Canon PowerShot SX700 HS review: 30x travel zoom overflows with features

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The Good Along with its 30x zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS has fun and useful shooting options; built-in Wi-Fi with NFC; a high-resolution LCD; and excellent shooting performance and daylight photo and video quality.

The Bad Its low-light (high-ISO) photos could be better and while its battery life is noticeably better than that of its predecessor, you'll still want to keep an extra battery handy for all-day shooting. Canon could have done more with the camera's NFC.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for more than just a simple snapshot experience from a compact zoom camera, the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS should be on your short list, despite a couple shortcomings.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 7

Canon sticks to the tried-and-true formula of more megapixels and more zoom for the PowerShot SX700 HS.

Sort of a successor to the 20x zoom SX280 HS, the SX700 has for new features a 30x f3.2-6.9 25-750mm lens and a 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. Fortunately, there is more to this camera than just those two specs.

Like the SX280 HS, the SX700 HS has built-in Wi-Fi. Canon's added its Mobile Device Connect button, which lets you directly connect over Wi-Fi to an iOS or Android device with a button push (sort of, but more on that later). Also, if you have an Android device, you can use the camera's NFC to initiate a download of Canon's mobile app and launch the app by tapping the two together.

Shooting modes are plentiful, including a couple of new ones that you'll only find on Canon PowerShots. (While I enjoyed them, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether they're actually worth having.) Other tweaks include a higher-resolution LCD and better battery life.

All in all, it's a very nice update, or entirely new model depending on how you look at it. Still, I wish its low-light photos were just a bit better.

Photo quality

Increased resolution doesn't necessarily mean better photo quality. Despite the bump from 12 megapixels to 16, the SX700's pictures aren't really any more usable at larger sizes than the SX280's and, actually, might be slightly less usable. That said, if you aren't pixel peeping and don't typically enlarge photos beyond 50 percent and crop them heavily, you'll probably really like what you get from the SX700 HS.

That's particularly true if you're shooting out in daylight. Up through ISO 200 you'll get great color and decent fine detail. Noise reduction starts to kick in some at ISO 400 and is definitely noticeable at ISO 800, making your subjects look soft. In many cases, this is what you'll most likely be using when shooting indoors. Color is still good, though, so a little post-shoot sharpening with editing software helps here.

Above ISO 800 color quality starts to drop off, too, and combined with the aggressive noise reduction, the results just aren't good. This makes it not the best choice for low-light photos unless you have a tripod and motionless subjects.

On a brighter note, movie quality is excellent. Zoom lens movement is barely picked up by the stereo mics above the lens; you'll only hear it in very quiet scenes. Like its photos, though, low-light results could be better, and when fully zoomed in, expect some pulsing as it tries to focus.

Shooting performance

Overall, the SX700 HS is a pretty fast performer. From off to first shot takes 1.7 seconds and the lag between shots is 0.8 second. Turning on the flash will extend that lag to 3.9 seconds, however. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing is 0.1 second in bright lighting. In low-light conditions that time goes up to 0.4 second, which is on par with the times of the top cameras in its class.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The camera has three continuous-shooting options. Its standard full-resolution continuous mode hit 2.9 frames per second in my tests. This is with focus and exposure set with the first shot. You can also chose the same mode, but with autofocus, which slows the camera down to 1fps. Lastly, in the Scene modes, there's a high-speed burst setting that can hit 8.5fps for up to four shots. It, too, sets focus and exposure with the first shot. What's nice is that it refreshes relatively quickly after the burst, so you're not left waiting too long before you can shoot again.

Design and features

Shooting with the SX700 HS is generally a fine experience, but there are a few things to be aware of. It is fairly compact given its zoom range -- small enough to toss in a handbag or larger pocket. The grip on the front is just big enough to give you something to hold onto for one-handed shots. Still, when using the zoom lens, you'll want to shoot two-handed.

Almost all of the controls are on the right side. Its buttons are large and easy to press, but they are maybe a bit too crowded. For example, the new Mobile Device Connect button is so close to the mode dial that I kept hitting it when changing modes.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Unlike the SX280 HS, the flash on the SX700 has to be manually released with a switch on the left side before you can use it. Frankly, this is the best solution without making the camera larger, but it may result in missed or blurry shots since it doesn't trigger automatically.

On the left Canon also added its Zoom Framing Assist button, which will quickly zoom the lens out so you can find your subject if it goes out of frame and then zoom back in. It can be used for automatic face tracking as well, so that your subject's face stays the same size in your frame no matter how they move.

Nikon Coolpix S9700 Canon PowerShot SX700 HS
Price (MSRP) $349.95 (£329.99, $399.95 AUD) $349.99 (£329, $399.95 AUD)
Dimensions (WHD) 4.3x2.5x1.4 inches (110x63.5x34.5mm) 4.4x2.6x1.4 inches (112.7x65.8x34.8mm)
Weight (with battery and media) 8.2 ounces (232 g) 9.5 ounces (269 g)
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 921K dots/None 3-inch LCD, 922K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 30x, f3.7-6.4, 25-750mm (35mm equivalent) 30x, f3.2-6.9, 25-750mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still / video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MOV) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MP4)
Highest-resolution size (still / video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (progressive)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 300 shots Li-ion rechargeable, 250 shots (360 in Eco)
Battery charged in camera Yes; by computer or wall adapter via USB No; wall charger supplied
Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS Yes/Yes Yes/No (geotagging via Wi-Fi)

The battery and SD card slot are on the bottom directly next to a tripod mount. For the SX280 HS, battery life was brief, to put it kindly. It's been improved in the SX700 and, if you're not opposed to using the camera's Eco mode, which puts the camera to sleep when powered on but inactive, you can sneak in a few more shots.

That's not to say it's great, just better. If you're going out for a day of shooting, you'll want to have a spare pack with you. Especially since the camera can't be charged via USB. Capturing video, burst-shooting stills, using the zoom a lot, and cranking up the LCD brightness will all eat away at the battery life. Using the camera's Wi-Fi will dent your shot count, too.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

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