So as this is my daily camera to catch those unexpected pictures, and allow one to always have the ability to capture the picture. My previous camera that fit this requirement was the Canon SD1100IS and it made me very happy (the only reason to upgrade was for a longer zoom so I could get some shots that I was not getting with the SD1100IS). Since the SD1100 made me very happy (except for the zoom), there will be alot of comparisons to that camera here. In order for this camera to be usable everyday, it has to be something that is easy to carry so that I would carry it every day.
The SD1100 did fit this bill very nicely, and I normally carried it in my left pocket (sometimes in one of my cargo pocets, but I always had it with me). So lets look at the two side by side:
You can see the SX210 is a bit longer than the SD1100 (it is actually slightly higher and deeper as well, but those differences are much more subtle). It is also a bit heavier. Probably the biggest difference is the lense dial sticking out a bit (to get caught on stuff). However, I could still easily slip this into my shirt pocket (between shots), or carry in my palm (like I often do at a park or other fun spot). So from that perspective, the SX210 gives up some heft to get the 14X zoom, but still usable.
The next problem is that I do not just put the camera in my pocket. I like to put it into a case to protect it (scratches or bumps if something hits my pocket). In addition to just the camera, I always carry a spare battery and memory card (sometimes people accuse me of excessive complusive tendencies)). I also like a case that fits well enough that the zipper does not rub the camera (don't want to scratch it up). The first case I tried was too big (it was a Swiss Army case). Though everything fit well, it would be difficult to carry that load everyday. Then in Staples, I found a small Case Logic case. This fit just right. So lets compare the SX210 inside the case with the SD1100 inside the best case I had found for that.
Now, the differences are not as large. The SD1100 case I was using is still a little shorter, but also a bit deeper (because the larger outer compartment to hold the battery/memory card). The nice thing about the Case Logic case is that the outer pocket is flush (and so the camera still slides in and out of the pocket very well).
I have added one other picture of the camera (who wants to see the camera, we want to see pictures from the camera) inside the case to give you an idea how it all fits.
You can see the memory card and battery are in the front compartment. When zipped up the zipper actually slides under the flap, so the front is competely flat. I put the camera in upside down (so the lense is towards us in the picture). This keeps the lense away from the battery, and keeps the entire case flat. Note I did add a piece of plastic to the back of the front pocked (to protect the camera). If you look closely at the camera pictures you will see a little ding on the front of the lense (this happened before I added the plastic, it seems very secure now).
So, one problem is solved. I can carry the SX210 almost as easily as the SD1100. So I will have it with me when I want to take pictures. So how about usabiliy once I decide I want to take a picture (not discussing quality, that will be in the final update, just how usable it is).
From a speed perspective, the SX210 is a little slower than the SD1100. When turned on, it is ready to take a picture within 3 seconds (closer to 2, but just over). The SD1100 takes about half a second less. For most pictures this is not a huge deal (half a second does not mean much to me, normally I have it on already getting ready for the picture). Both the SX210 and the SD1100 have similar delay after pushing the shutter to snap the picture. The SD1100 shows the picture taken preview a little quicker than the SX210.
That is it for the speed advantage for the SD1100. In setting up the picture, the SX210 far outshines the SD1100 (more than making up for the slight slower responses noted above). Having a dial on the back to change mode means I can quickly change to a portrait or a landscape shot (night shot etc). Also the auto mode on the SX210 really works (it does a nice job picking out the scene type it should be using and getting a good photo). The auto on the SD1100 is more like the easy mode on the SX210 (no settings, it does it all). I do not particularly like this mode on either camera (and do not seem to get consistent good results with this mode).
So the SD1100 takes more time to configure than the SX210 (if needed, but more likely if you set it to auto, you will not need to configure anything). The SX210 also has full manual modes (something I like as I am used to using the Digital Rebel). So if you want to use a slow shutter (to blur moving water etc), you just set it that way. The SD1100 (like many compact cameras) does not have this capability (as compacts are supposed to be point and shoots, and this capability is deemed not necessary).
There are two quirks on the SX210 that you will have to get around (as far as usability). First is the LCD screen is wide screen, but pictures are not (except for in movie mode). So the screen is fully used in movie mode, but only the middle of the screen is used when taking pictures (there are some indicators in the black bars on the sides). This seems to bother some people, but honestly I did not even notice it (until I read it in another review).
The second quirk is the flash pops up everytime you turn on the camera. You can push it down, but it pops up at startup even if not needed. Actually the weird location of the flash causes me to have my finger on it (not tight) when I turn it on. I feel it push a little, then it closes (my finger pushes it down). Then if I want the flash, I have to manually pull it up. Its a bit weird, and this bothered me at first, but now I barely notice it now. Both of these issues might turn you off (and affect actually usability), so its something to consider.
The final usability issue is the strap that came with the camera. I do not like it (it is too big, and there is no slide to get it tight around the wrist). If I am carrying the camera in my palm (as brought up above), I feel that if I drop it, the strap will just slide off and offer no protection. My work around was to take the strap off of the SD1100 (nice smaller strap, and it had a little pry tool (to open the side) which could be slid up to make it tight on the wrist (excessive compulsive again? not sure).
Next update will be some pictures and a discussion on quality.