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Canon PowerShot SX20 IS review

Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £298
inc VAT

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.

Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 12.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.3in
Viewfinder electronic (235,000 pixels)
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 2.5in
LCD screen resolution 230,000 pixels
Articulated screen Yes
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 20.0x
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)


Memory slot SDHC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type 4x AA
Battery Life (tested) 340 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, mini HDMI, DC in
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material plastic
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier N/A
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 647g
Size 88x124x87mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £298

Camera Controls

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
Manual focus Yes
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

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