Canon's last-generation remains quite popular despite the release of a new model, the , while similarly priced competitors, such as the and garner lots of attention from CNET.co.uk readers. So it should be unsurprising that both Canon and Sony decided to release models specifically targeting that magic price.
Priced around £225, Canon's PowerShot SX100 IS slips into the market a tad later than Sony's , but like that model inspires more thoughts about its tradeoffs than its attractions.
We have to admit, one of the SX100's biggest lures is its relatively compact size. Though still relatively large compared with the smaller megazooms like the H3 and the TZ3 -- it weighs 266g and will fit into a jacket pocket, at best -- it's still considerably smaller than the S5 and S3.
Part of the size savings likely stems from the shorter, though still optically stabilised, 10x, f/2.8-4.3, 36mm-360mm zoom lens (compared with 12x for its bigger brothers). However, it uses the same 8-megapixel sensor and 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD as the S5 IS.
The camera remains large enough to hold comfortably, though the grip itself could be a smidgen bigger and a lot less slippery. Encased in plastic, the SX100 nevertheless feels quite solid and sturdy. It also has a far more efficient layout than its siblings, with little sacrifice of shooting controls. And a big 'yay!' for the electronic lens cover -- there's no reason we should still have to suffer with those dangling plastic annoyances that pop off when you don't want them to and don't pop off when you do.
A mode dial and zoom switch sit on top of the camera, with PictBridge, face detection and display and menu buttons beneath the LCD. To the right of the display, a navigational scroll wheel has top, bottom, left and right pressure points for ISO, focus -- manual and macro, flash and drive mode.
Dedicated exposure compensation and review buttons plus a Func button to pull up shooting settings, round out the controls. We're usually big fans of scroll wheels, but we find the SX100's maddening -- a mistaken twitch of the finger and we frequently end up clicking on one of the four options instead of scrolling through shutter speeds.
To give Canon credit, the SX100 retains many of the controls found in the S3 and S5. Manual controls tend to fall by the wayside in this camera class. There's still a full complement of manual and semimanual exposure modes, flash and exposure compensation and three-metering modes.
There's also the de rigueur handful of scene modes, plus a decent face detection mode that lets you scroll through found faces to select one. It still takes longer to use than simply picking a face and focusing on it.
You do forgo an electronic viewfinder, support for add-on lenses and a hot shoe with the SX100, though we doubt many potential users would really miss any of them. More irritating is the downfeatured movie capture mode. It does VGA, 30 frames per second movies, but optical zoom doesn't work while shooting them, and the nice separated stereo mics of the S3 and S5 have been replaced with mono sound.