The 10-megapixel Canon PowerShot SX10 IS wasn't a great superzoom, but it was one of the better ones. It's sad to see, therefore, that its replacement, the 12.1-megapixel PowerShot SX20 IS with 20x zoom, takes a couple of steps backwards, delivering overall poorer performance and photo quality as a trade-off for slapping a couple of extra megapixels on the box. On the bright side, it does add 720p video, while retaining the capability to zoom during capture, plus a mini-HDMI connector for playing your movies on a high-definition TV. It's available for around £300 online.
With an almost identical body to the SX10, the SX20 remains very comfortable to hold and shoot, retaining perks like the articulated LCD, and running on four AA batteries. It's heavy, at 680g, which makes it feel like a digital SLR, but the big grip gives you plenty of holding room. There's a deep, indented thumb rest on the back, joined by playback, exposure-compensation, and focus-area-selection buttons. Because of the darker plastic, the labels are easier to read than on the previous model.
On the right side of the back is a dial concentric to a four-way navigation switch with a function button in the middle. As with the SX10, we generally like the controls, but the dial feels too mushy. It doesn't respond appropriately, and it feels as if it needs to spin too far or not as far for any given operation, resulting in frequent overshooting of settings. It needs better tactile feedback. The zoom switch still doesn't feel terribly exact either, a common problem with stepped zooms (these lenses don't really cover a continuous zoom range, instead stopping at a series of preset distances).
The flip-and-twistable LCD remains a user favourite, but it's quite small, measuring only 64mm (2.5 inches), compared with the more typical 76mm (3 inches). The electronic viewfinder seems slightly improved over the so-so version on its predecessor. It looks fairly coarse, but we didn't experience the slow refresh issues we had with the other. But, annoyingly, the camera still lacks a dedicated toggle between the LCD and EVF. Instead, you have to cycle through the four different display settings: 'low-info LCD', 'detailed LCD', 'low-info EVF' and 'detailed EVF'. That makes it nearly impossible to quickly jump back and forth.
The camera still has a dedicated movie-record button with a fairly well-implemented capture interface. Canon has integrated the movie-resolution settings into the function menu, along with the standard white-balance, colour-adjustment, exposure-bracketing, flash-compensation, metering, and still size and quality controls.