Another reliable characteristic of recent Canon cameras is exceptionally fast performance. Despite unfolding the flash and lens like some sort of proto-Transformer, the SX200 starts up in just over one and a half seconds, although it's a bit slower to shut down again at just over two seconds. In single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.6 seconds, which isn't bad for a 12MP camera, while in continuous shooting mode it can manage an impressive one frame per second, although there is an AF continuous mode which is a little slower.
The autofocus system is also up to Canon's usual high standard, focusing quickly and accurately even in very low light. The SX200 has a very powerful AF assist lamp with a range of several meters, and the long 15-second maximum exposure means it can take some good low light shots. However that trick flash is significantly underpowered, not really even matching up to its claimed range of three metres.
As I mentioned earlier the lens is superb, producing excellent sharpness and detail from corner to corner with virtually no wide-angle distortion or chromatic aberration. Exposure metering is generally accurate and colour reproduction is very natural, although the limited dynamic range of the small 1/2.3-inch sensor does result in some burned-out highlights and featureless shadows. The SX200 has Canon's i-Contrast dynamic range booster, which helps to restore some shadow detail in high-contrast or backlighting situations, but it does have an impact on image quality.
The overcrowded sensor is also the reason for the SX200's surprisingly poor high-ISO image noise performance. Images at 80-200 ISO are very good and effectively noise-free, but 400 ISO does show some noise and loss of detail, and the pixel-binned 1600 ISO maximum setting is only suitable for very small prints.
The PowerShot SX200 IS is a rare camera, a genuinely good all-rounder. It has an attractive modern design, good build quality, comfortable easy-to-use handling, a wide range of user options and full manual exposure control. It performs well in a wide range of situations, and produces generally good results. It's just a pity it's so expensive, and that the competition is so good.