What kind of point-and-shoot camera has what it takes to stand out from the pack? Generally, it's one that exhibits both excellent quality and nimble performance.
But that's not the whole story. Other features, such as a useful and beautiful design plus functions that are enjoyable to use, can really make the difference.
In the case of Canon's new 7.1-megapixel PowerShot SD1000, you get most, if not all, of these essentials.
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Judging from the specs alone, this camera won't overwhelm you. It's a 7.1-megapixel device that features a 3X optical zoom with a 5.8mm-to-17.4mm range (which is equivalent to a 35mm lens with a 35mm-to-105mm zoom) and corresponding maximum f-stops of f/2.8 to f/4.9.
The SD1000 also sports the usual 2.5-inch LCD, which is more or less the standard size for cameras being produced today. There's no image stabilization on this camera, although with a 3X optical zoom lens there's not a lot of reason for it.
The camera's design, however, is exquisite. A nod to earlier PowerShots, the SD1000's look first appeared on the original Canon Elph, an APS (Advanced Photo System) film point-and-shooter, which was based on a striking design motif developed by the legendary Canon designer Yasushi Shiotani.
This motif was called the "box and circle" design, which, as you can see, consists of a black circle within the rectangular silver "box."
What's great about the design is its minimalist approach. It almost subliminally accentuates the fact that any photographic device — from the simplest pinhole to the most sophisticated D-SLR — is essentially a box with a circular hole cut into it. It's truly form highlighting elemental function.
Still, this camera is more than just an objet d'art. It performs brilliantly.
On my test shots and under a variety of lighting situations, the SD1000 captured my images the way I prefer them. Now that's a good thing since, like most cameras in Canon's SD series, you don't have full manual modes on this camera.
I was particularly impressed with one shooting experience at a press conference where keynote speakers appeared onstage in low light. I wanted to capture the atmosphere in the room, so using the flash was an issue, yet I didn't want blurred images.
I was very pleased with the quality of images the camera produced, operating under these restrictions. Perhaps it was the SD1000's face-detection feature that helped it expose and focus my shots correctly.
As I've found with most of the recent batch of Canon PowerShot cameras, the built-in face-detection feature really does quite a good job.
My lab test pictures also displayed excellent results.
There was very little noise in flash or daylight shots. I noticed just the right amount of saturation as well as very accurate color matching, with no color casts.
There was very little fringing, either, and the SD1000 rendered my simulated outdoor picture of trees set against a bright blue sky well.
Dynamic range was quite good, resulting in deep, dark blacks and almost pure whites. In addition, my flash shot exhibited high quality with no blown-out highlights at all.
If that's not enough good news, the SD1000 turned in an average resolution of 1,750 lines, which is exceptionally sharp for a 7.1MP camera.
Demonstrating equal prowess in terms of performance, the camera's 2.5-second boot-up time was nice and swift. My recorded 2.5-second recycle time was just as speedy. Most of all, I liked having no detectable shutter lag and hardly any barrel or pincushion distortion. This guy has an excellent little lens.
Of course, there were a few areas where the PowerShot SD1000 could use some improvement. For example, I was hoping for a few more high ISO modes, and I think there's too much noise in indoor low-light shots.
Video capabilities were solid at VGA quality and at 30 fps, but it would be nice to have the option of creating smaller file sizes, say with MPEG-4 encoding. Still, sound was quite good, clear and relatively free of hiss.
At a list price of $299.99, this shooter is a tad pricey, too. Even so, whether I needed indoor images (with or without flash), outdoor landscape pictures, or cityscape shots, I could count on the SD1000 to hit the mark, almost always dead-on.
BOTTOM LINE: Although there's an incredible amount of competition in the ultracompact category, the Canon PowerShots are still the cameras to beat. And at the top of the mountain sits the PowerShot SD1000.
PROS: Fantastic picture quality. Excellent performance. No shutter lag. Sweet styling.
CONS: Should have better video capabilities, including MPEG-4 encoding. Wide-angle lens could be wider. A bit pricey.
COMPANY: Canon U.S.A. Inc
Price: $299.99 List
Maximum Resolution: 3072 x 2304 pixels
Storage Capacity: 32 MB
Included Memory: Media Card
Media Format: Secure Digital
Battery Type Supported: Lithium Ion, Rechargeable
Included Batteries: Yes
Interface: USB 2.0
Video Record and Playback: Yes
35-mm Equivalent (Wide): 35
35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto): 105
EDITOR RATING: Four and a half out of five stars.
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