Canon PowerShot SX260 HS review:

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

There are a lot of shooting options to pick from on the mode dial and even more in the menus.

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 Color Accent and Color 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.

Shooting performance is somewhat mixed, at least as compared with other high-end compact megazooms. 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 prefocusing -- 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 megazooms.

The SX260 HS has three full-resolution continuous-shooting options. There's a standard continuous option that will shoot at up to 2.5 frames per second until your card is full, and 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 that can shoot at about 0.8fps. That's slow, but at least it's an option; most point-and-shoots don't even offer a continuous-with-AF setting.

The SX260 HS controls are well-spaced and easier to press than on the model it replaces, the SX230 HS.

For me, the design improvements are the best part of the SX260 HS. While I liked the SX230 HS, I did not enjoy shooting with it. The buttons were cramped and poorly placed. The 3-inch screen was 16:9, but its highest resolution was 4:3, which meant you only had 2.5 inches for framing shots. The flash was poorly placed and constantly popping up. That's all different with the SX260, though, making the camera much more enjoyable to use.

The flash is in a better position and only comes up when you need it. The controls have better spacing and the power button is up top instead of awkwardly crammed in above the LCD. The LCD is no longer a 16:9 aspect ratio, so if you use the camera's full 12-megapixel resolution, you can frame using the entire 3-inch display. It's just a better design all the way around.

For a reviewer, it's always nice when the new version of a product you liked actually gets better. That's the case with the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. The previous version was very good, but thanks to changes in design, performance, and features, the SX260 is an excellent compact megazoom.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Nikon Coolpix S9300
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
Fujifilm FinePix F600EXR

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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