Pros: 20x zoom; f/2.8 aperture; excellent low-light performance; very good video quality; excellent macro shooting.
Cons: Zoom is too jumpy; zoom lever is small; screen pops out toward the left; some chromatic aberration and lens distortion.
There are shortcut buttons to manipulate the camera’s aperture, shutter, ISO speed and focus point, but you can also use the camera’s semi-automatic and fully automatic modes if you don’t feel like playing with many settings. There are 11 scene modes to choose from and also a capable HD video mode.
With a wide lens aperture of f/2.8, the PowerShot SX20 IS handles itself well in situations where the light leaves something to be desired. And when this wide aperture is teamed with a relatively slow shutter speed and an ISO of 800, it takes great photos at night – without the built-in flash or a tripod.
In tests we captured clear handheld shots with a shutter speed as slow as 1/3sec. Better still, using ISO 800 didn’t render noisy photos with miscoloured pixels. You should be able to print out large photos (at A3 and above) without noticeable defects.
The only flaws with the SX20 IS’s images stem from the lens. There’s some distortion, which is noticeable on vertical lines, and chromatic aberration between highly contrasting colours; but this doesn’t show up in all scenarios.
Don’t be put off by the chromatic aberration and lens distortion, as it wasn’t obvious in many of our test shots: overall our opinion is that the PowerShot SX20 IS is a great camera.
We’d recommend it to anyone who wants a broad focal range and SLR-like controls, but who doesn’t want the fuss and bulk of a digital SLR. Image quality is superb, the controls and menu are easy to use, and its video mode is almost good enough to make it a high-grade consumer AVCHD camcorder.
We also liked that it uses disposable or rechargeable AA batteries (handy when travelling) and you’ll only run through batteries fast enough to be an inconvenience if you’re shooting footage regularly.