DPInterface Canon PowerShot SD700 IS
Digital ELPH Review (Digital Ixus 800 IS/Ixy Digital 800 IS)
Brad Soo - June 13th, 2006

When the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH came out, it sparked hot discussions on how it'd be the ultimate Digital ELPH and being comparable against the Fujifilm F30. The SD700 IS is the successor to the SD550 and the improvements over the SD550 include:

  • New 6 megapixel imaging sensor which has less noise
  • New 4X UA optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization
  • New body design with a stylish tri-color scheme
  • High-resolution 2.5 inch LCD
  • New ISO 800 and High Auto ISO options
  • Widescreen 16:9 still image option
  • My Colors post-processing in playback
  • Closer 2 cm macro (versus 5 cm on the SD550)
  • 50% higher battery life with new NB-5L battery
  • Weaker flash (so this is a step down...)

So the SD700 a great camera or what? Let's find out now in the review. I've prepared a more in-depth review this time with "special edition" pictures. So look out for them!

Also, the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH is the USA name while it's known as the Digital Ixus 800 IS in Europe and Asia and the Ixy Digital 800 IS in Japan.

Size and Weight

Find out how small the SD700 is using this handy but lengthy chart I compiled:

(167.3)  90.3 x 56.8 x 20.2 mm (145 g) - Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH*
(173.3)  90.4 x 56.5 x 26.4 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH^
(166.0)  88.5 x 57.0 x 20.5 mm (112 g) - Casio Exilim Z600
(171.2)  89.0 x 58.5 x 23.7 mm (130 g) - Casio Exilim Z850
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F30
(196.1)  104.7 x 60.6 x 30.8 mm (170 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F650*
(169.8)  83.0 x 63.5 x 23.3 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix V10*
(163.6)  90.0 x 55.0 x 18.6 mm (130 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z3
(177.0)  93.0 x 61.0 x 23.0 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R727
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (170 g) - HP Photosmart R927*
(171.2)  101.0 x 49.8 x 20.4 mm (125 g) - Kodak EasyShare V570
(189.7)  111.0 x 55.5 x 23.2 mm (160 g) - Kodak EasyShare V610
(184.0)  92.0 x 61.0 x 31.0 mm (170 g) - Nikon Coolpix P3`
(181.5)  100.5 x 60.0 x 21.0 mm (140 g) - Nikon Coolpix S6*`
(171.1)  94.8 x 55.9 x 20.4 mm (103 g) - Olympus Stylus 710
(175.9)  97.0 x 56.2 x 22.7 mm (145 g) - Olympus Stylus 810
(170.2)  94.0 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX01^
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A10^
(174.0)  95.0 x 59.0 x 20.0 mm (135 g) - Pentax Optio T10*
(175.3)  96.5 x 61.0 x 17.8 mm (130 g) - Samsung Digimax i6
(174.8)  95.0 x 56.5 x 23.3 mm (139 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T30*^
(169.0)  89.0 x 57.0 x 23.0 mm (127 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W30/W50/W70
(179.6)  94.2 x 60.6 x 24.8 mm (161 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W100

* 3 inch LCD
^ Optical image stabilization
` WiFi

As usual, I've included the "DPI measurement unit" (As opposed to volume) on the left for a more accurate impression of a camera's size.

As you can see, the SD700 is in for stiff competition. As for size and weight, it fits right in the middle of those cameras. All of those cameras are small and can fit into your pocket with ease.

Open up the Box

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH has essentially the same bundle as the SD550:

  • 16 MB Secure Digital Card
  • Rechargeable NB-5L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM

Storage and Power

Canon gives you 16 MB of space to begin with - not even enough for more than 10 shots. I'd recommend getting at least a 512 MB Secure Digital card, high-speed if you would please. The camera takes advantage of high-speed cards and the performance increase is fairly significant.

160 shots - Canon PowerShot SD630 Digital ELPH (3 inch LCD)
240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
500 shots - Casio Exilim Z600
440 shots - Casio Exilim Z850
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F30
150 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F650 (3 inch LCD)
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix V10 (3 inch LCD)
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z3
270 shots - HP Photosmart R727
200 shots - HP Photosmart R927 (3 inch LCD)
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V570
135 shots - Kodak EasyShare V610
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix P3
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix S6 (3 inch LCD)
180 shots - Olympus Stylus 710
250 shots - Olympus Stylus 810
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX01
150 shots - Pentax Optio A10
130 shots - Pentax Optio T10 (3 inch LCD)
210 shots - Samsung Digimax i6
420 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T30 (3 inch LCD)
390 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W50
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W70

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS received a 50% increase over the SD550's battery life. That's probably because the new NB-5L battery has almost 1200 mAh, about 50% more capacity than the NB-3L. So Canon didn't tweak anything to make the camera more energy efficient.

The Canon PowerShot SD700 gets about 240 shots per charge (CIPA Standard) which is only hovering around average. Based on my usage, the battery could last till around 200 shots, flash usage was mixed. It takes 90 minutes to fully charge a depleted NB-5L battery. The SD700 displays no battery indicator except a blinking red battery icon when you have 5 minutes left.

 

Extras

The little point-and-shoot SD700 Digital ELPH offers few accessories and it's quite easy to name them all: A waterproof case (rated up to 40 m underwater) and an external slave flash. robably

Camera Tour

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH is a fairly compact camera. It features a new tri-color body which features ice metal silver, moonlight silver and ebony black (does Canon have a department dedicated to inventing these names?). The Canon PowerShot SD700 Digital ELPH is more or less the same size as the SD550.

The only thing is the SD700 doesn't come in beige...

The Canon SD700 Digital ELPH uses an all new 4X zoom lens with optical image stabilization. This lens is equivalent to 35 - 140 mm and has an aperture range of f2.8 - f5.5. This is the first compact camera (and it may not be the last) I've seen from a major manufacturer to feature a longer lens compared to the usual old 3X zoom. This extending lens has 3 barrels, versus 2 on past Digital ELPHs. Here's a better view of the SD700 compared to the SD550 (Note the tri-color design on top and the number of lens barrels):

And I've got some news which some may not like - The zoom lens on the SD700 uses UA lens elements which allowed Canon to fit in more zoom into a compact area. Some say the UA lens jeopardizes image quality, especially on the edges. We'll see if that's true or not in our photo tests later in the review.

And - again - behind that lens, the SD700 uses a 1/2.5 inch CCD with 6 megapixels. Compare that to the SD550's larger 1/1.8 inch CCD with 7 megapixels. Despite that, this new CCD produces less noise.

To the upper right, there's a flash unit which has a range of 50 cm to 3.5 m at wide-angle and up to 2 m at telephoto. This is worse than on the SD550 which does 5 m and 3.5 m at wide-angle and telephoto respectively. Compared to other cameras, the SD700's flash range is about average.

The AF-assist/self-timer lamp and optical viewfinder are located to the left of the flash. There's a microphone nearby the lens as well.

The Canon SD700 IS has a 2.5 inch LCD on the back with 173,000 pixels - up from 115,000 on the SD550 - though things could be sharper (hint hint - the Sony T30's LCD has 230,000 pixels). The LCD has excellent low-light visibility as it brightened things up a lot and above average outdoor visibility with backlighting on its maximum setting. LCD viewing angle was excellent as well with its ability to be viewed from almost any angle.

Above the LCD, there's a tiny optical viewfinder with 2 status lights beside it. I found myself using it only when the batteries were low. I vote that Canon pump up battery life, do away with the tiny viewfinder and put in a 3 inch LCD.

Beside the optical viewfinder is a power switch placed in the oddest of positions. A small LED embedded in the button lights up when the camera is on.

The top right of the SD700's back has been left blank so your thumb can rest there. A little mode dial peeps out from the side and moves you around playback, auto, program, scene modes and movie recording mode. I did not find it a problem to turn the mode dial but I wish it had more modes so it could turn a full 360 degrees.

The other buttons are packed into the space to the lower right of the SD700. While these buttons bulge out quite a bit to make pressing easier, I did find them plasticky.

The print button lights up when the camera is connected to the printer and you use the menu and do the rest. The FUNCtion button brings up a menu with almost all the settings you'll need including (this is only for manual mode - in auto or scene mode, then most of the settings will be locked up):

  • Sub-mode (Manual, digital macro, stitch assist left to right or right to left
  • Exposure compensation (2 in 1/3 increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent H, custom)
  • My Colors (Off, vivid, neutral, sepia, monochrome, positive film, lighter/darker skin tone, vivid red, vivid green, vivid blue, custom color)
  • Metering method (Evaluative, center weighted, spot)
  • Still image size and compression

The Photo Effects sub-menu and My Colors mode from the SD550 have been merged; which allows for quicker access to changing those options. In menus, the FUNCtion button doubles as the SET or okay button.

Around the FUNC/SET button is the 4-way controller:

  • Up - ISO speed (Auto, high auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800)/Jump (Go ahead/back: 10 images, 100 images, next shot date, movie, folder)
  • Down - Drive (Single shot, continuous, self-timer)/Delete photo
  • Left - Focus setting (Normal, macro, infinity)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, flash on with red-eye reduction, flash on, slow-sync, off)

While holding the shutter button halfway down, hitting the up button will activate AE lock and the left button will activate AF lock. This allows you to reframe a scene with different exposure and/or focus.

The MENU button brings up a menu with most camera settings such as AF-assist beam, Canon's AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Auto Focus), camera time and stuff like that. You can exit the menu by pressing the MENU button again or pressing the shutter button half way down.

The DISPlay button toggles the amount of information displayed when shooting or playing back and can turn the LCD off while shooting so you can use the viewfinder. Holding down that same button will push LCD backlighting to its maximum setting.

With the power button shifted to the back, there's only a lone shutter button with a zoom lever wrapped around over here. You can also see the tri-color design of the SD700 here. On the black part, there's speaker - though you may not be able to see it.

On one side of the camera, there's a USB 2.0 High Speed and an A/V Out port while the other side is left blank.

At the bottom of the SD700, there's a tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. Unlike on the SD600 and SD630 I've recently reviewed, the door over those compartments is extremely sturdy and not easily bent.

For comparison purposes, shown above is the SD700's thickness compared to the SD550. The Canon SD550 is marginally thicker but the SD700 has a longer lens extension.

The Digital ELPHs

Here's a very special section I made dedicated to the Digital ELPHs which made their debut back in May 2000:

First up is the first ever Digital ELPH - the S100 - which appeared back in 2000 as the world's first "ultra-compact" digital camera. A few (camera) generations later comes the S500 Digital ELPH which had a DIGIC processor. The SD500 speeded things up with the new DIGIC II processor and the SD550 upped the LCD to 2.5 inches (among other things). Finally, along came the SD700 IS which is the first ever Digital ELPH with optical image stabilization. And yes, I do have all of four of those sitting on my desk now.

Shooting

We'll start with how informative the SD700's shooting screen is. It shows all the essential bits of information except exposure info. There's no live histogram either - you only get one in playback. Shutter speed is shown if it's slower than 1/125 second along with a camera shake warning. As for aperture and speeds faster than that, nothing is to be seen.

You can turn on some other things like digital zoom, grid lines, date imprint (3:2 option only) and the AF-assist beam to aid with shooting. The AiAF autofocus system can be turned on so the camera automatically selects from 9 AF points or off for center frame focusing.

Though it usually chooses one to three AF points at a time, there are very rare cases when the Canon SD700 IS chooses all 9 AF points (which is a good thing).

You can select one of the Canon PowerShot S3 IS' many image resolutions which include 6 megapixels (with a widescreen 16:9 option), 4 megapixels, 2 megapixels (with a 3:2 option) and VGA plus three compression options - Superfine, Fine and Normal. I find that most users (not only me) normally use full resolution with Fine for everyday shooting and SuperFine only for very important shots.

Like on the S3 IS, the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS has 4 optical image stabilization modes. They are: continuous (always on but decreases battery life; usually for framing telephoto shots), shoot only (stabilizes the picture when the shutter button is clicked; usually more effective), panning (stabilizes up and down movements only; for tracking a moving subject), off (prevents IS from "unstabilizing" a shot when the camera is already on a steady surface like a tripod). Here's a little example:

 

Both shots were taken using macro mode at 1/4 second. The left shot was taken with IS off and the other with IS on. Speaking of macro mode, the Canon SD700 IS Digital ELPH can go as close as 2 cm which is great. A Digital Macro feature lets you use the 4X digital zoom to get even closer - quite useful.

Since the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH is a point-and-shoot camera, there's no manual controls here except over white balance and slower shutter speeds. As other cameras like the Casio Z850 are adding close to full manual controls, I'd like to see at least some exposure control in the next Digital ELPH.

The scene modes on the SD700 IS include portrait, foliage, snow, beach, fireworks, underwater, indoor, kids & pets, night snapshot, color accent and color swap. The last two used to be My Colors modes on the SD550.

Recording

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH has a great movie mode let down only by the recording limit. It takes VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up - or so they say. Each movie is limited to 1 GB only though, and that doesn't take long - about 8 or 9 minutes as movies are recorded in the space inefficient AVI format.

If you want to record more movies for less space, the frame rate is selectable with 30 FPS or 15 FPS. You can lower the resolution down to QVGA (320 x 240) as well. A QVGA 60 FPS option records your action scenes up to one minute while a 160 x 120 option records tiny movies for e-mail at 15 FPS up to 3 minutes.

Exposure is automatically adjusted though you can lock it before recording and the optical image stabilizer can be used. Focus is fixed though. Digital, not optical, zoom can be used while recording.

The Canon SD700 IS Digital ELPH's movies were good in audio quality while video quality was slightly lower than on the SD550 and suffered from a little loss of detail.

Performance

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH starts up and extends its lens extremely quickly in just 0.8 seconds. The SD700 IS normally takes about 1/2 second to focus at wide-angle and 2/3 to 1 second at telephoto. Low-light focusing was excellent and the camera could even lock focus with the AF-assist beam off.

Shutter lag is a little obvious at telephoto in low-light conditions but is otherwise not noticeable. Shot-to-shot speed was a nice 1 shot every 1.7 seconds, longer if the flash is used. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery took 7 seconds. The camera zooms from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.5 seconds with the lens motor being fairly noisy.

In continuous shooting, the Canon SD700 IS Digital ELPH can shoot indefinitely at 2 FPS till the memory card is full - provided you have a high-speed card. The LCD refreshes many times but only to show the last shot taken which makes it difficult to catch fast moving subjects.

The SD700 IS powers down in a lengthy 2.4 seconds with the lens at telephoto. This happens because the lens retracts smoothly rather than being very abrupt on the SD550.

Image Quality

Time to take a look to see how the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH fares in image quality:


ISO 80 (f5.5, 1/20 sec)


ISO 100 (f5.5, 1/30 sec)


ISO 200 (f5.5, 1/60 sec)


ISO 400 (f5.5, 1/160 sec)


ISO 800 (f5.5, 1/250 sec)

At ISO 80, things are reasonably smooth and not noisy at all. Noise is already starting to become slightly evident at ISO 100. It goes up and up again consistently at ISO 200 and ISO 400. At ISO 400, things are still fairly acceptable with downsizing or a little noise reduction. I don't think ISO 800 on the SD700 is useable at all with a lot of noise. There's above average chromatic aberration (color fringing) in the shots above using the SD700 while the SD550 had close to none.

Overall noise levels were low and acceptable till ISO 400. Despite noise levels slightly higher than on the S3 IS I just reviewed, the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH has a one stop advantage over the SD550 in terms of noise. As for overall chromatic aberration level (not just from the shots above), it was still fairly high.

Barrel distortion is noticeable while pincushion distortion is not. Colors accuracy was fairly good but the camera tends to become confused with very dark or light colors. There was some red-eye in the SD700's people photos. The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH produces some soft photos at times while that was never an issue on the SD550. In an edge to edge comparison, the SD550 easily won.

Despite having inferior image quality (except noise) compared to the SD550, overall image quality of the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH was fairly good.

Photo gallery

It's the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH photo gallery! Take a look.

Playback

In playback, the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as do all this: Protect image, print marking, sound memo, slideshow, rotate and simple movie editing. You can also magnify still photos by 10x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons as well as post-process photos with the My Colors features from the FUNCtion menu.

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH shows some info, including a histogram, during playback but there are no shutter speed or aperture values to be found.

Appeal to the crowds

Who's the $499 Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH for? Check out the target audience rating:

Penny pinchers - I'm not really sure if the SD700 IS would appeal to this crowd. There's this thing priced also at $499 called the Sony T30 offering 7 megapixels, optical image stabilization, a huge 3 inch LCD and slightly better image quality.

Digital camera newbies/beginners - The Canon SD700 IS offers point-and-shoot operation along with several useful scene modes. There's a "Manual" mode which is essentially programmed auto which opens up access to things like ISO and white balance if you need to tweak them. So yes, this camera is suitable for beginners.

Everyday shooters - The pocketable SD700 IS Digital ELPH has great performance, making it useful and useable to anyone, anywhere. The SD700 doesn't have manual controls though.

Advanced amateurs/enthusiasts - Not for them. The SD700 IS has no appealing features other than an optical image stabilizer.

Professional photographers - The Canon SD700 IS is great as a pocket camera for professional photographers. The SD700 also offers the same IS system with a 3-stop advantage as Canon EOS digital SLR users' lenses.

Upgraders - Other Digital ELPH users can upgrade, if they feel like it. Otherwise, they can just wait for the next (and hopefully better) Digital ELPH along with SD550 owners.

Users jumping ship - Those who are using other camera brands should have no trouble upgrading though Fujifilm, Olympus and Sony camera owners who are jumping ship need to get SD cards.

 

Canon SD700 IS vs Fujifilm F30

The SD700 has a 4x stabilized zoom lens while the F30 has a standard 3x lens. Image stabilization gives the SD700 three stops advantage in hand-held shots while ISO 3200 gives the F30 two stops advantage in both hand-held and subject motion shots. This means the Fujifilm F30 can catch and freeze action better than the SD700. The SD700 is better in compensation camera motion caused by shaky hands. The Fujifilm F30 has full manual controls while the Canon SD700 has none. Despite that, the Canon SD700 has overall better performance, namely in continuous shooting and buffering.

Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH features 6 megapixels, 4 x zoom, a large 2.5 inch LCD, ISO 800 high sensitivity, a stylish tri-color body and is the first ever Digital ELPH to feature an Optical Image Stabilizer.

The SD700 has a more telephoto than average 4x zoom lens with optical image stabilization. This gives you the extra reach for long zoom shots, especially when combined with digital zoom, and is the perfect match for the image stabilizer which gives you three stops more.

The 50% increase in battery life to 240 shots is also good but still stands as average amongst competition which can do 300 to 500 shots. Admittedly, the 2.5 inch LCD has excellent visibility and viewing angle but it still lacks the "ultimate" resolution that most competition have - around 230,000 pixels.

Overall performance for this stylish little camera was very good save for autofocus speeds. The SD700 also has a noticeable performance increase when using a high-speed card. It has a nice VGA 30 FPS movie mode (though limited to 1 GB) and unlimited continuous shooting at 2 FPS. The thing about AF speed is some competition have become extremely fast in that compared to the SD700.

Featuring a 2 cm macro mode and 4x digital zoom to get in closer, the SD700 is a nice camera for macro shooting. In addition, the Canon SD700 has good image quality and low noise as well. Despite that, it has some problems as well such as some soft photos, low corner sharpness and worse overall image quality compared to the SD550.

Finally, the SD700 has a nice stylish body but no manual controls, no live histogram and its buttons feel cheap. So if you've read the entire review, you'd have noticed that the Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH is a great all round compact camera with a few minor bumps here and there. If you can live with the about average image quality and scarce controls, then the SD700 IS is for you. Some other cameras which really give the SD700 a run for the $499 include the Casio Z850, Fujifilm F30 (This you must see) and the Sony T30.

Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Ultra-compact]

  • 8.0 - Body/Exterior
  • 6.5 - Bundle, batteries and memory
  • 7.5 - Lens
  • 7.5 - Feature set
  • 6.0 - Controls and operation
  • 8.0 - Performance
  • 7.0 - Image quality
  • 7.2 - Overall rating

What's hot:

  • 4x zoom lens with optical image stabilization
  • 50% increase in battery life over SD550; overall so-so battery life
  • Very good LCD visibility
  • Unlimited, fast continuous shooting
  • Fast performance
  • Great 2 cm macro mode
  • Nice VGA movie recording at 30 FPS
  • Good image quality with low noise till ISO 400

What's not:

  • LCD resolution lower than competition
  • Weaker flash versus the SD550; average flash power
  • No manual controls
  • "Cheap" buttons
  • No live histogram; very limited exposure information
  • Autofocus could be faster; AF is lagging behind competition
  • Worse image quality than the SD550
  • Movies limited to 1 GB (around 8 or 9 minutes at the highest settings), no movie focus or optical zoom

Recommended Accessories

  • 512 MB Secure Digital card
  • Extra rechargeable NB-5L lithium-ion battery

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