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August 19, 2009

New Canon SX20 IS offers a solid AA-based mid-range superzoom

With the Canon SX1 IS coming out to a shaky start, partially thanks to the hope and hype of a Canon home-grown CMOS sensor, the SX10 IS was left to carry the superzoom flame. But now it has company, its replacement, the brand new SX20 IS.

And while Canon showed megapixel restraint with the G11 and S90 by going to a 10mp 1/1.7" sensor, the SX20 IS continues on the 12mp 1/2.3" megapixel path that all manufacturers follow.


Canon SX20 IS front


Canon SX20IS Points of Interest
The 20X image-stabilized lens that covers a lot of (equivalent) ground going from 26mm to 520mm (f2.8-5.7) is the main point of interest in this camera. Combined with 30fps 720p HD video, and a 2.5-inch vari-angle LCD display (230K), it makes for a versatile stills and movies take-many-places type of a camera. Canon sure does have its line-up of camcorders, but the superzoom market is so competitive, "shielding" them is not as viable of an option as it used to be.

This is a mid-range superzoom, since some of the more advanced features (RAW) are not available. Correction made: The camera does have a hot-shoe! The original version said it did not have a hot-shoe! The continuous shooting mode is 1fps at normal, and it does indeed make more sense to call it that, instead of "burst mode" :)

The SX20IS continues the tradition of AA-power, and according to the specs, the CIPA estimate is 340 with alkalines and 600 with the rechargeable AA NB-3AH battery pack. We don't know much about the NB-3AH, but the numbers look very promising for AA-NiMH users. One of the big pluses of proprietary LiIon batteries is the ability to provide a lot more shots than AA batteries, but in this case, the CIPA estimates look pretty good.


Canon SX20 IS sample pictures
The official Canon website has three full-size JPEG sample images, and you can access them by clicking on the red "View Sample Images" link. Cat fans will be thrilled to notice a cat portrait picture :) Interestingly though, all three samples come from the wider end of the range, one at 26mm equivalent and two at 19.2mm native (roughly 105mm equivalent). 105mm is not wide, but with an equivalent range of 26-520mm...


Canon SX20 IS User Guide
Canon has already uploaded the 180-page camera user guide on its website. You can find it by clicking on the "Drivers and Downloads" page. For your convenience, here is a direct link to the PDF file. The link is a PDF file! It is around 4.65MB.


Price and Availability
The camera is planned for a September release with a starting price of $400, on-par with its predecessor. It is available for pre-ordering at Amazon for that price. But it may get here earlier, since the Canon website says August 2009.


Further Reading
+ Imaging Insider
+ Hands-on with the new Canons at Photography Bay
+ Canon product page


Canon SX20 IS back


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