Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Digital Camera: Product Review

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I recently upgraded from a Canon PowerShot SX230 HS camera to the SX260 model. Naturally, a product review is inevitable despite the SX260 being essentially the newer version of the SX230. While the external differences between the two point and shoot work horses are relatively minor (emphasis on relatively), there are some real changes under the SX260’s hood.

Let’s start with the bad news.

The SX230 HS PowerShot model had a two year ride at my left hip and took an estimated 30,000 photos (or more) during that time. Two years would be 730 days, give or take. If I snapped an average of 41 pictures per day, that would produce the 30,000 total. Some days only saw a dozen photos taken, but others saw as many as 465 processed before the camera battery had to be changed.

It might be a lot more than 30,000.

The SX230 failed only once, when our infamous airborne dust and grit found its way into the irising lens cover and fouled the mechanism. Fortunately, a local tech was able to clean it, and away we went. Until recently, that is, when I space cased and left the camera on my belt while pouring concrete one day. Jammed the lens cover leaves again…and decided, what the hey, let’s try something new.

The key point here is that I’ve always considered the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS to be a Five Star camera, quality all the way. It set the bar pretty high.

And right out of the box, the SX260 fell short on two counts:

    1. The flash mechanism on the SX260 sucks. On the SX230, the flash automatically pops up when the camera is turned on, but it’s a smoothly hinged device. Push it down gently with a thumb or forefinger and it stays politely closed until its needed–at which point it can be manually raised as easily as it closed.

    On the SX260, the camera reads the ambient light. If it doesn’t think you’re going to need the flash, the flash does not come up. That much is good. However, if the camera is operating and the lens is suddenly pointed at a dark enough area, the flash pops up whether you want it to do so or not. Worse, it comes straight up out of the camera body, no hinge swing arrangement. To push it back down requires enough force to make one wonder if damage is being done. Worst of all, if it’s in the closed position, it cannot be raised manually; you have to turn the camera off and restart it.

    The design engineer who thought that was an improvement over its predecessor has to be either blond, a certified moron, or just plain downright evil.

    Correction update, December 12, 2013: Steve commented below, pointing out an error in my description of the flash:

    …the flash does not need to be pushed down as you say and it can be put up with out turning it off and back on, on the small dial is a button with the flash symbol, just press that and it will give you the option for the flash to stay on/up, off/down or auto.

    I’ve tried that and it does work. So, thanks, Steve. I still like the older hinged system used by the SX 230 HS better, preferring a quick finger flip to the need for visual study of the camera dial (one move instead of two or three, and easier to do in the dark), but I guess the SX 260 HS flash system doesn’t totally suck. It just blows a little.

    2. The On/Off power button was moved from the rear of the camera to the top of the SX260, right next to the picture taking button. I’ve gotten used to it, but the feel is still not as comfortable as it is on the SX230. My sizeable finger feels like it’s trying to mash down in a space designed for an anorexic monkey’s pinkie.

    After using the SX260 for a few days, I’ve gotten more or less used to that power button, but most of the time I still can’t feel whether I actually depressed the blasted thing or not. It’s a minor complaint…but definitely a complaint.

    3. The dust cover for the USB port is flimsier. The older model has a stronger, higher quality setup for that little detail.

Fortunately, those are the only three negatives I’ve been able to find so far. The positives are potent; let’s get to those.

Photo of the Canon PowerShot  SX260 HS camera, taken with the Camera PowerShot SX230 HS.

Photo of the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS camera, taken with the Camera PowerShot SX230 HS.

Photo of the older (and dirtier) Canon PowerShot SX230 HS camera, taken with the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS.

Photo of the older (and dirtier) Canon PowerShot SX230 HS camera, taken with the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS.

The above two photos illustrate the SX260’s superior ability to (a) bring out colors vividly and (b) let the viewer see into the shadows better than the SX230 can manage. I never shoot video with the digital camera, so this review is all about still shots. This is the first camera I’ve owned that captures the reds pretty much the way the naked eye perceives them.

Mourning doves as captured by the Canon PowerShot  SX230 HS.

Mourning doves as captured by the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS.

Mourning doves as captured by the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS.

Mourning doves as captured by the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS.

Where it’s daylight but not particularly bright, as it was when five mourning doves showed up outside my bedroom window yesterday afternoon, both cameras performed well. I’d been trying to get decent photos (i.e. worth publishing) of our local doves for many months. In longer shots, the older SX230 HS was not performing well; its 14X optical zoom was not enough to get up close and personal with the birds. The SX260 HS has a more powerful 20X optical zoom that can at times make a significant difference.

I didn’t even try taking longer shots of this little flock with the older camera, knowing from experience that the results would not be worth it.

That’s all for the comparison between the two cameras. Now for the fun part. All of the following photos were taken with the SX260 set on Automatic, a true point and shoot arrangement.

Huachuca Mountains under cloud cover, taken with a Camera PowerShot SX260 HS set on Automatic.

Huachuca Mountains under cloud cover, taken with a Camera PowerShot SX260 HS set on Automatic.

Painting of a young girl.  The photo was taken indoors under (low) natural light with a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS set on Automatic.  Shutter speed was 1/8 second; the camera's anti-shake technology is very good indeed.

Painting of a young girl. The photo was taken indoors under (low) natural light with a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS set on Automatic. Shutter speed was 1/8 second; the camera’s anti-shake technology is very good indeed.

Landscape photo taken from Paloma Trail, facing west toward the Huachuca Mountains, using a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS camera set on Automatic.

Landscape photo taken from Paloma Trail, facing west toward the Huachuca Mountains, using a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS camera set on Automatic.

Moonrise over the Chiricahua Mountains, taken with a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS camera set on Automatic.

Moonrise over the Chiricahua Mountains, taken with a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS camera set on Automatic.

Moonrise (pull-back shot) over the Chiricahua Mountains, taken with a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS set on Automatic.

Moonrise (pull-back shot) over the Chiricahua Mountains, taken with a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS set on Automatic.

The photos of the moon are particularly noteworthy. Not once in years of trying have I ever before been able to catch the colors of a fading sunset and the color of the moon in the same photo. These still aren’t Hollywood cinema perfect, but for a point and shoot camera, they’re amazing.

Summary: Despite my irritation with the idiots at Canon who designed the flash system (the other negatives are too minor to count for much), I have to give the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS digital camera a full FIVE STAR rating. Overall, the photos this camera produces are a step up from those put out by the SX230 HS, which is saying something. It has a powerful 20X optical zoom that will zero in on a small bird at a fair distance, plus the 4X digital zoom (like the SX230 HS) that bumps it up to 80X zoom overall. The anti-shake feature is one of the best. Even in the red range, color capture is vivid and, under anything close to reasonable light conditions, details come out sharp and crisp.

Will it last as long as our still functioning SX230 HS?

Probably even longer…if I don’t forget to leave it in the house the next time I pour concrete.

6 thoughts on “Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Digital Camera: Product Review

  1. Good review. I am impressed with the color ability. Reds are difficult to get right, and blues are not far behind reds. I haven’t used a digital camera much, just the phone camera. I was very prolific with my 35mm though. I backed off on it a bit because the film and developing was so expensive. I like that we don’t need to buy film and have them developed to see if it is worth developing.
    I do wonder how I am going to get by without my macro zoom lens though. With the tele-converter of 2x, it could up-close and personal with the wildlife without getting in striking range. I also liked to get flora shots and have many of them.
    I have found that Minolta was bought by another company and that some of their digital cameras can use the lenses. I just haven’t gone further than that on it yet. I will when I have some money to buy one.

  2. I’ve been lucky with blues. At least, I don’t recall any cameras from recent years that were really bad with them except for maybe the Vivitar, which was poorly engineered all around. But I’m definitely with you on the reds.

    Didn’t know Minolta had sold out.

    Spotted a tiny spider early this evening, on the overflow pipe for the water storage tank. It couldn’t have been more than 1/32″ long at most. I don’t have a camera capable of doing justice to a subject of that miniscule size. Maybe some day.

  3. I’m thinking of getting a new camera. Currently I have an Olympus FE-47. Yeah, I know – antiquated technology. It only has a 5x zoom, which is fine for close ups, but not landscape or skyscape shots. I also have a problem with the power button being located right next to the shoot button. Too many times I’ve turned the darn thing off by mistake and always at the most inopportune time. I’d also like to get a video camera but think maybe I should get a digital camera that takes videos. That would be more financially sound for me. What type of videos does your Canon take? (I’m probably not wording that question right – I have no experience taking videos). I know you don’t use that feature, but have you tried it? Is it any good?

  4. Sha, I’ve not tried video with the 260 but did a time or two (once by accident) with the 230. The video wasn’t bad–better than a cell phone vid, anyway. But I don’t have enough experience with it to be all that helpful.

    The problem I have with using one machine for both (still and vid) is that I tend to have it set wrong when a photo op pops up. In other words, I don’t multitask well (male!) and prefer not to confuse myself.

    However, even the older Samsung I had–cheap camera but very good photos, just couldn’t stand up to our dust out here–took good video. There’s one YouTube I took of the horror when the wind nearly killed Pam by yanking the camper door open when she had her hand on the handle, and that came out just fine. I’m guessing most of the name brand digital cameras take acceptable videos.

  5. Hi
    good camera and nice pics.
    the flash does not need to be pushed down as you say and it can be put up with out turning it off and back on, on the small dial is a button with the flash symbol, just press that and it will give you the option for the flash to stay on/up, off/down or auto.

  6. Thanks, Steve. I’d swear I’d tried that before without success, but it works just fine now–exactly as you described. Guess it just takes a bit of commentary to up the ol’ confidence level on occasion…..

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