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Canon PowerShot SX60 HS review: Canon comes back strong with 65x zoom PowerShot SX60 HS

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 or bursts of photos, cranking up the screen brightness and frequently zooming in and out will shorten it.

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Heading to the lens barrel you'll find Canon's Zoom Framing Assist and Framing Assist Lock buttons. The former lets you pull back the lens to help you relocate a subject that may have traveled out of frame and then zooms back in when released. With the SX60 there are composition presets for whole body, upper body, or face, which triggers the camera to move the zoom automatically to keep the selected composition. As long as your subject isn't moving really fast or isn't too close to you, this actually works well.

The Framing Assist Lock button improves the performance of the optical image stabilization when trying to compose shots with the lens zoomed in. The camera's image stabilization overall is excellent, so it was hard for me to tell if it was working, which is a good thing regardless.

As for shooting options, there are a lot of them and I highly recommend downloading and reading through the camera manual. If you're buying this as a family camera, every type of user will be covered -- from those who just want to use the camera's reliable Smart Auto to those who want control over everything.

Shooting performance

Canon promised faster autofocus speeds for the SX60 HS and while I didn't notice a big difference in performance it did feel faster at the telephoto end in bright lighting with high-contrast subjects. Like most cameras in the category, though, it can be slow with less lighting or low-contrast subjects. Again, that's common for these long-lens cameras and the Canon isn't nearly as frustrating as Nikon's P600 can be.

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Shutter lag -- how long it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is very good at 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.5 in dimmer conditions. From shot to shot, you're waiting an average of 0.8 seconds in JPEG; raw capture averaged a reasonable 1.1 seconds.

Canon has improved the continuous shooting from the SX50, too. At full resolution it's capable of hitting 6.4 frames per second and without hitting a buffer limit, so it will just keeping shooting as long as you press the shutter release. This sets focus and exposure with the first shot, but that's common with these modes. There is also a continuous shooting setting with autofocus that is slower at about 3.4fps in my tests, which is pretty good and at least it's an option -- many cameras in this class don't even offer it.

Photo and video quality

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Here's the disclaimer I use with just about every review of a bridge camera: If you're expecting dSLR photo quality because this camera looks like a dSLR, don't. In order to get a lens with this zoom range in a compact, lightweight body, camera makers need to use a small sensor that are a fraction of the size of an dSLR and even higher-end compacts. Will the photos from the SX60 HS look good at small sizes on screen or even larger prints? Absolutely. But you likely won't be impressed with what you see if you pixel peep or enlarge to get a better look at fine details of a bird you photographed from far, far away.

Below are 100 percent crops taken from the center of the scene above, throughout the camera's ISO sensitivity range.

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Overall, considering the reach of this camera's lens, most will be pretty pleased with its results up to ISO 400 at larger sizes onscreen and in prints. Subjects do get softer and noisier at ISO 400 and more so at ISO 800, but are still usable at small sizes with minimal cropping or enlarging. Also, since Canon included raw image capture on this model, you can process the images yourself if you want and rescue some detail if you don't mind a little extra noise. Another bonus: there are one-third increments for ISO sensitivities, ISO 250, ISO 320, ISO 400, and so on, giving you a bit more control over things.

Colors desaturate some at ISO 1600 and 3200, subjects look very soft and detail is diminished. Basically, the SX60 HS is best-suited for outdoor use in full daylight, but if you plan to use this camera for shooting indoors or in low light, you'll want to be wary of using sensitivities above ISO 800.

Color accuracy is excellent, producing bright and vivid results, though, again, they desaturate at higher ISOs. Exposure is generally very good, but highlights tend to blow out. To help with that, Canon added a Dynamic Range Correction option that tones down highlights by about 200 or 400 percent. The penalty for using the feature is a slightly more limiting ISO range: ISO 200-1600 for 200 percent and ISO 400-1600 for 400 percent. But it works well and can definitely rescue some detail that would otherwise be blown out.

Video quality is generally very good, passable for use on a large HDTV, but best suited for small screen sizes and Web sharing. The 1080p video records at 30 or 60 frames per second, and though panning the camera will create judder and there is visible trailing on moving subjects, the video is watchable. The low-light video is predictably grainy, but it's at least as good as this camera's high-ISO photo performance. The zoom lens does work while recording; it moves slowly, though, likely to prevent the movement from being picked up by the stereo mics on top and new motors do keep it quiet.

Conclusion

Thanks to a combination of improved design, large and useful features for snapshooters and advanced users, excellent photos and video for its class and -- of course -- its really wide and really long lens, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS is one of the best bridge cameras you can buy at the moment.

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