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Conclusion - Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Very good photo quality for the compact ultra zoom category
  • Packs a 20X, 25 - 500 mm lens into a compact and stylish body
  • Optical image stabilization; camera will select the appropriate IS mode for the situation
  • High resolution 3-inch LCD with very good outdoor and low light visibility
  • Built-in GPS doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but gets the job done
  • Good set of manual controls
  • Smart Auto mode picks one of 58 scene modes for you; plenty of other point-and-shoot modes to choose from
  • Tons of scene modes and Creative Filters
  • Decent burst mode for this category
  • Cool face, smile, and wink self-timers
  • Records Full HD (1080/24p) video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom and image stabilizer
  • Optional underwater case

Cons:

  • Critical image quality somewhat lacking at 100%
  • Some highlight clipping and purple fringing (try using i-Contrast to reduce the former)
  • Redeye a problem (though it can be removed in playback mode)
  • Autofocus performance lags behind the competition; camera struggled to focus in low light at times
  • ISO locked at 100 at shutter speeds below 1 second
  • Enthusiasts will bemoan lack of RAW support, bracketing, white balance fine-tuning, and a live histogram
  • Video quality is a little choppy; no manual controls available
  • Below average battery life
  • Can't access memory card slot while using a tripod
  • Full manual on CD-ROM

Overall Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot SX260 is a travel zoom camera that packs a 20X zoom lens into a compact and stylish package. The lens is probably the highlight of the camera, with an impressive range of 25 - 500 mm. As with other cameras in this class, the lens is on the slow side, especially at full telephoto. Naturally, the SX260 has an optical image stabilization system, complete with a dynamic mode for movies and powered mode for telephoto shots. The camera will pick the right IS mode for the situation, so you can focus on your subject instead of adjusting camera settings. On the back of the camera you'll find a standard-issue 3-inch LCD. The screen is plenty sharp, with 461,000 pixels, and it offers good outdoor and low light visibility. The SX260's built-in flash isn't terribly powerful, though Canon does offer an external slave flash if you don't mind carrying that around too. The only other accessory of note is an underwater housing.

The PowerShot SX260 has both automatic and manual controls, though enthusiasts may be a bit frustrated with a few things. The SX260 has more point-and-shoot modes than any camera I can remember. Want a locked down, foolproof shooting experience? Then use Easy mode. If you want the camera to pick one of 58 scene modes for you, then use Smart Auto mode. Those who want a short video clip recorded before each still can opt for Movie Digest mode, while special effects lovers can set the mode dial to Creative Filters. And that's not even counting all of the camera's scene modes! If you want manual controls, the SX260 has a decent set of them, including those for exposure, white balance, and focus. Unfortunately, the SX260 lacks doesn't support the RAW format, any kind of bracketing, or white balance fine-tuning. It also (annoyingly) locks the ISO at 100 when you drop the shutter speed below one second. The SX260 can shoot Full HD video with stereo sound and use of the optical zoom and image stabilizer. The frame rate is 24 fps, which some (myself included) may find to be a bit choppy. Video recording is a totally point-and-shoot experience on the SX260, with no manual controls to be found. And let's not forget the SX260's built-in GPS. It doesn't do anything fancy (like know what landmark you're standing in front of), but it gets the job done, at least outside of big cities.

Camera performance is average is most respects. The SX260 powers up and is ready to take pictures in 1.2 seconds (with its start screen turned off), which is pretty good. Autofocus performance is really where the SX260 (and most Canon cameras these days) lag behind the competition. While it's not horrible by any means, if you've used any recent Nikon, Panasonic, or Sony camera, the SX260 just feels sluggish. I also had more "can't focus" errors than I would've expected while shooting in low light. Shutter lag and shot-to-shot times were both average. The PowerShot SX260 has two burst modes, both of which are at full resolution. The standard one will keep firing away at 2.2 frames/sec until your memory card fills up, while the high speed one takes a quick burst of ten shots at over 10 frames/second. The problem with the high speed burst mode is that the LCD is blacked out during shooting. While the SX260's battery life is better than that of its predecessor, it's still below average for the compact ultra zoom category.

While not perfect by any means, the PowerShot SX260's photo quality is better than average in its class, and should serve its target audience well. Exposures were accurate in most situation, though like most compact cameras, the SX260 will clip highlights. Turning on the i-Contrast feature should help reduce that a bit. Colors were nice and vibrant, with no funny color casts. Images are a bit soft at very close inspection, with a sort-of fuzzy look to them. That said, the SX260 HS stands up well to its competition and details remain relatively intact until you get to around ISO 800, where the SX260 performs better than similar cameras from Nikon and Panasonic. You will almost certainly encounter redeye on the SX260, and you can correct it by using the removal tool in playback mode (if the two preventative measures failed). Something you won't be able to fix (at least on the camera) is purple fringing, though it's fairy mild.

All things considered, the PowerShot SX260 HS is a solid choice for those looking for a travel zoom camera. It's not particularly fast (especially in the AF department), nor is it loaded with bells and whistles like landmark databases. The bottom line is that the SX260 gets the job done in nearly all situations, and produces photos of higher quality than competitive models. The only people whom I'd hesitate to recommend the camera to are those who do a lot of low light shooting, as the autofocus system seemed to struggle in those situations. If you do most of your picture taking in daylight, then I think you'll be pleased with what the PowerShot SX260 HS can offer.

Some other travel zoom cameras worth considering include the Fuji FinePix F770EXR, Nikon Coolpix S9300, Olympus SZ-31MR iHS (which lacks GPS), Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V.

As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the PowerShot SX260 HS and its competitors before you buy!

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
Category: Travel Zoom Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Photographers looking for a GPS-equipped compact travel zoom that produces good quality photos (even in low light), and offers a nice set of both point-and-shoot features and manual controls.
Not so good for
Photographers who take a lot of flash people pictures or want to capture fast action. Enthusiasts will be disappointed by the lack of RAW support, manual controls in movie mode, and a fixed ISO when shutter speeds are slow.
Overall score
76%
Canon's PowerShot SX260 HS is a well-designed compact travel zoom that produces photos that hold up well against the competition. It has a solid set of features for the point-and-shoot crowd, though serious photographers may find some annoyances. The SX260 isn't the most responsive camera out there, but as long as you avoid fast-moving subjects, it'll serve you well.

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About Jeff Keller

Jeff Keller is the Founder and Publisher of theĀ Digital Camera Resource Page. When it was created in 1997, DCResource was the first digital camera news and review site on the Internet. Jeff's love of gadgetry introduced him to digital cameras in the mid-90's, from which his passion for photography developed. Jeff runs DCResource from his home in Oakland, CA, and is often found wandering the streets of San Francisco with a bag full of cameras.

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Comments

Total comments: 3
GHouse
By GHouse (5 months ago)

Bought this camera having previously owned a Canon A720 IS that I was very happy with. This one not so much. In my experience, there's way too much blur in even not-so-low light. Doesn't matter if I pick the settings myself or let the camera do it.
There also seems to be a problem with the color cast that's especially noticeable with shots taken outdoors in the daytime. Between the 2 problems there doesn't seem to be much this camera does right.
Now I don't claim to know everything about photography but I can take fairly good photos with my T3i and understand how to use manual mode and have a special interest in taking photos of night scenes with available lighting.
I bought this camera mostly to have something small to take hiking. As it is, I'm still toting the dslr around the trails.

I intend to try chdk to see if the added features such as bracketing and RAW support make this camera usable.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
donnagwiz
By donnagwiz (9 months ago)

Does anyone know how to take b/w pics?

0 upvotes
Leonarbe
By Leonarbe (10 months ago)

I was very impressed with this camera especially with the 20x zoom.
However after just 18 months the shutter has become loose... First time ever I have had a problem like this with a digital camera.
I treat the camera reasonable well. Now I have to take it to the camera repair shop to see if they can help me with it.
I'm waiting for Nikion to match this camera.

1 upvote
Total comments: 3