Canon Powershot Sx260 HS Review

With so many compact digital cameras on the market boasting similar specs, it’s really hard to find the right one, but I can tell you that you can’t go wrong with the Canon Powershot SX260 HS. For $300 you get a great camera. It has its’ weaknesses, but none overshadow the strengths such as various cool modes and excellent image and video quality.

Image Quality

I was quite pleased with the image quality on the Sx260 HS. It’s no DSLR, but it’s also $500 cheaper than the cheapest of good DSLRs. The shots in auto were rich in color (although slightly overexposed) and detailed. Areas for improvement include the auto white balance. The camera allows you to take shots at a variety of resolutions (in millions, 12,11,9, 6,5,4,2,1,.3,.2) and aspect ratios (16:9, 3:2, 4:3, 1:1) which means there is plenty of flexibility with shot size for various uses. At 12.1 MP it offers decent resolution although the industry is moving towards 16 MP and above. Honestly though, for consumers 12 inches should be enough most of the time.
A mountain shot I took

Features of the Camera

The great thing about the Powershot Sx260 is that it offers a lot of flexibility through different modes. Major Modes are controlled through a modes wheel as with most canon cameras which includes 12 modes. There is manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, program, live view, auto, easy, movie digest, scene, a filter mode, ¬†discreet, and video. There really are a lot of fricken features, but for you I’ll cover them all. If you DON’T want to read about a long load of features, just trust me that there’s a variety and skim or skip the section.

Manual mode

Manual is nice for thoughtful shots and offers a variety of different options for customizing and perfecting your shot, but since all of this is navigated by menu unlike say an SLR it takes a while and may leave you without a picture at all. You can set the ISO (100-3200), shutter speed, focus, focal ratio, flash output, aspect ratio, resolution, compression, white balance, and how it measures light. Basically anything is controllable if you know what you need to do to improve your photo. Novices may have trouble… will definitely have trouble, but never fear because there is a better way in the next section.
Photo Taken in manual with adjusted ISO and Shutter speed

Live View

For those of you who want to customize the look and feel of your photo but aren’t photo experts Canon has built in a mode for you, and it’s called live view. Using words like dark, light, neutral, vivid, and cool and warm along with intuitive scroll bars, Canon has built a mode where any beginner could easily control the look of their photo. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of manual mode, but who really needs them all?

Program mode

A toned down version of manual mode that is for more advanced beginners.

Discreet Mode

Creepy! I’m not sure really what this mode is meant for, but what it does is shut off all camera sounds and lights other than the screen so that nobody sees or hears you taking a picture. It worked decently well.

Scene Mode

Also a handy dandy little area. Scene mode offers several sub-modes for different situations. It has stitch-assist for panoramas (I would liked to have seen auto-panoramas though), HQ burst mode which I can attest works well for when you want to get the perfect action shot, skin smoother (made me look better), night, low light, underwater (I never get this since these cameras aren’t waterproof), and a few more. Overall a good consumer selection.

Filter mode

Another area I enjoy. It has around 10 fun effects like mini mode and fisheye. These fun filters are probably meant to help compete with the plethora of fun smartphone photo options. This is an area where a 10 year old would have a lot of fun.

Easy Mode

Exactly as advertised. Literally no work required or allowed. Simply press the button and you get a pretty picture. The simplest photography comes.

Auto Mode

Very Few options beyond image size, but the photos it takes tend to look good and require very little effort. Works for me.

Video on the Sx260 HS

Video is another standout for the Sx260 HS. The camera offers full 1080P HD along with 720P HD and standard definition at 30 FPS. The quality is above average for point and shoots and the zoom works better in video than many. The audio is decently crisp and I would put the quality of the camera above dedicated consumer camcorders such as the flip. Beyond that, the camera offers a very unique slow motion setting which I have used quite a few times. This allows you to shoot 120 FPS video (4 times slower than regular video) at 640×480 and 240 P at half of that. Because of the low quality these settings are practically unusable in low light, but when there is proper lighting it looks awesome. I used it for things like pie-in-the-face and one of a kind moments that look cooler slower. It’s definitely a feature that is handy and fun to use. The camera also offers a nice dedicated record button so that you can shoot video from any mode and there is no extra converting or software necessary because it is recorded straight to .mov.

Zooming

The range of this camera is so great that my friends and I began jokingly referring to it as an excellent stalker camera (the “discreet mode” is not helping to remove this title) while testing it. The 20x optical zoom allows for great shots of even subjects far away. To demonstrate I took two shots from entirely across a minor league baseball stadium. The first was zoomed fully out and the second fully in. For the size and price range, the details on the section are remarkably clear and nice at that distance. That area in the second photo is of the red tent in the bottom right of the first photo.

The wide shot of the stadium
canon powershot sx260 hs utilizing the full 20x optical zoom
utilizing the full 20x optical zoom

Build Quality and Hardware

The camera is slightly heavier than others but the screen is crisp and the body is sturdy. The lens can be long at times in crowded areas, but is normally not an issue. It records to SD cards which are popular and readily available for cheap these days, and offers HDMI output. Gripping it feels nice with a well placed rubber grip on the front, although when the rising flash is up it can impede on some grips and took some getting used to. There are plenty of buttons which allow quicker access to popular areas, and they are placed well.

Overall

Overall, the Canon Powershot Sx260 HS is a great camera for a slightly high price. Considering how many cameras are to market, the price is a little bit high at $300 (you can find many for cheaper), but it offers every feature a casual user could need and more. There are several different settings for different skill levels which makes this a great family camera and it produces some very nice photos. I would definitely recommend this as a camera. My only real concern is if this camera will soon be outdated due to its’ lower resolution of 12.1 MP. This is still very high, but the industry is getting higher and higher. This camera is still a great option that you can rely on, but I would be surprised if the price was lowered in coming months with new models coming in meaning you could get this great camera at a better price. If you can it may be worth the wait, but if you need a camera now the Canon Powershot Sx260 HS is an option you can count on. Don’t believe me? Look at some of the images I’ve been able to produce with little to no work besides pressing the shutter release to take the photo. And how about that price?

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Michael Sitver

Michael Sitver is a technology insider who has been blogging about technology since 2011. Along the way, he's interviewed founders of innovative startups, and executives from fortune 500 companies, and he's tried dozens or hundreds of gadgets. Michael has also contributed to works featured in Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the associated press. Michael also occasionally consults, and writes for Seeking Alpha and Yahoo News.

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