Review: Canon Powershot Elph SD880 IS Digital Camera

Mini Rant

I really hate the way companies name their stupid products. Why can’t they just call it “Powershot Elph 1, Powershot Elph 2” or whatever? ARGH!

(No one paid me, or sponsored me. I bought the camera, after reviewing tons of cameras on the market today, and found this one to be the best of breed (BOB).)

What are the older & newer versions of this camera?

The predecessor to this one was the SD890, and the camera had a 5X zoom and seemed pretty awesome.. until you realized the plastic, badly placed On/Off button was REALLY ANNOYING.

They ARE coming out with a newer model called the SD 870, I think it dropped end of April 2009 or something. But the only difference between that one and this one is:

  • A slightly higher price tag at $50 more
  • More colours
  • Video can be shot in HD instead

In short, stuff I don’t care (much) about.

Long story short, I LOVE IT.


Megapixel: 10MP

I went for all the ones in the range of 8MP – 10MP because unless you plan on blowing up the photos to cover your wall, any MP above 10 in regular point-and-shoot cameras are moot. Useless. So don’t waste an extra $50 – $100 trying to get 2 more MP.

Not really worth it.

Optical Zoom: 4X

This is big for me. I have never owned a camera with an OPTICAL zoom of 4X.

(Remember, optical zooms = good, digital zooms = crap because you can replicate the ‘zoom’ with Photoshop).

I really love it. I was hoping for a zoom of 5X or 10X, but .. I wasn’t willing to compromise on the weight nor the size of those cameras that offered 10X.

The zoom also operates on a click wheel basis, which is really fantastic. No buttons to press, just a little wheel I use to zoom in or zoom out.

I should mention something odd:

BF’s old Kodak camera V610 from way back when 4 years ago (so old, it won’t take any SD card above 2GB), has a 10X OPTICAL ZOOM!

And his camera is as big/heavy as this Canon SD880.

It’s like we moved backwards in technology or something.

Screen Size/Screen: 3″

Screen size may not matter to some, but I don’t even remember using the viewfinder any longer. I always stand back and use the LCD screen to position my shot. It’s larger, doesn’t hurt my eyes and easier than having to squint through a little peep hole.

Incidentally, this camera does NOT come with a optical viewfinder (peephole).

Memory Card: 32MB in SD!!!!

I am so excited about this. I can finally just pop out the SD card, put it in my Dell laptop or HP Mini 1000 when I travel, and there is NO NEED to plug my camera in, or dock it to transfer the images off.

Even though it came with a 32MB card (umm.. hello, useless. Just give me a $1 discount or something), I bought an 8GB card, which will give me about 3000+ shots or 1.5 hours of continuous video. I also bought a back up 8GB card off BF who purchased the card and realized his camera wouldn’t recognize it.

A little tip from me to you if your memory card won’t format or be read by your camera

If you buy a higher GB SD or memory card, pop it in your camera and it refuses to format it or work properly, that means that your camera is PROBABLY not compatible with the card, or it is TOO HIGH of a memory capacity for its software to cope with.

No joke, 8GB was too high for BF’s camera as it is about 4 years old, and he can only use up to 2GB SD cards.

If you think it’s the camera that’s acting up (like it’s a brand new model from this year), then bring it back and bitch.

Battery: Li-ion NB-5L Battery (the code is v. important)

I hate AA batteries. I hate that they cause waste (unless you use the re-chargeable ones), I hate forgetting to buy them, recharge them, or deal with them.

Give me a lithium ion battery or any other rechargeable one any day.

I bought an extra battery from Energizer meant for my camera that was compatible with my camera. Remember, not all rechargeable batteries are the same. You MUST look for the code of your battery and match it up correctly!!!!

Mine was an NB-5L battery, so I bought an NB-5L Energizer battery. Cost me around $70 before taxes, which was a big ouchie, but I always take a lot of pictures and/or forget to charge my camera, so when I’m out being a tourist or in general, it’s nice to have a backup.

Weight: Fine

Heavier than my 140 gram old Fuji Finepix Z1, but only by 30 grams or so. It isn’t going to break your back.

It fits nicely into a pouch. Very compact.

Taking Pictures

Very easy. Point, focus with a half-pressed finger, shoot.

The nice thing about this is even though your hands are shaking a bit (mine are shaky all the time), it adjusts for it in regular shots and gives you image stabilization, which is a great feature to have.

I also set it to take a shot, and then have a Focus Check where a little tiny shot of a magnified part of the picture shows up on the bottom right.

They pick the magnified part at random, so sometimes you get screwed and don’t see anything…

Figuring out the menus & settings

When you buy a new camera (especially in a new brand, as I had Fuji before), it is always a challenge to get used to the new menu and to see how they organized everything.

With that being said, I didn’t find ANY problems with understanding how the camera worked.

Granted, I found a few “Huh? What do they mean?” moments here and there using the camera, but it was mostly when I was trying to do fancier things with the camera like colour swap or colour accent.

But for basic shots, it’s really point-and-shoot.

Here are the 3 menus (you can click wheel or scroll down for more options)

I LOVE that you can set how long you want the picture to stay on the screen after you have shot it, and the sounds for all the different actions (taking shots, reviewing, playbacks), as well as the seconds for self-timing.. and a whole host of other things.

These settings are great. Not too basic, but not so complex that you get a headache figuring out what you should set each one to.

Charging Station is a dream, and going cordless is even better

Not only do I not need to get a cord to plug into my camera and plug into my laptop to get the images off it (I can just stick my SD card directly into my laptop), I also love that you just charge the battery instead of the whole camera.

In my old camera, I had to use an annoying docking station to put the camera on it, and then plug it in to charge.

With this one, I just take the battery out of the camera, pop it into a charger and let it charge for 2 hours. The green even tells you when it’s charged.

I also bought an extra battery, so it’s nice to not have to bring more than I need on trips just to take pictures (NO MORE CORDS!!!!!!)

3 Settings for Taking pictures

See the little red icons near the middle? They have a video setting, scene setting and regular camera setting.

I stick it on the scene setting (SCN) because one of my FAVOURITE features of this camera is the way it uses wheels to rotate through the menus to select up to 11 different scenes such as:

  • portrait
  • foliage
  • snow
  • beach
  • sunset
  • fireworks
  • aquarium
  • underwater
  • indoor
  • kids and pets
  • night

…which gives you the optimal settings for each scene, like faster shutter speed for action shots or moving kids, different tones if you are inside vs. outside, and so on.

Now, most cameras have this, but as you use the click wheel, it changes to each different scene while you are still on the shot, so you can see the change from one scene selection to another without having to go into a menu and find the one you think fits the shot the best.

It looks like this as you use the click wheel, the menu comes up on the right side and is digital rather than a manual selection using buttons.

Reviewing shots after you’ve taken them

There’s a click wheel at the top (hard to see) but it’s the big silver button on the right that you use to snap shots, and then the click wheel is around it.

What you do, is go into display mode by pressing the “PLAY” button on the main camera (not shown) and then you use the click wheel at the top to zoom in by moving it ALLLLL the way right towards the icons near the bottom right of the shot.

Then you get to a shot, and you can zoom into each shot by magnifying it to 100% on your screen (it choose the spot for you, most of my shots got the floor instead of the item I was shooting, but you can get lucky sometimes).

Then you click back ONCE to the left (a quick snap of the finger) and it brings you to a grid of 9 of your most recent shots where you can select each shot by using the click wheel.

Each shot you select, you can zoom into it again on the screen to 100%.

Fancy Features: Colour Swap & Accent

I am enamoured with this! Sure, I could easily do it in Photoshop in a couple of clicks, but it doesn’t make it any less cool.

Oh and you don’t get image stabilization using this feature. You only get image stabilization with regular shots.



I literally changed my tissue box ORANGE! I also changed the banana a little orange too (it had some green tinges).

And I can adjust how much I change (see the second picture in the shot), and I lowered the colour swap intensity to -5 or something like that, and it kept truer colours of the rest of the fruit.

Once you select Colour Swap, you have to press the DISP (Display) button to get this screen where you can choose the colours and this is what it looks like on screen when you select colour swap by showing you the two colours (green —> orange).

The colours you choose also do NOT have to be in the shot. They can be from ANYTHING in your environment.

I chose the blue bowl and colour swapped BF’s face. It was hilarious.


As you can see, the banana turned a bit blue in the first picture, because it had a green tinge to it.

And in the second shot, if I crank up the level to +5 then I get a very blue tinge on everything.

I am not sure how often I am going to use this feature, but maybe in art installations or very colourful sculptures, I could consider doing a bit of an Andy Warhol schtick on them.


There’s also an option to Colour Accent, which is actually very cool. It basically bleaches out the entire shot and only keeps the colour you choose to accent.

It also can be done in Photoshop but this way is so much easier — saves time if you wanted an artistic shot.

Things I like about the camera

  • Easily compatible with my computers (SD card slots in my laptops, no docking stations)
  • Menu & Clickwheels very easy to use and love
  • Image Stabilization ROCKS!
  • Buttons are large & clearly marked so it’s easier for me to press each one
  • On/Off button at the top (the older SD890 model had a flimsy plastic button)
  • Decent price for 10MP and 4X Optical Zoom features
  • The fancy features are pretty impressive (to me, having owned a very old digital camera before)
  • The screen is nice and large, and clear
  • The icons and the detailed info is not difficult to understand even if you only know a LITTLE bit about photography
  • The # of shots left is on the bottom right of many screens
  • …I could go on. But it’s just really fantastic. It may be better to read what I don’t like.

Things I dislike about the camera

There isn’t much to be honest, they are all minor things.

There isn’t enough colour choice. Silver is boring. I wish it came in hot red, purple, blue or usomething. BUt that’s just the girl in me talking and I am not willing to compromise all of these features just for colour.

I guess the strap that comes with it annoys me. There isn’t a little sort of pull cord that will let it tighten around your wrist. It just hangs that limply.

All I did was just take the old cord off my last camera that I liked, and put it on my new one, so that’s a non-issue.

I disliked the price as most people do, because $300 is a big chunk of change to spend on a camera. *shrug*

But I do think that this camera is worth every penny, and if I stayed with my old camera for so long, this one is sure to last me even longer, based on the fact that the pictures it takes with 10MP and 3X zoom are incredible.

Screen is not glass covered
Oh and that the screen is not glass like my last camera that really repelled scratches and fingerprints. This one is an LCD and gets prints all over it and could easily get scratched/punctured.

So, how much did you pay?

I recently purchased a Canon Powershot Elph SD880 IS Digital Camera for $300 CAD before taxes.

I bought an Energizer NB-5L rechargeable extra battery (I plan on using this camera a lot) for $70 CAD before taxes.

I also bought an 2 8GB Kodak SD cards for $50 total before taxes ($25/each).. I actually didn’t plan on buying 2 SD cards, but BF bought one for his camera and realized it was not compatible as his camera was too old and would not recognize any card over 2GB in capacity (a short-sighted design… but his camera has 10X optical zoom and is super compact – WTF!?).

Total: $475.73, taxes in.

Which is actually just as expensive as buying my first Fuji Finepix Z1 back in the day, without an extra battery or bigger than 512 memory card. 😐

Why should you buy this camera?

It’s a trusted brand for cameras. I only look at these 3 brands when I want to buy a digital camera: Nikon, Kodak, Canon.

The rest such as Sony, Olympus, Casio etc… they’re cute, colourful and fun for a bit but let’s face it — they are NOT camera brands. They don’t have the years of experience the top 3 brands above do in being able to figure out what is good for a camera and to make the choices and tradeoffs in design.

Casio = Calculators and Watches. I think they’re good at those gadgets. Stick to ’em.

Sony = Playstations , Discmans, Walkmans. I am not a fan of their TVs, computers, or any of their other products. They seem so flimsy, and fluffy.

Olympus = What? Cheap is the thought that comes to my mind, and I am not willing to spend even $150 on a camera that I think may not last, or that I’ll have to upgrade again in the future.

And if you have an older camera that needs replacing because it just isn’t meeting your needs any longer (let’s face it, 5MP with no zoom is really crappy), this is the best camera out there for the price.

An older camera may not handle any higher than 2GB SD cards either, so it could be a good cause to upgrade as newer cameras can handle up to 16GB SD I think, or more.

You can always go for the cheaper cameras with 10MP, and 3X zoom, but I didn’t base my entire purchase on the MP and Optical Zoom capabilities.

I also looked at the ease of use in the menu, the features it came with, how intuitive the camera was (very logical, and I like that in any gadget I buy instead of having to figure out WTF they’re asking me to do or set up).

I also loved, loved, LOVED the click wheel feature for the menus and the zoom. Using buttons on a smaller camera when you are trying to hold it and not drop it is a feat in itself.

With smaller fingers, I could manage it, but with a click wheel I don’t have to keep pressing the button repeatedly to get what I want or to navigate the menus.

I just twirl my finger and thumb around the click wheel and select what I need.

The weight and styling of it is very good. It’s not so small that I can barely hold it and my fingers cramp up, or it’s so heavy I feel like it’s a monster in my purse or it can’t fit into my clutches at night.

Lastly, the cons are.. not really cons. I mean, the strap sucks? There aren’t enough colours? C’mon. Let’s be practical.

More Professional Resources who do a full (better) workup with fancy ISO shots and all that bla bla bla stuff I don’t understand

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.