Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on February 9 2009

canon sx110 prev

I’ve just published my review of the Canon PowerShot SX110, the “stylish twin” to the A1000 IS which also features a 4X zoom lens, 2.5 inch LCD and an optical viewfinder. I’ve got the Canon PowerShot SX110 photo gallery online too.


DPInterface Canon PowerShot SX110 IS Review

Brad Soo – February 9th, 2009

canon sx110 intro

Ever fancied a super zoom camera but found them a hassle to carry them around? Well, you might like the Canon PowerShot SX110 IS which is well… not as big… as your typical ultra-zoom camera. It won’t fit into your pocket but you can carry it in a bag or around your neck without feeling bogged down by it. Just to talk a little bit about the Canon SX110, it has 9 megapixels, a 10X optical zoom lens, a 3 inch LCD and full manual controls.

The competition is hot in the compact ultra-zoom category, so exactly how good is the PowerShot SX110? Read on to find out.

Size and Weight

(225.7) 110.6 x 70.4 x 44.7 mm (245 g) – Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
(177.6) 96.4 x 55.9 x 25.3 mm (132 g) – Olympus Stylus 7000
(195.7) 103.3 x 59.6 x 32.8 mm (206 g) – Panasonic Lumix ZS3/TZ7
(200.7) 104.1 x 61.0 x 35.6 mm (219 g) – Samsung HZ10W
(223.4) 106.0 x 68.5 x 48.9 mm (264 g) – Sony Cyber-shot H10
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card

The Canon PowerShot SX110 is compact for an ultra-zoom but there are still smaller and lighter cameras out there. You might be able to stuff the Olympus or Panasonic in your pocket but you won’t be able to get away with that using the SX110. Still, the extra size isn’t always a bad thing – you get top battery life and a better grip of the camera.

Box contents

There’s an average bundle of goodies which come with the Canon PowerShot SX110:

  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • 32 MB SD memory card
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Digital Camera Solution Disk)
  • User’s manual and quick start guide

The Canon PowerShot SX110 comes with a ridiculously small 32 MB Secure Digital memory card. The Canon PowerShot SX110 takes SD, SDHC (SD cards which are 4 GB and above) and various MMC (typically slower than SDs) memory cards; and you should be looking for at least a 2 GB memory card to use with the camera. A high-speed card (60X to 90X speed) is useful as well since it allows the camera to perform faster.

450 shots – Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
150 shots – Olympus Stylus 7000
300 shots – Panasonic Lumix ZS3/TZ7
310 shots – Sony Cyber-shot H10
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard

The Canon PowerShot SX110 IS comes with two throw-away AA alkaline batteries that will not last long. I would highly suggest getting a set of 2 or 4 rechargeable AA NiMH batteries and a fast charger, if you please. Rechargeable batteries can be reused and last a lot longer than alkaline ones. As you can see, with rechargeables, the Canon SX110 comes up on top – lasting 3 times longer than the Olympus and about 50% longer than its other two competitors.

Accessories

What probably shouldn’t come as a surprise is that there aren’t many accessories available for the Canon PowerShot SX110 – being a lower end ultra-zoom camera, the only extras you can get are an AC adapter, slave flash and various camera cases.


Camera Tour

The Canon PowerShot SX110 is a big zoom camera that’s decently constructed. The camera is made almost entirely of plastic but it doesn’t feel flimsy. The SX110 has few buttons and features a rather loose feeling rear command wheel for changing settings. Ergonomics are just okay – the camera has lost the right hand grip of its predecessor, opting for a subtly raised surface for your right hand to hold the camera.

The Canon PowerShot SX110 IS comes in your choice of silver or black.

canon sx110 front

The Canon PowerShot SX110 features the same 10X optical zoom lens as its predecessor – equivalent to 36 – 360 mm in 35 mm terms and it has an aperture range of f2.7 – f4.3. Not too shabby… there’s also optical image stabilization which comes in handy to reduce blur caused by shaky hands.

Directly above the SX110’s lens is its pull-open flash; you’ll have to pull up the flash when you want to use it since it doesn’t pop up automatically. The flash is quite weak with a range of 50 cm to 3 meters at wide-angle and a mere 1 to 2 meters at telephoto. These numbers are at Auto ISO mind you, so expect the maximum range to drop if you use low ISO speeds. To the upper left and right of the lens are the camera’s microphone and autofocus assist lamp respectively. The AF-assist lamp doubles as a visual countdown light in self-timer mode.

canon sx110 back

The Canon PowerShot SX110 has only a 3 inch LCD with no EVF or optical viewfinder. The LCD is quite sharp with 230,000 pixels. The display image brightens automatically in low-light so you can see it but the screen is just average outdoors due to the glossy layer above it.

The button at the top left corner of the SX110 is the print button, which also serves as a shortcut button in shooting mode. To the right of the LCD are the SX110’s other controls and buttons. The lonely round button is the playback button.

The next two buttons are the Face Detection and exposure compensation buttons. The exposure compensation button is used in playback for deleting photos. There’s the five-way controller used to navigate menus, browse pictures and of course, access these functions directly:

  • Up – ISO (Auto ISO, High auto ISO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)/Playback jump
  • Down – Drive mode (Single shot, continuous mode [normal, AF, LV], self-timer [10 seconds, 2 seconds, custom])
  • Left – Focus mode (Normal, manual focus, macro, landscape)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off; red-eye reduction and slow sync are turned on/off in the menu)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

There’s a rotary wheel built directly into the navigation pad and it’s used for adjusting shutter speed, aperture, manual focus, changing settings and scrolling through menus and photos. Unfortunately, the rotary wheel here is like some other Canon models I’ve reviewed – it’s on the loose side, which makes it easy to bump by accident, and there are no tactile “clicks” when you turn it.

canon sx110 scr1

The function menu

Pressing the center button when you’re taking pictures will bring up the function menu which contains a list of several settings you can adjust (most of them are available in program mode):

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, flash custom)
  • My Colors (Normal, vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, custom)
  • Flash exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 steps)
  • Metering method (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot)
  • Image size and compression

The last two buttons on the back of the SX110 are the DISPlay and MENU buttons. The DISPLAY button toggles the details displayed on-screen, while the MENU button is self-explantory.

canon sx110 top

On the top of the PowerShot SX110, there’s the camera’s speaker on the left. Across to the other side are the mode dial, power button, and shutter button with a zoom controller wrapped around it. Let’s take a closer look at the mode dial and the modes available on the PowerShot SX110:

  • Manual mode – Control both aperture value and shutter speed as well as other camera settings
  • Aperture priority – Pick an aperture value (between f2.8/f4.3 to f8) and the camera chooses a matching shutter speed
  • Shutter priority – Pick a shutter speed (between 1/2500 to 15 seconds) and the camera chooses a matching aperture value
  • Program mode – The camera decides both aperture and shutter speed but you can change everything else
  • Auto mode
  • Easy mode
  • Portrait mode
  • Landscape mode
  • Night snapshot
  • Kids and pets
  • Indoor
  • Other scene modes (Night scene, foliage, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, aquarium, ISO 3200)
  • Movie mode

The Canon PowerShot SX110 has both full manual controls and a range of automatic (Scene) modes. There’s an “Easy Mode” which is so simple, the only thing you can do is turn the flash on or off. The PowerShot SX110 is versatile in the sense that you could start out with automatic and scene modes now but there’s a full range of manual controls waiting once you get better in photography later on.

canon sx110 side

On this side of the SX110, there’s nothing much to see except a slot for a small button battery (watch battery) which powers the camera’s date, time and clock. You can also see the fixed lens barrel that protrudes out of the camera.

canon sx110 ports

Over here is the PowerShot SX110’s mini-B jack, used for both A/V out and USB 2.0 High-speed connectivity, and DC-IN port for plugging in the optional AC adapter.

canon sx110 bottom

At the bottom of the camera are the battery/memory card compartment and a plastic tripod mount.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

canon sx110 scr2

You won’t get the extremely detailed (and cluttered) screen of Canon’s high end SX1 camera but you do get the usual Canon compact camera display here on the PowerShot SX110. You’ll see exposure information (shutter speed and aperture), camera settings and there are several optional display overlays you can turn on such as a 3:2 guide, 3 X 3 framing gridlines or both. However, the camera lacks a battery indicator and a live histogram.

The Canon PowerShot SX110 IS has several image sizes available, which are: 9 MP, 6 MP, 4 MP, 2 MP, VGA and widescreen. There are also three image compression modes here: Superfine, Fine and Standard… I’d recommend choosing Fine, which is a good compromise, since SuperFine file sizes are a bit large while Standard compresses pictures noticeably. A 2 GB memory card will hold around 850 full-res (9 MP) Fine images while an 8 GB one will contain over 3000 photos.

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Most of the camera’s main settings can be adjusted via the Function menu I described in the previous section, but now let’s head on to the other settings in the camera’s main menu:

  • Autofocus mode (Face detection, 9 point AF, center AF)
  • AF point size (Normal, small) – Choose how size of the camera’s focusing point area
  • AF point zoom – magnify the focus point
  • Digital zoom – you should keep this turned off, it lowers picture quality
  • Flash settings – toggle red-eye reduction (lamp and software based) and slow sync
  • Custom self-timer settings – Set the countdown interval and number of shots that the camera should take
  • Safety shift – The camera will automatically correct any wrong exposure settings
  • Auto ISO shift – The camera will automatically boost ISO if needed
  • MF point zoom – magnify the focus point
  • Safety manual focus – The camera will activate autofocus in case your manual focus settings are wrong
  • AF assist beam
  • Review – This option decides whether the camera will show the image on the LCD screen right after the picture is taken
  • Review info
  • Auto category – the camera attempts to organize your photos into categories automatically
  • Display overlay – Toggle grid lines, 3:2 guide, both or none
  • IS Mode – Off, Continuous, Shoot-only, Panning
  • Set print button – customize what this button does in shooting mode; you can assign it as a shortcut to a shooting function

The PowerShot SX110 has three optical image stabilization modes: continuous (the stabilizer is always on to make composition easier, which uses up more battery power) or shoot-only, where image stabilization only works when you take a picture, which is more effective. Panning mode is self-explanatory – it’s for times where you’re tracking a moving subject with the camera.

You can also assign one of seven “shortcut” functions to the print button I mentioned earlier. Those functions include exposure compensation, white balance, custom white balance, red eye correction, digital teleconverter, toggle grid lines and display off.

The Canon PowerShot SX110 has a very nice macro mode that gets you extremely close to your subject. You can get as close as 1 cm at wide-angle (just remember to activate macro mode via the button).

Video Recording

The Canon PowerShot SX110 has Canon’s “old” movie mode which records in MJPEG AVI format (which takes up more space). The movie mode is still usable though, recording VGA (640 X 480) videos with sound and records at 30 FPS. There are two other options you can choose: Long Play mode which records at the same resolution but uses more compression and QVGA (320 X 240) mode that records at 30 FPS. Each movie clip is limited to 4 GB or 60 minutes per clip, depending which one you hit first.

A final option in the PowerShot SX110 is an “email movie” mode that records at 160 X 120 at a choppy 15 FPS. In this mode, each movie clip is limited to 3 minutes each. I don’t know how many people nowadays would actually email tiny (and barely viewable) movie clips to their friends with places like YouTube around… but if you wanted such an option, you’ve got it here.

A 2 GB memory card will hold around 16 minutes of video with sound at the highest settings. Both optical image stabilization and the SX110’s 4X digital zoom are usable while recording movies. You cannot use optical zoom however… for that, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the more expensive super-zoom camera models.

The PowerShot SX110’s movie quality was good with decent video and sound. You certainly won’t be filming the next sequel to Underworld with the SX110 but for home videos and such, the SX110 may just satisfy your needs.

Performance

All performance testing of the Canon PowerShot SX110 was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC (90X) card.

The Canon PowerShot SX110 IS takes about 2 seconds to extend its lens and start up which is about average. Autofocus times were fairly quick in general – depending on the position of the camera’s lens, it can take 1/5 up to almost second to focus in well-lit scenes and it drags up to over a second when shooting in low-light. The camera had no problems focusing in low-light however, thanks to its AF-assist light.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 1.5 seconds, very fast
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 7 seconds on average

The Canon PowerShot SX110 IS has three burst modes, none of which are particularly impressive but will suffice for most users. The first one is your standard burst mode which shoots at just 1.2 frames per second at full-resolution until the memory card fills up. The screen blanks out between shots and only shows the last picture taken.

A continuous autofocus burst mode shoots at a much slower 0.7 frames per second, where the camera re-focuses between each shot. LV Live View burst mode also snaps at 0.7 frames per second except the camera shows you a live preview of what you’re about to snap.

Unlike the more expensive Canon super-zoom models which feature Ultrasonic Motors (which moves the lens quickly and quietly), the SX110 has a comparably slow moving 10X zoom lens which goes from wide-angle to telephoto in about 3 seconds. The camera’s power down time was 3 seconds with the lens at telephoto.

In most areas, the Canon PowerShot SX110 IS performs quite well and it is overall a camera that won’t keep you constantly waiting. Just don’t expect to take a whole string of action shots with the so-so burst mode or zoom into the action quickly with its bulky lens that needs to cover a 10X zoom range.

Image Quality

Let’s see how the Canon PowerShot SX110 performs in terms of image quality now:

iso80

ISO 80 (f2.8, 1/3 sec)

iso100

ISO 100 (f2.8, 1/4 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/10 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/20 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f2.8, 1/30 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f2.8, 1/100 sec)

The Canon PowerShot SX110 IS produces fairly good images at ISO 80 and 100. Noise goes up a little at ISO 200. ISO 400 would probably be the most you’d wanna go with the SX110 as noise at ISO 800 and 1600 just gets worse.

chart

There was little lens distortion with the PowerShot SX110. As for color fringing (chromatic aberration), though it did appear in a handful of photos, it’s nothing to be worried about as levels are low. One of the things about the SX110’s predecessor is that there was only a redeye removal tool in playback mode. Well, Canon has made things better now as redeye is automatically removed as the photo is taken so there’s rarely any redeye in photos. And oh, the tool is still there in playback mode in case the camera doesn’t detect any in some situations.

Overall the Canon PowerShot SX110 IS showed good image quality with few issues except the usual high ISOs being unusable (which happens on most cameras with small sensors).

Photo gallery

Visit the Canon PowerShot SX110 photo gallery to view full-sized sample photos.


Playback

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The Canon PowerShot SX110 has the fairly standard Canon playback mode. You can browse through pictures (complete with two transition effects of your choice) and play back video with sound; and there are playback functions such as print marking, voice clip attachment, image resizing and rotation are all here. There’s even a redeye removal tool in playback. You can magnify still photos by 10X and pan around using the 4 navigational buttons; and sort them into categories as well.

Pictures can be played back as individual photos, in sets of nine thumbnails, by category or automatically using the slideshow feature. You can also use the JUMP feature to skip several photos at a time or to ‘jump’ right to a specific shooting date.

Pressing the face detection button in playback mode automatically magnifies faces, if any, in photos so you can check focus easily. Pressing the DISPLAY button will cycle through several display layouts of information; one of them is an image inspection tool which magnifies the focus point(s) of your photos so you can check focus.

You can choose to delete single photos and all photos on the SX110 but you can’t select multiple photos yourself and delete them. An “Easy” playback mode (you need the mode dial to be in Easy Mode as well for this to work) simplifies playback just as much as in shooting mode.

canon sx110 scr4

The Canon PowerShot SX110 shows you shooting details, mode, exposure information (with shutter speed and aperture value) and a histogram as well. An overexposure warning feature makes overexposed areas of your photos “blink” to alert you of them.

Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot SX110 is a 9 megapixel super-zoom camera with a 10X optical zoom lens and optical image stabilization. The camera is designed to be a less expensive alternative to Canon’s high end SX10/SX1 ultra-zoom cameras. You won’t get the 20X zoom lenses, rotating LCDs and flash hotshoes of those cameras but what you WILL get on the PowerShot SX110 are full manual controls.

Despite being a fairly affordable for a big zoom camera (being about $200), the PowerShot SX110 doesn’t compromise performance – being a fast performing camera which also happens to have class leading battery life and good image quality. The only shortcomings of the camera are its not-so-wide angle lens which starts at 36 mm (in a world where 28 mm is the new 35 mm) and very weak flash.

I would recommend the PowerShot SX110 IS to anyone who wants a relatively compact (but not the smallest around) and affordable super zoom camera with full manual controls for picture-taking, mostly in well lit conditions.

What’s hot:

  • 10X zoom with optical image stabilization; lens is fairly fast
  • Large 3 inch LCD; visible both indoors and outdoors
  • Class leading battery life
  • Full manual controls; exposure, focus and flash
  • Fast picture-taking performance
  • Generally good image quality

What’s not:

  • Lens is not “wide-angle” (36 mm isn’t as wide as competition)
  • Flash has a very weak range
  • Large-ish size compared to less bulky cameras with same/more zoom
  • Lacks the noticeable grip of its predecessor; plastic tripod mount

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB high-speed SD memory card
  • Set of 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger


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2 Comments

  1. Mohancy September 7, 2009 Reply

    Hi…
    how are you. guys…
    About Canon brand…So user satisfaction brand…
    Canon SX 110 is good quality camera..
    More zoom…
    better photo…
    I like

  2. Barb September 16, 2010 Reply

    Woulk like to know how I can get a instruction book for my
    PowerShot SX110IS camera???

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