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Announced in August 2009, the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS digital camera with it's impressive 20x wide-angle super zoom lens is the successor to the very popular SX10 IS which featured the same wide angle same wide angle 20x (28-560mm equiv.) zoom lens and 2.5 inch vari-angle LCD. This newer model however now has a 12.1MP sensor and offers 720p HD video recording as well as numerous other improvements.

It is it's compact size and 20x zoom lens that first brought it to my attention, so lets take a more detailed look at it and see if it has what it takes to be an ideal camera to take with you on safari.

Main Features

Apart from the impressive 20x zoom and 12.1 mega pixel sensor, the SX20 features a 2.5 inch vari-angle PureColor LCD display coupled with the full manual controls which allow you an even greater range of creative options. On top of this, you can now record in full HD video (720p).

20x Superzoom power20x Zoom (560mm)

The most important feature of any superzoom camera is obviously it's Zoom and the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS does not disappoint. The 20x wide-angle (28mm) optical zoom has a very wide range from 28mm right up to 560mm. The lens features both an Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and a Voice Coil Motor (VCM) for fast, silent focus and zooming that making the camera unobtrusive and easy-to-use, whether shooting stills or video footage. Combined with a wide-angle view the camera is ideal for shooting wildlife photography as a silent camera is an important feature, when taking photos of skittish animals.

Tele Conversion Lens

After some research, I have been unable to find any reference as to weather you can add a teleconverter lens to the SX20, so I must assume that you can't which is a pity as I feel this is one of the main advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (FZ35) camera.

12.1 Megapixels

Identical to the new Panasonic Lumix camera is a 12.1 Megapixel image sensor. The Canon uses a DIGIC 4 image processing for high image quality, responsive operation and advanced noise reduction.

Their optical Image Stabiliser (IS) technology also helps to helps reduce camera shake and image blur. This gives users a 4-stop advantage when it comes to shooting in low-light conditions – making the camera easy to use indoors or at night without resorting to flash.

Back of the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Camera, showing the Vari-angle LCDVari-angle LCD

One feature I really like on this camera is the vari-angle 2.5 inch PureColor VA LCD display, that folds away when not in use. Apart from being useful in a wide variety of shooting situations giving you maximum flexibility when framing your shots, because it folds away it protects the LCD screen from getting scratched.

High Definition Video

The PowerShot SX20 IS can record HD video at 720p resolution and includes a dedicated movie button for instant access to movies in still mode and instant stills shooting during movie recording. The inclusion of an HDMI mini port makes it easy to playback footage on compatible TVs. The all-digital HDMI connection offers numerous benefits, including an incredible level of picture detail and reproduction of the PowerShot SX20 IS’s CD-quality stereo sound.

Other features that are pretty standard on digital cameras these days include Face Detection, Face Self-Timer and Auto Red-Eye Correction make shooting even easier. Additionally, the PowerShot SX20 IS combats blur with Motion Detection Technology and Servo AF/AE, which enables users to select a subject in the frame while the camera continually adjusts focus and exposure. Continuous Shooting AF adjusts auto focus between shots – so users can capture action with clarity – ideal for shooting birds in flight, fast moving wildlife or even fast moving sporting action.

As well as the included popup flash, the PowerShot SX20 IS has a built-in hot shoe that enables it to be used with a range of optional accessories including Speedlite EX flashes (including 270EX, 220EX, 430EX II, 580EX II) as well as the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 and Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3.

Cost & Where to Buy

One of the main advantages of a SuperZoom camera versus a digital SLR is that they are far cheaper.

UK Shoppers UK Shoppers
Buy this camera in the UK:

US Shoppers US Shoppers
Buy this camera in the USA:


PowerShot SX20 IS vs Panasonic FZ38 (FZ35)

It is no secret that one of my favorite cameras for safaris (and many other uses) is the Panasonic Lumix FZ38 and so I thought it would be helpful to compare it with this Canon.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Digital Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

Recommended price: $399 • £399

$399 • £399

Zoom tele (T): 486mm (18x)
Aperture range: F2.8 - F4.4
Continuous Drive: 2.3 fps 5 images
ISO rating:
Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

560mm (20x)
1.0 fps until card is full

Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

Max Res: 4000 x 3000
Effective pixels: 12.1 million

4000 x 3000
12.1 million

Max Movie: 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps

1280 x 720 @ 30fps

Dimensions: 118x76x89mm
Weight (+ batteries): 397g (14 oz)

560g (19.7 oz)

In Conclusion

I have already spoken at length what I believe makes the best digital camera to take on safari as well as the pros and cons of a Digital SLR camera vs a Compact Superzoom, so I won't go into it in detail here, but if you do decide on purchasing a superzoom, I highly recommend this Cannon Powershot SX20 IS. It is newer and as good, if not better than my own Panasonic.

I really like the fold away and flip around LCD screen.

On the down side is you can't seem to be able to add a teleconverter lens to extend the zoom even further. Obviously not a problem if you had not planned on getting one anyway.

Further Reading

Take a look this page that has a collection of user reviews and articles on the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Black Digital Camera.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (FZ35)Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (FZ35)

I take a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38, the successor to the very popular FZ28. Still will the excellent 18x optically stabilised lens (27-486mm, 35mm equivalent) and an increased resolution of 12.1 Megapixels, could this be the perfect compact superzoom camera to take on safari?

>> Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (FZ35) Digital Camera

Related Articles

Below are some more articles that you may also find useful:

The Best Digital Superzoom cameras for SafarisThe Best Compact Superzoom Cameras for Safari

If you do decide that a superzoom compact camera, rather than a digital SLR, here is our guide to the best compact super zoom safari cameras. Includes features to look out for and review of the top two cameras with a side by side comparison.

>> Best Safari Camera (compact superzooms)

Telephoto Conversion LensesTelephoto Conversion Lenses

Turn your Turn your SuperZoom Camera into a MegaZoom Camera, a guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ100, DMC-FZ38 (FZ35), DMC-FZ28 & DMC-FZ18 Digital Cameras. Including what telephoto lenses fit the Panasonic cameras, which ones to get and example photographs

>> Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ

Visit The Africa Guide for desert, dune, wildlife, people and culture photography


What to Take on Safari

This page is part of a series of posts on what to take on safari, for further reading try:

Search the Safari Holiday Guide

Best Cameras for Safari Digital Cameras for Safari

My guide to the best digital cameras for travel and wildlife photography. Including the best camera to take on Safari, bird photography and where you can buy cheap digital cameras >> more

Telephoto Conversion Lenses Telephoto Lenses for Panasonic Digital Cameras

Guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses like the 2.2x Raynox DCR-2025PRO for superzoom bridge cameras like the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR and the Panasonic DMC-FZ100, FZ45 (FZ40), & FZ38 Digital Cameras. Learn how a telephoto lense can turn your SuperZoom camera into a MegaZoom camera, bringing the action ever closer to you. >> more

Safari Photography

Steiner Safari BinocularsAfter your camera, a good pair of binoculars is crucial in getting the most out of your Safari Holiday. So what is a good pair of binoculars? Here is my binocular guide and recommendations >> Binocular Reviews



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