CANON POWERSHOT SD850 IS

sd850is-01

An 8.3MP Compact With All The New Features You’d Want

by Douglas Stevenson

Published February 2008

The Canon PowerShot SD850 IS is a great example of a modern compact digital camera. With 8.3 megapixels it has all the resolution you need and then some. While it does not have true manual control, the SD850 is loaded with an array of features deigned to improve the quality of your pictures, allowing you to adapt to virtually any shooting situation.

Optical Image Stabilizer

The IS in the product name stands for Image Stabilization. This function works to ensure your subject stays in focus by compensating for small amounts of camera shake that are always present when you shoot hand held. Unlike digital systems which simply shift pixels, Canon’s system moves the lens optics, an inherently better approach. There are three modes. Continuous helps you see the effect of stabilization as you compose the shot. The instruction manual doesn’t say, but on other systems I have seen, this uses up more battery power so as a second option, the stabilization is only activated when you press the shutter release button down half way. The last option is the panning stabilization mode, which makes adjustments to up and down movements but allows you to follow a subject horizontally as they move before the camera. Use this when taking pictures of people in motion. The panning stabilization will help ensure the subject stays clear even though the background will be out of focus due to the horizontal movement of the camera as you take the picture.

Face Detection

The SD850 features Canon’s proprietary DIGIC III processor with face detection and auto red eye correction. The iSAPS face detection circuitry recognizes faces by their shape and brightness, using an internal database of thousands of different photos. Next it automatically adjusts focus and exposure, and then activates the red eye correction flash if extra illumination is necessary. Face detection will determine how many faces are in the scene and then choose the optimum focus distance and exposure when adjusting the lens. Press down half way on the shutter release button to activate.

Like all auto functions, there are times when they do not produce the results you want and another approach is needed. Switch from face detection to a 9-point evaluative, a center weighted, or spot metering. You can further modify image brightness levels through exposure compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 step increments.

Another way to assure image clarity is to modify the ISO, allowing the camera to use a faster shutter speed by increasing the CCD’s sensitivity to light. The SD850 goes all the way up to 1600 ISO, a significantly higher setting than you will typically find on a compact point-and-shoot camera. If the camera detects a bit of shake and feels the shutter speed is too slow, a warning icon appears on the display and the Auto ISO Shift button on the back of the camera will start blinking with a blue light. Press the Auto ISO and when it stops blinking and lights up, press the rest of the way down on the shutter release. The SD850 will automatically select the right ISO setting to give you the optimum shutter speed.

This same button can be used for instant access to the function of your choice. Assign the white balance, exposure adjustment, movie recording or any one of a few more choices to this button, what ever function you use most often. I would probably want instant exposure adjustment, giving you a way to quickly bracket your shots one step brighter and one step darker.

Scene Modes

Like most point-and-shoot cameras, the SD850 provides an array of Scene Modes, automatically adjusting camera settings to match various shooting situations. In addition to the usual settings like Portrait and Snow there are some new ones. For example, Foliage intensifies colors, perfect for fall landscapes. Aquarium mode turns off the flash so you don’t get the reflective glare of the light in the glass and also adjusts the white balance to ensure colors are natural. The Underwater option reduces the backscatter effect and is designed to work in conjunction with the Canon WP-DC15 underwater housing. The Indoor setting adjusts white balance and strives to reduce blur by increasing the ISO and shutter speed. Kids and Pets mode pushes the camera to reduce the time it uses to establish focus for these fast moving subjects.

Intelligent Orientation Sensor

Some subjects call for turning the camera vertically, producing a tall rather than a wide shot. However, when viewed in playback on your LCD, they are sideways. Canon’s solution is the Intelligent Orientation Sensor. It recognizes that you purposely turned the camera vertically when the picture was taken and automatically rotates the display properties of the image file. Otherwise you would have to take care of something like this in an image editing program in your computer, less than convenient.

Special Effects

Special effects are about having fun with your pictures and the SD850 has taken a number of steps to encourage this aspect. Lighting effects transform light hot spots in night scenes into stars, hearts and music notes. Stitch Assist helps you create panorama and composite images, combining up to 26 images into one. With Color Accent, the camera shoots the image in black and white but preserves one color, an effect you’ve probably seen on TV commercials. Use Color Swap to select one color and swap or change it to another color. The results can be amazing!

There is a whole range of different types of color effects, some are artistic while others are there to simply improve the quality and appearance of your pictures. Make colors more vivid or tone down their intensity. Emphasize only red, green or blue. Make skin tones lighter or darker.

Grid lines can be placed over the preview image giving you the opportunity to check vertical and horizontal alignment of elements in the composition. It divides the image into nine segments so you can also evaluate your composition to see how it conforms to the Rule of Thirds.

The Postcard Mode changes the aspect ratio to conform the image dimensions to the 3 x 2 format of a standard postcard. I suppose this would be useful if you knew ahead of time that you want to use the image on a printed postcard

Other Modes

Switching to Macro mode allows you to focus on a subject a distance of only 1.8 inches from the lens in the wide angle setting. Add the digital zoom and the area filling the frame measures a tiny 0.3 x 0.2 inches. Talk about a close up!

In the continuous shooting mode the SD850 will capture up to 1.3 frames per second. Canon recommends using their SDC-512MSH super high speed card in order to achieve continuous shooting until the card is full.

The SD850 has six different movie record options. Record a frame size of 640×480 pixels at 30 frames per second (30 fps), basically standard full screen video like you would watch on a TV. When using the recommended high speed 4-gigabyte memory card, you can record clips up to 60 minutes in length. The Fast Frame mode records 60 fps for up to one minute. Play back your video at the standard 30 fps rate to view in slow motion. Going in the other direction, you can record one video frame every two seconds, compressing two hours of recording down to two minutes, true time lapse.

Image Playback

In addition to standard single image, during playback you can also view your images as a 9 thumbnail index display. The SD850 will zoom or magnify a portion of the image up to 10X.Create a slide show with transition effects. Images can also be labeled according to categories and you can then choose to play a slideshow of only images from that category not the entire collection of pictures. Your slideshow or movie can slide output to either NTSC or PAL.

If for some reason the red eye reduction flash fails to prevent red eye in your subjects, the offending redness can be fixed through editing right in the camera. You can also apply all of the color effects described above to recorded images as part of the in-camera editing process.

Sleek and Compact

The SD850 is about as small and compact a camera as you will find, but with the aluminum body it carries some weight; you don’t feel like your holding a piece of cheap electronics at all .Tucked inside is a 4X optical zoom, 1X more than is typical for a camera this size.

Dominating the back panel you’ll find a 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD. The screen is protected by a scratch resistant coating and its anti-glare properties make it a little easier to see in bright light. The screen also has a night display mode for better visibility in low light.

In the lower left corner is a button for controlling the display. Press it once and all the on-screen icons disappear. Nice! Those things do get in the way. Press the button again and the LCD is turned off, saving power.

There is also a button here for bringing up the menu. I thought the menu had good color choices in its layout and was easy to read and navigate.

The SD850 has Print/Share compatibility with all Canon printers. You can also connect through a USB cable from the camera directly to all PictBridge printers. Use the print button right on the camera to activate the process. 

  • Image Sensor: 1.2.5 inch, 8.3-megapixel CCD.
  • Size: 3.56 W x 1.04 H x 1.04 D inches, 5.82 oz.
  • Maximum Resolution: still 3,264 x 1,832 pixels, video 640×480.
  • Zoom: 4X optical, 4X digital.
  • Focusing capability: TTL autofocus.
  • Display: 2.5 inch, 230,000 pixel, low-temperature, polyscystalline, TFT LCD, scratch resistant, anti-glare coating.
  • Manual Exposure Controls: Maximum aperture f2.8, evaluative, center weighted, spot, face detection metering, compensation -/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
  • Speed Shutter: 15 – 1/600 second.
  • Flash: Auto, red eye, flash on, flash off, range 1.6 – 11 feet, recycle time 10 seconds.
  • White Balance: Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom.
  • Image Storage: SD, SDHC, MMC.
  • Warranty: 1 year.
  • Contact: www.canonusa.com.
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