Canon PowerShot D10 digital camera review

4 out of 5
£379

For

Easy to control, good quality results, great environmental sealing

Against

A little bigger than some rivals

The most striking feature about the Canon PowerShot D10 might well be the range of funky colour choices you get, from blue through to camouflage. Pitched directly to action fans, the D10 is battling it out alongside the likes of Olympus' Tough cameras.

In that vein, one of the defining features of the D10 is it's environmental sealing. Yes, the D10 name is matched by waterproofing down to depths of 10 metres and the promise of operating in minus 10 degrees too. It also features shock resistance, so will take the odd bash.

We are quite taken with the looks; with action heroes in mind, the butch styling is something to admire, but it won't be the most pocketable camera around. Essentially, given the 12-megapixel sensor backed by the DIGIC 4 processor and the 3x optical zoom (35-105mm equiv.) it is a similar offering to some of the recent IXUS models from Canon.

With the styling giving a little more scope for external features, you'll find a neat twist lock attachment points on each corner. It looks good, but does limit you to buying the official accessories, rather than just using a normal anchor point.

The biggest bulk, however, is in the housing that covers the lens, giving the D10 a distinct bulge to the front, but allowing all the lens zooming to take place in a sealed environment. Fewer moving parts on the outside means less to go wrong when it gets covered in mud or sand.

Minimalist isn't the word, with a rich collection of buttons and controls arranged around the body. The top gives you a power button adjacent to the shutter button – perhaps not the best placing, but it does mean you can power on and shoot with one hand. The zoom buttons which often sit in the top move down to the back, which makes them easy to see, but they are too small to use with gloved hands.

Further controls lie both to the top of the 2.5-inch 230k-dot display and to the right-hand side. The top row gives you – perhaps rather randomly – the print controls, playback and the shooting mode selection. Selecting shooting mode needs the use of the four-way controller and the Func/Set button, which generally makes it a two-handed operation.

However, the Auto mode is pretty smart and will identify the scene it is looking at and pick out the best settings for you. It works pretty well too, as we've found in other Canon models using the same technology. The menus, however, are typical Canon fare, and easy to navigate and pick out the settings you want using the Func button and menus.

There's no sign of manual controls, so you'll have to make do with the Program mode, which gives you control over ISO, white balance, metering and colour tints, but that's about it. For those wishing to use it underwater, there is a dedicated Underwater "scene" mode. This camera doesn't float, so make sure you use a strap of some sort.

The ISO range runs from 80 up to 1600 in Auto modes or via selection in P mode. An ISO 3200 mode is also selectable for those must-have low light shots, although it only shoots at 2-megapixels. Noise races into shadows at ISO 800 but shots remain usable, while at ISO 1600 noise blights most aspects of the image. The ISO 3200 mode still suffers high noise, but perhaps makes the better choice for candid indoor shots for sharing online, if you want to avoid the flash.

Aiding the low light performance is image stabilisation, which takes some of the shake out of longer exposures or the far end of the zoom and a fairly typical F/2.8 max aperture on the lens. Combined, they provide good scope for capturing indoor shots (in daylight) without having to deploy the higher ISOs.

The 2.5-inch display is wonderfully bright and gives colours real punch, making the D10 a great camera for shooting and showing to friends. The screen is a little small by current standards, shrunk to fit in with the design. There is no optical viewfinder.

Video capture comes in at a rather miserly 640 x 480 max, but does give you a nice solid 30fps with good, rich, colours. Audio is not so good, with noticeable noise from hand movements and also struggling to cope with wind noise.

Overall performance for still shooting is very good, with nice bold colours leaping out. Beautifully rich greens are perhaps offset by a tendency to over-saturate reds, but these things are easily adjusted post-shoot and it doesn’t mar the images overall.

High-contrast scenes are handled rather well, with a small amount of purple fringing around edges and the occasional blow-out of light tones in bright conditions, but it copes as well, if not better than many other compacts out there. Barrel distortion is easily noticeable at the wide end of the zoom.

The flash is unusually placed over the top of the chunky lens housing and does seem to be a little under-powered. It's location, however, does mean that you can have a nice solid right-hand grip on the camera without the risk of obscuring it with a wayward finger.

Startup is relatively fast, flashing on in about a second and giving you your first shot about 2 seconds later. Continuous shooting gives you about 1 shot per second, not the fastest, but it will happily chew through plenty of shots without buffering being a problem. Shutter lag is not a noticeable problem either.

The battery gives you a recorded 220 shots, which we found to be about right.

Verdict

As Canon's first foray into the world of pocket bomb-proof cameras, it's a compelling offering. It is a little more bloated than Olympus rivals, but it does give you something to grip onto when using it in more remote locations, such as diving or climbing, where it sits nicely in the hand when you want to grab it and shoot.

The price, although at the upper end of compact cameras, is reasonable considering the versatility of the D10. The performance is very much in line with models from the top of the IXUS range, which is a good thing: imaging hasn't suffered to give you the weatherproofing.

Those hitting the slopes might want something more compact, but for those who want something easy to grip and happy in all weathers, the Canon PowerShot D10 is well worth a look.