Canon was producing some impressive superzoom cameras back in 2008. Its PowerShot S5 IS had solid image quality, a capable autofocus system, pleasing color and respectable image quality.
In September of that year, the company split its superzoom line in two. Both the PowerShot SX1 and cheaper SX10 IS had 20X, 28-560mm lenses, 10MP sensors, fully articulating LCDs and decent electronic viewfinders. What differentiated the two – in a major way – was the type of sensor used. The S10 IS went with a traditional 1/2.3" CCD, Canon made the SX1 its first compact with a CMOS sensor, which was both a blessing and a curse.
Canon had been marketing the PowerShot S-series as ‘hybrid’ cameras since their inception, and the SX1 continued that tradition. Canon used a USM (ultrasonic motor) in that 20X lens, which allowed for quiet focusing that is required when capturing video. The zoom was also capable of zooming slowly, like a camcorder. The SX1 had a prominent movie record button, flip-out widescreen LCD and HDMI output. Heck, even the EVF had a 16:9 aspect ratio, though its resolution was considerably lower than that of its cheaper sibling.
The use of a CMOS sensor rather than a CCD brought an immediate benefit to video-shooters. Unlike previous Canon superzooms, which topped out at VGA resolution, the SX1 could capture 1080/30p video. In 2008 this was a very big deal.
Another benefit of the switch to CMOS was that SX1 could shoot bursts at 4 fps, compared to 0.7 fps on the SX10. While we can’t draw firm conclusions about this, the addition of Raw capture could be due to the faster readout speed of the CMOS sensor, though it could also be a marketing decision.
|The PowerShot SX1 was considerably noisier than the lower-end, CCD-based PowerShot SX10 that shared the same design. Old studio scene taken at ISO 400.|
So what was the downside? Images were quite noisy as soon as the SX1 left its base ISO of 80, and by the time you got to around ISO 200-400, the CCD-based PowerShot SX10 produced images with less noise and more detail. Compared to its peers from Sony and Panasonic, the PowerShot SX1 was the noisiest.
Were you a PowerShot SX1 owner? Share your memories in the comments below. That’s also the place for leaving suggestions for future TBTs!