Robert Hirsch takes us through history in this interview about his new book, beginning with the groundbreaking 60s to contemporary work of today, featuring artists in his book that "...literally have...
The outstanding feature of the Canon SD series of powershot cameras is that
they are small. They followed on from the Canon ELPH film cameras, which were
themselves among the smallest 35mm cameras. The "Digital Elph" SD series cameras
are even smaller. However the current SD Powershots, while small in size, are
pretty full featured and I'll get to that later.
How small are they?
Well, the SD200, SD300, SD400 and SD450are all about the size of a credit
Specifically the SD200 and SD300 are 86 x 54 x 21 mm (3.4 x 2.1 x
0.8 in) and the SD400 and SD450 are within 1mm of those dimensions. This means
that all these cameras will easily fit in a shirt or pants pocket. Some other
Powershots are small (see image below), but you'd have a hard time cramming them
into a shirt pocket!
They aren't the very smallest cameras around but we're
talking differences of 1 or 2 mm. The Pentax Optio S (83 x 52 x 20 mm) is
slightly smaller overall, while the Powershot SD20 and SD30 are 90 x 47 x 19 mm
which is slightly smaller (in volume), as is the Casio Exilim EX-S3 90 x 57
x 12 mm (larger in area, but smaller in volume).
What's in the Box?
Canon Powershot SD200 camera
16MB SD memory card
Battery Charger CB-2LV
Li-ion Battery pack NB-4L
No case is included (I'd recommend the PSC-90 case) and the included 16MB card
is only good for about 8 images at the highest quality, so you'd probably want a
larger SD card (at least 128MB, preferably 512MB).
The CD contains the following software:
For Macintosh: ImageBrowser 5.0, PhotoStitch 3.1
For Windows: ZoomBrowser EX 5.0, PhotoRecord 2.1, PhotoStitch
3.1, Camera TWAIN Driver 6.5, Camera WIA Driver 6.3, Apple QuickTime
As I mentioned above, the SD200 is small in size, but not in
features, which include:
3.2 Megapixel CCD sensor (2048 x 1536)
Optical viewfinder with zoom
3x optical 35-105mm f/2.8-4.9 zoom
Digic II processor
Manual control of flash mode
Selectable ISO settings from 50 to 400 plus auto
TTL AiAF 9-point autofocus system with focus-assist lamp
2.0" color LCD with 10x playback zoom
Exposure compensation: +/-2EV in 1/3-step increments
White Balance: Auto, 5 presets or Custom
2.4fps Continuous exposure mode
Macro and Infinity focus modes
Evaluative and Spot metering
Lithium rechargeable battery and charger
Built-in microphone and speaker
Shutter speeds of 15 seconds to 1/1500 second
Voice memos (up to 60 secs) can be attached to images
Movie mode w/sound at 30/15fps and 640x480/320x240 unlimited length
The top of the camera has the on/off button, the shutter release and the zoom
control. The zoom control controls the lens in shooting mode and the playback
zoom in playback mode.
Most of the major controls are on the rear of the camera, along
with the 2" color LCD. At the top is a 3-way slide switch which selects playback,
movie mode or photo mode. There are 3 push buttons. One (upper left) brings up a
menu mode on the LCD. One (lower left) controls the display (LCD on/off and the
amount of shooting information displayed). The third button (lower right) is used
when printing directly from the camera to a printer. There is also a 4-way rocker
switch with a center button. This is used to select and navigate menus, focus
modes, metering modes, flash modes and shooting modes.
Exposure on the SD200 is always automatic. The camera decides the
shutter speed and aperture. What's more it doesn't tell you what values it's
picked! Luckily, auto exposure is pretty good.If it thinks the shutter speed is
low enough that there's risk of camera shake, it flashes an orange light (next to
the optical viewfinder).
While you can't directly set exposure, you can apply up to +/- 2
stops of exposure compensation in 1/3 stop steps, and you do get a histogram
display, so you can fine tune exposure if you don't like the results of the
default auto exposure. You can bias exposure towards faster shutter speeds and/or
smaller apertures by manually selecting ISO 400, or you can bias it towards
longer exposures and/or larger apertures by manually selecting ISO 50. In the so
called "manual" mode, these settings are retained when the camera is turned on
and off. In "manual" mode you can also set white balance and photo effects such
as "sepia", "B&W", "vivid" or "neutral" colors and a "low sharpening" mode.
It is also possible to manually select exposure times from 1s to 15s. In auto
mode the longest possible exposure is 1s.
Given that this is an ultra-compact digicam operating with autoexposure, I'd
rate the overall optical performance and image quality as good. Not perfect but
good. 4x6 and 5x7 prints were good.
For example, the image below is a full frame shot of the sky using the SD200
at it's widest zoom setting. The camera chose to shoot wide open, which is good
from the point of view of testing for vignetting, since vignetting (dark corners)
is worst when a lens is used wide open. It's also usually worst at wideangle
As you can see, there's no really visible vignetting wide open at
the widest zoom setting. A shot at the tele zoom setting didn't show any
Below is a shot made at the tele setting (105mm equivalent focal
length), together with 100% crops from the center and edge
As you can see, both center and edge are pretty sharp. There's
little evidence of chromatic aberration or "purple fringing". Autoexposure of
course, but it seems to have gotten it right!
Below is a shot taken from the same position, but using the
widest zoom setting (35mm equivalent). Again autoexposure has done a good
The 100% crops show pretty good center performance with a touch
of softening towards the edges of the image, but still pretty decent
The shot below is a more severe test, with branches outlined
against the sky right in the corner of the frame - which was again shot at the
widest zoom position. Overall exposure is again pretty good.
In this image there is definite "purple fringing" in the corner
of the image. This can be somewhat mitigated as shown in the rightmost crop,
which was taken from the image after running it through the "chromatic
aberration" correction in Paint Shop Pro 9. This is really a "purple fringing"
correction and works by desaturating the image in the areas of purple fringing,
but as you can see it does result in an improvement.
So overall I think the SD200 does well. Vignetting isn't a
problem, performance at the tele end of the zoom range is good, but there is some
image softening at the corners at the widest setting. Purple fringing, though it
can be induced, isn't too bad. In 4x6 prints none of these "defects" is going to
be noticeable, though it may be if you make 8x10 prints.
The SD200 feels fast and responsive. It takes under 1.5s from turning the
camera on to taking the first shot. Shutter lag (after autofocus) is minimal, I'd
estimate maybe 100mS (similar to an SLR). Even with autofocus, lag isn't
objectionable and is routinely under 0.5s. In continuous exposure mode it easily
meets the Canon spec of 2.4 fps. In single shot mode I fired off 10 shots in 7
There are multiple flash modes; flash on, flash off, autoflash,
slow sync and redeye reduction. Flash performance is adequate. The flash is
pretty small and doesn't have a lot of range, pretty typical for ultra-compact
cameras. At the wide setting flash range is up to 11.5ft, at the telephoto
setting it's up to 6.6ft. Coverage is good at the telephoto end, but at the wide
end there's visible vignetting (dark corners) due to limited flash coverage. In
normal use this will be a lot less obvious then it is in the picture of the wall
shown below since the background will typically be further away than the subject
and thus will be darker anyway if illuminated only by the flash.
Flash illumination at 35mm setting
Distortion at the wide end of the zoom range is noticeable but at the
telephoto end of the range distortion is low, pretty typical of small
You don't buy an SD200 (or SD300/400) for advanced photography.
You can get cameras with more capability (aperture priority, shutter priority and
manual exposure for example) for the same price or maybe less (e.g. Powershot
A510 or Powershot A520) However they are larger and the major reason you'd buy an
SD200 is because it's small. Despite the lack of full manual control, I still
like the SD200. In fact I bought one myself so I'd have a camera that I can carry
with me at all times. Image quality is quite good and you do have manual control
over almost everything except for exposure (and even there you do have exposure
compensation). You also get some remarkably good video modes (with audio)
including 640x480 at 30fps. The 3.2MP is enough for excellent 4x6 and 5x7 prints
and even 8x10 doesn't look too bad. The price (currently under $180) is pretty
low too. If you want more pixels, the SD300 has 4MP and the SD400 (around
$265) has 5MP in essentially the same camera body with the same camera
features. The step up from 3.2MP to 4MP is pretty insignificant, so if you want
more pixels than the SD200, I'd go to the 5MP SD400.
If you do buy one, I'd strongly recommend getting the optional
PSC-90 accessory case (around $15). It's designed specifically for the camera and
has stiff sides which will protect the camera. Without a case there is some
possibility of damage to the LCD if the camera is carried lose in a pocket.