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Canon PowerShot SX510 HS review: Feature tweaks add up to a big zoom bargain

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The Good The Canon PowerShot SX510 HS is a very good value thanks to a new sensor, offering up excellent image quality and performance for its budget-friendly price. It also has built-in Wi-Fi for easier on-the-go sharing, among other things.

The Bad Despite the updated sensor, the SX510 HS' shooting performance might still be too slow for action shots, especially indoors. With no viewfinder, you have to use the LCD for framing all your shots.

The Bottom Line A change in sensor brings the 30x zoom Canon PowerShot SX510 HS' photo and movie quality as well as its shooting performance up a notch.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

Editors' note: Much of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS and the

The Canon PowerShot SX510 HS packs the same 30x zoom lens as its predecessor, the SX500 IS, and has the same look and feel. But, as the suffix implies, Canon updated the sensor from a lower-end CCD-type sensor to one of its high-sensitivity 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensors.

The sensor, along with giving it better low-light performance, enables the camera to record video at 1080p at 24fps as well as high-speed video for slow-motion clips. It also seems to have boosted shooting performance, shaving off some of the lag between shots.

That's not all this camera has to offer, either, which means for its street price of less than $230, this is a pretty good deal if you can live with its limitations.

Photo quality
There is no doubt about it: The SX510 HS produces better photos than the SX500 IS. Color performance is very good and colors don't get muddy or washed-out-looking until you get up to ISO 1600. Overall, this is a fine camera if you're looking to share photos online and make prints up to 8x10 (or slightly larger if your conditions are good).

Still, the 12-megapixel resolution isn't much help when it comes to enlarging and heavy cropping or poster-size prints. With the exception of close-ups taken at ISO 80, there's a bit too much in the way of noise and artifacts visible when photos are viewed at 100 percent. This is the case with most small-sensor point-and-shoots, though, so if full-size quality is important to you, you'll want to move up to a large-sensor compact or a digital SLR.

Given the size of the camera, it's very easy to get carried away when using the zoom lens. However, unless you're very steady and in bright lighting it can be difficult to get a sharp shot with this or most other megazoom cameras. Just something to keep in mind if you're considering this for its 720mm focal length to use indoors or at night with moving subjects.

Movie quality is very good and, again, much better than the SX500 IS. The camera is reasonably quick to refocus should your subject move or if you use the zoom lens. The zoom moves slowly while recording and you will hear the lens motor in your videos, particularly in quieter scenes. The camera does record in full HD at 24fps, but there's also a high-speed setting for recording slow-motion clips at 240fps (QVGA resolution) and 120fps (VGA resolution). Also, while there is no manual control over shutter speed and aperture, you can chose to manually focus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shooting performance
In our lab tests, from off to first capture took on average 1.6 seconds, while shot-to-shot times averaged 0.7 second (about a second less than its predecessor). Turning on the flash slowed that down to 2.1 seconds. Shutter lag -- the time from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- took 0.3 second in bright lighting; in low light it was slightly longer at 0.5 second. Zooming in extends that wait to about 0.8 second.

The camera does have two continuous-shooting modes, one with autofocus and one without, where it sets exposure and focus with the first shot. The former is capable of up to 1 frame per second, while the latter can get up to 2.8fps. Basically, if you're good at anticipating action and can learn to live within these limitations, you can get shots of kids, pets, and sports. On the whole, though, I wouldn't recommend it for regularly capturing fast-moving subjects, especially indoors and/or when using the zoom lens.

Design and features
Considering its 30x, f3.4-5.8, 24-720mm lens, the camera is remarkably compact. At least part of the reason for that is the lack of an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This is a deal breaker for some people, though with its large 3-inch LCD that gets bright enough to see in daylight it's a little easier to forgive.

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