DPInterface Canon PowerShot SD200
Digital ELPH Review (Digital Ixus 30/Ixy Digital 40)
Brad Soo - July 31st, 2005 (Updated March 14th, 2006)

The extremely compact Canon PowerShot SD200 Digital ELPH is one of the two first Canon non-dSLR cameras to feature the all new DIGIC II processor. This processor has improved performance and faster processing speeds compared to the DIGIC processor.

The SD200 shares an ultra-compact body (But with different designs and slightly larger dimensions), a 2.0 inch LCD, 3x UA optical zoom lens and excellent VGA 30 FPS movie mode with its "big brother", the SD300.

The Canon PowerShot SD200 Digital ELPH (US) is known as the Canon Ixy Digital 40 in Japan/Taiwan and Canon Digital Ixus 30 in other parts of the world (Europe for example).

Size and Weight

Let's compare the SD200's size and weight to other cameras of its class:

85.8 x 53.4 x 21.1 mm (130 g) - Canon PowerShot SD200 Digital ELPH
87.0 x 57.0 x 27.8 mm (185 g) - Canon PowerShot S500 Digital ELPH
109.0 x 52.0 x 36.0 mm (149 g) - HP Photosmart M517
89.9 x 57.5 x 19.7 mm (118 g) - Nikon Coolpix S1
95.0 x 55.5 x 27.5 mm (115 g) - Olympus Stylus Verve S
94.1 x 50.5 x 24.2 mm (127 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX9
91.6 x 60.0 x 14.8 mm (115 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T7

The SD200 is the slightly larger (By a few millimeters) than the SD300. The SD200 is fairly light but heavy enough to not get blown away by the wind!

Open up the Box

Like its ultra-compact body, the SD200's box is also ultra-compact. In that box, you'll find (Which is just about the same as those of the SD300):

  • 16 MB Secure Digital card
  • Rechargeable NB-4L lithium-ion battery with charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable and A/V cable
  • CD-ROM
  • A very complete user's manual

Storage and Power

Getting a 256 MB SD card might not be a bad idea as 16 MB of memory is way too little. You may want to get a high-speed card (I would personally recommend SanDisk's trusty line of Ultra II cards which can read/write at 10 MB/s), which the SD200 really loves, especially when continuous shooting is activated or recording VGA 30 FPS movies. Get another 256 MB high-speed SD card or a single 512 MB/1 GB high-speed card if you enjoy recording VGA 30 FPS or QVGA 60 FPS movies.

The battery life of the SD200 is about 140 shots (CIPA standard). It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge the NB-4L battery. If possible, get a spare battery - You'll never know when you'll need it.

Extras

The SD200's accessories include an all-weather case and external slave flash. You are unable to attach conversion lenses or "real" external flashes onto the SD200.

Camera Tour

Let's start the camera tour beginning from the front. The SD200 has 3 effective megapixels on a 1/2.5 inch CCD paired with a 3x optical zoom UA (ultra-high refractive index) lens. The UA lens (Found also on the SD300, SD400 and Powershot S60 & S70) allows more zoom power to be packed into a smaller package without compromising much image quality. The SD200's F2.8 - F4.9 lens has a focal length of 35 - 105 mm (35 mm equivalent).

The built-in flash has a range of 0.5 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto which is quite good for a camera in this class. The optical viewfinder and AF-assist beam are placed next to each other, the smaller circle being the AF-assist beam. The AF-assist beam aids focusing in low-light and is also a self-timer light. On the ripple furthest away from the 2 lens barrels, there are 5 small black holes which are the SD200's microphone holes. The "Canon" words are slightly raised, providing somewhat of a grip.

The large 2.0 inch LCD has 118,000 pixels and is very sharp and fluid. The LCD brightens only a little in low-light and is not very visible outdoors. Fortunately, there is an optical viewfinder, which is located above the LCD. Next to the viewfinder are two LEDs. The top one shows flash status (on/off) while the bottom one shows focusing status (Blinking yellow - Unable to focus, Solid yellow - Focus locked).

The SD200 has Canon's AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus) which uses one or more of 9 focus boxes superimposed on the LCD to focus on your subject(s).

The mode switch at the top right moves the SD200 around from playback, movie recording and still photo shooting. Next is the 5 way controller. A speaker is located above this controller. The 4 directional buttons can easily customize the main aspects of the camera:

  • Up - Metering method (Evaluative, center, spot)
  • Down - Shooting method (Single, continuous, self-timer)/Delete
  • Left - Off, macro, landscape
  • Right - Flash setting

The FUNCtion button brings up/down a list of customizable options which allows you to set:

  • Sub-shooting mode (Automatic, manual, scene modes)
  • Exposure compensation (-2 till +2 in 1/3 increments) OR Long shutter (1 - 15 seconds)
  • White balance (Auto, preset, custom)
  • ISO speed (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
  • Photo effects (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black-and-white)
  • Quality (Superfine, fine, normal)
  • Resolution (5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, VGA)

The FUNCtion button also doubles as a SET button (An "okay" button, sort of). Do note that the long shutter and ISO speed are grayed-out in movie mode. In movie mode, FPS replaces quality in the FUNCtion menu and the sub-shooting modes are: Fast frame rate (320 x 240 at 60 FPS), normal (640 x 320 or 320 x 240 at 30 FPS or 15 FPS) and "for e-mail" (160 x 120 at 15 FPS).

And before I forget, here are the Scene Modes found on the SD200:

  • Digital macro - Use digital zoom to get closer when the lens is at wide-angle
  • Portrait - Emphasize on your subject and blur out the background
  • Night scene - Use longer exposures for sharper photos at night
  • Kids and pets - Use faster shutter speeds & lower aperture numbers to capture action
  • Indoor - Reduce blur caused by low-light indoors
  • Underwater - Capture photos underwater (All-weather case required)

The DISPlay button toggles the amount of info displayed on the LCD: No info, general info or all info (Playback) and display on, display info or LCD off (Shooting). For long shutter, you can change the shutter speed between 1 to 15 seconds; which is used mostly for night scenes. Noise reduction is automatically activated (and it cannot be turned off) when you select a shutter speed slower than 1.3 seconds.

The power button is located at the top along with a zoom lever wrapped around the shutter button. A small green LED lights up when the S200 is on. By holding down the shutter button after taking a photo (Except in continuous or self-timer mode), you can review the photo you've taken.

One side of the camera has nothing while the other has a wrist strap mount and USB + A/V out ports. At the bottom of the Ixus SD200 is a tripod mount and battery/SD slot. The battery/SD slot is protected by a very flimsy feeling cover.

Recording

The SD200 can take VGA movies up to 1 GB (Virtually unlimited) at 30 FPS. The Fast Frame Rate feature takes QVGA movies at 60 FPS up to 1 minute. Movies are recorded in the less space economical AVI format. Neither optical or digital zoom can be used by the SD200 while recording.

Performance

The SD200 turns on in 1 second thanks to the fast moving lens. Moving to telephoto from wide-angle in 1.5 seconds - Fast!

The SD200 focuses under a second, even in low-light. Low-light shooting did not give the SD200 a hard time, thanks to that bright orange AF-assist beam. The Canon SD200 took about 17 photos at 2.1 FPS (Highest of image settings - Large/Superfine) before stopping using an average SD card. Using the high-speed SanDisk Ultra II 512 MB card, the SD200 filled the card up with photos (Highest quality) taken at 2.5 FPS!

Image Quality

The Canon SD200 produces very sharp photos with extremely low levels of chromatic aberration (Color fringing) and a mild amount of noise. There's lots of red-eye but barrel distortion is nothing to be concerned about. Movies are a little less sharp compared to still photos.

Playback

In playback, the Canon SD200 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, print marking, direct printing (The SD200 is PictBridge enabled), slideshow, sound memo, rotate and simple movie editing. You can also zoom up to 10x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info (Though no shutter speed or aperture value is shown) about your photos. When it comes to histograms, the SD200 does not show any histogram while shooting but it does in playback/quick review.

Conclusion

The Canon SD200 is a great ultra-compact camera though it lacks "real" manual controls and control over fast shutter speed. Custom white balance and long shutter are a plus on the SD200 as few ultra-compact cameras have such features. The essential scene modes (Such as kids and pets) on the SD200 somewhat make up for the lack of manual controls.

While the LCD was sharp, fluid and accurate with its 100% coverage, the optical viewfinder showed a low percentage of the frame and was overall, not that sharp. The strategic placements of the buttons on the back make one hand shooting easy. Despite having some (Some - Not a lot) image quality issues, the SD200 is pocketable and you can snap at almost anytime, anywhere - Without that heavy dSLR!

What's hot:

  • Ultra-compact and stylish design
  • Extremely fast and almost zero shutter lag
  • Excellent set of features for such a compact camera
  • Large and sharp 2.0 inch LCD
  • Excellent movie mode (Especially VGA 30 FPS and Fast Frame Rate)
  • Overall sharp photos

What's not:

  • Limited manual controls
  • LCD only brightens a little in low-light
  • LCD almost unusable outdoors
  • So-so battery life
  • Flimsy battery/SD slot door
  • Red-eye
  • Some soft photos

Recommended accessories:

~Extra NB-4L battery
~256 MB high-speed SD card
~Camera case
~LCD protector

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