If you want a camera with a big zoom, but you’ve been put off by bulky cameras like the Sony HX1, Panasonic has paraded the ‘small camera/big zoom’ champion belt the past couple of years, with the TZ7, but similarly pumped up pretenders are muscling in on its patch, notably from Samsung and Canon. These heavyweight rivals offer HD video, plus optical zooms of between 10x and 14x, but which delivers the killer punch?
Design and build
Canon: Robustly built despite plastic-y feel, the Canon is sufficiently compact and lightweight at 215g (with battery and card inserted) to slip conveniently into a jacket pocket. Curved edges neatly disguise rectangular, blocky dimensions. It’s available in champagne, black or purple.
Samsung: Looks-wise more sophisticated thanks to shiny chrome detailing, it’s of physically wider proportions so more of a squeeze for a pocket. Yet nevertheless the metal and plastic Samsung (the latter well disguised by black livery), weighs in at a near identical 219g.
Ease of use
Canon: The SX210 IS majors on family friendly ease of use, with large buttons, plus separate Smart Auto and Easy shooting modes located via a reassuringly stiff dial. A dedicated video record button allows filming to commence whichever mode is selected. But with no handgrip, you need the provided wrist strap
Samsung: Unlike the smooth-surfaced Canon, the WB500 features a proper grip for a comfortable steady hold. Top plate buttons are large and responsive, though it’s a different story at the back, the command lever being narrow and painful under the thumb. Point and shoot operation is simplicity itself however.
Canon: The 14 megapixel Canon incorporates a four strong set of creative P/A/S/M controls plus automatically applied and very effective digital effects in perspective warping Miniature and Fisheye settings. While the likes of light sensitivity and white balance can be manually adjusted as expected, features such as iContrast drag detail out of shadow. You can also shoot 1280×720 HD video at 30fps.
Samsung: Though on paper the 10 megapixel Samsung appears weaker, it punches above its weight with a range of ‘photo style’ effects instantly selectable via dedicated ‘E’ button. Program and Manual modes – via which aperture and shutter speed can be tweaked – plus the usual scene offerings and 720p video, it’s not bloodied yet.
Canon: A fixed 3-inch, 230k dot, 16:9 ratio LCD swallows up four fifths of the backplate; great for video with photos presented in 4:3 or 3:2 ratio.
Samsung: Smaller conventional format fixed screen at 2.7-inches and 230k dots provides adequate visibility for this class of camera and its own 1280×720 clips.
Canon: A stabilised 14x optical zoom starting at 28mm (35mm equivalent) and reaching 392mm at the telephoto (maximum zoom) end pulls faraway subjects close. A folded mechanism means it’s largely hidden within the body when inactive.
Samsung: With a 24-240mm equivalent 10x optical zoom it’s not offering as broad a focal range as the Canon, but the Samsung does go wider for landscapes and group portraits.
Canon: Sharp, warm and colourful without being unrealistically so, there’s little in the way of an Achilles heel when it comes to the Canon’s picture quality, even if there is mild barrel distortion at maximum wide angle.
Samsung: Offers more scope for low light photography in offering higher ISO3200 setting to its competitor’s ISO1600. Images are warm and richly coloured, though can look unnaturally so at times.
Storage and battery
Canon: With no internal memory, photos and video are committed to optional SD, SDHC or even higher capacity (up to 2TB) SDXC cards. Battery life is good for a so-so 260 shots.
Samsung: Again photos are committed to removable SD or SDHC card (but not SDXC), with a 30MB internal capacity allowing for five full res captures. Battery life’s marginally better at 270 shots.
Canon: HDMI connectivity plus combined AV out/USB port. Eye-Fi transfer and direct YouTube upload round off the package.
Samsung: Combined USB 2.0 and AV out port for hooking
camera up to PC or TV is standard issue but can’t compete.
Value for money
Canon: Expensive at £300, but an equivalent 14x lens on a DSLR would cost a lot more and the 14MP resolution is class leading.
Samsung: Half the cost of the PowerShot at £170. Even though the headline spec isn’t as impressive, the price is.
Canon: Outclassing its plucky rival for features and performance in the ring, the only stumbles were down to plastic-y build, lack of decent grip, plus it’s expensive.
Score: 4 stars
Samsung: Outgunned perhaps, yet a decent feature set for the price suggests great value for anyone on a budget wanting a broader zoom range than the average compact, plus HD video.
Score: 3 stars
Overall Winner: Canon
Canon PowerShot SX210