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We were very impressed with the performance from the SX170, overall. It responds well to a variety of scenarios - although you can use modes like Portrait or Snow if you want to shoot a particular scene, in general the Auto mode provided great photos for most scenes. Comparisons between shooting on full manual and taking the same shots with auto mode came out well - with the Canon producing practically identical photos whichever mode we used, perfect for novice users while allowing more seasoned photographers to experiment if they want to.
There were a couple of instances when the SX170 struggled a little to expose correctly - mostly when shooting backlit subjects or towards strong light, but for the most part it coped well, producing well exposed shots with very little tweaking needed. You can adjust the exposure compensation when needed, and the SX170 also includes a flash exposure compensation setting - very handy if you're shooting at close range and need to tone down the flash; not something you often see on point and shoots.
While shooting on a cloudy day can produce some dull colours, the PowerShot SX170 IS mostly creates vibrant photos that are true to life. Adjusting the white balance did go some way towards correcting the colour tone when the light wasn't that great. In general the white balance modes performed well, especially the custom white balance which was spot on when used correctly.
When shooting on auto the SX170 determines its own sensitivity - handy for when you're shooting indoors or in low light conditions, but there was some noticeable noise on photos taken at anything higher than ISO 640. Otherwise though noise wasn't a problem and most of the shots are crisp and sharp.
Canon continue to impress with its macro performance - the PowerShot SX170 takes great macro shots and we were really impressed with the shallow depth of field we were able to create in some of our photos.
In terms of the quality of prints, when viewing images at 100% there's no obvious distortion or loss of detail on wide angle shots and, while there is a little coloured fringing, it's unlikely it would be noticeable when printing at A4 size or smaller.
One of the creative filters we especially loved on the SX170 was the Super Vivid filter - it gave a great colour boost to our photos without over saturation. There aren't many creative filters on this camera compared to some of the others available on the market, Canon seems to provide the same set for the majority of its point and shoot models, but those it does offer work well and really allow users to change the feel of their shots quickly and painlessly.
Although the SX170 comes with intelligent IS technology, it isn't always enough to compensate for lens movement at the far end of the digital zoom range, although for mid range digital zoom and optical zoom it works really well.
For a point and shoot, the PowerShot SX170 certainly offers a fair amount for your money. The full manual shooting will definitely appeal to users who are frustrated with not being able to tweak their shooting settings, while the auto mode with its ability to select from 32 different scenes will help to put novice users at ease that whatever situation they're shooting in, the SX170 can probably handle it. Discounting the few niggles we have with the camera - occasional focusing issues at long distance for example - we were really impressed by the performance of the SX170.
With 16 megapixels and a 16x optical zoom, the PowerShot SX170 IS sits between cameras such as the Panasonic DMC-TZ30, which has a 20x optical zoom but only has 14 megapixels, and the Nikon L620 with its 18 megapixels but only 14x optical zoom. The Canon falls behind a little, however, with its CCD sensor - both the Panasonic and Nikon have newer CMOS technology.
It's a great little camera - easy to use, takes consistently good photos and has enough options to suit a range of users. Throw in the reasonable price and you've got a real winner.
It'd be great if the SX170 had a CMOS sensor, as the CCD technology does now feel a little outdated. For the price we'd also like to see full HD recording capabilities.
If you're looking for a point and shoot capable of a little extra then the SX170 will probably tick all of your boxes and more. There's very little counting against this camera - a little bit of extra tech like Wi-Fi capabilities or full HD shooting would be nice but it certainly performs well without enough without them. Easy to use, good value for money and rugged enough to survive life's knocks and bumps - the SX170 consistently and happily comes out on top.