People have complained in some forums about the images from the Powershot SX20 IS often having a somewhat dull, washed out quality. I find this to be true especially when taking zoomed in images of birds and other wildlife. Admittedly, the photos from this camera will not quite rival those from a SLR, but I've been advised to try two things to improve image quality, at least in the sense of sharp, vibrant images. One I have tried, the other not:
1. Use a tripod to get a more steady shot (I haven't tried doing this yet, even though I bought a Gorillapod for this purpose). Even though the Powershot SX20 has built-in image stabilization, this can only go so far in reducing the impacts of vibration. Indeed, the shots at 20x zoom or close to it tend to be the least sharp when the camera is held in the hand, which makes sense as the slightest shake will get amplified at such a high zoom. I tend to get far crisper images when at low zooms, as in the night bird shot below (the bird is called a common potoo). It was shot from only a few feet away, so I didn't have to zoom in too much.
2. Increase sharpness and saturation on the camera settings, which I did. You can accomplish this by setting the mode dial to M or P mode, then pressing the "Func Set" button, scrolling down to the "My colors" item on the menu, and then scrolling sideways to the "custom colors" option, and then setting the contrast, sharpness and saturation settings to maximum. Both the above and below pictures were taken under these settings. The photo below is not as sharp as the one above, but it was taken at 20X zoom with a hand held camera, so the results are not bad, all things considered. For both pictures, I used the Av mode (aperture priority) and set a as low an aperture as I could to make the background blurry, and it seems to have worked, at least in the photo below:
If you're looking for other tips on using the Canon Powershot SX20, you might want to try the following book:
A Short Course in Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Photography book/ebook
And for some other hints from my blog, check this link.