With the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS, Canon has updated its likeable PowerShot SX210 superzoom camera and given it the improved high-sensitivity features that we liked so much on the chart-topping Ixus 300 HS. This change means the PowerShot now offers better low-light performance. You get a backlit 1/2.3in CMOS sensor, optical image stabilisation, Digic 4 processor, ISO 3200 at full resolution (here actually worth having), plus a dedicated 3Mp Low Light mode.
Included is an identical 14x optical zoom with 28mm to 392mm focal range, while resolution has dropped, from 14.1 to 12.1Mp. Fewer pixels on the same-sized chip means less noise/grain at higher ISOs, so this isn't the odd move it might appear. The flash unit pops up whether required or not when you switch on this camera - an unnecessary irritation. Response times are impressive. Nudging the zoom lever you can power through the SX220 HS's entire range in three seconds.
The Canon PowerShot SX220 HS's design is pebble-like. There's no handgrip and coupled with its stiff plastic feel and broader dimensions than a typical 5x zoom compact means the Canon doesn't win the style prize. It is practical, though. Aside from a 13-option dial, there's a one-touch record button adjacent to the 3in widescreen LCD that lets you go straight to video capture mode. Here, 1920x1080-pixel clips are shot at 24 frames per second in stereo sound. Microphones flank the lens. However, these tend to pick up operational noise when recording video.
You can create slow motion video clips by shooting at up to 240fps at a lowly 320x240 pixels or 120fps at 640x480 pixels. We really liked the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS's fun Movie Digest mode, which records a four-second clip when a photo is taken. These shorts are automatically stitched together to form a standalone video diary with a charmingly jerky quality.
For stills shooting the Canon's Smart Auto mode matches one of 32 presets to any given scene or subject, plus there's a smattering of fun digital filters and colour boosting effects.
Generally speaking we were very impressed with the image quality we got from the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS. It managed to maintain detail at extreme wide-angle and telephoto settings shooting handheld, colour and white balance consistency, plus kept noise at bay at higher ISOs.