"Good overall image, video and low light capabilities"4.0 starson by bob-atkins
Pros: Excellent image quality and low light performance.
Great 10x optical zoom with image stabilization.
Very good flash - powerful and balanced
Excellent video with variable rate zoom
Mute button - turns off tattle tale 'shutter click' and other sounds.
Cons: Shutter lag (up to 5 seconds depending on mode and lighting)
Poor ergonomic body design. Hard to hold on to - can easily slip out of your hand.
Occasional unfocused shots.
Summary: I purchased this camera because I wanted to have a small camera with maximum optical zoom and a large lens for low light pictures and also the ability to shoot HD video with zoom controls. This camera has done amazingly well producing very clear images and video in low light situations without the usual digital 'noise' that I have seen in many other cameras.
The SD4500IS has an excellent hand held low light mode that allows you to take pictures in very low light of stable scenes without the usual fuzziness that comes from camera shake. In Hand held. low light mode, the camera takes 4-6 images of the scene and then processes them into a single image. The result is a high contrast, reasonably sharp image that would otherwise require a tripod or other hard surface to steady the camera in order to shoot with a long exposure. I have taken some truly stunning night time pictures of Christmas lights, coastal scenes, boats on the water in marinas that would have been impossible to get using a conventional long shutter exposure. You do need to make an effort to hold the camera steady to get the best results but it doesn't need to be rock steady - a single hand hold will work. I have found that it is now almost ridiculously easy to take very good, bordering on excellent night scene pictures casually. I still make use of long shutter times when I can setup for the shot and the results are better than the hand held low light mode however, I have also been able to capture many night scenes using the hand held low light mode that I would never have been able to get with a conventional long exposure shot and a missed shot is the worst shot of all.
I took this camera an a month long European holiday where I took pictures everywhere - over 6000 - outdoor, indoor, on boats, from trains and buses at speed and the results were outstanding. One of the things that confronts many tourists these days is that many venues either prohibit the use of flash photography or prohibit taking pictures all together. Even where permitted - taking pictures of huge places like the Doge's Palace in Venice or the interior of the Duomo in Florence - a flash is pretty much useless anyway - too much distance for it to do any good. So taking the pictures with the available and usually quite subdued light is an absolute requirement. In addition, this camera has a REALLY nice feature - the Mute option! In those instances where you need to be discrete about taking pictures you can turn off the tattle tale 'click' noise that most other cameras generate and you can take pictures in total silence. The results are amazing.
I also carried a Sony Cybershot DSC-W370 on the same trip and found that its smaller lens made it much more difficult to get decent low light pictures and the lack of a mute feature made it impossible to use anywhere that photography was restricted.
The video recording feature along with the sound is really very good although wind noise is frequently a problem. Even the slightest breeze produces very annoying wind noise on the audio. I usually carry a separate camcorder but found it completely unnecessary. This camera can shoot video as good as or better than most camcorders! Video resolution can be selected from 1080P on down to 720P, 640 and even 320 making it very versatile. You have variable rate zoom while shooting video and the camera slows the zoom rate down (as compared to not shooting video) while shooting video so that zooming during the video shots looks much more professional. The image stabilization is excellent while shooting video. I can easily obtain a steady shot while shooting at 10x zoom. I typically shoot video in 720P to maximize recording time and still have decent resolution. For most casual video, I find 1080P to be overkill in terms of storage requirements. For my month long time in Europe I took 6000+ images and over 1.5 hrs of video and it all fit on two 16GB SDHC cards. For an example of 720P HD video shot with one hand, holding the camera over my head at the Hollywood bowl visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_vJWLIBPv8. That video along with several others that I posted to Youtube demonstrate up to 10x zoom in low light conditions and what you can expect for image stabilization, focus and audio performance.
One of the nice features of this camera is the ability to select the JPG compression. I usually use Normal which produces excellent images that can easily be enlarged to 11x14 yet each one typically only requires 800KB to 1.2MB of storage. My Sony DSC-W370 (and all Sony cameras that I have reviewed) doesn't have any JPG compression choices and each image uses 4-5MB at 10Mp resolution and up to 7MB at the full 14Mp resolution. This is a HUGE amount of wasted space for what are mainly casual snapshots. This is one of the reasons I would not recommend any Sony digital cameras - you will burn your storage space up at an alarming rate - not just the on board SD card but, your disk storage at home as well. Even if storage is not your concern - it takes 3-4 times longer to copy the larger Sony images from the camera to the computer and anywhere else you may want to copy them for backup. Yes, I am sure that there are purists out there that will be shocked to have any compression but the reality is that unless you have an expert eye, a magnifying glass and a very large print you will never see the difference between a moderately compressed JPG (80%) image and a RAW, uncompressed image.
Overall the SD4500IS is a full featured camera - offering full control and override of virtually all automatic functions. It has image stabilization (essential for 10x zoom use), blink detection, various focus modes and so on. Battery life is an issue - especially with all of the standard features turned on. I had to turn off Servo AF, AF-Point Zoom, Continuous AF and AF-assist beam along with blink detection in order to have a decent battery life which isn't that great to begin with. The worst offending battery consumer is Continuous AF as it continuously processes the image that the camera sees even when you are just carrying it and it just burns through the battery in no time flat.
I carry a spare battery and one of the things that I really appreciate is the fact that the wall charger is small enough to fit into the front pocket of the small (perfectly sized) Case Logic case that I use to carry the camera on my belt. This lets me keep the spare battery in the charge cradle for easy access and avoids having to keep the charge separated from the camera running the risk of forgetting it. Once again, Sony blows it as the wall charger for the DSC-W370 is much larger - almost bigger than the camera itself making it impossible to keep in the same small carrying case and I am always looking for it when I need to recharge.
The SD4500IS camera has a 3 way slider switch on top that can switch between Full Auto, Program and Video modes. This is handy for being able to switch between full Auto and a more 'manual' Program mode on the fly. I find the video setting for the switch to be redundant with the Video record button that is provided on the top right corner of the back of the camera. The video record button allows you to shoot video on the fly with just a touch. This button can be annoying because it can easily be unintentionally pressed when grabbing the camera and you then have to figure out that it is shooting video when you just tried to take a picture and the ensuring delay while the camera stops shooting video and when you can shoot a picture can lose the opportunity for the picture you were trying to take in the first place.
Ergonomically the camera body is not very good - the case is flat and provides no grip on what is a pretty slick surface. I lost count of how many times I 'saved' it before I lost hold of it however, it has already been dropped a couple of times as a result - once on hard concrete. If Canon had put just a slight curve into the front of the body like the Sony DSC-W370 (which is the identical size body), the camera would be much easier to hold onto. As I mentioned earlier, the video recording button is located on the top right corner of the rear of the case and frequently gets pressed unintentionally while trying to hold onto the camera. I appreciate the idea behind this button however, its location combined with the poor shape of the case make it a bit of an irritation. I am impressed with the fact that the camera has taken 2 drops - one directly on hard concrete without any damage other than a small scrape in the front lower right corner.
Startup time is pretty decent - about 2 seconds before it is ready to shoot as long as the flash is disabled. 3-5 seconds if the flash is enabled which can be frustrating long. Time between shots will vary greatly depending on what features you have enabled. In full Auto mode it is a ridiculously long 3-5 seconds. In Program mode with most of the AF features and blink detection along with the flash disabled it will shoot every 1-2 seconds. Much slower than any decent digital SLR and one of the more frustrating aspects of all small digital cameras. My Sony DSC-W370 performs about the same. More than once I have wanted to press the shutter button through the case trying to force it to take a picture while it was 'thinking' for an absurd number of seconds. It is the shutter delay that is the most offensive problem with ALL small digital cameras.
My only other complaint about this camera is that unlike previous models I have encountered a higher percentage of unfocused images where the camera has missed the focus on more shots than I have experienced with earlier models. While it is a low percentage - I found that I now have to pay close attention to the focus of the shot before I press the shutter and afterwards when I review the shot because I may end up with an unfocused image. Yes, I know that I have AF-assist beam turned off along with other features but actually turning these off helped reduce the number of unfocused images! Clearly there is something not quite right going on with the new larger lens and image stabilization - they may be working against each other and the focus sensor/algorithm is not doing the job as reliably as I had experienced in the past with earlier Canon cameras.
Overall, I've learned to be more vigilant on checking the focus and I am very pleased with the vast majority of the images and video that I have been able to take with this camera. It far exceeds the capabilities of earlier Canon Elph series cameras (and I have had 3 so far). It doesn't have some of the bells and whistles that the Sony DSC-W370 has in terms of smile detection and other gee whiz features that most people would need a degree to figure out. While at 10Mp it doesn't have the highest number of Megapixels - it is the image quality that really counts - and the ability to get the image you want that matters. You could have a 14Mp DSC-W370 and end up with a fuzzy shot in a low light situation or a sharp image from the 10Mp SD4500IS. I'll take the 10Mp image over a fuzzy 14Mp one any day. Besides, with most pictures being posted on Facebook, Flickr and other online forums the need for high Mp cameras is greatly exaggerated. Few people actually print their images and most of those are 4x5 or 5x7 sizes that 10Mp images are more than suitable for. Unless you are a professional or pro-amateur like myself, barely compressed 14Mp images are basically a waste. Lens and low light performance are much more valuable features than Mp. Now, if they could just get these cameras to take the picture the moment you press the shutter I would be thrilled!