Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Review
The first thing I want to talk about are the items on the SX260's fully loaded mode dial. They include:
|Discreet mode||Turns off the flash and all camera lights and sounds.|
|Creative Filters mode||Take photos with special effects, which include fisheye, miniature effect, toy camera, soft focus, monochrome, super vivid, poster effect, Color Accent (selective color), and Color Swap.|
|Special Scene mode||Pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from portrait, smooth skin, Smart Shutter, High-speed Burst HQ, Handheld Night Scene, low light, beach, underwater, snow, fireworks, and Stitch Assist.|
|Movie Digest mode||The camera records a 2-4 second video clip before each still photo is taken. At the end of the day, these clips are combined into a single, 720p movie showing the days events. Operation is strictly point-and-shoot.|
|Easy mode||Completely automatic, with no menus at all.|
|Smart Auto mode||Point-and-shoot, with automatic scene selection. Some menu items are locked up.|
|Live View Control mode||Another point-and-shoot mode, with sliders to adjust the brightness, color saturation, and white balance.|
|Program mode||Automatic shooting, but with full access to menu options. A Program Shift feature can be activated by halfway-pressing the shutter release button and then pressing "up" on the four-way controller (AE lock). After that you can use the scroll wheel to move through various shutter speed/aperture combinations.|
|Shutter priority (Tv) mode||You choose shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture. Shutter speed range is 15 - 1/3200 sec. Note that the ISO sensitivity is locked at 100 when the shutter speed goes below 1 second.|
|Aperture priority (Av) mode||You choose the aperture and the camera picks an appropriate shutter speed. Range is F3.5 - F8.0.|
|Full manual (M) mode||Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself, with the same ranges and restrictions as above.|
There at least four point-and-shoot modes on the SX260, and that doesn't include the Scene or Creative Filter modes. For general use, there's Smart Auto mode, which selects one of 58 scene modes for you (plus the proper image stabilization mode). The SX260 even knows if you're using a tripod, and reacts accordingly. If you want a way to adjust exposure compensation, color saturation, and white balance without having to know any of those technical terms, then try the new Live View Control mode. If you want to capture a short video before each still photo, then try the Movie Digest mode. Finally, there's an Easy mode which lets you turn the flash on and off -- and that's it.
|There's no live histogram on the SX260, so to make absolutely sure of your exposures I recommend getting used to bracketing shots and checking the histogram in review mode.||Live View Control mode is essentially a fully-automatic mode but does allow you some control over the camera's output using these three basic sliders.|
As you've seen, the SX260 is loaded with both scene modes and special effects. I want to mention a couple of the scene modes that need further explanation:
- Smart Shutter: choose from smile detection, or cool wink and face self-timers; smile detection waits until someone in your photo smiles, and then it'll start taking photos; the wink self-timer takes a photo two seconds after someone in the frame winks at the camera; face self-timer takes a photo 2 seconds after a new person (presumably the photographer) enters the frame
- High-speed Burst HQ: the camera takes eight photos in a row at 10.3 frames/second (Canon's numbers -- see mine later); do note that the LCD goes black while shooting is in-progress
- Handheld Night Scene: the camera takes several exposures and combines them into a single photo, which is hopefully sharp
- Stitch Assist: helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching into a single panorama (using the bundled software)
The SX260 has a limited set of manual controls. You can adjust the shutter speed and/or aperture to your liking, and manually adjust the focus or white balance. Unfortunately, there's no bracketing feature, white balance fine-tuning (except for underwater), or RAW format support available. Something else that bothered me is that the ISO is locked at 100 when the shutter speed drops below 1 second. While this reduces noise, it's also an unneeded restriction. You'll see how this affected my night test scenes on the next page of this review.
While the SX260 lacks the more robust HDR and DR Correction tools of its more expensive siblings, its i-Contrast feature still reduces highlights and brightens shadows. The only real catch is that the camera may need to boost the ISO to 200 in order to make the magic happen. Here's an example of i-Contrast in action:
|i-Contrast off (default)||i-Contrast on|
While i-Contrast doesn't cure highlight clipping by any means, it definitely reduces it, which you can see on the left side of the tile floor. Shadows are also brightened slightly. As I mentioned, the ISO sensitivity went up to 200 with this feature on, which increases noise slightly.
There's not a whole lot to tell you about the SX260's GPS feature. It's a bare bones system that logs your location and nothing more (sorry, landmark database fans). If you want to track your route, just turn on the logging function, though note that it'll put a heavy strain on your battery. Satellite acquisition times aren't wondrous. In a wide open area, it took the camera about a minute to figure out where I was. In the city, things are much more difficult, as is usually the case. Unless you're really lucky, don't expect the camera to find your location beneath the skyscrapers.
You need an image stabilization system with an ultra zoom camera, and the SX260 has one, of the lens-shift variety. This will reduce the risk of blur for still shots, and will smooth out your movies, as well. It has a "dynamic mode" for shooting videos which has extra shake reduction, as well as an Intelligent IS feature, which selects the right IS mode for the situation.
|I want to mention a few interesting options that are controlled by the four-way controller, which includes the Function menu (activated by pressing the Func/Set button).|
|Self-timer||In addition to 2 and 10 second options, a custom mode lets you choose the number of shots and the amount of time before the first shot is taken|
|My Colors||Enhance colors or skin tones, take B&W or sepia photos, or manually adjust contrast/sharpness/saturation|
|Underwater white balance compensation||For fine-tuning white balance when shooting underwater|
|Still image aspect ratio||Choose from 4:3, 16:9, 3:2, or 1:1|
Not a whole lot of interesting options, as you can see. Unfortunately, the SX260 lacks the useful DR Correction and HDR features found on some of Canon's other higher-end cameras. It does have the i-Contrast feature (described below), but it's not as robust as the other two.
|The rest of the shooting-related options that I want to talk about can be found in the PowerShot SX260 HS's main menu. The menus are attractive, easy-to-navigate, and feature "hints & tips" that describe each option.|
|AF frame||Choose from Face Detect, Tracking, and center AF; for center AF you can select from small or normal size focus points|
|Digital zoom||Normally I tell people to turn this off, but if you're willing to lower the resolution, you can use it without a reduction in image quality; for example, dropping down to 6 Megapixel gives you a whopping 50X of total zoom power|
|Servo AF||The camera keeps focusing with the shutter release halfway-pressed, which is helpful for moving subjects|
|Continuous AF||The camera is always focusing, even before you press the shutter release button; reduces focus times at the expense of battery life|
|Flash exposure compensation/output||If you set the flash to manual control, you can adjust it in the same way that you do exposure; when the camera is in "M" mode, you can choose from 1/3, 2/3, or Full flash output|
|Redeye correction||Buried in the flash settings submenu, this option will digitally remove redeye from photos, as they are taken; look for the redeye test later in the review|
|i-Contrast||Improves overall image contrast; see below for example|
|Blink detection||The camera will warn you if someone in the frame had their eyes closed|
|IS settings||Choose from continuous or "shoot only" stabilization, or turn it off entirely; a Powered IS mode is for shooting at full telephoto, and should be turned off when panning or walking|
|Face ID settings||New to the SX260 is a face recognition feature; you can add a face along with a name and birthday; registered faces will get focus priority when they appear in the frame; you can add multiple angles to improve accuracy|
|GPS Auto Time||Sets the clock using the GPS system|
|GPS settings||Turn the GPS on and off, and activate a logging function which tracks your movements (at the expense of battery life)|
|The PowerShot SX260 HS has a pretty nice playback mode, with a lot of functionality on offer.|
- Movie Digest playback: I told you about this feature earlier; here's how you view the day's events
- Smart Shuffle: a bizarre feature which shows four photos similar to the one you're viewing
- Image Search: move through photos by date, category, file type, recognized face, or whether it's tagged as a favorite
- My Category: assign a category to a photo, which is then transferred over to the "Browser" software; in some cases, the camera has done this automatically
- Photobook: you can select photos to put into a photobook, which essentially just puts images into a separate folder, for easy uploading to photo printing sites
- i-Contrast: brightens dark areas of your photo
- Redeye correction: digitally remove this annoyance from a photo
- Erase range of photos: I normally don't mention image deletion features, but the ability to select a range of photos without having to click your way through thumbnails is very handy
Photo editing functions include the ability to rotate, resize, and crop. Movies can have unwanted footage trimmed off of the beginning or end of a clip.
|The PowerShot SX260 HS shows just basic information about your photo by default. Pressing the Display button reveals more, and if you press "up" on the four-way controller, you'll see where the photo was taken.|
The SX260 moves through photos without delay, even with the fancy transitions between each image. If you want to really go fast, just spin the dial on the back of the camera. Using the dial is another way to jump to photos taken on a certain date.