In terms of overall performance the SX110 is, not too surprisingly, a close match for the SX100. It starts up in a fraction over two seconds, which is pretty quick for a long-zoom camera. In single-shot mode at maximum picture quality, and using a high-speed SanDisk Ultra II SDHC card, it can maintain a shot-to-shot time of 1.9 seconds, which is pretty respectable. The camera has two continuous shooting modes, one with AF and one without. In the AF continuous mode it maintains a shot every 1.2 seconds, while in the non-AF mode the interval is just 0.8 seconds, or over 1fps, which is pretty quick by any standard.
As usual Canon’s AF system is superb, operating quickly and accurately in good light and barely slowing at all in lower light conditions. The monitor automatically adjusts to brighten dark scenes for easier framing, and a powerful AF assist lamp ensures accurate focusing in the dark at a range of around three metres.
Flash performance is also good, with a shot-to-shot recharge time under typical conditions of approximately 8.5 seconds. The stated flash range of 3.0m is somewhat conservative; I’d put it at closer to 4.5m with good frame coverage. The SX110 has a movie mode, but as with the SX100 it’s nothing particularly special, shooting at VGA resolution and 30fps. The optical zoom cannot be used while filming, and video clips are limited to one hour or 4GB in size, although this is hardly going to be a problem for most people.
Image quality is of course a vital consideration, and here I’m happy to report that the SX11 IS excels, surpassing the SX100 and addressing that camera’s few problems. The lens is very good, producing very little barrel distortion and only a hint of chromatic aberration towards the edges of the frame at wide angle. Sharpness is very good right across the frame. The overall level of detail is exceptionally high; in fact the SX110 produced some of the most detailed shots I’ve ever seen from a compact camera, thanks in no small pert to the very low image compression. Some image files were over 6.5MB, which is huge for a 9MP camera. Dynamic range is better than average, and colour reproduction is also excellent, with good detail even in very bright saturated colours.
The SX100 IS did have some problems with high-ISO image noise, but these appear to have been largely eliminated in the new camera. Shots at 80 and 100 ISO are very clean, and while there is a little noise visible at 200 ISO, shots at 400 ISO are surprisingly clean and detailed, with virtually no colour distortion. 800 ISO shots lack some detail, but again the colour fidelity is very good. The camera has a normal maximum of 1600 ISO, and even at this setting the shots are quite usable for small prints or websites, as long as you don’t mind a bit of grain.
If you were considering a Panasonic TZ5 but you really want manual exposure options, then the SX110 ISO is just what you’re looking for. It is fast, well made, versatile, easy to use and has outstanding picture quality. It’s a little expensive, but it really is one of the best general-purpose digital cameras on the market.