Camera Review of Canon Digital Powershot D10 (waterproof 10m)

Review posted by guest blogger:alanf

Canon D10 Powershot Waterproof Camera

The Canon Powershot D10 waterproof digital camera has been around since mid 2009, and is the first Canon aimed at the watersports market. It is a 12 megapixel digital compact camera.

On first inspection, the camera is very stylish, with barely a hard edge anywhere. Most surfaces are smooth and round. The detachable front cover is a snazzy teal colour and, as an optional extra, can be interchanged with extra coloured panels. The teal one is quite nice though. The construction feels good with a lot of impressive looking hex screws clamping the body shut. The lens for this camera is a 6-18.6 mm f2.8-4.9 zoom lens, which actually protrudes out from the front of the camera by about 25 mm (a new first for waterproof compacts?). The zoom lens can actually be seen to move in and out when zooming, inside the waterproof lens housing. In this sense, the camera is a lot more like conventional compact cameras rather than the thin and flatter waterproof ones available to date. This may give better optics, but will also take up extra buoyancy aid pocket room, although it fits with room to spare into a Palm Kaikoura BA pocket. In use out on the water, however, I did find that the lens catches a bit on the pocket zip, although it is tolerable (just not as smooth as my older, thin Pentax Optio W20).

There is no viewfinder on the camera, and the 2.5ā€ large bright LCD screen produces a very clear, crisp and visible display.

There are two waterproof access seals – one on the bottom of the camera for memory card and battery access and one on the side for DC adapter/USB cable access. This is one more access panel than the old Optio W20 which dispenses with DC input and USB access. The optimists would say that it is nice to have a USB access point, but the pessimists would say that there is double the chance of seal failure and water leak into the camera! (I do however need the USB cable since my laptop can’t read High Capacity SD memory cards directly). The seals themselves are a side o-ring for the bottom panel, and a face o-ring for the side panel. Both are secured in place by a grey plastic catch. Only time will tell how robust these are, but I remember having similar reservations with the Optio W20 a couple of years ago, and have had no issues with it.

The rather strange feature on this camera is perhaps the strap attachment and tether mechanism, which gives the user the choice of the 4 corners of the camera to attach the cord to. There are really only two positions that are practical, so it’s a bit gimmicky rather than being an important feature. The cord attaches to a metal bayonet type fixture which can plug into any of the 4 corner fixtures. The corner fixtures themselves are metal, and give a sense of robustness, however they are locked in place only by the actions of a small plastic pincer mechanism which, when squeezed, can cause the whole tether mechanism to be released fairly easily. This makes me feel that it’s not that secure. Do I really want to trust this mechanism out on the water where I’m taking the camera in and out of my BA pocket all day? I feel that Canon should have used a more secure attachment for this purpose. I also feel that once I have settled on the corner that I want to use, I will more than likely try to make it more permanent by squeezing some silicon sealant into the mechanism to solidify it (will my warranty still stand?). I would also have liked Canon to have supplied blanking caps for the other corner tether holes, since they are just left open and serve no purpose other than to collect grit and water. A carabiner fixing cord is available from Canon, but at Ā£35 it’s a bit of a steep price, and I’ll just have to settle for making my own cord and attaching a carabiner!

The turn-on time of the Canon D10 is much faster than the Optio W20. It is really fast! I can turn on and take a single shot in under 2 seconds. The auto focus seems a whole lot quicker than the Optio too, even in lower light conditions. I have been getting fed up using the Optio due to the slow turn-on, slow/poor focusing and shutter lag, and in comparison, this camera is great. These two factors alone make the Canon stand head and shoulders above the Optio.

The 12 megapixel sensor delivers fairly good quality detailed 4000 x 3000 pixel images, although for me, an obvious downside is that Canon seem to have used too much jpeg compression to limit image file size (full size files are in the 2.2 ā€“ 3 MB range, compared to the 4+ MB file size range of my 12 megapixel Nikon digital SLR camera). I have never understood manufacturer’s desire to trade off image quality for memory card usage via jpeg compression. I’d prefer less compressed jpegs (or at least the option of setting the camera to use less compression!). Unfortunately there is no ‘super fine’ image quality option in the camera’s shooting menu, only a ‘fine’ and ‘normal’ mode (you don’t select ‘normal’ mode – it’s not normal!). With ISO at 200, aperture at F2.8 I ran a side-by-side comparison of shots between the D10 and a Nikon DSLR, per the 2 images below. The detail from the Canon D10 is good. However, when cropped down and magnified to 500% as shown in the cropped/zoomed images in the comparison chart below, the greater jpeg compression on the Canon D10 image becomes more apparent. On the second image comparison, the nice almost uniform blue sky suffers from jpeg artifacts too, which I’m sure could be eliminated by less jpeg compression. The D10 images also looks a bit more contrasty, probably due to internal auto leveling and sharpening algorithms inside the D10, which the user has no control over.

Image comparison chart Canon D10 v Nikon dslr both (12 Megapixel)

(Click on thumbnails for full image size)

Canon D10 image Nikon DSLR image
Full frame shot – scroll to click outside of large image to return
Cropped shot same image
Cropped shot same image 500x magnification
Full frame image (new scene)

Cropped frame image (new scene)
Cropped shot same scene

As well as control over jpeg compression, it would also have been a big plus to have seen the option to use RAW files. Maybe its a deliberate choice by Canon so this camera doesn’t compete with their more expensive pro-sumer models?

Exposure Control

Click to enlarge

The other slight gripe with the camera in ‘P’ mode (where the user controls the settings) is its propensity to overexpose images on multi matrix ‘evaluative’ mode, with 0 ev compensation (ie the default). In an image that has average brightness in the foreground and bright sky, the sky will have very burned out highlights ( a big no-no in photography). In order to preserve the highlights, it is necessary to knock the exposure level compensation in ‘P’ mode down to -1 ev (others may prefer -0.33 ev or -0.66 ev).

Spot metering seems to deliver better results, but how often do you have time to spot meter on an action shot on a watersports day out? You usually just want to point, click and forget!

The ‘Auto’ mode fares quite well with highlights, but do I trust the auto mode to not blow highlights 100% of the time? I don’t think I’ve used ‘Auto’ mode on any camera before, ever!

Apart from it’s handling of the highlights, Auto mode has a tendency to switch to ISO800 a lot of the time leading to grainier images, even when it doesn’t need to do this, eg when there are ample light conditions.

I normally prefer to knock the ISO level down to 100 from the default ‘Auto’ to prevent high ISO graininess, but unlike some other cameras, in ‘P’ mode the auto iso setting seems to limit at ISO400, so this should prevent the camera from producing excessively grainy shots in low light conditions. However you will notice image graininess at ISO settings of above 200 so manually setting ISO to 100 or 200 may be the best overall option. The Image Stabilisation system will also help out shooting in lower light conditions.

There is no manual exposure or aperture priority mode, ie you can only manually control ISO, exposure compensation, and focus, not shutter speed (apart from long shutter speed in scene mode) or aperture, which is a pity.

Summary

Why am I comparing the D10 to the DSLR? Well doing most photography outside of kayaking with a DSR, I ultimately need a camera to compete with my DSLR when I’m kayaking. Is the comparison fair? No, but it does give you a flavour of what corners are being cut with compact digital cameras. Overall, however, once the settings are optimised, the D10 is a fun to use camera. The controls are smooth, the menu buttons are great, and the image stabilisation seems to work very well, as does the Auto-focus including the facial recognition system. Menu system and functionality options are wide, including the standard scene, movie etc modes. Editing features eg movie editing etc seem to be very handy and powerful, and the images produced are certainly very lively. It also has the option of an intelligent ‘i-contrast’ option which will auto correct dark “contrasty” images, eg bright sky and dark foregrounds. (Note: I am normally adverse to auto corrections, but the D10 does a very good job of brightening up dark foregrounds whilst maintaining overall image contrast).

Other advanced features include facial AF, eye blink recognition, AE lock, AF lock, custom white balance and tone controls, servo focus for moving subjects, and slow sync flash for nigh time photography, which tend to be found on more advanced pro level cameras.

Click to see full, 12 megapixel image. Click outside of large image to return

In conclusion, this camera packs quite a punch for it’s size and price. That coupled with a 12 megapixel sensor, fast turn-on time and minimal shutter lag times make this a big upgrade from the Optio W20, and I am really looking forward to using it out paddling in 2010.

D10 Pros

  • 12 mega pixel sensor
  • smooth edged design
  • robust looking build quality
  • good optics
  • choice of tether mount point
  • fast turn on time
  • responsive autofocus including low light conditions
  • fast responsive shoot time, minimal lags
  • good image quality
  • fast lens F2.8-F4.9
  • image stabilisation
  • auto white balance seems to work well
  • intelligent ‘Auto’ mode, guesses scene type
  • some interesting exposure adjustment tools like i-contrast to help brighten up dark areas
  • intuitive buttons, menus and features
  • programmable ‘print’ function key
  • some advanced features
  • usb/ dc input
  • price (notably reduced from original early release price)

D10 Cons

  • tether mount point locking mechanism robustness/security/ease of unlocking
  • no covers for unused tether points
  • lack of superfine mode for less compressed jpeg image files
  • no raw file support
  • ‘Auto’ mode varies Iso up to 800 which can be grainy
  • 3x optical zoom a bit boring especially given the IS
  • tendency to blow (overexpose) highlights in ‘P mode evaluative metering’ (needs manual compensation down to -1ev)
  • Second waterproof seal panel for USB/dc adaptor means 2x risk of seal failure?
  • full operation manual only available as pdf on supplied CD – I’d have preferred it on paper instead of 5 different language paper versions of the ‘quick start guide’!

D10 Kayaking specific pros

  • waterproof
  • fast lens (quicker shutter speeds, fewer blurred images)
  • image stabilisation (fewer blurred images)
  • fast turn on (no excuses for not photographing that dolphin that just appeared!)
  • fast focus even in low light (faster shots, fewer blurred images)
  • good auto mode (point and click photography)
  • multiple tether points
  • optional tether with carabiner available

D10 Kayak specific cons

  • tether point robustness, ease of release/durability
  • lens protrudes, may not fit some BA pockets
  • lots of crevasses for salt water to stick around in (will need rinsing after every outing)
  • twice as many waterproof seals to worry about!

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this really excellent and helpfull review Alan.

    šŸ™‚

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