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Old Oct 5, 2006, 5:42 PM   #1
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So I have been sneaking around these boards looking for opinions about SD800 IS. Since there were no pro-reviews coming out soon and I needed a camera for the weekend trip, I took the plunge and picked up SD800 IS three days ago.


Before I jump into the review, I want to mention that I have been using full-manual film SLRs since I was 18. My current camera collection includes Optio 43WR (to take rafting / skiing / adventure sports pics), Digital Rebel XT, and now SD800 IS. I have also spent some time with T10, SD630 and an assortment of cheaper models.

I have realized over the years that the smaller camera are way more useful for someone with an active lifestyle. I have put my Optio 43WR through some tough times with skydiving, falling down ski slopes, and using it underwater (no, it is not recommended by Pentax) and it came up with amazing pictures. Also imagine a cute girl at a party asking you "Is that a SLR in your pants, or ..." you get the picture (pun intended!).


I needed to replace my aging primary companion Optio 43wr with a new ultracompact model with underwater housing which allows me to dish out the abuse I need to get great shots. Money was not an object, so I was looking only at top-of-the-line models from ALL brands. The other note-worthy contenders were Sony T-30 Black, Sony DSC N2, Fuji F30.

I was also very unhappy with the pictures in low-light conditions by 43WR. I spend a fair amount of time snapping low-light pictures, so that was a top priority for me as well.

SD 800 IS:

So here is what I have found about SD800 IS...

Gizmo factor:
- This one has to be one of the most tricked out cameras I have ever used. You can edit movies, auto-rotate pictures depending on how you hold the camera, and do many other neat things. However what appeals me most is that these tricks are not flashy or distracting: they are seamlessly integrated in the user experience.
I think this shows the maturity in Canon models, compared to some fresh brands.
- The slide-show is very classy, not cheesy as you see on most other cameras.

Creative Controls:
- No full manual here, but it has Auto-Exposure lock and Auto-Focus lock. These two controls with some creative thinking will allow you to take any shots you may need. I didn't know about these features till I bought the camera, and I am very happy to find them there!
- Color-Accent and Color-Swap are more addictive than a videogame. I have so far seen my car in multiple colors, visualized what my garden will look like in fall, and help people bring out the blue color in their eyes.

- Personally, I am not very impressed by the looks but everyone else seems to love the understated jewelery thing going on with it.

- Yes, it is true. Lots of blurry corners at full wide. Lots of distortion too. I think Canon is skimping on the optics here. That's what happens when you try to stuff a 3.8x zoom in a tiny body. They should have stuck to something like 28mm to 60mm zoom, and it would have been fine.

But from a practical point of view, I don't notice the corners in a picture. Naturally I stare at the subject, and move on to the next pic. So the corners bothered me in test-shots, but not in real-life shots.

TIP: Just zoom out to 35mm equivalent and the blurry corners disappear.

Optical Stabilizer:
- Extremely effective. Worth its weight in gold. I am still gloating over the vibration-free pictures I have been taking recently.

- Images are softer than my liking. Don't know if it is the low-quality lens, or the CCD.
- Gets very noisy after ISO 400. Fuji F30 will beat the CCD hands down.

Depends on what your needs are. Look at the above facts, think about your needs, and make your own decision. I will give you three options based on my reasoning:

It is the only 28mm lens out there, and you will love it despite the lens limitations. I have numerous examples in only THREE days, where I was able to get a shot like never before. So if you feel like fitting more in a frame, get SD800 IS.

If you print all your pictures, and are a family man, DSC N2 is the way to go because of 10 megapixels and touch screen. However the images are overprocessed in camera, a Sony trademark.

If you do lots of low-light photography ala Paris Hilton, wait for Fuji to release optically stabilized camera. I couldn't wait, because I have a trip this weekend!

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Old Oct 5, 2006, 9:32 PM   #2
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Images are softer than my liking. Don't know if it is the low-quality lens, or the CCD.

Interesting I thought Canon had improved this in the latest models. At least the sample images of the ones I had been looking at seemed ok to me. I do remember the first time I was looking for a camera upgrade a few years back, one of the reasons I went with my much loved Minolta Dimage F300 was because I just didn't like the Canon soft images. They always looked as if they were not focused properly to my eyes, even though it was a feature not a fault.

I kept reading that this was a feature of Canon cameras in that they don't sharpen the image as aggresively as other models. Supposedly it allows for post processing. I can understand on a prosumer models but on the P&S most people are not going to do that, and prefer sharper images straight out of the camera.

I have been looking for a backup camera to my much loved Minolta F300 (due to it being on Sony's bad sensor list. ie it could fail any time and knowing Murphy's Law, most likely on my upcoming trip) and have been considering a Canon again. The images on the latest models didn't seem quite as soft as they used to, but yours is not the first time I have heard people complain of soft images so this is concerning me again!

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Old Oct 8, 2006, 11:53 PM   #3
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Seems like Canon is taking a page out of Panasonic's handbook...improve the paper specs but care very little about image quality. What we need is a sensor that rivals the Fuji F30...heck...even the F10 would be acceptable.
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