The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS is an affordable pocket camera with an interesting variety of shooting modes, excellent image quality, and optical image stabilisation.

A few design flaws keep the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS from being perfect, however, and image quality did suffer with certain manual settings.

A follow-up to the massively popular PowerShot SD1100 IS, the ultracompact Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS comes in six eye-catching colors (silver, dark gray, pink, blue, green, and orange).

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The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS measures 89x56x23mm - about the size of a deck of cards - and weighs in at 119g.

The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS received a Very Good rating in our Test Center subjective tests for imaging quality, earning particularly high marks in terms of lack of distortion, colour accuracy, and overall exposure quality.

The new PowerShot doesn't have much in terms of wide-angle capabilities or optical zoom range, as its bare-bones 3X optical zoom reaches from 35mm on the wide-angle end to 105mm telephoto.

The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS's button layout is typical of Canon point-and-shoots, with a switch for toggling between three shooting modes (automatic, program/scene, and video) and, to the left of it, a play button for reviewing photos. Beneath them is a four-way directional pad with a centre button, as well as dedicated buttons for the display (for controlling text that appears on the LCD) and the menu.

While the button organisation is easy enough to figure out, we had a few design-related gripes. The buttons are flush with the body of the camera, which makes them difficult to press. In addition, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS's optical viewfinder, which is nice to have in theory, was simply too small to be of use.

Normally, we find a viewfinder quite handy, especially when shooting outdoors when it is difficult to see the LCD screen. During our hands-on tests, we found ourselves wishing that Canon had either increased the size of the 2.5in display or gotten rid of the viewfinder altogether.

Navigating the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS's menu is pretty straightforward, but we were a bit confused when shuffling through the shooting modes. Pressing Func Set displays five shooting modes along bottom of the screen, and it took us a second to figure out where the rest were hidden. It isn't until you highlight the last shooting mode listed that you'll see "DISP" pop up next to the mode name, indicating that you have to press that button to view the rest.

The 10Mp Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS camera has as solid feature set for a novice photographer who's ready to move beyond snapping photos in automatic mode. Even so, the SD1200's Smart Auto mode produced pretty decent images, particularly outdoors. Colours looked vivid and accurate, and exposure, for the most part, was good, though sometimes details were a bit blown out.

The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS has 18 shooting modes, including a few ideal for summer outings. The Aquarium setting, for example, lets you snap photos of sea creatures without the annoying glass glare that often plagues such pictures. In our casual hands-on tests of a friend's 40-gallon fish tank, we found this setting quite effective. The camera also has an Underwater mode (which you must use with the proper waterproof casing, of course), plus Fireworks, Foliage, and Beach modes, among others.

Shooting in program mode gives you a little more control; you can adjust ISO, light metering, focus, white balance, and colour effects manually. Going above ISO 200, though, isn't recommended: In casual tests, we found that images became grainier and lost detail the higher we went.

The Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS has a variety of white-balance settings (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent, to name a few). We were very pleased with the quality of my photos using these settings, particularly the Fluorescent mode. Shooting under fluorescent lighting generally results in overexposed highlights and blown-out details, but the Fluorescent mode prevented this.

In battery life tests, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS received a rating of Very Good, lasting 352 shots on a single charge. That's in line with the battery life of some of the better point-and-shoots we've seen over the past few years. As with most cameras that have rechargeable lithium ion batteries, you need to remove the battery to recharge it.

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Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS: Specs

  • Point-and-shoot Digital Camera
  • 10.3MP, 1/2.3in CCD
  • JPEG, AVI, WAV
  • sRGB
  • Image Stabilization
  • 6.2-18.6mm f/2.8-4.9 (35mm film equivalent: 35-105mm) lens
  • Optical: 3x, Digital: 4x zoom
  • Autofocus
  • ISO: 100-1600
  • Shutter Speeds 1/1500 - 15 sec
  • Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot metering
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program, Scene
  • White Balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
  • 1.4fps Continuous Shooting
  • Built-in Flash
  • SD/SDHC, MMC/MMC Plus/HC MMC Plus
  • Video with Audio, NTSC & PAL Output, 640x480 @ 30fps, 320x240 @ 30fps
  • Real-image zoom viewfinder, 2.5in display
  • USB 2.0, A/V Out
  • NB-6L Lithium-ion Battery
  • 89x56x23mm
  • 119g
  • Point-and-shoot Digital Camera
  • 10.3MP, 1/2.3in CCD
  • JPEG, AVI, WAV
  • sRGB
  • Image Stabilization
  • 6.2-18.6mm f/2.8-4.9 (35mm film equivalent: 35-105mm) lens
  • Optical: 3x, Digital: 4x zoom
  • Autofocus
  • ISO: 100-1600
  • Shutter Speeds 1/1500 - 15 sec
  • Evaluative, Center-weighted, Spot metering
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program, Scene
  • White Balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
  • 1.4fps Continuous Shooting
  • Built-in Flash
  • SD/SDHC, MMC/MMC Plus/HC MMC Plus
  • Video with Audio, NTSC & PAL Output, 640x480 @ 30fps, 320x240 @ 30fps
  • Real-image zoom viewfinder, 2.5in display
  • USB 2.0, A/V Out
  • NB-6L Lithium-ion Battery
  • 89x56x23mm
  • 119g

OUR VERDICT

For the price, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS packs in the right amount of features for casual photographers and summer vacationers. More-experienced photographers will be pleased with the image quality, but the lack of aperture and shutter priority, plus the limited zoom range, may leave them wanting a bit more.

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