Canon PowerShot ELPH SD970 IS – digital camera review: Canon PowerShot ELPH SD970 IS – digital camera

    These days, a 5x zoom lens and 12-megapixel resolution no longer excite much. Squeezing them into a compact body is somewhat unappealing, and they become even more of a reason to drop nearly $400 on a point-and-shoot camera. That’s the problem with the Canon PowerShot SD970 IS. It takes a very good photo, but so do many of Canon’s digital Elphs. It’s a nice enough camera but doesn’t stand out in the company’s crowded ultra-compact lineup.


    Photo and video quality is very good; Excellent high resolution LCD.

    Bad people

    There’s no optical zoom in Movie mode; slow, narrow lens; No shutter speed, aperture control.

    Bottom line

    It may take a decent photo, but the feature-to-price ratio of the Canon PowerShot SD970 IS is disappointing.

    Main specifications Canon PowerShot SD970 IS
    Price (MSRP) $379.99
    Size 3.7 inches wide, 2.2 inches high, 1 inch deep
    Weight (with battery and media) 6.6 ounces
    Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixel, 1/2.3 inch CCD
    LCD/Viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 461K dots; Not available
    Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 5x, f3.2-5.8, 37-185mm (35mm equivalent)
    File format (still/video) JPEG/MOV (H.264)
    Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000×3,000 pixels/1,280×720 at 30 fps
    Type of image stabilization Mechanical and electronic
    Battery type, rated life Rechargeable lithium ion, 270 shots

    The silver and gold SD970 is a bit boring compared to other models in Canon’s point-and-shoot line. The SD970’s body and control design may be new but it’s similar to another Digital Elph model, the SD880 IS. You get two buttons for playback and print (though the latter is programmable) at the top, in the middle is a scroll wheel surrounding a four-way directional pad centered by the Func/Set button, and Below are the Menu and Display buttons. It works well, but the SD880 IS’s controls look and function better. However, that camera’s LCD screen has half the resolution of the SD970’s remarkably superior screen.

    Overall, the camera is simple to operate, although its appearance might lead you to think otherwise because of all the labels and buttons. The biggest hurdle is Canon’s improved contextual shooting menu by pressing the Func/Set button. It looks good but takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re upgrading from an older Canon PowerShot.

    One of the biggest problems with this model is its lens. Yes, you can zoom in a bit more on a pocket camera, but it’s slow with the maximum aperture of f/3.2 and quite narrow at 37mm. These specifications would be more acceptable if the price of the SD970 were not so high; but yeah, so they’re not like that.

    General capture options Canon PowerShot SD970 IS
    ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Car, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
    White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
    Recording mode Smart Auto, Program/Scene, Movie
    Concentrate Center AF, Face AF, Servo AF
    Metering Review, Focus, Spot
    Color effects Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom
    Limits shooting to continuous shooting mode (full resolution) Unlimited continuity

    The SD970 is limited to three shooting modes, and none of them let you adjust shutter speed or aperture. A small switch on top moves you between Canon’s automatic scene recognition called Smart Auto, Program/Scene mode options, and Movie mode. Smart Auto is very reliable, and since it’s chosen from 18 different scenes, the bases are well covered. In Programs, you can control things like ISO, white balance, metering, and autofocus type, or you can switch to several scene options like Portrait, Indoor, and special Scene selections. includes new Creative Lighting Effects and Zoom Blur. The Light Effect is whimsical, turning any small sparkles into user-selectable shapes including stars, hearts, and musical notes. This should really be an editing option on playback rather than a full capture mode. The Zoom Blur setting is a bit more interesting, adding a blur effect that makes the subject look like an exploding firework.

    Movie mode is capable of recording at 720p HD resolution. (For quick connection to an HDTV, there’s a mini HDMI output behind a small door on the right side of the body.) But sadly, the 5x optical zoom doesn’t work while recording.

    The SD970’s performance was uneven, and unfortunately it seemed slower than our lab tests suggested. From off to first shot is a fairly quick 1.6 seconds. Its shutter lag is also decent, at 0.4 seconds in good lighting conditions and 0.6 seconds in more difficult lighting conditions. Unfortunately, its continuous shooting time is a bit flat, taking 2.1 seconds without flash and 3.5 seconds with flash. Additionally, its burst mode also outperforms some competitors at 1 frame per second.

    Photo quality is very good, mainly due to excellent color reproduction and very good white balance and exposure. Some blur from noise reduction starts to appear at ISO 200, but overall all photos are blurry. On the other hand, there is little to no color noise. So although objects become noticeably softer and smoother as the ISO increases, detail remains quite good up to and including ISO 800. Although large prints may no longer be needed controversy, but noise is reduced well enough to produce small prints and Web usability.

    The camera’s 720p HD video quality is also very good. However, again, you won’t be able to use optical zoom while recording.

    If it seems like this review contradicts the overall review, there’s a reason for that. Technically, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the Canon PowerShot SD970 IS. It is a very good camera. It’s just that for the money, there are better options, including models from Canon, Sony, Panasonic and Nikon.

    Shooting speed (in seconds)
    (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
    Canon PowerShot SD970 IS






    Typical continuous shooting speed (in fps)
    (Longer bars indicate better performance)
    Canon PowerShot SD970 IS


    Learn more about how we test digital cameras.

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