A classy camera that puts in a solid performance, but lacks the stand-out features to push it into the lead
1/2.3in 12.0-megapixel sensor, 20.0x zoom (28-560mm equivalent), 647g
This bulbous ultra-zoom camera looks and feels like a serious piece of kit. There’s an accessory shoe with E-TTL support for automatic exposures using Canon flashguns. The hinged screen helps when shooting at awkward angles and flips right around for self-portraits. Its 2.5in diagonal is on the small side, but the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is much bigger than other cameras’ EVFs.
The use of four AA batteries makes this quite a heavy camera, and also means that flash recycling times are slow – we measured 10 seconds between shots at full flash power. The SX20 IS isn’t the nippiest performer at the best of times, taking 2.9 seconds on average between shots, and managing 1fps in continuous mode. The controls are well laid out, with direct access to ISO speed and focus point plus a jog wheel for changing settings. Manual exposure is superbly implemented but the lack of a RAW picture format is a big disappointment.
It’s not easy making a lens with a big zoom, which makes the PowerShot’s incredible sharpness all the more impressive. Flash-lit photos revealed crisp details at both extremes of the zoom range. The corners of wide-angle shots suffered from chromatic aberrations, though, giving a halo of discoloration to high-contrast lines.
Telephoto shots were kept sharp with the best optical stabilisation system we’ve ever seen, managing a 90 per cent success rate at shutter speeds as slow as 1/8s seconds at the full 560mm zoom position. Moving subjects such as sports and wildlife need a fast ISO speed and fast shutter, though. Here, the SX20 IS was good but not exceptional, with a lack of subtle details due to aggressive noise reduction. The 720p video mode worked well, with effective optical zoom and autofocus that didn’t spoil the excellent audio quality. The picture wasn’t as crisp or as noise-free as we’d like, though.
The SX20 IS is a superb camera, but the areas where it excels – lens sharpness, stabilisation and manual controls – are matched by the lighter, faster and cheaper Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
|CCD effective megapixels||12.0 megapixels|
|Viewfinder||electronic (235,000 pixels)|
|Viewfinder magnification, coverage||N/A|
|LCD screen size||2.5in|
|LCD screen resolution||230,000 pixels|
|Zoom 35mm equivalent||28-560mm|
|Image stabilisation||optical, lens based|
|Maximum image resolution||4,000×3,000|
|Maximum movie resolution||1280×720|
|Movie frame rate at max quality||30fps|
|File formats||JPEG; QuickTime (AVC)|
|Battery type||4x AA|
|Battery Life (tested)||340 shots|
|Connectivity||USB, AV, mini HDMI, DC in|
|HDMI output resolution||1080i|
|Focal length multiplier||N/A|
|Kit lens model name||N/A|
|Accessories||USB and AV cables|
|Exposure modes||program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual|
|Shutter speed||15 to 1/3,200 seconds|
|Aperture range||f/2.8-8 (wide), f/5.7-8 (tele)|
|ISO range (at full resolution)||80 to 1600|
|Exposure compensation||+/-2 EV|
|White balance||auto, 6 presets, manual|
|Additional image controls||flash compensation, iContrast|
|Closest macro focus||0cm|
|Auto-focus modes||centre, spot, face detect|
|Metering modes||multi, centre-weighted, centre, AF point, face detect|
|Flash||auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction|
|Drive modes||single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, focus bracket|