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...
In terms of detail and resolution, the PowerShot SX260 HS performs about as well as can be expected for a 12.1-million-pixel camera, reaching about 22 on our test chart. This is in line with other 12-million-pixel sensors we have tested, including those found in DSLRs.
While detail gradually reduces as the sensitivity setting increases, reaching around 16 by ISO 3200, this is still respectable for a compact camera at this sensitivity.
There is a subtle hint of luminance and chroma noise at the lowest sensitivities, although this is only really noticeable in shadow areas and when the images are adjusted post-capture. It is at around ISO 800 where luminance noise becomes more noticeable, and it can be seen in all but the brightest highlights. There is also a hint of some coloured chroma noise, although it is reasonably well controlled.
At the very highest sensitivity settings noise is well controlled, but there are obvious signs of noise reduction as images look smudged in areas of texture. Colour noise is also present, particularly in shadow areas. Generally, I would recommend sticking to the ISO 100-800 range, with the maximum ISO 3200 used only as a last resort.
Image: Colours look great straight from the SX260 HS, with just a slight increase in contrast added to the image
Colour and contrast are very good, with the usual plethora of Canon’s My Colors settings. For the most part, these can be left to the default ‘off’ setting, although for particularly punchy or subtle colours and contrast, the respective vivid and natural settings look particularly pleasing.
Focusing is quick and snappy, with a minimum focus distance of around 2cm from the end of the lens when in macro focus mode. Manual focus is also an option, although it is slow to use and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Having a 25-500mm lens is ideal for a travel compact camera, as this range covers almost everything you could wish to shoot. It takes just under 2secs to zoom through the entire focal range, which is fairly impressive. At the 500mm equivalent setting, the optical lens stabilisation helps to reduce camera shake by turning any twitchy movements into smooth, fluid shifts.
The stabilisation is also great when using the SX260 HS in its full HD (1080p) video-capture mode. Video is recorded using H.264 codec, with stereo sound, and is saved in the widely used .MOV file format, making it easy to find software packages to both edit and view captured video footage.
The GPS facility is useful for arranging images quickly by location. Most image-cataloguing software now has the facility to use this GPS data, but if a particular software program doesn’t, then the supplied Canon program can help. The software can also track the photographer’s route if the GPS logger facility is turned on in-camera. However, I would recommend that GPS is used only when needed, such as when photographing more remote places, because it can drain the battery when left on.