With the summer holiday season fast approaching, Richard Sibley tests Canon’s latest travel compact camera that features a 20x optical zoom, full HD movies and GPS. Read our Canon PowerShot SX260 HS review...
Unlike the Canon PowerShot G12 and S100, which both use a large 1/1.7in (7.6×5.7mm) sensor, the SX260 HS uses a standard 1/2.3in (6.16×4.62mm) CMOS compact camera sensor. Sensibly, Canon has kept the resolution of the SX260 HS to 12.1 million pixels rather than opting to match the 14- and 16-million-pixel resolutions of some of its competitors.
The relatively small increase in resolution from 12 to 14 or 16 million pixels is one that shouldn’t be a deciding factor when making a purchase. In fact, the lower resolution may help to improve other factors, such as dynamic range.
The HS suffix stands for High Sensitivity, which means that the 12.1-million-pixel sensor is ‘backlit’, with the wiring of its circuit behind the light-receiving surface rather than in front of it. This allows more light to reach the photodiodes, which should in turn increase the dynamic range and sensitivity, thus improving the sensor’s performance in low light and reducing image noise.
The other part of the HS system involves the Digic 5 processor. This is Canon’s newest processing system, and it allows the very latest noise-reduction and image-processing techniques.
Small compact camera sensors allow extremely long equivalent focal lengths to be achieved in small lenses. The PowerShot SX260 HS is no exception, with the 4.5-90mm lens acting as a 25-500mm (35mm equivalent) optic. Including a 20x optical zoom in such a compact camera is extremely impressive, and it should cover almost any situation in which a photographer might use a compact camera.
Image: With an impressive 20x optical zoom range, the SX260 HS is ideal for both wideangle and extreme telephoto images
The maximum aperture size of the lens is f/3.5 when the 25mm end is used, and f/6.8 at the 500mm telephoto focal length. This makes achieving a shallow depth of field with the SX260 HS difficult when shooting anything but macro images, and it may take a steady hand to take shots at 500mm in anything but bright sunlight. Thankfully, the lens is optically stabilised to help reduce camera shake and the camera has a tripod-mount socket.
Enthusiast photographers will be pleased to hear that there is a full complement of manual exposure modes available on the SX260 HS, although unlike the top-of-the-range PowerShot G-series models, this camera cannot save images as raw files.
Those photographers who prefer point-and-shoot photography will be impressed with the smart auto mode that can detect 58 different scenes. Plus, as would be expected from a compact camera, there is a variety of image styles and effects, including colour swap, miniature effect and soft focus.
The most useful extra feature has to be the built-in GPS tagging, which allows location data to be saved with images to help when cataloguing and organising them.