Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

If you can bear to part with the cash, you won't be disappointed with the superb HD-video and image quality of Canon's superzoom SX1 IS.

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Editors' note: As of March, the SX1 will be able to capture images in the RAW format, via an update to be made available from Canon's website.

The SX1 IS is Canon's HD-video sibling to the superzoom SX10 IS which we reviewed a few months ago. The two share the same body and button configuration for the most part, but inside things are definitely different. At the heart of the SX1 is a CMOS sensor, something which is normally reserved for Canon's digital SLR range. The SX10 IS, meanwhile, has a CCD sensor. Both share the enormous 20x optical zoom.

Though the SX1 IS may look similar to the SX10 IS when you place them side by side, don't be fooled — this is a distinctly different camera on the inside.

The SX1 IS has a variable angle LCD screen at the back.
(Credit: Canon)

Just like its companion, the SX1 features a smooth, black and grey plastic exterior. The lens is the same length — 20x optical zoom, or 560mm in the 35mm equivalent measurement — and features the same image stabilisation system.

There's an extra flap on the side of the unit for HDMI output, however, you will need to provide your own cable to plug it into an external television. At the top sits the hotshoe for an external flash unit as usual.

The fiddly mode dial, which seems to be a bit of a hit and miss feature on newer Canon cameras, is still present here. Fortunately, we felt the version on the SX1 had a little more resistance and accuracy than its equivalent on the SX10.

With full high-definition video recording in 16:9, the SX1 also shares the same mammoth 20x optical zoom with its smaller cousin. There's a CMOS sensor rather than a CCD sensor inside, for the first time on a consumer-level Canon camera.

The screen is far superior to that on the SX10 IS — maybe it's just because it's 2.8 inches rather than 2.5, or that you can toggle between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios when taking shots. Perhaps it's a trivial inclusion, but it makes portraits that much more interesting in the extended form.

The variable angle LCD, which we also saw on the SX10, is a great tool in all shooting situations. We much prefer it to the electronic viewfinder.

Performance and image quality
Performance-wise, the SX1 isn't all that different from the SX10 — start-up times are similar, and the shot-to-shot time is fairly consistent. We found that the SX1 coped admirably with our ISO noise test, producing clear and usable images right through to ISO 800. As with most new Canon compact digital cameras, ISO is expandable up to 3,200 in the scene modes.

The SX1 IS coped well across all ISO ranges, with a little softening at 1,600.
(Credit: CNET Australia)

As with the SX10, the camera still blew out highlights a little too much for our liking and had a tendency to overexpose in automatic and scene modes, luckily this can mostly be fixed by shooting in manual. If only Canon had seen fit to allow the SX1 to shoot in RAW as well — for the time being, JPEG is the only file format supported.

Overall, the image quality was either on par or better than what we saw on the SX10.

Video performance
Shooting video is incredibly easy on the SX1. VGA is the only resolution you can shoot at when the aspect ratio is set to 4:3, but flick it to 16:9 (via the button to the left of the viewfinder) and full HD video becomes available. We especially like how there is a one-touch record button underneath the mode dial, marked with a big red circle so you can't miss it. Pressing the shutter button in movie mode takes a still image.

With two microphones positioned above the lens, the SX1 is capable of recording stereo sound. While Canon has stated in the user manual that the noise of any lens adjustments may be heard in the recording, we found that in most situations the microphones didn't pick up much of the noise at all, and most times in louder than average shooting situations, there was no incidental sound.

To put it simply, the videos shot with the SX1 were superb. We loved how you could shoot in black and white, vivid, sepia and other in-camera display settings. To make the most of the HD video though, Canon suggests SD cards (class 6) are used, but we managed to get usable, consistent videos from a class 4 SDHC card.

We only wish that Canon included an external microphone and headphone jack to make the SX1 act almost like a fully fledged video camera.

The SX1 IS is a great camera for those who don't want the bulk of an SLR but desire the flexibility of different shooting modes and customisable options, with a long lens. The inclusion of (good quality) HD-video recording just makes the package even more appealing, and we would wholeheartedly recommend this camera for anyone who is looking for a camera that can — almost — do it all.

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"With RAW it now does have everything."

alburdon posted a review   

The Good:Superb video; better features and settings than most SLRs

The Bad:Need an adapter to fit filters. Movies in MOV format.

I received this camera as an insurance replacement for an obsolete Sony. It has taken me a year or two to really get to grips with all it can do and only now whan I am looking to buy an SLR do I realise that it will cost me a couple of thousand dollars minimum to get an SLR that can even approach what this pocket marvel can do.
On arecent trip to Yosemite Valley in the US I did a short photography course. I was able to get better results than others due to the sheer flexibility of the camera. I have also started using the video feature far more and despite having to convert the files to use them in Windows Movie Maker and still retain the sound I am getting some excellent HD movies. The zoom is amazing and can be used in movie mode too. Whereas there is a loss of picture quality at maximum zoom with stills this doesn't seem to happen with video. It can give you vertigo sweeping in on a subject.
Whilst this is now a superceded model I can't see how anything more recent can better it.


RT posted a comment   

There is RAW capture available in this camera


fetishgal posted a comment   

The Good:no

The Bad:many

you awful people forget the art and beuaty. If you want 'perfection' ignore the human condition and embrace what you see.

chris of alice springs

chris of alice springs posted a review   

The Good:CMOS sensor, 20 times optical zoom, an exceptional image stabilizer, full HD 1080i video with stereo audio, 10 mb. still images and a lot more.

The Bad:30fps PAL HD footage (where's the firmware update for 25 fps Canon??)

This is an exceptional camera. Now don't get me wrong, it's not perfect. It's not the very best camera you can buy, but as an all round package I think it is simply unbeatable for the price.

I think the evidence of how good it is, is that no less than 5 of my friends/aquaintances from all over Australia have bought it after seeing it's capabilities (and images)

These are the facts. It has 20 times optical zoom, an exceptional image stabilizer, full HD 1080i video with stereo audio, 10 mb.
still images, CMOS sensor and a lot more. Its lens is in fact equivalent to 28mm to 560mm. On my first night I went out and took a shot of the moon, hand-held (with optical image stabiliser on) at 1/15 of a second at 20 times zoom (560mm equivalent), It was excellent with great detail including craters! My background is as a Cinematographer but up till now I have had little to do with stills stuff. With my other hat on I am a location scout for feature films, TV commercials etc. and I needed something that was simple and could do virtually anything without any fuss. That includes the ability
to take full-res HD video as many Directors now also ask for video footage. It's only issue is that it takes video at 30fps instead of 25fps which is a bit of a pain if you are planning to watch it on your PAL TV instead of your computer. It could easily be fixed if Canon issues a firmware update but so far all such requests have fallen on deaf ears. If it weren't for this I would have given it 5 stars just for its great quality and more importantly, all round versatility.


Coop posted a review   

The Good:HD video is awesome on a big screen with HDMI cable, 20x zoom, 4 frame/sec continuous shooting, just about everything else

The Bad:Picture quality could be better

Advice & samples regarding videos here

The lens will take a 52mm thread but IT IS NOT an actual thread. You can get an adaptor which takes a 58mm thread: here


sarge668 posted a review   

The Good:Compact size yet feature packed, does just about everything

The Bad:Almost too many functions to tinker with for the novice!

This was my first upgrade from a entry level point and shoot to a 'serious' top end compact. Looks like I have lots to learn about, but so far this camera has taken some stunning pictures for me.


Napa posted a comment   

The Good:Great Video, Great Photos, Easy to use

The Bad:I would prefer Lit-ion batteries

Great HD video, and Great still photos once you get to know the right settings for the conditions.


Hobbo posted a review   

The Good:HD Video, 20x Zoom, Battery Life, HDMI straight into HDTV, Light Weight, Easy to Use

The Bad:Average Stills, View Finder, Build Quality

I was looking for a worthy replacement for my beloved Pana. Z30, this Sx1is it! Only let down by Stills on par with Z30.But I can live with that.


TallyV posted a comment   

The Good:Awesome pictures and HD videos from 4 AA's

The Bad:Little heavy

HD Movies can record upto about 25 minutes in highest setting or an hour using middle setting. (which looks very, very good and all you need if you are only going to YouTube)

At first, I thought it had bad artifacts, but I was using my old Windows XP computer. Once I pulled in the same video file onto my iMac 24, All Better. Plus, using the middle quaility settings made it fast and easy to review and upload to YouTube in minutes!

Amazing that you get RAW support and fantasic Zoom. My son has Rebel XT DSLR, and while it's a great camera and would be needed it for Professional Portrait work and such, the SX1 IS is way more fun and easy to deal with.

The 20 x optical zoom is fantastic, and you don't have to lug around a bag with all the big dollar lenses!!!

Just keep a family pack of AA batteries in your trunk and you can shoot for hours without having to prep. I hate having to charge before hand. The flexiblity to shoot any time and on the fly is "Priceless"!!

I upgraded to the SX1 to replace my old trusty Canon S3 IS AND my JVC (20 gig Hard Drive) digital camcorder. Two for one, such a deal!!


CanonLova posted a comment   



Great camera especially for beginners, just play around with this baby and you will learn all about DSLR. This camera is the pre-step into converging to DSLR!!

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User Reviews / Comments  Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

  • alburdon



    "I received this camera as an insurance replacement for an obsolete Sony. It has taken me a year or two to really get to grips with all it can do and only now whan I am looking to buy an SLR do I re..."

  • RT


    "There is RAW capture available in this camera"

  • fetishgal


    "you awful people forget the art and beuaty. If you want 'perfection' ignore the human condition and embrace what you see."

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