by Ron Eggers
Published Summer ’09
Serious Capabilities In A Small Package
Each new generation of consumer digital cameras includes significant advancements over previous models. Higher resolutions, less electronic noise in captured images, larger and more viewable screens, faster response times and broader zoom ranges are making it increasingly attractive to use relatively inexpensive consumer cameras for serious photography.
One of Canon’s newest consumer digital cameras, the PowerShot SX110 IS, is a compact 9-Megapixel camera with a 10X optical zoom lens. While, at $249.99,it’s priced closer to entry-level consumer models, it’s closer in resolution, capabilities, responsiveness and image quality to the company’s high-end G-series cameras that have become very popular with professional photographers as a take-along camera for those quick shots when professional gear isn’t available.
Compact & Full-Featured
The SX110 IS has a lot going for it. The 10X optical zoom extends from 6mm wide angle to 60mm telephoto, which is the equivalent of 36mm to 360mm on a 35mm camera. That telephoto range is extended through a 4X digital zoom. There are consumer cameras on the market with longer telephoto capabilities. Several companies are marketing so called “ultra-zoom” digital cameras with 18X -20X zoom lenses, but they’re considerably larger, heavier and bulkier than the SX110 IS. The SX is extremely compact for its capabilities. It weighs less than 8.7 oz., and extends only 1-3/4-inches when the lens is closed. It easily fits into a shirt pocket, and most ultra-zooms can’t do this. Even with the lens extended, the camera is still only 3-inches deep. It’s possible to take the Canon along just about anywhere when you want to capture high-quality images with a lightweight camera.
Having a 10X optical zoom is great because it enables you to capture close-up images of subjects that may be too far away to shoot with a zoom-challenged conventional pocket camera. And, unlike some ultra-zoom cameras, where images taken at the high end of the optical zoom range are marginal because they’re a little too soft or not focused quite correctly, the quality of the images taken with the SX100 IS is excellent throughout the entire zoom range, including the maximum optical zoom focal length.
The 4X digital zoom makes it possible to move in considerably closer to your subject. But the image quality is degraded when the optical and digital zooms are extended to the maximum, so I tend to shoot with the digital zoom set to “off.” It is possible to limit the digital zoom to 1.3X or 2.2X to reduce the degradation of image quality and still go slightly beyond the 10X range. Like all digicams that have a variable aperture rating depending on their zoom setting, the f/2.8-f/4.3 lens is relatively fast for a consumer model. This is especially true at f/2.8, when shooting wide angle images. With normal focusing, it’s possible to focus down to 1.6 feet. There’s also a macro focusing mode that allows you to focus from about a half of an inch to the normal focusing range.
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