The SX210 is well stocked with advanced features, including optional manual exposure. The lens is fairly fast at the wide-angle end, with a maximum aperture of f/3.1 and a minimum of f/8, giving nearly three stops of aperture adjustment. The range of shutter speeds is even more useful, with speeds from 15 seconds to 1/3200th of a second available. Other creative options include a wide range of colour and tone pre-sets, plus a custom setting with adjustable contrast, sharpness, saturation, red/green/blue balance and skin tone. The SX210, like all Canon compacts, has a very good user interface with a nicely designed sidebar menu navigated by rotary bezel around the D-pad, and a very clear and attractive main menu. The monitor is also very good, a three-inch wide-screen unit with a good anti-glare surface and a very wide angle of view approaching 90 degrees in all directions.
A key feature of the SX210 is of course its HD video mode. It can shoot at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels and 30 frames a second, with stereo audio recorded by two microphones on the top panel. The video and audio quality is very good, although the zoom motor can be heard on the soundtrack. There are a few additional options in video mode, including colour customisation, selective colour masking and colour swap, although that last one does tend to produce results that look like an early-seventies Top Of The Pops video.
In stills mode the SX210 has a few new novelty scene mode options, such as fish-eye effect, and a effect that mimics the restricted depth of field of a macro photo, giving full-size objects the appearance of miniature models if photographed from the right angle. Keen-eyed readers will spot that this feature is shamelessly pilfered from the Ricoh CX3, but then imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Other useful shooting options include the Smart Shutter mode, which uses face detection to activate the shutter by winking, smiling or a couple of seconds after a new face enters the frame, useful for getting yourself into self-timer group shots.
The SX210 has Canon's acclaimed optical image stabilisation technology, and to be honest with a 14x zoom lens and a telephoto end equivalent to nearly 400mm it needs it. At wide angle settings it allows stable hand-held shooting at shutter speeds as low as 1/10th of a second, but at full zoom it still needs a shutter speed of at least 1/100th of a second to ensure sharp pictures, a gain of only around two stops.