Canon PowerShot SX600 HS review: Picks up where your phone leaves off without sacrificing easy sharing

In design and features, the SX600 HS has more in common with Canon's ultracompact Elph line than its SX series. Like the Elphs, the SX600 is small and lightweight and its controls are streamlined for snapshooters who don't leave Auto too often.

There is no shooting-mode dial, for example; instead there's just a three-position switch for picking what you want to shoot in. The rest of the controls are pretty standard with the exception of Canon's Mobile Device Connect button, which lets you specify a smartphone or computer in advance that you'll connect to at the push of a button.

Press it and it turns on the camera's Wi-Fi, at which point you have to open your mobile device's wireless settings and select the camera. Opening the Camera Window app completes the process.

Samsung WB350F Canon PowerShot SX600 HS Nikon Coolpix S9600
Price (MSRP) $260 (£250, AU$209) $250 (£200, AU$250) $280 (£225, AU$300)
Dimensions (WHD) 4.5x2.6x1 inches (114.3x66x25.1mm) 4.2x2.4x1 inches (106.7x61x25.1mm) 4.3x2.5x1.3 inches (109.2x63.5x33mm)
Weight (with battery and media) 7.7 ounces (218 grams) 6.6 ounces (187 grams) 7.3 ounces (207 grams)
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch touch LCD, 460K dots/None 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 21x, f2.8-5.9, 23-483mm (35mm equivalent) 18x, f3.8-6.9, 25-450mm (35mm equivalent) 22x, f3.4-6.3, 25-550mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still / video) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 AAC (MP4) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MP4) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC H.264 AAC (MOV)
Highest resolution size (still / video) 4,608x3,456 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive) 4,608x2,592 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive) 4,608x3,456 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital Optical and digital Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 310 shots Li-ion rechargeable, 290 shots Li-ion rechargeable, 290 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer No; wall charger supplied Yes; by computer or wall adapter via USB
Storage media microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS Yes (with NFC)/No Yes (with NFC)/No Yes/No

Along with sending photos and movies directly to mobile devices for viewing, editing, and uploading, you can use the Wi-Fi to sync your mobile's GPS to geotag your photos, which is nice because this camera does not have built-in GPS. You can also wirelessly send images directly to a photo printer or back them up to a PC on the same network that the camera is connected to.

Lastly, the app can be used as a remote viewfinder and shutter release. It doesn't give you much control -- just zoom, self-timer, shutter release, and flash (assuming you've popped it up) -- but it's nice to have for shooting wildlife and group portraits. It can't be used to start and stop video, however.

canon-powershot-sx600-hs-product-photos06.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Canon includes NFC on the SX600 HS for use with supported Android devices, but it isn't used for much. If you haven't installed the CameraWindow app, you can tap your smartphone against the camera and it will launch the Google Play store so you can download it. After that, it's only used to launch the app. You'll still have to turn on the camera's Wi-Fi and connect your device to the camera by selecting it in your wireless settings.

Other cameras featuring NFC from Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung will launch the app and handle the connection process, making shooting and sharing that much easier. They also use NFC to quickly send single photos to your phone with a simple tap between the camera and device.

As you might imagine, using Wi-Fi doesn't do great things for your battery life. For regular shooting, battery life is very good and on par with the competition. But using the Wi-Fi, shooting a lot of video, cranking up the screen brightness, and frequently zooming in and out will shorten it.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot SX600 HS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Hybrid Auto, Program, Creative Shot, Portrait, Smart Shutter, High-speed Burst, Handheld NightScene, Low Light, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter
Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Tracking AF
Macro 2.0 in. to 1.6 ft. (5-50cm) (Wide)
Metering modes Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

As I mentioned earlier, the switch on back next to the thumb rest is for changing shooting modes.

The top postion is for Canon's Hybrid Auto mode, which captures a few seconds of video before each picture you take. At the end of a day of shooting, the camera automatically gathers up all the little clips and your photos -- taken with Canon's scene-recognition Smart Auto -- and puts them into a movie. The result is basically a candid highlight movie.

The middle spot is a revamped version of the Creative Shot mode that appeared first on last year's supersmall PowerShot N. Snap a picture of something and the camera will automatically create five different versions using different color and tone settings, crops, and styles in addition to saving the original photo.

canon-powershot-sx600-hs-product-photos04.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The old version gave you no control over what types of effects were used. Now, you can choose a category of filters -- Retro, Monochrome, Special, or Natural -- for the camera to use with a total of 46 filters available.

The last position is for Smart Auto and everything else. Once you've moved the switch all the way down, you press the Func. Set button and then navigate to a list of shooting modes. This model doesn't have shooting modes for directly controlling shutter speed and aperture; you'll have to go with the SX700 HS or other SX models for those. The closest you'll come is Program Auto, which allows for control of other things like ISO and white balance.

Conclusion

Though it's not a standout in any one way, the Canon PowerShot SX600 HS is a solid choice for snapshooters wanting a simple step up from a smartphone without sacrificing on-the-go sharing.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Compact Digital Still Camera
  • Optical Zoom 18
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (Intelligent IS with Advanced Dynamic Mode)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"
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