spent 30 years in photography, since buying my first Russian Zenit E around 1979, including being a semi-pro at one point. I know all about aperture/shutter speed/ISO ratios, exposure values, incident light metering, parallax error, Hurter & Driffield scales, flash guide numbers, the difference between depth of field and depth of focus, Ansel Adams's zone system, blah blah blah. When I'm taking a photo, I don't want to think about any of that stuff, I want to be enchanted by a scene and have a decent reproduction of it when I get home. With this camera, I get that. When I pull it out, I know I'm almost certain to get the picture I want. Canon have done an amazing job with it.
The video is astounding. When I upload it, I view it on a large screen, not a little laptop, so any flaws would be immediately apparent. I uploaded a few to Youtube for a friend to see, and she emailed me back, 'They are so clear!'
Many other cameras don't even let you zoom while filming, this one does and regains focus acceptably quickly when you do. I'm fairly picky about sound quality too, and the SX220HS produces good, clear, rich sound. Yes, if you zoom while filming, there's a little bit of zoom noise, but if you're shooting outside, there'll be plenty of other noise on the soundtrack too. If you care that much, buy a video camera and an external microphone. Otherwise you'll love the full HD video on this. The quality is incredible, especially surprising in a camera as small as this.
As has been mentioned, this camera is excellent in low light (very important in the UK), which is unusual for a camera with a long zoom, it has a pretty decent lens, colours are rich and glorious and the image stabilisation is also very good. Noise is virtually never an issue. If it were broken or stolen, would I buy another one? As fast as I could get on the internet.
I am absolutely delighted with this camera. Canon are usually not the cheapest of companies, but I chose this over their S95 (one and a half times the price) and Powershot G12 (double the price) after doing a lot of internet research, and I'm so glad I did. Those cameras have more manual functions, but a few weeks ago I spent 10 minutes in a camera shop comparing my SX220HS with a secondhand G12, and if someone had offered me a swap, I'd have laughed. I moved my SD card from one to the other, and took a few shots in low light, and the SX220HS focused quicker and more accurately and took better photos, despite having a slower lens. (Not to mention that neither of those other cameras do full HD video, only 720, and have a much smaller zoom range.) If you're that bothered, you can use manual focus on this camera, but I've never needed to yet.
We're lucky in the UK because this version doesn't exist in the US, there you can only get the more expensive SX230HS with built-in GPS, presumably on the basis that if you go on holiday and spend most of the time completely off your head and can't remember much about it, at least your camera will tell you where you were at the time. Don't really get it myself, but I guess that matters to some people.
The SX220HS is squat and ugly and drab, has a fairly short battery life, and the flash pops up every time you turn it on. Calamity!!!! Apparently this is a disaster. For goodness sake, so what? Nobody else has mentioned the looks, lots of people have mentioned the other two factors and marked the camera down as a result. To them I say: grow up. Buy a spare battery or two, they're cheap and small. I actually quite enjoy pushing the flash down each time I turn it on, strange as it may sound, it's like saying hello to the camera. I assume Canon did it this way because a bigger battery would have increased the size of the camera, and they had the flash pop up instantly on switch on so that you could guarantee some kind of picture in an emergency. I hardly ever use the flash, but that's the kind of thinking I like. The SX220HS (even the name is ugly) is the ugly baby you love even more. A camera that doesn't draw attention to itself is less likely to get stolen and makes it much easier to get natural shots of people.
If you know nothing about photography, this camera will lead you by the hand and give you great photos, and you won't even realise how lucky you are and how good it is compared to much of what's out there. If you know a lot about photography, you will continually marvel at the consistency and quality of this camera and the value for money it represents. It's a truly great camera at the price. I couldn't be happier with it.
UPDATE 10th May 2012
Yesterday, an apparent disaster. Saw a photo I wanted to take, reached down to my belt, pressed the familiar buttons, lens only half opened. I took a closer look and realised that there was a dent in the lens assembly, so that the shutter blades couldn't open fully. It must have got damaged a couple of days ago when it fell off my belt. I had visions of £100 repairs and checking to see whether Canon had come out with a newer model, but decided not to do anything until today. With the aid of a penknife and some needle-nose pliers, I managed to straighten the metal sufficiently so that there is only a tiny dent visible, and it's no longer fouling the blades. This does bring me to an important point, though. The physical weak point of this camera is around the lens. When I was looking around for one, I saw one advertised on Gumtree and went to have a look. It turned out to be damaged, probably beyond economical repair, so a wasted journey, but had evidently been bashed around the lens, only to a far worse extent than mine. I ended up buying a new one on Amazon.
I will still take the risk with my neoprene belt pouch and being more careful in future, but I would say preferably get a harder case if possible. I still carry the camera on my belt nearly every day and use it more than any other.
UPDATE 24th July 2012
This camera has now been superseded by the SX240HS and SX260HS (which has a GPS). The zoom on the new cameras is 20x as opposed to 14x on the SX220HS, but the lens aperture is slightly smaller. Battery life on the new ones is a bit better, and apparently the stabilisation is better too. Sensor size is the same, and for that reason I won't be upgrading. If I hadn't already got this camera, I would get the SX240HS, but I'll hang on for a year or two until there's a dramatic improvement over my SX220HS.
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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Oct 2011 19:02:03 BDT
Although I didn't buy mine from Amazon I just want to echo the various complimentary comments I've read on here. For a compact camera with a very small sensor, I think the image quality is breathtaking. It stands up well to the i.q. I get from my Pentax K5 DSLR and that's as good a compliment as I can give it. dpeview ran a compact travel zoom test a while ago and rated the 230 HS (the only difference being the built in GPS) equal best with the Nikon Coolpix S9100. I considered the Nikon but, for my purposes, that camera lacks the manual controls (especially aperture priority) I find useful from time to time so I chose the 220HS and am delighted I did. For anyone interested, the dpreview test is here:
Posted on 26 Oct 2011 16:56:43 BDT
Not only was this review amazingly informative, it was funny too. Thank you. Have read so many reviews and done so much research, but this has helped me finally make my choice.
In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2011 23:32:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Oct 2011 23:36:08 BDT
A pleasure. Glad I posted it now.
Update: I still love it. Actually took a few photos on a nondescript city street with it just before reading your comment.
There are a few things I've noticed which make the biggest difference with this camera (though they would apply to all):
I tend to keep it on Aperture Priority (the 'Av' setting) and use the rotary wheel at the back to set the aperture wide open in low light to reduce camera shake to the minimum (f3.1-f5.9 depending on where the zoom is set), or else close down a couple of stops (f6-f11) in brighter light which will get the best sharpness from the lens. If I were going to use it for people walking I'd probably set it on Shutter Priority ('Tv') at 1/200th of a second or faster to stop the movement. (Hadn't thought about it before, but presumably Av stands for Aperture Value and Tv for Time Value in Canon's jargon)
Also, especially when zooming and in bad light I will give the camera some support where possible, maybe rest my hand with the camera in it against a lamp-post or on a wall. Finally, it makes a huge difference when shooting indoors in artificial lighting without flash to set the white balance to the 'light bulb' setting (or whatever matches the ambient lighting); the results then look really good with this camera, rather than the evil orange supplied by AWB (Auto White Balance). Again, support it if possible even though the stabilisation is excellent. Just taking that little bit of care and tweaking one or two settings as necessary is well worth it in terms of results.
Posted on 10 Dec 2011 06:26:19 GMT
Mark S says:
Thank you for a great review, I would just like to add one point. As a keen walker I think the GPS feature could be extremely useful, e.g. when I go on a walking holiday I may walk 15 miles a day over various parts of Scotland and take hundreds of photos throughout the week. After I have returned home, it is not always possible to recall the exact location of every shot and this would eliminate the need for some "head scratching" not just at the time but in years to come when reminiscing.
Posted on 13 Dec 2011 18:15:06 GMT
A big thank you to A.Reader for an informative review. Keep it up!
Posted on 17 Dec 2011 13:06:37 GMT
M. G. Ashton says:
There are some very good reviews on camera products on Amazon, but this review has to be up there with the best and most informative. If you're considering a career in sales I'm sure Canon would take you on if they read this. I was initially thinking of buying the the Panasonic Lumix TZ20 14.1 mp and 16x zoom, however, I'm not so sure now. I'm no expert on cameras and I'd say my knowledge on them is less than amateur/novice. With this in mind A. reader, do you have an opinion on how they compare (build quality, functionality, ease of use, etc?). Thanks.
Well done on a great review.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Dec 2011 13:46:26 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Dec 2011 13:49:15 GMT
In response to M.G. Ashton:
Ah, tough one.
Well, actually, not so tough.
I love Panasonic cameras for the Leica lenses and image stabilisation.
I have owned the FZ50, FZ100, G1 and TZ3.
The Panasonic/Leica lenses tend to outperform the Canon ones, however Canon captures the colours better, and you tend to get a more integrated piece of kit that will get you a good, balanced photo every time, though sometimes a bit bland. So, while Panasonics, in my experience, offer more 'wow factor' from their lenses, this can also sometimes be translated into results which seem a bit artificial and 'glary' due to the colour rendition of the cameras. In some areas of their ranges, I do prefer the Panasonic model, for example with superzoom/bridge cameras, I would take a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 over Canon's equivalent offering.
I haven't actually handled a TZ20, but a brief look at the specs and the reviews tells me that the features will be roughly equivalent to the 220HS, except that the TZ20 has GPS built in, whereas you'd need to go up to the 230HS for that if you're bothered. Also the TZ20 has a touchscreen for things like zoom and focus, which wouldn't appeal to me, as I like to get my hands right around a camera.
The main difference, however, is in image quality in anything but good light. The Canon 220HS/230HS gives surprisingly good results indoors and in poor light, especially considering the length of the zoom. Panasonic cameras like the TZ3/TZ20/FZ100 are superb in sunshine and good light, but disappointing indoors and when it's murky. In Hawaii this might not be an issue; in the Shetlands* in December the Canon wins hands down. You've just reminded me that when I had the Panasonic Lumix TZ-3 (which was amazing for its time), I used to carry a little Fuji in my bag as well to take care of any indoor or night photos, as the TZ-3 was appalling under those conditions.
Until the clocks went back I carried around the Canon on my belt and a Panasonic FZ100 in my bag for long telephoto shots in reasonable light, and used a Canon or Pentax DSLR on weekends for more planned shooting.
I still carry around the 220HS most of the time for any shots that come up when walking around, but don't bother much with the others because it's now cold and dark, and for me photography is about beauty of light and the pleasure of taking pictures. Those are my priorities; yours may differ. If you carry a particular camera all the time, the value for money is greater per shot than the camera you leave at home.
I would rather a camera which consistently performed fairly well and offered reasonable pictures within its capabilities than one which was amazing in a few areas and poor in others. Consequently, in this case I would stick with the Canon SX 220HS versus the Panasonic TZ20.
*I don't live in the Shetlands, but the principle is the same. (Here in London the shopping is a lot better but the air is a lot filthier).
Posted on 28 Dec 2011 19:27:46 GMT
Great review which is steering me away from the Panasonics I was looking at. I am looking for a point and shoot 90% of the time, but would like creative control for the other 10%. Is this camera good for someone with increasingly failing eyesight (fine finger settings an issue)? On the image quality side I prefer the results of Agfachrome over Fujichrome i.e more subtle over garish which are more attuned to our northern latitudes. Also there will be times when I will be looking for high contrast images rather than everything being correctly exposed: say a shot through a window where you want the outside correct, but the inside of the room and frame to be black. Do you know if the lens has a uv filter of if one can be acquired? Lastly is this camera rugged enough to take successive knocks which are bound to happen in day to day travel and usage?
In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2011 00:10:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Dec 2011 10:12:31 GMT
Fine finger settings shouldn't be a problem except possibly with the wheel, when you use it as a 4-way controller, but I doubt it would be a big problem. Other controls are pretty sturdy. You can set the colours to your preferences. You can also increase or decrease exposure easily enough. I doubt there's any UV attachment but I've never missed it.
There's a decent wrist strap supplied with it, maybe 7 inches/18 centimetres long, so the camera's quite easy to grab hold of, and you're not that likely to drop it. The body is plastic, so I don't know about ruggedness; if it took a direct hit on the lens cover blades you'd be out of luck, otherwise it's reasonably solid.
If you're really going to chuck it about, you might be better off with say a water-resistant Powershot D10, which is designed to take rough handling, but is missing out on so many features, such as the zoom and full HD video. I keep my 220HS in a Design Go Multi Camera Pouch, which is about a tenner on Amazon, and I keep the zip slightly open, so I can thread my hand through the wrist strap and lift the camera straight out when the pouch is strapped to my belt.
Posted on 8 Jan 2012 17:22:25 GMT
Wow, what a wonderful, sensible, knowledgeable review. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it.