ISO comparison

The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS produces some excellent photos for a compact megazoom, particularly at higher ISOs.

While photos do get softer and noisier above ISO 200 (typical for point-and-shoots), ISO 400 and 800 are still very usable. The noise and noise reduction are well balanced so you still get very good color and detail at these higher sensitivities. Colors desaturate some at ISO 1600 and 3200, subjects look very soft, and detail is greatly diminished, but photos are still usable at small sizes for prints or on a computer screen. Basically, if you need to shoot in low light or want to freeze action, this camera is one of the best options in its class.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 100

If you're pixel peeping at 100 percent, fine details like hair will look soft and you will see some image noise, but at reduced sizes they look excellent.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, subjects definitely look softer at smaller sizes, but color is still very good and there is some fine detail left (not a lot, but some).
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Macro

If you like to shoot close-ups, the SX260 HS performs very well. It can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject. This is a 100 percent crop of the inset image.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Zoom range

The camera's 20x zoom goes from an ultrawide-angle 25mm (top) to 500mm (bottom).
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

500mm at 100 percent

This is a 100 percent crop from the 500mm photo on the previous slide. Even though it was taken on a tripod at ISO 100, there is plenty of graininess when viewed at full size. However, if you're just trying to get a better look at something, it's decent at small sizes, especially for Web use.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Burst shooting

The SX260 HS has three full-resolution continuous shooting options. There's a standard continuous that will shoot at up to 2.5 frames per second until your card is full (used here) and there's a high-speed burst of 10 shots at 10fps. Those set focus and exposure with the first shot. But there's also a continuous with autofocus setting that can shoot at about 0.8fps. While these times are good, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 can shoot at up to 5fps at full resolution and that's with autofocus.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

ASM modes

You get semimanual and full manual control over shutter speed and apertures as well as manual focus with a safety for fine-tuning. Apertures include f3.5, f4, f4.5, f5, f5.6, f6.3, f6.8, f7.1, and f8. With the lens fully extended, you only get three settings, though, f6.8, f7.1, and f8, so the lens is really slow at the telephoto end. Shutter speeds can be set from 15 seconds to 1/3,200 second (1/2,000, used here, is the fastest with the lens extended).
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Color

Color performance is a strong point with the SX260 HS, as it was with its predecessor. Everything turns out bright, well-saturated, and reasonably accurate. More importantly for me, they pretty much stay that way up to ISO 800 and only seem to desaturate some at ISO 1600.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Creative Filters

Canon has a whole list of Creative Filters available on the SX260 HS. The newest is Soft Focus, pictured here. The others are Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, and Color Swap. A few of them are adjustable. For example, you can control the amount of softness for Soft Focus or add a cool or warm color filter to the Toy Camera Effect.
Updated:
Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:
Hot Galleries

Last-minute gift ideas

Under pressure? These will deliver on time

With plenty of top-notch retailers offering digital gifts, you still have time to salvage your gift-giving reputation.

Hot Products