Design and features
The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS replaces last year's, updating its lens from a 14x 28mm wide-angle lens to a 20x 25mm ultra-wide-angle one. It keeps the 12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, but gets the new Digic 5 image processor, which helps it shoot in bursts up to 10 frames per second, among other things. The camera's GPS system is improved, too, with better location information, and Canon's made it easier to turn on and off, saving precious battery life.
There are a lot of shooting options to pick from on the mode dial and even more in the menus.
We honestly had trouble finding bad points of this camera. It doesn't have all the modes that others in its class have and it's a bit (and we mean a bit) slower in some areas of its shooting performance. The lens isn't terribly bright at either end. Photos are noisy and soft even at lower ISOs (though it's only noticeable if you're pixel peeping). As with any product, things can always be better. But against its current competition, the SX260 HS is easy to recommend.
Shooting options on the SX260 HS run the gamut from simple point-and-shoot options to full manual controls. The manual shooting options are better than on most compact megazooms. You get semi-manual and full manual control over shutter speed and apertures as well as manual focus with a safety for fine-tuning. Apertures include f/3.5, f/4, f/4.5, f/5, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/6.8, f/7.1 and f/8. With the lens fully extended, you only get three settings, though, f/6.8, f/7.1 and f/8, so the lens is really slow at the telephoto end.
The SX260 HS controls are well-spaced and easier to press than on the model it replaces, the SX230 HS.
Shutter speeds can be set from 15 seconds to 1/3200 second (1/2000 is the fastest with the lens extended). There are options for setting colour saturation, sharpness and contrast, too, and the flash strength can be easily adjusted. Canon also included its Live View Control mode, which enables you to adjust brightness, colour and tone with on-screen sliders and see what the photo will look like as you make the changes. However, that's all you can adjust; everything else is automatic.
Speaking of Auto, Canon pumped up its Smart Auto, which now recognises 58 predefined shooting situations. This includes Canon's new Face ID feature, which allows you to program the camera to recognise up to 12 faces that it will then prioritise for focus and exposure. In our anecdotal testing it worked OK, but it's one of those features that most people probably won't bother to set up.
And, of course, there's no shortage of scene modes — 10 in all — including an underwater option for use with a waterproof case and a Handheld Night Scene that takes a burst of shots and combines them into one with less blur and noise. Absent, however, are a couple of modes you'll find on just about every other high-end point-and-shoot. There is no high-dynamic-range option or exposure bracketing, for that matter. And the panorama mode is still Canon's Stitch Assist, where you take a photo and then try to line up a ghost image to take the rest of the photos so you can then head back to a computer to stitch them together with software. It's really time Canon caught up to Sony, Nikon, Panasonic and Fujifilm and had a panorama mode that just does it all automatically when you pan the camera.
There are Creative Filters, too. Those include Canon's standard Colour Accent and Colour Swap options as well as a Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Fish-eye Effect and Miniature Effect. All but the Toy Camera and Fish-eye are available for movies. Also available for movies is a high-speed option for capturing 30-second slow-motion clips at 120fps or 240fps at resolutions of 640x480 pixels and 320x240 pixels, respectively.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- 18.104.22.168Nikon Coolpix S9300
- 22.214.171.124Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
- 20.80.3Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
- 126.96.36.199Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)
- 7.9Nikon Coolpix S9300
- 7.6Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
- 4.1Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
- 2.5Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Shooting performance is somewhat mixed, at least as compared with other high-end compact superzooms. It goes from off to first shot in 2.5 seconds and then it's an average of 2.1 seconds from shot to shot after that. With flash, that goes up to 3.6 seconds. In our tests we found shutter lag — the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without pre-focusing — was an excellent 0.3 second in good lighting and 0.6 in dimmer conditions. Unfortunately, with the lens extended it can take longer for it to focus and occasionally it will shoot first before it focuses, though these are common imperfections for compact superzooms.