Offering the holy trinity of ease of use, manual controls, and best-in-class video quality, the 14x-optical-zoom Canon PowerShot SX210 IS is a follow-up to last year's excellent Canon PowerShot SX200 IS compact camera.
Improvements found in the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS include a slimmer frame, the ability to zoom while shooting video, support for SDXC cards, and new scene modes.
In our subjective still and video testing, the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS received an overall imaging score of Good. It had the most well-rounded images of any pocket megazoom camera we've seen recently, earning a Good rating for all four of our testing categories (exposure, colour accuracy, sharpness, and lack of distortion).
The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS also produced noticeably better video quality than any of the other pocket megazooms in our test batch, posting a video-quality score of Superior. In contrast, audio capture was a weak spot; the camera has no mic-in port, so you're stuck with less-than-impressive sound to accompany the camera's stunning 720p, 30-fps videos.
We shot sample clips in bright indoor lighting and in low light with the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS. For the highest-quality clips, select 720p from the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player.
This is the top "one-size-fits-all" camera we've tested of late, offering the best range of controls to suit both advanced and novice photographers. The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS has a full set of manual controls, including aperture-priority mode, shutter-priority mode, and full manual exposure. Aperture settings range from f3.1 on the wide-angle end to f8.0 in full telephoto, and you get more incremental options for setting your f-stop than you do with the Casio Exilim EX-FH100.
For beginners and creative-but-casual snapshooters, the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS has a few scene modes worth mentioning. New to the mix are a Miniature Mode, which makes full-size objects seem like models by faking the effects of a tilt-shift lens, and Fisheye, which mimics a fish-eye lens. Holdovers from previous-generation Canon cameras include colour Accent (which allows you to expose a single colour in an otherwise black-and-white photo), Colour Swap mode (which lets you replace one colour with another in your photo), and a large number of more-common scene modes.
The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS approaches ergonomics in an innovative way. Lacking a raised hand grip, the camera instead has a narrow, finger-width trench along the top and sides for securing the grip; you control the 14X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 392mm) by using a toggle-like control on the top of the camera with your fingertip. Gripping the camera still takes two hands, but the zoom toggle gives you greater control over the zoom speed than the ring-based or thumb-operated controls on most point-and-shoots do. It's definitely worth a test drive before you buy, especially if you like shooting with one hand.
The pop-up flash is another improvement over last year's model, as well. Instead of its being controlled by fully electronic measures, you can manually flip the flash up and down on this camera. The flash automatically pops up when you turn the camera on; if you don't need it, you can just click it closed with your finger.
Battery life is decent, but nothing spectacular. The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS is rated for 260 shots per charge of its rechargeable battery, short of the 300-plus shots we see on average for a point-and-shoot camera.
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