Though the updated processor doesn't necessarily deliver significantly better images at higher ISOs, the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS' results are better than those of its predecessor, the SX260. The SX280's photos still get softer and noisier above ISO 200 (pixel peepers will see noise and soft details below ISO 200), but its higher ISOs are a bit more usable at larger sizes.
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 somewhat usable at small sizes. Basically, if you need to shoot in low light or want to freeze action, the SX280 HS is a fine choice. Keep in mind, though, this is still a small-sensor camera and can't match the quality of a digital SLR or interchangeable-lens compact. View larger.
When the SX280 HS was announced, Canon said the new processor was able to reduce noise better than the SX260 HS'. So much so that an ISO 1600 picture from the SX280 HS would have the same amount of noise as an ISO 400 shot from the SX260 HS. These are 100 percent crops of our test scene. While there may in fact be less noise, it seems smearing from noise reduction as well as artifacts don't exactly make the picture more usable at ISO 1600. That said, it's still good for this class of camera. View larger.
Here's how they both perform at ISO 1600. Here the difference is a little more noticeable, especially viewed larger. It seems like the SX280 HS keeps a bit more detail and sharpness, though it also looks like there are more artifacts.
Canon's Handheld Night Scene mode improves noise and blur from hand shake by taking several photos and then combining them into a cleaner photo. In this slide, the photo on the top left was taken in Program Auto at ISO 800 and to its right is a 100 percent crop from it. On the bottom is the same shot taken in HNS mode also at ISO 800. There are fewer artifacts and less noise in the HNS shot, though the camera does crop the photo some when processing the image. View larger.
Color performance is a strong point with the SX280 HS, as it was with its predecessor. Everything turns out bright, well-saturated, and reasonably accurate. More important to me is that they pretty much stay that way up to ISO 1600.
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 and will require higher ISO settings in less than full sun. Shutter speeds can be set from 15 seconds to 1/3,200 second. Note, though, that 1/2,000 is the fastest with the lens extended, and shooting longer than 1 second fixes sensitivity to ISO 80.
There is no HDR mode to help balance out shots with shadows and bright highlights. However, Canon's i-Contrast editing option available in playback or when shooting brings up the detail lost in shadows. On the left is a shot with it off, on the right is a shot with it on.
Canon has a whole list of Creative Filters available on the SX280 HS. From top left to bottom right: Normal, Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Fisheye Effect, and Miniature Effect. View larger.