This review will be split into a few different sections. As 2 posts ago, I questioned whether as someone who tries to be a hobby photographer, I should look for a 1 camera solution, or maintain 2 cameras (a small one to carry around and a DSLR for getting special pictures). Though I felt I should stay with the 2 camera solution, seems the voting public was leaning towards the single camera solution). So to close out on this topic, my first section of the review will be a comparison. I will compare output quality of the SX210 with my Digital Reble XTi and my SD1100 (my previous daily camera).
For quality, I took some pictures our youngest baseball player with the three cameras. All pictures were taken using the portrait settings on the camera with the flash on as a fill flash. There were no adjustments performed in photoshop (no sharpening etc, these are as they came out of the camera). I really wanted to use the camera in there most auto mode, so the pictures would come if anyone else had taken them. Here they are below.
This picture is from the Digital Reble XTi. Notice the nicer "boca" (blurring of the background - it is more prevelant in a full size photo or the blow up below).
This is the new SX210. It is a bit brighter. The background is sharper, and the colors not quite as good (the hat is more muted and some contrast lost).
This is from the SD1100. You can see that the flash was not as powerful (all pictures used fill flash to cut the shadows).
Granted the above pictures are small (blow ups are below), but all three cameras seem quite capable. As expected, the Rebel provides the boca (background blurring) that you would look for in a portrait like this (who wants to draw attention to the trees). However, this is expected. The bigger sensor means that for a given apeture, the focus depth (the distance of the photo that is in focus) is smaller. Obviously, if you are looking for sharpness thoroughout a larger portion of the frame, the smaller sensor is for you.
There is also a difference in overall tone for the images. The Rebel is more muted. The colors are full, but not as punchy. To see this, look at the background, the hat and the shirt. The next set of pictures are blow ups of the face from the pictures above.
The above is from the Digital Rebel XTi.
The above is from the SX210
The above is from the SD1100
The blow ups of the face start showing some more of the differences. First the boca in the Rebel starts to stand out (as stated above). Secondly, the contrast and colors look a bit better in the Rebel. This is mostly evident in the hat and the shirt.
Finally, you can see a bit of a noise difference between the Rebel and the other two. He might look a little more pasty in the picture from the Rebel, but that is more realistic (hey its spring, he has not been out much yet). In the other two, a little noise shows up. In order to demonstrate this a little better, one more set of images is in order. These are blown up to 100% so the size of the image below is as it is out of the camera. This is the area under his right eye along the same mark on all the pictures. Note, as the size of the files is different (10MP for the Rebel, 14MP for the SX and 8MP for the SD), the size of the skin taken is different.
The image on the left is from the Rebel, the one in the middle from the SX, the one on the right from the SD. As these are all 100% blow ups, we are seeing each picture pixel for pixel. Here you can see that the SX has more noise than the Rebel (though maybe not as much as the SD).
Obviously 14MP is alot and will allow for printouts as large as 10X14 at 300dpi (without any editing). Obviously, this could be even larger if the resolution were lowered (many people print at 200dpi with no noticable loss in quality) or the size enlarged. However, this leads one to ask when enough is enough. A smaller sensor would probably still have given the sizes that we need (note, that I print large often, and 10MP from the Rebel has been fine for me). Had canon reduced the number of pixels they could have probably also reduced the noise a bit. If this is important to you, you might want to consider a slightly lower pixel count in future purchases (I do not have others for comparison, but as of today, the Canon is the highest pixel count of the pocketable super zooms).
So what is the point of this review. Of course the Rebel takes better pictures than the SX210. It is quite a bit more money, larger to carry etc. I do not think I needed to write this to convince people of that. However, what I did want to show is that the SX210 is closer to the SD1100 in quality than it is to the Digital Rebel. Though the SX takes better (and bigger) pictures (with more zoom that allow you to stand further away) than the SD, in the end, it has alot more in common with the SD than the Rebel. For me, this answers the original question as I suspected. Even with a higher end pocketable camera like the SX210, for the real special pictures, stepping up to a DSLR (if possible) is appropriate.
This does not mean that I am unhappy with the SX210. I still think it is important to have a good quality camera that can be carried around daily. The SX210 does fit this bill. In the next posting, I will go over some of these details (ease of carrying, and a bit more on the funcionality and quality).