Specifications: 8 megapixels; 3.8x optical zoom / 4x digital zoom, 28mm wide-angle lens; Movie mode with sound; JPEG file format; Lens-shift image stabilization; Auto focus; Auto exposure; ISO 80-1600; 3.0-inch LCD display; Secure Digital memory (32MB card included); Lithium-ion battery
Retail Price: $399, Price Through Our Merchants:
Great Image Quality
I took the Canon SD870 IS out for a spin, and generally I was impressed with what I saw. The images were vibrant and colorful, and the 8-megapixel sensor allowed for an excellent level of detail. The mantra of this camera seems to be to make everything about it as easy and approachable as possible. For more advanced users who want to mess around with manual controls, this could be frustrating.
The SD870's "Manual" mode only allows you to adjust a few minor aspects of the shot, such as ISO sensitivity. This is a simple, point-and-shoot camera in an ultracompact's body, and for a lot of people that's going to be a major selling point.
As you can see from the sample photos on the right hand side of the screen, the SD870 IS is a very capable camera, and in my opinion, definitely satisfies when it comes to straightforward, easy operation. The camera's start-up time is blindingly fast, and the lag between shots is very short.
Right out of the box, this camera is ready to provide excellent photographs with minimal fuss.
Image Stabilization and 3.8x Optical Zoom
Like all of Canon's newer models, the SD870 IS features Image Stabilization, and it's about time. For years, Panasonic had been well ahead of the curve in making their Mega O.I.S. a standard feature on almost all their cameras.
Image Stabilization is important, especially in ultracompacts like the SD870 IS, because their small size makes them more susceptible to tiny twitches and tremors in your hand. While you may not notice them when you're taking a picture, the blurring will be apparent in your final photo.
The SD870's Image Stabilization performs well, and definitely takes the edge off of the images, especially when the 3.8x optical zoom is engaged. The 3.8x optical zoom is a little extra boost than the average magnification available in a camera of this size. It's also a wide-angle zoom, capturing wider and more inclusive long-range shots.
3.0-inch LCD Display
Some reviewers feel that the lack of an optical viewfinder is a flaw in really tiny ultracompact cameras, but that's not something I can agree with. Having used small cameras that do have viewfinders, I've found them unhelpful and frustrating. I can see why they would be good to have if your camera's LCD was only 1 or 2 inches big, but we're at least two years past that point now. 2.5 to 3-inches is the standard these days.
If you're one of those people who isn't convinced that the optical viewfinder is obsolete, the SD870 IS is a camera that could change your mind. The large, 3-inch LCD is a pleasure to use, and serves well even in bright-light situations. Canon increasingly relies on the LCD as a means to modify the camera's settings (which the next section will discuss), and by "virtualizing" the controls instead of relying on knobs and dials, cameras can be smaller and more efficient.
The SD870 IS is a great example of how larger LCDs are becoming not only standard, but essential in modern digital photography.
Modern Controls and Menus
Canon has put great effort into the camera's controls and menu system, introducing more modern, less clunky interfaces. The round navigation wheel on the back is both a four-direction pad and a touch-sensitive scroll wheel, similar to the controls of an iPod. When you move your finger to each of the four directions, a virtual navigation wheel appears on the LCD, highlighting the button which your finger is hovering on. That's helpful for people who have to struggle to discern the tiny icons and their meanings on the back of the camera.
When it's time to change modes, say from 'auto' to 'panoramic stitch assist,' that's when the user can sweep their finger around the wheel like an iPod, and the virtual mode selector appears on the screen. It's a big improvement from clunky knobs that cluttered up the camera, and makes the most of the camera's excellent LCD display.