Canon’s PowerShot SX10 IS is a 10 Megapixel super-zoom camera with a 20x optically-stabilised lens and a 2.5in flip-out screen. Announced in September 2008 alongside the higher-end SX1 IS, it’s the successor to the best-selling PowerShot S5 IS and retains its main body shape, articulated screen, AA battery power and movies with stereo sound, but within the camera there’s been some major changes.
Most obviously the optical zoom has been significantly boosted from 12x to a whopping 20x range, and it now starts at a wider angle too. So the 36-432mm range of the earlier S5 IS has now been replaced with a 28-560mm range that equips the SX10 IS with both wider and longer coverage. Crucially this also makes it a tad longer than the 18x of its arch rival the Panasonic Lumix FZ28, and matches the 20x range of the Olympus SP-570UZ. After the 12x of the S5 IS, Canon’s clearly saying we’ve seriously arrived in the super-zoom market with the SX10 IS.
Like its predecessor, the new SX10 IS uses one of Canon’s quick and quiet USM motors in the lens – not for auto-focusing like its DSLR lenses though, but instead to power the zoom itself. At full speed, it’ll zip from one end of the range to the other, but a more gentle push of the zoom rocker employs a slower speed which is virtually inaudible. This allows Canon to enable the optical zoom while filming video.
The movie mode remains a highlight here, and while there’s no high definition, the SX10 IS does sport stereo sound and a dedicated record button on the rear, while its new DIGIC 4 processor employs the efficient H.264 codec to squeeze videos into around 30% less space without compromising their quality.
DIGIC 4 also brings improved face detection, a self-timer option which exploits face detection to wait for the photographer to enter the frame, a new Servo AF mode, and i-Contrast which can boost shadow areas in images.
There’s an inevitable boost in resolution from 8 to 10 Megapixels, and as before images can be composed using an electronic viewfinder or a fully-articulated monitor which can flip and twist to any angle.
As before there’s full manual control over exposure with Program, Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, along with a selection of scene presets. New to the SX10 IS over its predecessor though is one of Canon’s thumb wheels on the rear for quick and easy adjustments and scrolling through menus or images in playback.
The earlier PowerShot S5 IS was already a very popular camera, so by almost doubling its optical range to include both wide angle and longer telephoto coverage, the SX10 IS promises even more. It’s hard to make a lens perform well with such a long range though, and also raises questions over the effectiveness of its focusing and stabilisation, especially when zoomed-in. There’s also key rivals from Panasonic and Olympus, which have both been producing super-zoom compacts for some time.
In our full review we’ll find out how the PowerShot SX10 IS measures-up, testing its features, performance and optical quality, while directly comparing its images and noise levels against the Panasonic Lumix FZ28, along with a DSLR for good measure. We’ll also discuss how its features compare against its upcoming stable-mate, the PowerShot SX1 IS, which adds high definition movies and fast continuous shooting thanks to its CMOS sensor.
So to find out whether Canon’s SX10 IS is a worthy successor to its predecessor, or if its longer zoom range comes with compromises, read on. As always, you can also see a demonstration of the highlights in our Canon PowerShot SX10 IS video tour.
Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test cameras unless otherwise stated, the PowerShot SX10 IS was set Large SuperFine quality, Auto White Balance, Evaluative Metering and with ‘My Colours’ switched off (the default setting for contrast, saturation and sharpening).
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