Hands-on review: Canon PowerShot SX170 IS

Hands-on review: Canon PowerShot SX170 IS

Although the compact camera market is undeniably in decline, those cameras which offer something a little extra are continuing to do well. In the case of the Canon PowerShot SX170 IS that comes in the form of a 16x optical zoom lens and the capability of full manual control.

The Canon SX1XX series seems to be somewhat of a forgotten line for Canon, perhaps overshadowed by the more premium offerings in the G and S line, or by the excellent SX2XX line.

But, if you’re looking for something that offers fairly advanced specifications in a reasonably small and well priced package, the Canon SX170 IS offers quite a lot of bang for your buck.

Canon PowerShot SX170 IS review

The headline feature is the 16x optical zoom, which starts at 28mm (equivalent), rising to 448mm (equivalent). There’s also a 16 million pixel sensor coupled with intelligent IS technology.

Full manual control is available, although the ability to shoot in raw format is not. 720p HD videos can be recorded, while for the first time in this range, a rechargeable Li-ion battery is included in the box. Previously, this camera had used AA batteries – according to Canon that’s a turn off for half the world, and a turn-on for the other half.

For those looking for something to point and shoot, the Canon SX170 IS also offers fully automatic shooting mode, with the ability to detect 32 different types of scenes.

Canon PowerShot SX170 IS review

The Canon PowerShot SX170 has a full recommended retail price of £169.99 (around US$265/AU$295), but expect that to drop in the next few weeks.

Build quality and handling

The Canon SX170 IS doesn’t have the sleek exterior of some of the other cameras in the PowerShot range, but it is very tactile, which may be preferred by some users. For instance, there’s a chunky grip on the right-hand side of the camera that gives you great purchase.

On top of the camera is a mode dial, much like we’re used to seeing on the likes of the Canon SX280 HS. It’s a fairly hefty dial, being big enough to contain the fully automatic modes, along with semi-automatic (shutter priority and aperture priority), scene modes, digital filters and movie recording, among others.

Canon PowerShot SX170 IS review

The camera is not jeans pocketable, but you could easily slip it into a jacket pocket or bag. With the lens fully extended it does become much larger, which is of course to be expected of something with such a large zoom range.

Operating the zoom itself is done via a switch around the shutter release button. Zooming is fairly fluid and smooth.

The flash unit at the top of the camera is manually lifted, with different flash functions accessible via a dedicated button on the back of the camera.

Canon PowerShot SX170 IS review

Anyone who has used a Canon camera before should be at home with the Canon SX170 IS’s menu system. It’s relatively straightforward to use and easy to navigate. For the most commonly used settings, a sort of quick menu can be accessed via the function button on the back of the camera. From here you can change settings such as white balance and sensitivity – if you’re shooting in fully manual or semi-automatic mode.


Recent Canon compact introductions have all performed to a decent standard, so we have no reason to believe that the Canon SX170 IS won’t be capable of more of the same. The fact that you can take full manual control over your images should help those who want to experiment to achieve some creative effects.

It’s good to see Smart Auto being improved, and we’ll be keen to see if those 32 different types of scenes do indeed make a marked improvement on photographs shot in this mode.

Canon PowerShot SX170 IS review

We’re hopeful that Canon’s Optical Image Stabilisation technology once again proves to be an excellent performer in this camera, as the 16x optical zoom is really what makes this kind of camera stand out from those included on smartphones.

Now that the camera has a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery included, it’s likely to appeal to more consumers (at least in certain parts of the world). Canon says that the eco mode on the camera boosts its battery life performance by up to around 46%. Since this is targeted towards travelling and holiday photographers, that will be particularly important, so we’ll be keen to see if those claims are true once we get a final production sample in to review in full.

Initial verdict

For something which is so keenly priced, on paper you’re getting a lot for your money. A 16x optical zoom is a decent range for those looking for an easy to use travel camera.

Meanwhile those who want to get a little bit more from their photography have the option of full manual control. It will be interesting to see if image quality from the Canon SX170 IS is on par with other PowerShot cameras.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Canon SX170 IS soon.

First reviewed 22 August 2013

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://www.techradar.com/reviews/cameras-and-camcorders/cameras/compact-cameras/canon-powershot-sx170-is-1174632/review?src=rss&attr=all


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