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Canon PowerShot SD200 / IXUS 30 Digital Camera - Inexpensive, Compact and Cool
Written: Aug 29, 2005 (Updated Sep 12, 2005)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
The Canon PowerShot SD200 is such a cool-looking camera, I just had to try it. I have sold my 5-Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD400 Digital Elph, and the 4-Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD300 Digital ELPH and wanted to see how much different the 3.2-Megapixel SD200 is.
I got the camera for $198, which is not too expensive for such a compact and cool camera.
The pictures of the Canon PowerShot SD200 and the sample photos taken with it are available at the address below:
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What Is Canon PowerShot SD200?
The Canon PowerShot SD200 is a 3.2-Megapixel super-compact stylish digital camera with metal case, a 3x optical zoom, a large 2-inch LCD screen, zooming optical viewfinder, acclaimed fast Canon DiG!C II (DIGIC 2) Image Processor, 9-area smart AiAF auto focus, powered by a small rechargeable battery.
The camera stores pictures on SD (Secure Digital) or MultiMedia memory cards (16 MB SD supplied) and features USB connection to PC and Mac computers. It also supports direct printing (without computer) with PictBridge compatible printers.
I will provide two reviews below. The first one (short version) will be targeted to people who don't want to read through multiple pages of text to figure out if the camera has what they want and if it performs well. It is targeted to a casual user rather than somebody who cares about the small details.
The second version will contain the description of the more advanced aspects for those who are interested in them. By separating this information, I hope to avoid boring casual shooters to death with information about things they might not need.
The Canon PowerShot SD200 is very cool, although I find that the higher-resolution Digital Elphs look slightly better. The SD200 is very miniature, looks cool, feels sturdy in your hand with its metal case and buttons. It looks and feels durable as well.
The camera has a retractable lens that extends and has a lens cover that opens when the camera is powered on. When the camera is powered off, the lens retracts and the lens cover closes.
The camera has an on/off button on the top deck as well as a zoom rocker, large shutter release button. The bottom of the camera has a metal threaded tripod mount and a battery and SD card compartment lid. The rear houses a bright 2-inch LCD monitor, an optical zooming viewfinder, control buttons and a menu control metal disk with a FUNC/SET button in the middle.
There is also a sliding switch between review, movie and still picture taking modes. This sliding switch has very well-calibrated effort - not too flimsy yet not too stiff, unlike the previous Digital Elphs, which had very stiff controls. The side has a cover, underneath which you can find a USB jack, A/V jack and a DC power input jack.
Just as SD300, the SD200 is incredibly easy to use. I have not read the manual (I have not even opened it), but was able to use the camera and all its features in no time. The camera can be used by any member of the family and by photographers of all levels of expertise from novices to advanced ones (albeit it will not give you much control over the shutter speed or aperture).
The camera comes pre-set to Auto mode. You do not have to do anything other than point and shoot - the camera takes care of the rest. The camera uses 9-area intelligent autofocus. You press the shutter release button halfway to make camera focus and the camera shows you (on the LCD screen) where it focused by displaying one or more green rectangles. Then you take the picture by pressing the shutter release button all the way.
If you want more control, you can select Manual mode, which is not a real manual mode where you would be able to select the shutter speed and aperture, but rather a mode in which you get access to selection of several parameters. In Manual mode, you can set the ISO (50-400), white balance (several presets and custom), use exposure compensation to make pictures darker or brighter, use picture effects, color replacement effects, etc.
The camera gives you instant access to the flash mode selection (flash off, red-eye reduction, night portrait, auto flash), macro or landscape mode as well as drive mode (single frame, timer or burst/continuous shooting) at a push of a button.
The camera uses the latest version of Canon DiG!C processor - DIGIC II. It is the same processor used in larger Canon digital SLR cameras and it gives this Digital Elph amazing speed. The camera takes less than a second to power itself on in review mode and only about a second to power on and extend its lens in shooting mode. It feels instantaneous.
The SD200 can capture images at about 2.5-3 per second in burst mode (I used Kingston Elite Pro SD memory card). In single-frame mode, the camera could snap pictures as fast as I could push the shutter release button (1-1.5 seconds per picture). The focusing takes less than a second (in bright light or in dark environments) and the shutter lag, when pre-focused, is almost unnoticeable. The focusing is slightly slower at telephoto, but still under a second.
The zooming from wide angle to telephoto (or back) takes less than two seconds and is responsive, but has less steps than I would like.
The miniature battery lasts about 110-120 minutes with the LCD on and lets you take about 150-200 pictures (depending on how many of them need flash).
The flash is rather bright for its size. It has an effective red-eye reduction mode and is sufficient at up to 10-12 feet away. It has a recycle time of about 7-10 seconds.
The LCD is bright, fluid and has good visibility in sunlight. You can also use the camera's optical zooming viewfinder.
The SD200 produces very good photos with well-exposed, contrasty and richly-colored images. The sharpness is good for the 3.2-Megapixel camera, but a bit of sharpening in the image editing software will not hurt.
The skin colors are true to life and pleasing. The image noise is absent at ISO 50 and cannot be found even in the shadows. It appears (slightly) at the ISO 100 in the shadows, gets slightly more pronounced at ISO 200 and gets a bit worse at ISO 400. Overall, the noise levels are low. Since the camera has 3.2MP resolution, you will probably not want to print anything larger than 5x7 inches and the noise is tolerable at any ISO up to that size. You can print larger sizes, but they will be slightly soft.
Recommendation: I highly recommend Canon SD200 if you want a miniature, cool yet capable camera that will let you print 6x4 or 7x5 photos (and maybe larger) and will not break the bank. But if you want to produce larger prints and still have a cool compact camera with metal body and fast operation, check out the Canon SD300 and Canon SD400.
And if you want more control and higher resolution, you might want to check out slightly larger Canon PowerShot A520.
Features and Specifications
- Ultra-compact and durable metal body (3.38x2.1x0.83 inches)
- Weight: 4.06 oz
- 3.3 Megapixel 1/2.5-inch CCD sensor
- 2.0" color LCD
- 3x optical 5.8-17.4 mm (35-105mm equivalent) f/2.8-4.9 zoom with digital Macro capability
- Shutter speeds of 15 seconds to 1/1500 second
- Auto noise reduction with 1.3 sec or longer shutter speeds
- Auto ISO or selectable ISO 50-400
- Evaluative, Center-Weighted or Spot metering
- Exposure compensation: +/-2EV in 1/3-step increments (in Manual mode)
- White Balance: Auto, 5 presets or Custom
- Photo Effects: Low Sharpening, Vivid Color, Neutral, Sepia and B&W
- My Colors - customize your colors while shooting
- Advanced TTL AiAF 9-point autofocus system with focus-assist lamp
- Program AE automatic, Manual and Scene exposure modes (Manual is not "real" Manual - see below)
- Continuous 2.4fps shooting until memory is full (with fast SD cards)
- Movie mode with sound 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120 with clips up to 3 minutes each
- Built-in microphone and speaker
- Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery and charger included (charger works with 110-240V 50/60Hz)
- Secure Digital (SD) card storage, 16MB supplied
- High-speed USB 2.0 connectivity for PC and Mac
- Direct print and PictBridge Compliant
More on Features and Controls
The camera uses a very small rechargeable battery that looks like my Nokia cell phone battery. The camera has a bright low-light focus assist illuminator that helps it focus in low light.
The camera features selectable Evaluative, Center-Weighted and Spot metering modes. The camera has a built-in flash that is quite powerful or its size and has a red-eye reduction function. The SD300 has a shutter speed range of 15-1/1,500 sec and selectable ISO of 50-400 as well as Auto ISO.
The camera also has a Macro mode where it can focus as close as 1.2 inches (3 cm) at wide angle or 1 ft (30 cm) at telephoto. The available movie mode records movies with sound (the camera has a microphone and a speaker) at 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120 with movie clip lengths of up to 3 minutes.
The aperture range is f/2.8-5.6 at wide angle, f/4.9-10 at telephoto. It seems that the aperture is a two-step type with no fine control over aperture. The camera doesn't let you control the aperture or the shutter speed directly, but even if you select landscape mode or try shooting in different lighting conditions, you will soon discover that your resultant photos have only one of two aperture values at any given focal length. For example, I only get f/2.8 or f/5.6 at wide angle.
This might explain the fact that there is not indication of the aperture (or shutter speed) on the screen during the shooting or even in preview. I believe Canon is trying to conceal the fact that the aperture is of cheaper, two-step non-adjustable type.
Perhaps they had to use this kind of aperture control not because of the cost reasons alone, but because of the size constraints as well. In any case, although it works OK for most situations, it would be nice to have indication of these parameters to be able to estimate if the picture will come out blurry or not. It is rather useful to know the shutter speed when shooting handheld or while shooting fast-moving objects. And it is good to know the aperture while shooting at telephoto to figure out if the background will be blurry or not.
You can use the exposure compensation in the manual mode and it comes in handy in the sunset hours as the camera overexposes the picture trying to preserve the shadow detail.
There are a bunch of scene modes as well, which help the camera tweak the focusing and exposure settings according to the type of scene.
More on Image Quality
The SD200 produces contrasty photos that have a pleasing "Canon" color with slight oversaturation and nice blue skies - the kind of color consumers like. The dynamic range of the photos seems to be slightly limited (as in other consumer-level digicams), but seems to be slightly wider than average for consimer-level digital cameras. In harsh lighting conditions, the highlights can be blown out, but the shadow detail is rather good. Overall, the dynamic range is very good, comparing to other compact camera of similar price and size.
The complete absence of noise at ISO 50 was a pleasant surprise as was very minimal amount of noise in the shadows at ISO 100. Even noise at ISO 400 is well controlled comparing to the compact cameras with higher resolution.
I was not able to find much chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in the areas of high contrast.
Color and Picture Effects
You can adjust color saturation by selecting Vivid or Neutral color in addition to the standard setting. In Vivid mode, the saturation is increased and I find that it provides too much saturation. I don't use this mode. In the Neutral mode, the saturation is decreased. I find it useful mainly in the low light conditions to reduce noise and make images more true-to-life.
Also available Black and White, Sepia and Low Sharpening effects. The former two are nothing to write home about - just regular modes that are quite useful if you want to give your photos an old look. The Low Sharpening effect reduces in-camera sharpening and lets you sharpen your photos later, in software (e.g. Photoshop). This gives you more control over sharpening.
Additionally, there are modes called Vivid Green, Vivid Red and Vivid Blue. They do exactly that - make the stated color vivid.
Image Quality Settings
The camera lets you select between Super Fine, Fine and Normal compression levels (regardless of resolution). You can detect occasional JPEG artifacts in the mode of highest compression and some fine detail may be lost. But the two lower-compression modes (Fine and Superfine) are rather good.
The camera's automatic white balance is usually quite accurate, even in incandescent lighting, where most cameras have problems. The SD200 has no problems even in incandescent lighting.
You select between two focusing modes in the menu. You can let camera focus using its AiAF 9-area focusing system and the camera will show you green rectangles over the areas where it focused so that you can confirm the focus areas. There is no manual focusing provision. Alternatively, if you set AiAF option to off in the menu, the camera will focus in the center of the frame and show you the green rectangle there.
The left arrow button switches the camera to Macro mode (and also to landscape in manual mode).
The camera is rather quiet in operation aside from the scraping/scratching sounds when focusing, especially as you reach the telephoto end of the zoom (probably aperture switching). I heard the same sounds while using the Canon PowerShot A520 and A510, so this is no anomaly. My Panasonic FZ5 makes similar sounds, but they are quieter.
The PowerShot SD200 can take good macro pictures. It can capture (with no flash) a minimum area of about 1.8x1.4-inch and features a sharp image. A very good macro performance, considering the size of the camera.
You need light to illuminate the shooting area and/or a tripod, however: the flash when engaged at such a close distance can overexpose the image and leave a pronounced shadow in the lower right corner.
Build Quality and Ergonomics
The camera has a solid feel and excellent build quality. The camera a bit too small but for its size it is convenient to hold and its compact size lets you put it in a jacket pocket or a purse easily. In fact, it is so small, you can put it in a shirt pocket. The major controls are within easy reach and the tactile response is good. The only part I didn't like was the battery/memory card door, that has to be slid out all the way before you can flip it open.
The camera has a metal tripod mount. It is useful if you want to take macro pictures or pictures with long exposures (e.g. nighttime). The camera has a timer (2-second or 10-second), which you should use to avoid blurry images when the camera is on the tripod. The camera has noise reduction that is activated with exposures longer than 1.3 seconds and takes a picture with the shutter closed and then subtracts it from the original picture, thereby eliminating hot pixels.
I have not read the manual, yet was able to use the camera in all modes. Usually, I am not a big fan of Canon menus but this Digital Elph is very easy to use. Not only I find the menus intuitive, they also appear very fast (instantaneously), unlike the menus on Canon A520 and A510, which take about a second to appear.
The camera is extremely fast and responsive. The large bright LCD screen shows pictograms of selected modes (e.g. Macro, Flash mode, etc.) appear large and legible on the screen and then move to the side of the screen. A very cool and useful feature, especially for people with impaired vision.
LCD and Viewfinder
The SD200 has a 2-inch non-articulated (fixed) LCD screen and an optical zooming viewfinder. The LCD coverage as about 100% - you can see exactly what will be recorded. The viewfinder, however, cover only about 80% of what will be recorded. The LCD is bright, fluid, has good visibility in sunlight or darkness and very good resolution. It has excellent visibility indoors in dim light (it gains-up).
The camera uses USB connection to transfer pictures to a computer. You can also remove the SD memory card and use a memory card reader (if you have one), but I used the camera with the USB cable supplied. The file transfer speed was average at about 650 KB/s. The annoying part is that you have to install a driver to be able to use the camera with your computer (I never had to install a driver for Panasonic or Olympus cameras I used). And I do not use the software that was provided with the camera since I have Adobe Photoshop CS2.
You can also use a card reader that supports SD cards. I actually removed the card and used my Panasonic FZ5 camera to read pictures with no problems.
The camera lets you record movies in several modes. The regular mode lets you select between 15 and 30 fps and between 640x480 or 320x240 resolution. There is also a high frame rate mode, where the frame rate is 60 fps, but only 320x240 resolution is available. And there is a pre-set for economy mode, where the resolution is only 160x120 and the frame rate is 15 fps.
I tried 640x480 30 fps and was pleased. The video was fluid, had pleasing colors and low noise. But I couldn't zoom and the camera seemed to lock focus after you I started shooting.
How Does It Compare to Canon SD300?
The cameras differ cosmetically only slightly. The ring around the lens is different and the menu control disc is different as well. The SD300 has 4MP resolution vs. 3.2MP on the SD200, but has slightly more noise. Overall, there is not much difference, so it is your choice if you want to pay about $70 more for extra 0.8 MP of resolution.
I highly recommend Canon SD200 if you want a miniature, cool yet capable camera that will let you print 6x4 or 7x5 photos (and maybe larger) and will not break the bank. It is fast, capable and cool.
The only reservations I have is resolution and the lack of aperture priority, shutter priority or manual mode as well as the small range of available apertures. But it is forgivable for the camera's size and price.
If you want more control, you might want to check out slightly larger Canon PowerShot A520.
And if you want the same cool look, but more resolution, check out the Canon PowerShot SD300.
My Reviews of Other Digital Cameras
Canon Powershot S2 IS Digital Camera Review
Canon Powershot S1 IS Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot A520 4-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot A510 3.2-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot S500 5-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot S410 / Digital IXUS 430 Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot SD200 3.2-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot SD300 4-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot SD400 5-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Canon PowerShot SD500 7.1-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 5-Megapixel Digital Camera with 12x Optical Stabilized Zoom Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 5-Megapixel Digital Camera with 12x Optical Stabilized Zoom Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 4-Megapixel Digital Camera with 6x Optical Stabilized Zoom Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2 5-Megapixel Digital Camera with 6x Optical Stabilized Zoom Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ4 4-Megapixel Digital Camera with 12x Optical Stabilized Zoom Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15 4-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 Digital Camera Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2 Digital Camera with 12x Leica Lens and Optical Image Stabilizer Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 Digital Camera with Optical Image Stabilizer and 12x Leica Lens Review
Olympus Camedia C-765 4.0-Megapixel Digital Camera with USB and ED Lens Review
Olympus Stylus 410 4-Megapixel All-Weather Digital Camera Review
Olympus Camedia D-580 / C-460 4.0-Megapixel Digital Camera Review
Olympus D-565 Zoom Digital 4-Megapixel Camera Review
Olympus D-575 Zoom Digital Camera Review
Olympus D-595 Zoom Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H1 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P200 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-S40 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T1 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T33 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T7 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W5 Digital Camera Review
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W7 Digital Camera Review
Fuji FinePix A345 Digital Camera Review
Fuji FinePix A350 Digital Camera Review
Fuji FinePix F10 Digital Camera Review
Kodak EasyShare Z740 Digital Camera Review
Minolta DiMAGE Z2 Digital Camera Review
Pentax *istD Digital SLR Camera Review
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