Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Compact with Mass Appeal: New Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Review, Sample Images, Videos in NYC

The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS holds its own among the vast amount of point-and-shoots released the past few months. It captures stunning and vivid  photos and  it features an impressive 20x optical zoom which is combined with its 25mm wide-angle lens and optical image stabilization allowing you room for both flexibility and versatility.

The SX260 comes equipped with a 12.1 megapixel, high-sensitivity, CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 Image Processor. Together, they comprise Canon's HS SYSTEM which help create vibrant and brilliant looking images, even while shooting in low light situations. Not only can you take great quality stills, but the SX260 also features a one-touch dedicated movie button allowing you to record full HD 1080p video with stereo sound quickly and easily.

As far as looks go, the Powershot SX260 is sleek and ultra-slim making it highly portable and easy to shoot with. Plus, it comes in your choice of 3 vibrant colors - red, black or green. The large 3.0 inch LCD display screen is bright and clear - perfect for taking and viewing your images and videos. 

Another desirable feature the SX260 comes with is a built-in GPS tracker which helps you to recall images by location for geo-tagging or simply for storage.  This is an excellent feature to have if you like to travel or plan on taking a trip this summer. The camera automatically records the locations and local times of your stills and videos. The camera can also use the GPS unit to automatically set the exact time. You can increase the usefulness of the GPS feature by using the special bundled Map Utility software which makes it fun to share your adventures. In addition to displaying all your photos locations on a world map, the camera's GPS system can also track your route from photo to photo - a great way to visualize each trip. You can also create and share custom maps and personal mini-travel guides with your friends and your family members. 

Earlier I mentioned the remarkable quality of images taken with the SX260. Even at full 20x zoom, this camera delivers clear and crisp images. Below are photos I've taken on Smart AUTO mode, standing from the same position, one photo with no zoom, and the other photo at 20x zoom.

The excellent quality of images is partially due to the UA Lens technology applied to the SX260 lens. This technology allows compact lenses to sustain optimal performance by using molded glass with an ultra-high refractive index in aspherical lens elements. Additionally, Canon has succeeded in reducing lens size while significantly reducing image aberrations.  If you have no need to zoom into your subject because it happens to be close to you in distance but you'd like to get even closer, you can shoot in macro mode as well.

Program Mode + No Zoom

Program Mode + Macro

Program Mode + Super Macro
Another reason for reduced blur and enhanced image quality is due to the latest advance in Canon Optical Image Stabilization technology. The Intelligent IS analyzes camera movement and applies the best shake correction method for the shooting situation. For stills, the system automatically selects among Normal, Panning, Macro (Hybrid) and Tripod IS modes. When shooting video, the system automatically selects among Dynamic, Powered, Macro and Tripod IS modes. With Intelligent IS, you can concentrate on image capture, letting the camera make the most effective IS settings to assure the steadiest possible image.

Intelligent IS - Macro

The Canon Powershot SX260 HS also comes with a variety of shooting modes and special scene modes for you to choose from. Some of these settings include: Manual - You have complete control of exposure, you can manually select both aperture and shutter speed, Aperture-priority - You set the aperture to control depth-of-field. The camera automatically selects the shutter speed, Shutter-priority - You select the shutter speed, and the camera automatically selects the appropriate aperture. I've always appreciated the point-and-shoots that include manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority controls - all of which are reminiscent of a DSLR, it's great practice if you ever plan to upgrade to a more expensive and advanced camera.

Manual Mode

If you're not interested in manually setting features, the SX260 also comes with a nice selection of standard point-and-shoot controls. These include:

Live View Control - This enables brightness, color, and tone adjustments to your images using easy-to-understand controls 

Live View Control

Program - The camera automatically selects the aperture/shutter speed combination based on the shooting conditions, Smart AUTO - The camera automatically and intelligently selects the best shooting settings for optimal quality based on subjects and environmental factors, Easy Mode - Shooting great images is simple and relaxed. The camera handles all the settings automatically, Smart Shutter -The camera automatically takes the photo when people smile, wink, or get into frame, High-Speed Burst HQ - Captures fast-action shots at full resolution, providing continuous shooting when the shutter button is held down. Movie Digest in 720p HD - Records a video clip in 720p HD before capturing a still image and then combines one day's worth of clips into a video, Stitch Assist - Easy-to-use guidelines simplify the shooting of aligned multiple frames that can later be combined (using bundled software) to create panoramic photos.

I didn't really see a huge difference between the Program, Easy and Smart Auto Modes. If you look at the comparison photo below, I shot an uninspiring photo of a newspaper stand in Times Square. Perhaps the color is slightly more vivid in the image on the right using Smart AUTO mode than in the other two images. However, aside from that minor difference, I am a little puzzled as to why Canon would choose to create 3 separate modes that seem to offer the same image result. I guess it's better to have options though,  if you simply want nice looking images with little set up and are unsure of which of the auto modes to chose, I would recommend setting the camera to Smart Auto mode.

There are also scene select modes that automatically change the cameras settings based on specific subjects and shooting conditions. These include: Portrait - Brings the subject into focus while beautifully blurring the background, Smooth Skin - Removes dullness, wrinkles, and harsh shadows for beautiful faces, Smart Shutter - The camera automatically takes the photo when people smile, wink, or get into frame, Handheld Night Scene - Take clear and steady pictures at night without the use of a tripod, Underwater - Capture underwater images with reduced backscatter effect. (Optional underwater case required) Snow - Shoot clear snow scenes without darkened subjects or an unnatural bluish tint, Fireworks - Create brilliant images of skyrocketing fireworks

Low Light - For high quality image capture in an amazing range of dimly lit situations.

Low Light Image 01

Low Light Image 02

Other fun features that will enhance your images are the several in-camera creative filters and effects. I enjoy point-and-shoots that have these built-in features because not everyone has a program like Adobe Photoshop to enhance and manipulate their photos in, this gives those people a chance to add some flair to their photos as well. These filters/effects include:

Fisheye Effect - Now you can get the fisheye effect - a classic photographic distortion - without a fisheye lens.

Fisheye Effect Image 01

Fisheye Effect Image 02

Poster Effect - Poster Effect combines several similar shades into one color, turning subtle gradations into eye-catching, scene-popping contrasts.

Poster Effect Image 01
Poster Effect Image 02

Poster Effect Image + Full Zoom Image 03
Color Accent - Choose to retain a single color in your image while other colors turn monochrome. I chose the color yellow for my color accent images.

Color Accent: Yellow Image 01

Color Accent: Yellow Image 02

Color Accent: Yellow Image 03

Color Swap - Select a color and replace it with a color you specify for special effects. I chose to swap the color yellow with the color green -  Have you ever seen a green cab in NYC?

Color Swap: Yellow to Green

Super Vivid - Super Vivid intensifies existing hues, saturating the scene with bright colors. Times Square is probably one of the best places to use this filter. There are already so many bright colors and characters, the extra saturation really makes your subjects POP OUT.

Super Vivid Image 01

Super Vivid Image 02

Toy Camera Effect - Simulates photos taken with "toy" or pinhole cameras by darkening the image at the edges to create a vignette effect.

Toy Camera Effect Image 01

Toy Camera Effect Image 02

Miniature Effect - Give images and video a miniature look with an effect that emphasizes perspective by blurring the top and bottom of the image - would Times Square even exist without all the people who come to visit her?

Miniature Effect Image 01

Miniature Effect Image 02

Soft Focus - Creates a hazy ambiance that's perfect for portraits and wedding photos. I didn't get capture any portraits or wedding photos, but I did snap a shot of some flowers giving them a dreamy almost whimsical appearance.

Soft Focus

Monochrome - Chooses from three single-tone effects, such as Sepia, Blue or Black-and-White.

Monochrome - Sepia Image 01

Monochrome - Sepia Image 02

Monochrome - Blue

Monochrome - Black and White Image 01
Monochrome - Black and White Image 02

Monochrome - Black and White Image 03

Discreet Mode - Disables flash, AF assist beam, and all camera sounds with one mode dial setting - so you can capture images in quiet areas. These are a few photos taken inside of a church -  sssh! 

Discreet Mode Image 01

Discreet Mode Image 02

Discreet Mode Image 03

Face ID -
Face ID is one of the most advanced and exciting new features of the PowerShot SX260 HS, giving you an easy way to improve every shot of the people you love. Simply take a picture of up to 12 faces you would like the camera to register, then enter names and ages. Once a person is registered, the camera will pick him or her out of a group (even against a busy background) and adjust focus and exposure to his or her face, even recognizing faces in profile. Face ID is particularly great for shots of babies and children. The system can pick your baby out of a group of children, focus on your baby when pictured with an adult, and capture her best smile by taking three successive images when the smile is detected. The flash is even disabled so as not to startle the baby and interrupt the moment. Older children in motion are tracked, with focus and exposure continually adjusted with Servo AF; with one shutter press three successive images are captured so the best shot is never missed. And because you'll identify each face you register, Face ID makes it easy to search images by name

Videos are also fun to record with the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. The camera has a dedicated movie button that lets you start and stop recording instantly. There is no need to go through layers of menus or operate switches or dials to switch to and from video recording mode. The camera is always ready to shoot stills or video whenever you want. The PowerShot SX260 HS also incorporates an electronic wind filter, which suppresses wind noise that can muffle or distort the sound. And unlike less sophisticated point-and-shoot cameras, the PowerShot SX260 HS lets you use the full range of optical zoom when you're shooting a video. 

Additionally, it's easy to enjoy and share the videos you shoot with the PowerShot SX260 HS. Simply connect its HDMI terminal to your HDTV using an HDMI cable. And because the PowerShot SX260 HS supports HDMI-CEC technology, you'll be able to control the playback of your images and videos on any CEC-enabled HDTV using the TV's remote control. (CEC - Consumer Electronic Control - is part of the HDMI specification, enabling components in a system to communicate with one another.)

There are also other exciting features for recording videos, such as:  iFrame Movie - The Apple movie format, iFrame, makes it easier and quicker to import and upload videos while retaining high image quality,
Super Slow Motion Movie - Record your clips in high speed (240 fps), and then watch your videos in slow motion.

Gorgeous stills, beautiful videos, easy to operate AND offering 30 display languages - The new Canon PowerShot SX260 HS is a great point-and-shoot that can appeal to a broad and diverse crowd of people.

For prices and availability, view our Canon PowerShot SX260 HS product page, or visit our H and B Digital camera store in NYC.

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