Up until about 18 months ago, if you wanted a pocket-sized compact camera with a decent zoom range, you had a simple choice; either a Ricoh R-series or a Panasonic Lumix TZ-series. The latter especially proved to be very popular, particularly the excellent TZ5, helping to place Panasonic at the top of the compact camera market and prompting several other manufacturers to try and get in on the "travel camera" action. Canon's first attempt was the PowerShot SX100 IS, followed last Autumn by the SX110 IS, both of which had all the right features and an affordable price tag, but lacked the TZ5's compact shape and robust build quality. Other rivals include the Olympus mju 9000.
Earlier this year Panasonic launched the expensive but superb Lumix TZ7 to wide acclaim, featuring a 12x zoom lens, 3-inch monitor, 10MP sensor and its knock-out punch, HD video recording with stereo audio. However Canon has just launched a potential rival in today's review camera. The new PowerShot SX200 IS features a 12x zoom lens, a 3-inch monitor, a more powerful 12.1-megapixel sensor and HD video recording (although only mono audio). It matches the TZ7's hefty £290 price tag, but can it really match it in performance?
There's no doubt that it looks the part. Canon has refreshed the appearance of all of its camera lines with its new spring launches, and the SX200 looks totally different to the previous SX models. The body is made of plastic with aluminium panels front and rear, and the build quality is generally very good, although it does creak a bit if squeezed. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere the tripod bush is metal, as is the battery hatch hinge, which is usually a good sign.
It's a good looking camera, a clean and modern design with an attractive matt-metallic and chrome finish, and is available in red, black or blue. The body shape is comfortable and secure to hold and the controls are sensibly laid out and accessible, but it's not a particularly small or lightweight camera. It measures 103 x 60.5 x 37.6 mm and weighs 243g ready to shoot (5mm thicker and about 14g heavier than the TZ7) so you couldn't in all fairness call it pocket-sized, but it wouldn't take up much room in a bag or backpack.