Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Hands-On Review

While Canon’s booth was huge at PMA 2009, the biggest new camera present was actually quite small – the PowerShot SX1 IS.  Fortunately, Canon had several pre-production models on display for attendees to fondle handle.  The new (for US shooters) 10MP superzoom camera handles almost exactly like the junior-spec’d PowerShot SX10 IS, with the exception of the a slightly larger LCD screen.

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Key Features

  • 10mp CMOS sensor
  • 20x Zoom (28-560mm equivalent)
  • Articulating LCD
  • Hotshoe (for external flash)
  • DIGIC 4
  • 1080p video
  • Price $599

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Handling & Performance

The Canon SX1 IS makes a great first impression.  Users of the popular S3 IS and S5 IS will feel right at home with the button layout and form factor.  It is small, yet powerful.  Amazingly, Canon packs a powerful 20x optical zoom in this camera, giving it a 28-560mm equivalent zoom range.

Obviously, the extended zoom on the camera requires and makes good use of Canon’s Optical Image Stabilization.  This is apparent in simply hand-holding the camera and reviewing images on the LCD.

Unfortunately, because it was a pre-production model, I don’t have any images to publish from the camera.  The addition of RAW capture capability, however, should help convince early adopters that the SX1 IS will be worth their while.

What impressed me right off the bat was the speed in which the zoom reaches full extension from wide open – it takes about a second.  That’s pretty quick in my book – particularly given the range that it covers.  I also noticed that the startup time from “off” to “ready to take pics” is faster that most point and shoot cameras.

Autofocusing was generally pretty quick for a point and shoot camera across a range of scenes and from shadows to brighter areas that I could find the SX1 IS stayed on target.

Like the S3 and S5 IS before it, the SX1 IS features a manual wheel on the back of the camera around the circular buttons, which is used for selections and, more importantly, manual focusing.  Unlike many manual focus controls on point and shoot cameras, the focus wheel on the SX1 IS is a true precision instrument for nailing critical focus.  When manual focusing, you also get a cropped section of the focus point magnified so that you can make a better judgement of critical focus.  Kudos to Canon for sticking with what works.

Based on a sampling of several images captured and reviewed on the rear LCD, the flash is quite powerful; however, it does tend to overpower the scene a bit, leaving the subjects a little harsh on the ambient backgrounds.  The SX1 IS tries to balance the ambient, and perhaps, turning down the flash output a bit would produce better results.  Other cameras, like Sony’s H20, or even the W290, seem to do a better job out of the box with flash vs. ambient light situations.

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS Conclusion

All in all, I expect the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS to be the next big thing in Canon’s consumer-level lineup.  While it’s a little steep at $599, the camera really is your all-in-one do-it-all.  The zoom range, RAW capture, hotshoe and 1080p video recording all add up to make this camera an excellent choice for anyone looking to move up a notch or three from a basic point and shoot camera.  Enthusiasts will also appreciate the features of this camera and, I’m sure, will find a way to stretch it to new limits.  It is currently available for pre-order on



  1. Don says

    Tried a Nikon P90 for a week. 1200 test shots. Only 10% acceptable for printing under MANY shooting conditions. Compared this to same test images shot on both my D300 & D80 at the same time. Absolutely no comparison in color rendition, sharpness, noise, detail & ability to work under low light. All in all, Nikon’s most disappointing product in my 39 yrs owning Nikons. Took it back for a refund.

    Now looking at Canon SX1S & Lumix FZ35 for a daily “carry camera”. Have you reviewed the new Lumix? Is there any comparison in photo quality between the 2? There seems to be many similarities aside from the street price difference & size/weight & difference in max resolution (which may not be a plus (bigger isn’t always better). Not much difference in photo quality between my D300 & D80 backup camera under many similar shooting situations for the 2mp sensor difference.

    Pls advise if you can. Have been researching for several months & there’s a new camera model leaving the factory every week.