Canon Powershot SD900 Digital ELPH Hands On

Canon has been one of the best names in the photography business for a long time. The quality of both their SLR and DSLR cameras are always top-notch and superb. I remember years ago my friend would always upgrade to the latest Canon Powershot every time a new one came out and in fact, the difference in quality would always be noticeable. A few weeks ago I got my hands on a Canon Powershot SD900 Digital ELPH camera to play with and review. All I can say is this is one sweet camera to own.

Note: All pictures in this review have not been retouched whatsoever. They are completely unaltered

First off, let me explain that this camera is 10-megapixels. You can shoot unbelievably high-resolution photos with this thing that would put a low-end DSLR to shame. I tend to shoot a lot of photos in “Fine” mode with at 2816×2112 resolution. However I eventually started shooting in “Superfine” mode at the 3648×2048 resolution. The difference was mind-boggling and I’ve decided not to be a cheapskate on memory cards anymore so that I can ensure all my pictures come out looking superior.

The SD900’s design isn’t as slick as other digital cameras available on the market. In fact, it’s a bit bulky and required a huge pocket or a small case. I understand that this camera packs a lot of features, comes in titanium, and requires space for those features, but this thing is too big for my tastes. I prefer the ultra-slim Casio Exilim SD-600’s design to this. In case you’re wondering how thick it is, put a Sidekick 3 and an SD900 next to each other and they look very similar. Despite the bloated design, Canon still included a viewfinder for shooting pictures in case you don’t want to use the LCD display it has. Most companies don’t include a viewfinder on digital cameras anymore and it makes us feel warm inside that Canon remembered to do so.

Pretty flowers! Oooh!

But torrid looks aside; this is still a powerful camera. For the $499 you have to plunk down it’d better be one damn nice camera, right? The UI and menu interface Canon has designed is excellent. It’s without a doubt one of the easiest to control and understand. Plus, Canon has kindly provided a 2.5-inch, 230k-pixel LCD display to view everything on. If you want to turn flash off, just flick the joypad to the right. Need a close up shot? Flick the joypad another direction to turn the ISO setting to “High” and to turn on “Macro” mode. Overall it’s very clean, thought out, and easy to use, which is important when you’re trying to market this camera to amateur photographers who don’t need the Rebel Xti or Nikon D80.

It should also be mentioned that this camera can shoot movies. And I am certainly not talking about crappy, low-resolution movies where the sound is barely audible and the quality is mediocre. I’m talking real, full-length movies. If you have enough storage via the SD cards that the SD900 takes, you’ll never need to use your camcorder again for making great home movies or recording a concert. I took the SD900 on Thanksgiving to a concert in Philadelphia and shot about 5 minutes of movie clips featuring performances of The Sounds and Shiny Toy Guns. The quality was breathtaking. Seriously, my Canon ZR60 mini-DV camcorder couldn’t have made better movies.

The lead singer of The Sounds…up close

Shiny Toy Guns in performance

So how do the pictures look? Normally I’d let the pictures speak for themselves, but then I wouldn’t get paid for this review. Colors are rich, lush, and vibrant. Lighting is spectacular and the SD900’s auto-flash feature is pretty good at knowing when and when not to use the flash. When you need a close up shot of something, you can get it. Switching around a few modes makes a close up of your Uncle Jimmy’s nose hairs come alive. Plus, the battery takes forever to die. Canon provides an easy-to-use wall socket charger to charge the battery outside the camera. It charges quickly and keeps the camera going for quite awhile. It’s been 2 weeks since I last charged it and it’s still going strong.

The SD900 rocks

Canon’s SD900 offers you 2.4x of optical zoom. Not bad, but if you need to zoom in for a close shot with the SD900, your result will go one of two ways. Either it will come out crystal clear and will look like the best picture you’ve ever taken. Otherwise, it ends up coming out blurry, crappy, and your VGA-powered cameraphone took the shot. Still, the SD900 is impressive when zooming and the camera starts up relatively quickly for when you unexpectedly need to snap a photo.

Flowers indoor with low-lighting

Overall, I am very impressed by Canon’s latest 10-megapixel offering. The SD900 has the right blend of power, precision, and quality to make it worth buying. I think $499 is a bit overpriced for the camera, but by now you can probably pick it up for $399 or so during the holiday sales that are currently happening. The inclusion of a viewfinder, easy to use interface, incredible picture quality, and awesome video capturing abilities make this worth the buy. If you’re in the market for a digital camera upgrade, go with the SD900 Digital ELPH. You’ll be paying a bit more, but the quality is there and you won’t need to upgrade for a long, long time.

To check out pictures from the SD900 in full-resolution, visit this special link I setup on my Flickr account.