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The look and feel of this camera harks back to such classic models from the Canon compact range, specifically the IXUS 70. On the spec sheet, though, the camera's internals are far from retro. Its boxy design somehow magically hides a 12x optical zoom, which retracts fully into the body. There's also a 3.2-inch touchscreen that takes up the entire back panel. Unfortunately, it uses resistive rather than capacitive technology, so it requires more of a hard press than the other Canon models that you may be familiar with. It's certainly no match for the excellent and responsive model found on the 650D.
The 10.1-megapixel high-sensitivity sensor is coupled with a Digic 5 image processor, the same as that found on Canon's high-end cameras. The top panel houses a shutter button, surrounded by a zoom rocker that extends and retracts the lens when needed. A tiny power and playback button sits right next to the shutter, so small that it's often easy to press both at the same time. Overall, the design of the camera is incredibly stylish, but it comes at the expense of usability. There's no grip, thumb rest or anything of the sort, so it's best to attach the wrist strap to avoid dropping the camera.
The stylish shooting options presented on the 510 HS.
Shooting modes are plentiful, though all are variants on automatic modes. Tap the Auto icon at the top left corner of the screen to be presented with a menu of other options, including program, portrait, smooth skin, high-speed burst, handheld night scene, low light and fish-eye effect, just to name a few. The 510 HS also offers full HD video recording at 1080p (24 frames per second), with the addition of iFrame, super-slow motion or miniature effect.
Because of the long zoom and big touchscreen, everything else on the 510 HS has to be shrunk down quite a bit. This includes the battery, which is an almost AA-sized rechargeable lithium-ion model slotting in the base, as well as a microSD/HD/XC card. While the microSD has received great uptake in the world of mobile phones, most of the time it acts as "set and forget" storage. On a digital camera, it's more likely that users will keep removing the memory card to offload images. The form factor of a microSD makes it fiddly and easy to lose, especially when you're constantly removing them from a device.
The use of microSD cards also hints at Canon positioning the 510 HS as more of a mobile device than just a camera. It comes with Wi-Fi built in to the camera, so you can share photos and videos across several devices like phones and tablets. First, you need to download the Canon CameraWindow app (iOS and Android).
The process of setting up a connection to your device of choice is reasonably simple. Go into playback mode and tap the Wi-Fi icon that appears at the top right of the screen. Then select the connection method, such as a mobile. You will be prompted to add a device or connect to an existing one. You can either create an ad-hoc connection or connect through an existing wireless access point. Entering a network password (if applicable) is easy, thanks to the full keyboard that appears.
We tested the mobile connection with an Android device, though the processes should be similar for iOS as well.
Viewing the images from the camera's memory card on a mobile device is easy.
Once the connection has been established and the app is launched, you can use the devices in two different ways: from your phone, you can look at the photos that are stored on the memory card in a camera roll configuration; or you can transfer photos from the camera to the phone. This process is quick, particularly if you change the photo size to a small or medium resolution.
Going the other way, you can send photos to your mobile device over Wi-Fi, reducing the image size if necessary to speed up the transfer.
Facebook upload is also available using the web services selection on the screen, although you need to configure this first through the included software before you can use it from the camera.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon rates the battery at 190 shots. This is below average for a camera of this class, and is thanks to the smaller battery pack. The battery life is also depleted more quickly when using the Wi-Fi connection.
Using the high-speed shutter mode, the 510 HS can take 7 frames per second at a reduced resolution (2.5 megapixels). The above continuous shooting speed (2.6fps) is measured using fixed autofocus. If you choose to let the camera focus between each shot, the rate drops to 0.8fps.
While bells and whistles, like a long optical zoom lens, a touchscreen and Wi-Fi, are all well and good, if the camera can't take a good picture then there's not much point to it. The 510 HS delivers images with strong colours, though its photos look a little soft. The lens is sharpest at the centre of the frame, and this quality starts to drop off towards the sides of the frame.
For snapshots and photos designed for web use, the 510 HS is fine. Noise is an issue across all sensitivities if you look at images at 100 per cent magnification, but it does not adversely affect image quality until ISO 800 and above.
In general, exposures in outdoor situations are spot on, but some can benefit from shifting the exposure compensation down. This helps make the colours pop, and reduces the chances of blown highlights.
Video quality is somewhat disappointing, given the strengths that other Canon compacts have shown in this area. The image is slightly soft and can be a fair bit overexposed. Sound quality is fine.
Exposure: 1/160, f/4.5, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/60, f/3.4, ISO 250
Exposure: 1/250, f/5, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/15, f/4, ISO 400, flash fired
The IXUS 510 HS offers easy Wi-Fi connectivity and a long 12x optical zoom lens. There are some compromises to be had along the way, such as a design that's somewhat difficult to hold and a resistive touchscreen, but for some these will be a small price to pay for the convenience of a connected camera.
Canon Australia no longer issues RRPs for its products, although we have seen the 510 HS available for AU$399 in a number of photographic retailers.