No, no. I don't mean I will no longer talk to Canon. Actually, a lot of nice people work there. But unfortunately, many of the photos taken with their PowerShot cameras break up into a mess of grainy pixel noise.
This is not a new problem. In fact, noise is the biggest cause for buyer's remorse that I have had with the PowerShot sd450 Digital Elph I bought last year. The news, however, is that Canon doesn't appear to have done anything to solve the problem with the new PowerShot cameras it just introduced.
I recently tested the new 6-megapixel sd600 for what would have been a big photography article in the now-defunct Cargo magazine (R.I.P.). This is one of Canon's first pocket cams to boast ISO 800 light sensitivity. (They previously topped out at a very grainy ISO 400.) So I was hoping to see some improvement in the low-light performance, but I saw none.
Look, for example, at these ISO 400 photos shot with the old sd450 (top) and the new sd600.
I stared at them for a while in Photoshop (viewing them in "actual pixels" mode -- which would be way too big to reproduce online), and I found no difference. ISO 800 didn't look much worse, but since ISO 400 is already intolerable, ISO 800 is of no real benefit.
Am I being unfair to Canon, expecting their cameras to do more than is possible? No. Many other camera companies are doing a far better job with low-light/high ISO performance. The new Casio Exilim EX-Z600 and Nikon CoolPix S6, for example, had less noise. See these samples from the Casio (top) and Nikon.
Canon cameras do a lot of things right. They have snappy, slim designs and great, dead-simple interfaces. Canon also does a wonderful job with color -- legitimately earning it the huge popularity it enjoys with buyers.
But every day can't be a sunny day, and camera flash has its own problems. To keep up with our lifestyles (which include cloudy days and dark bars) Canon has to better embrace the darkness.