The Wicked Canon SX1 Superzoom You Can’t Have [Until April!]

February 09, 2009 | Chris Maxcer | Comments 4

By Chris Maxcer

The superzoom, a.k.a. ultrazoom, digital camera segment has been one of the hottest areas for prosumers — superzooms are bigger and more feature-rich than pocketable point-and-shoots but smaller than digital SLRs. They’ve got strong zoom lenses built-in, most have decent movie recording features, and their photos tend to look fantastic on HDTVs. Arguably the best new entry is Canon’s PowerShot SX1 IS, but you can’t get it in the United States.

powershot-sx1-is-top300x250*UPDATE: Canon just announced that it’s bringing the PowerShot SX1 IS to the U.S. starting this April.

In addition, Canon has updated the firmware so it now supports RAW in addition to JPEG. But what about our international friends who have been shooting JPEGs for months? They’ll be able to upgrade their SX1s with a free firmware update from Canon. Nice.

So, now that you have the updated information, the basics of this post remain the same — just not the moaning about the lack of U.S. availability!

It features a 20x wide angle optical zoom lens with optical image stabilizer, 10.0 megapixes, a CMOS sensor that can handle shooting four frames per second, and it will record full HD video — that’s right, 1080p at 30 frames per second. And it has HDMI output. Doesn’t this sound like a camera Americans might gobble up?

Doesn’t matter. You can’t buy it the States.

Why Canon? Why?

Canon has ignored two of my inquiries into the SX1 IS, and I don’t seem to be alone — the web in general is devoid of any official, rational explanation. Some have said that the HD video quality suffers indoors under low light, which means Canon might be afraid of poor reviews, while others have suggested that the Canon CMOS sensors it uses are in short supply. A handful of early buyers have been able to snag some overseas.’s UK online site has it listed, but they won’t ship to a U.S. address. And some say it’s more expensive than the competition — the equivalent pricing in American dollars could price it out of the market in the U.S.

powershot-sx1-is-bck-300x220Either way, it’s not readily available in the U.S. but it is cropping up in use around the world — to generally good reviews.

The Wicked Features

The SX1 IS is very similar to its sibling the PowerShot SX10 IS, which is available in the U.S. The SX10 IS, however, doesn’t record video in HD, not even 720p, and its boxy little 640×480 output isn’t even good for filling out widescreen TVs, making the video option irritating.

The upshot is, for any prosumer interested in having a great camera that can reach out and snag far off shots, offer fast 4 frames per second continuous shooting, and offer video that’ll fill out an HDTV, the SX1 IS is hard to beat.

Sure, there are some other great superzoom cameras out there that offer 720p widescreen recording, but there’s two killer features none (other than Canon) have. First, Canon has two built-in microphones on the front of the camera, giving it the ability to record stereo audio. For family videos, that’s a sweet feature, though probably unnecessary for most. Still, very nice.

Second, and this is the one that’s flat-out wicked — Canon smartly offers an instant red video recording button on the back of the camera. Here’s why this is important. Say you’re taking snapshots of a soccer game or a Kodiak brown bear or whatever, and the action heats up. All you have to do is press the button, and boom, you’re instantly recording video. There’s no lost action because you had to turn a dial to select a “movie camera” icon and then start recording.powershot-sx1-is-300x250

No, the near instant on and instant video recording give the SX1 (and SX10) super fast video recording start up times that rival the popular Flip Video Mino series series of entry-level camcorders.

If the SX10 would just offer widescreen video recording — it doesn’t even have to be HD — that would go a long way.

While we’re drooling, here’s a few more cool details on the Canon SX1 IS:

The UltraSonic Motor lets the zoom lens zip in and out without making a lot of noise, and when you’re recording video, that means you’re not recording that noise as you zoom in and out on your subjects. Plus, Canon’s optical Image Stabilizer lets you reach out 20x and take a shot that’s nice and sharp.

The 10 Megapixels are solid — more in a camera of this size and cost might irritate the semi-pros who bemoan the extra noise they tend to generate.

Canon offers up face detection and tracking features, along with motion detection to prevent blur. More importantly, if you ever want it, the SX1 IS and SX10 IS both offer full manual control over both aperture and shutter speed.

If You’re Tired of Waiting for Canon

Meanwhile, HD video recording is available on another well-respected brand and model: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K. It’s a 10 megapixel unit with an 18x wide-angle, optical image stabilized zoom lens. It’s been getting consistently good reviews. Granted, the “HD” video option is limited to 1280 x 720p (rather than 1080p) . . . but seriously, 720p is more than good enough for the clips most users will be shooting. And frankly, 1080p on the Canon model is probably just going to be eating up more memory than most people want.

Then there’s the option of just snagging a Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder — for a little more than $200, it’s hard to go wrong with the handy little unit. Hover Links:

Filed Under: Camera & VideoFeatured


About the Author: Chris Maxcer is editor and publisher of He's been writing about the tech industry for years. While he enjoys wicked cool gear and design, there's something to be said for turning it all off — or most of it — to go outside. To contact him, take a firstname.lastname guess at

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  1. Jaxon S says:

    Canon is finally bringing the SX1 IS to the US and update its firmware to add RAW capture…


  2. Chris Maxcer says:

    Hey Jaxon — thanks for the heads-up — I’m about to update this post and post a new article with the details. And for all those international users who got to use the SX1 first . . . it’s pretty cool that they’ll get the RAW update free from Canon, too.

  3. [...] PowerShot SX1 IS 20x superzoom with full HD 1080p video recording. The SX1 IS was previously only (and inexplicably) available in some international markets. Superzoom enthusiasts will be able to snag one in the [...]

  4. [...] PowerShot SX1 IS 20x superzoom with full HD 1080p video recording. The SX1 IS was previously only (and inexplicably) available in some international markets. Superzoom enthusiasts will be able to snag one in the [...]

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