Canon SX20is 20x Ultrazoom Digital Camera (Review)

Canon SX20is 20x Ultrazoom Digital Camera

I’ve had the Canon PowerShot SX20IS 12mp Ultrazoom digital camera on media loan for almost 2 months and I hate to have to return it to them today because it tries very hard to be SLR-like for 1/2 the price and its the best bridge camera (chunky compact camera wannabe SLR) I’ve tested for a long time.

The SX20IS’s standout feature is of course the Ultrazoom 20x (28mm-560mm) optical image stabilised lens but not for the reason you might have guessed. While the lense takes decent photos extended to its full 20x zoom limit I was very surprised at the excellent “Super-Macro” closeup mode which is just as good as an SLR that costs twice as much

Macro Flower Photo taken with Canon SX20is 20x Ultrazoom Digital Camera

Photos Taken by the Canon SX20is

Floriade Flower Festival (Canberra 2009)

Super X (Super Cross) Motorbike Racing (Parramatta, Sydney 2009)

Good Features of Canon SX20is

  • Ultrazoom 20x (28mm-560mm) optical image stabilised lens takes decent photos extended to its full 20x zoom limit and I was very surprised at the excellent “Super-Macro” mode which is just as good as an SLR that costs twice as much
  • Allows you to setup the camera in Manual mode exactly how you like it or various semi or completely Automatic modes like: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Intelligent Auto mode (with Scene Detection) and lots of built in user selectable scenes (like Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Sports etc)
  • Images taken at ISO400 and even IS0800 in low light conditions were surprisingly decent quality – most non-SLR cameras completely fail this test
  • 2.5″ inch LCD monitor has a Matt anti glare (non reflective) finish so it’s easy to see from different angles or in sunlight and it can be swiveled out to the left of the camera.
  • Powered by 4xAA sized Alkaline or rechargeable NiMH batteries – great if you don’t like cameras that use proprietary Lithium batteries

Weaknesses of Canon SX20is

  • Chunky size – it doesn’t matter how big your jeans pockets are with a weight of roughly 600gm including batteries and a lens that extends out at full zoom this camera is quite chunky and has to be hung around your neck or kept in a backpack when not being used.
  • Slow Burst Mode – Barely takes 1-1.5 photos per second at best. If you need a camera that can take several photos per second than the SX20is is not for you.
  • Don’t expect SLR lense speed or high quality images in low light conditions when the lens has been zoomed, the lens just isn’t fast enough and the Camera’s image sensor is still a fraction of the size of an SLR’s sensor.
  • Powered by 4xAA sized Alkaline or rechargeable NiMH batteries – which sucks in my opinion because the camera only tells you when the battery is almost flat and i usually have access to a powerpoint to recharge stuff but don’t keep many spare AA batteries. I strongly suggest you keep 4 spare rechargable NIMH AA’s and buy the optional Charger/AC Adaptor

Other People’s Reviews of Canon SX20is


Bottom line – the PowerShot SX20 IS is a welcomed addition to Canon’s popular “S” series of prosumer models. We were glad to see some of the improvements that have been made over the SX10, however I was a bit upset that the camera has slower burst speeds. The SX20 is a worthy competitor in the ultra-zoom/prosumer/enthusiast category, and is sure to be a very popular model in the years to come.

If you are one who is not quite sure if you want to make the jump into the dSLR world, take a close look at this camera. The SX20 offers almost as much functionality as a consumer-level dSLR, great image quality, good performance, and loads of high-end features, all for about half the price. That said … we feel the SX20 IS offers outstanding value.
Steve’s Digicams

Buy this camera if you’re looking for an ultra-zoom digicam that can record widescreen high-definition video with stereo sound, want plenty of adjustable controls and image stabilisation, enjoy taking very close ‘macro’ shots and prefer cameras that use AA batteries.

Don’t buy this camera if you want a pocketable camera, you prefer shooting raw files as well as JPEGs and RAW+JPEG pairs, you need a camera that can record a wide dynamic range in outdoor shots, you require high performance levels in dim lighting, particularly for long exposures.
Photo Review Australia

If you want an advanced compact camera that can do just about anything then the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS digital camera is the one to shortlist! It’s great for macros. it takes excellent night time photography, it has a huge zoom and built-in optical stabilisation, and it even does a good job of capturing HD video
Good Gear Guide

Cost of SX20IS

At the time of writing (late 2009) you could buy the Canon SX20IS for roughly $450+postage from overseas (with no warranty from Canon Australia) or roughly $650 in Australia from a camera shop.

One Reply to “Canon SX20is 20x Ultrazoom Digital Camera (Review)”

  1. If that shot of the pink flower is anything to go by this looks like an awesome camera!

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