Test: Canon PowerShot SD900 Digital Elph

Canon's PowerShot SD900 forgoes with the bells and whistles yet still packs enough features to satisfy the most discriminating photographers.

Test-Canon-PowerShot-SD900-Digital-Elph
Test-Canon-PowerShot-SD900-Digital-Elph
Canon Powershot Digital Elph SD900

Test: Canon PowerShot SD900 Digital Elph13803070651CanonSD900 Digital ElphAt $425, the 3x zoom (37-111mm equivalent), 10.4-megapixel Canon PowerShot Digital Elph SD900 is the most expensive of the five cameras in this test. Is it really worth the extra hundred some-odd bucks? Yes, no, maybe not, it depends on what you're looking for, and it's up to you to decide. This titanium-skinned beauty feels solid and very well built. And it comes with an optical viewfinder -- the only camera in this test to include this useful endangered feature. For a lot of old-school shooters, that's enough of a selling point right there. Add a cool, gracefully curved design, and a natural resting position of standing tall rather than squat, and you've got a camera strives to stand out from the pack. The optical viewfinder and 2.5" LCD screen don't leave much room for dedicated buttons, and the multi-controller array has each button assigned multiple tasks. Even once you've familiarized yourself with the navigation system, it is still too easy to accidentally hit the wrong button, as we did when attempting to adjust the exposure compensation (and we mistakenly changed the AF mode). One of the camera's more interesting features is its AIAF face detection technology, which will find and focus on faces. There's a high-resolution movie mode of 1024x768 at 15 frames per second, or 30 fps at 640x480. Canon cranks the ISO all the way up to 3200 on this camera, but the noise numbers and image quality get out of control at ISO 800 and up. For example, at ISO 1600, noise is unacceptable at 3.7, and resolution is just this side of acceptable at 1130. At ISO 64 through 400, Canon puts up better noise numbers, and lowest ISO resolution is 1955, beating only the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 in this category.

At $425, the 3x zoom (37-111mm equivalent), 10.4-megapixel Canon PowerShot Digital Elph SD900 is the most expensive of the five cameras in this test. Is it really worth the extra hundred some-odd bucks?

Yes, no, maybe not, it depends on what you're looking for, and it's up to you to decide.

This titanium-skinned beauty feels solid and very well built. And it comes with an optical viewfinder -- the only camera in this test to include this useful endangered feature. For a lot of old-school shooters, that's enough of a selling point right there.

Add a cool, gracefully curved design, and a natural resting position of standing tall rather than squat, and you've got a camera strives to stand out from the pack.

The optical viewfinder and 2.5" LCD screen don't leave much room for dedicated buttons, and the multi-controller array has each button assigned multiple tasks. Even once you've familiarized yourself with the navigation system, it is still too easy to accidentally hit the wrong button, as we did when attempting to adjust the exposure compensation (and we mistakenly changed the AF mode).

One of the camera's more interesting features is its AIAF face detection technology, which will find and focus on faces. There's a high-resolution movie mode of 1024x768 at 15 frames per second, or 30 fps at 640x480.

Canon cranks the ISO all the way up to 3200 on this camera, but the noise numbers and image quality get out of control at ISO 800 and up. For example, at ISO 1600, noise is unacceptable at 3.7, and resolution is just this side of acceptable at 1130.

At ISO 64 through 400, Canon puts up better noise numbers, and lowest ISO resolution is 1955, beating only the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 in this category.

Bottom line:

Canon's PowerShot SD900 forgoes with the bells and whistles and is meant for the person who takes pictures, occasionally or often holding the camera to the eye while doing so, who then goes home and prints them on their computer. It is solidly built, feels good in the hands, and looks stylish, but has serious image quality issues at ISO 800 and beyond. It does have a slideshow mode and some image-quality tweaks in playback mode, but if you're looking for a multi-functioning pocket photo gallery player, this is not it.

Certified Test Results:

Noise: Low at ISO 64 (1.8), Moderately Low at ISO 100 (2.0), ISO 200 (2.0), and 400 (2.2) and Unacceptable at ISO 800 (3.5), ISO 1600 (3.7) and ISO 3200 (5.4)

Color Accuracy: Extremely High. Average Delta E: 8.21 Daylight ISO 64

Resolution: Excellent at ISO 64 (1955) and ISO 400 (1820), Acceptable at ISO 1600 (1130)

Lens Distortion: Visible Barrel at 1x (.38%), Slight Barrel at 2x (.12%) and Imperceptible Pincushion at 3x (.01%)

In the box:

Canon SD900 $425
32MB Secure Digital (SD) Memory Card
Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack (NB-5L)
Battery Charger (CB-2LX)
USB Interface Cable (IFC-400PCU)
AV Cable (AVC-DC300)
Wrist Strap (WS-700)
Digital Camera Solution Software CD-ROM
User Guide
1-Year Canon U.S.A. Limited Warranty

Full specs from BH Photo:

Camera Type
Compact Point-and-shoot Digital Camera

Image Quality

Image Sensor
1/1.8" 10.4 Megapixel CCD

Effective Resolution
10.0 million pixels

Color Depth
24-Bit RGB

Color Modes
Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom Color

Image File Formats
JPEG (Superfine, Fine, Normal)
Exif 2.2, DCF & DPOF 1.1 compliant

Recorded Resolution
Large (3648 x 2736)
Widescreen (3648 x 2048 )
Medium 1 (2816 x 2112)
Medium 2 (2272 x 1704)
Medium 3 (1600 x 1200)
Small (640 x 480)

Video Recording
AVI Motion JPEG with Audio
High (640 x 480 @ 30 fps)
Medium (320 x 240 @ 30 fps)
Low (320 x 240 @ 15 fps)
Large (1024 x 768 @ 15 fps)
Compact (160 x 120 @ 15 fps)
Record up to 4GB video clip in High, Medium and Low, up to 3 minutes record time in Compact, and Large

Audio Recording
WAV format
record time up to 60 seconds with image

Optics

Lens Type
Canon Zoom Lens

Optical Zoom
3x

Lens Focal Length
7.7mm - 23.1mm (37mm - 111mm equivalent)

Digital Zoom
4x

Minimum Focus Distance
2.0" (5cm)

Maximum Aperture
f/2.8-4.9

Optical Image Stabilization
No

Accessory Lens/Filter Mount
No

Focus Control

Focus Type
TTL Autofocus

Focus Modes
Autofocus, Face Priority AF

Focus Range
Normal: 19.2" (50cm) - infinity
Macro: 2.0" (5cm) - 19.2" (50cm) wide
Digital Macro: 2.0" (5cm) - 19.2" (50cm) wide only

Exposure Control

Sensitivity
Auto ISO
High ISO Auto
Selectable ISO (80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)

Shutter Type
Not Specified

Shutter Speed
15-1/2000 seconds

Aperture Range
f/2.8-4.9 (max.)

Exposure Metering
Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot

Exposure Modes
Program AE; Exposure Compensation (+/-2 EV stops in 1/3-stop increments), AE Lock

White Balance Modes
Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H), Custom

Scene Modes
Auto, Camera M, Special Scene (Portrait, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot), Color Accent, Color Swap, Digital Macro, Stitch Assist, Movie

Flash

Built-in Flash
Yes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro, Flash On, Flash Off)

Effective Flash Range
1.6' (0.5m) - 17' (5.1m)

External Flash Connection
No

External Flash Control
Not Applicable

Performance

Start-Up Time
Not Specified

Shutter Lag
Not Specified

Time Between Shots
Not Specified

Burst Capability
2.1 fps continuous shooting

Self Timer
2 seconds or 10 seconds

Interval Recording
No

Date & Time Stamp
No

Memory & Power

Built-in Memory
No

Compatible Memory Cards
SD Memory Card
SDHC Memory Card
MultiMediaCard

Recording Capacity
Includes 32MB Secure Digital (SD) Card
Still Image Capacity
Superfine Fine Normal
Large 6 11 24
Widescreen 9 15 32
Medium 1 10 17 36
Medium 2 14 25 51
Medium 3 28 51 97
Small 109 168 265
Video Capacity
Video Mode Record Time
High 14 seconds
Medium 42 seconds
Low 84 seconds
Large 14 seconds
Compact 206 seconds

Battery Type
NB-5L rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery

Power Adapter
ACK-DC30 AC Adapter Kit (optional)

Input/Output

Computer Interface
USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) mini-B jack

Direct Print Capable
Yes (PictBridge)

Remote Control
No

Video Output
Yes (NTSC & PAL)

Web-Cam Capable
No

System & Software Requirements
Windows System
• IBM PC/AT compatible with Pentium 150MHz CPU (Pentium 300MHz or higher for XP)
• Microsoft Windows 98/98SE, Me, 2000, XP
• Built-in USB Port
Macintosh System
• Power Macintosh, PowerBook, iMac, eMac or iBook with Power PC Processor
• Mac OS 9.0 - 9.2, OS X (10.1 - 10.2)
• Built-in USB Port

Display

Viewfinder
Real-image optical zoom viewfinder

LCD Display
2.5" low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD (230,000 pixels), with brightness adjustment (15 levels)

Language Options
English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified/Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Romanian, Ukrainian

Playback Options
Single Image, Magnification (2x-10x), Jump, Auto Rotate, Rotate, Resume Playback, My Category, Histogram, Index (9 thumbnails), Sound Memos, Slide Show, Erase (single image, by date, by category, by folder, all images), Movie Playback (Normal Playback, Special Playback, Editing, Erase)

Physical

Dimensions (HxWxD)
2.4 x 3.6 x 1.2" (60 x 92 x 29mm)

Weight
5.8 oz. (165g) camera body only

ADVERTISEMENT