Though you can certainly find slimmer and perhaps more stylish models on the market, the SD850 IS is an attractive little camera with a luxurious metallic finish that feels comfortable in your hand and slips easily into your pocket. On the back of the SD850 IS is a large 2.5-inch LCD with an impressive resolution of 230,000 pixels. The only time the screen stumbled was in bright daylight, where glare prevented us from seeing the LCD. Thankfully, the camera has a tiny optical viewfinder on top that lets you frame your shots in bright conditions.
We like the SD850 IS' rear Touch Control dial, which displays a magnified image of the dial on the LCD when you place your finger on it. But we wish the camera's side Mode Dial were bigger and easier to use; it's plastic and very small, making accurate turning difficult.
With the help of the Optical Image Stabilizer--a feature you'll rarely, if ever, want to turn off--photos from the SD850 IS were pleasingly sharp, with good color and low noise at lower ISO settings. At higher light sensitivity ratings, however, including ISO 800 and 1600, images were disappointingly noisy and showed lots of digital noise in the dark areas. This was surprising since previous Digital ELPHs have performed well when shooting at high ISO levels in low light.
For portraits, the SD850 IS' Face Detection technology really shined, locking in on multiple faces in our photos and reliably adjusting images for sharpness, exposure, and flash. The in-camera red-eye correction feature was effective in reducing red eye after capture, and the camera's speedy DIGIC III processor virtually eliminated shutter lag.
For video, the SD850 IS can shoot 30-fps clips at a fairly standard 640 x 480-pixel resolution. The camera offers a fast frame rate feature for capturing sports; a compact mode for shooting small, e-mail-friendly video clips; a color-accent/color-swap feature to highlight specific colors in a movie while keeping the rest in black and white; and a Time Lapse mode. Overall video quality, though not on the same level of a camcorder, was quite good for a camera this small.
It has some image-quality issues, particularly with excessive noise when shooting at higher ISOs. But for everyday shooting, the Canon SD850 IS is a winner. It offers everything point-and-shoot users need, and in an elegant design.
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