The Canon PowerShot SD450 certainly deserves its "Digital Elph" designation that conjures up an image of something lithe and elegant. The little camera measures 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.85 inches, and weighs 5.5 ounces with battery and storage card. Its volume of 6.07 cubic inches is the third-lowest in this lineup. Despite the diminutive measurements, the Casio actually feels relatively substantial. That's because its elegant brushed silver metallic housing is "boxy" instead of just plain slim like, for example, the waver-like Casio S500.
What you get here is a 5-megapixel camera from one of the industry's leading manufacturers. You get a 3X optical zoom, with the little lens barrel retracting flush inside the body when the camera is off, and sticking out just over half an inch when it is on. When you turn it off, a cover automatically protects the lens. This is a camera that you can easily stick into your pocket without fear of damaging the lens or breaking something off.
Despite its diminutive size, Canon managed to equip the SD450 with both a massive 2.5-inch LCD and an optical viewfinder, one of only two camera to still have one in this roundup. The viewfinder is tiny and doesn't provide any information other than having a crosshair, but under certain lighting conditions it definitely comes in handy. As it does for people who need reading glasses. Put them on to examine the LCD, take them off to view the scenery. No fun. So hurrah for Canon's decision not to drop the optical viewfinder.
Canon also doesn't follow the crowd in the storage department. The trend is towards cameras with a few megabyte of internal memory. That way the manufacturer doesn't have to include even a "starter" memory card. Canon does it the old-fashioned way: no internal memory, but you get a 16MB SD Card. That, of course, isn't a lot for a 5 megapixel camera and you'll have to buy a 512MB or 1GB card anyway.
The SD450 is easy to use. The controls are few and standard: on/off button, zoom ring around the shutter, record-movie-playback slider, navigation ring, and three buttons. Markings and labels are a somewhat confusing mix of text and icons either embossed, in different colors, or bright silver on matte silver. You better take a few minutes to get used to it all before you go shooting. Canon also chose an interesting menu system that uses both a tabbed style for setup and a clever bar-style menu where horizontal represents the different shooting modes and vertical what settings are available in that mode. Again, it takes a bit of getting used to, but is among the more innovative approaches we've seen.
The SD450 records movies at 30 frames per second in 640x480 mode and a blazing 60 fps in 320x240 mode. You can zoom in and out while taking movies. Movies have sound, of course, and you can also attach up to 60 seconds of voice annotation to a picture. Playback volume is very low.
The Elph doesn't have a dock or power jack. I/O is via a mini-USB 2.0 jack and an AV cable. The charger for the small Li-Ion battery is about the size of the camera itself and has flip-out prongs. It does not need a cable.
The Canon SD450 has a high quality look and feel and that also shows in details such as a metal tripod mount. It's an easy-to-use point & shooter that fits anywhere and has some neat tricks like displaying a picture in landscape or portrait depending on how you hold the camera.
The Canon scored middle-of-the-road in our image tests. While that doesn't sound so good, the camera was very consistent and did not have blatant weaknesses. That is important in a point & shooter.
Not so much:
- Very small and compact
- large 2.5" LCD and optical viewfinder
- Lots of nice little touches and innovations
- Tiny labels hard to decipher
- "Dual" menu systems takes getting used to
- No internal memory and only 16MB card