For those who don't want to deal with the learning curve generally associated with DSLR cameras, a high-end compact makes the most sense. While these cameras cannot actually capture DSLR-quality images, they pack in a ton of features for a price that is more pocket-friendly.
Some of these cameras have SLR-like designs and amazing zooming capabilities. We have with us the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, which is the world's first compact camera with a 65x optical zoom lens. Canon also adds the latest Digic 6 processor into the mix. Let's find out if the SX60 HS can wow us with its image quality.
Design and screen
Thanks to the really long optical zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS feels heavier and chunkier than most other super-zoom cameras in the market today, including its predecessor the SX50 HS. It has dimensions of 127.6x92.6x14.3mm and weighs exactly 650g, which makes it heavier than a few SLRs with basic 18-35mm lenses. This weight shouldn't be much of a problem because the bridge design actually makes it easier to hold and you will be using it with two hands for shooting images anyway.
The SX60 HS looks just like the much smaller Canon PowerShot SX520 HS. Its big body also includes a variangle LCD that flips out sideways, and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The camera is mostly made of tough plastic and only the outer cover of the lens area is covered in aluminium. There are buttons on the lens barrel to seek and lock focus, which assist users in framing a shot. On the top of the camera there is a built-in flash that pops up automatically in low light conditions. Behind it lies the speaker. The power button, shortcut button, selection dial and mode dial are in a cluster near the hand grip. The shutter button, which is surrounded by a zoom lever, has decent travel. On the other hand, the mode dial feels too stiff.
The left side of the camera has the microphone and a jack for an external microphone. A tough rubber flap protects the USB, A/V out and HDMI ports. The compartment for the battery and the memory card is on the bottom along with the tripod socket. Beside the LCD screen on the rear one can find the settings button surrounded by a navigation pad. Each button is mapped to a particular function - Wi-Fi (up), display (down), flash (right), and macro (left). Below this, there are buttons for the menu and for setting up a connection with a mobile device, while above it one can find the exposure compensation button that also doubles up as the delete button.
The playback button is placed above the LCD next to the EVF. There is a tough rubber finger rest on the rear too, and beside it lie two buttons for video recording and autofocus frame selection. We weren't particularly happy with the travel of all these buttons because they are flush with the body and feel soft to touch.
Both the LCD and the EVF have approximately 921k effective pixels on screen. The 3-inch LCD is bright, crisp and accurately saturated. Even the sunlight legibility is pretty good. While we appreciate Canon's idea of going with an EVF, which was also present in its predecessor SX50HS, the over-saturated image quality is a big letdown and in low-light situations the EVF is slow to respond to changes in the focus area.
Specifications and features
The SX60 HS has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor that can shoot 16.1-megapixel photographs. This sensor is used even in smaller compact cameras and we had really hoped that this camera would have a bigger sensor instead. Canon has implemented the new DIGIC 6 processor which might help a user capture detailed images even at maximum zoom. Speaking of maximum zoom, the SX60 HS's lens has a focal length range of 21mm to 1365mm (65x optical zoom). This shows that apart from improving the telephoto end of the lens, Canon has made it possible to shoot wider photos as well.
The lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.4 at the widest and f/6.5 at the telephoto end, which is not great for a camera that costs as much as the SX60 HS does. For some reason, Canon has shaved the top end of the ISO sensitivity range down to ISO 3200 on the SX60 HS, compared to ISO 6400 on its predecessor. Just like the PowerShot SX520 HS we reviewed a while ago, the SX60 HS has a setting that allows it to lock on to faraway subjects using the Framing Assist (Lock) function, and thereby hold focus.
The camera can shoot 1080p video at 60fps in .mp4 format. Canon also provides the capability to connect to smart devices using Near-Field Communications protocol over Wi-Fi. Canon claims that the battery housed inside the SX60 HS will last long enough for approximately 340 images to be captured in regular mode and 450 in economy mode.
The shooting modes include two custom modes that allow users to store their own presets. The other modes are Manual, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Portrait, Hybrid auto, Auto, Creative shot, and Sports. Apart from this the SX60 HS has a ton of scene modes, a few creative filters, and movie modes.
As usual, the interface is easy to navigate and use. There is absolutely no learning curve which makes shooting with the SX60 HS a delight. Even so, we would have liked the physical buttons to have had better travel.
From startup to setting up a shot is actually a really smooth and fast experience on the SX60 HS. In daylight, we found that the lens can focus on the intended subject accurately and rapidly without any hiccups. The shot-to-shot speed is also pretty good, in daylight.
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However things got troublesome in low-light conditions, when the lens started finding it difficult to focus on subjects. Matters got even worse when we started zooming in. It is advisable that you use a tripod to shoot at the maximum zoom level, because we really couldn't get a single non-blurry shot when we held the camera in our hands.
Before we get into the actual image quality we'd urge our readers to view the images in full size (or right click and save them to view them at least 50 percent magnification) because they might look deceptively good as thumbnails.
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In daylight testing, shots had warm, natural colours that were pleasing to the eye but we noticed that the details weren't as sharp as those in photos captured withother Canon PowerShot cameras we've used in the past. Take a look at the image of the dog below and you'll notice that the camera tends to slightly soften images. We also noticed a bit of barrel distortion around the edges of our test images, though it wasn't too distracting enough to be a big problem. Thankfully, Canon manages to keep purple fringing at bay. The camera can go as close as 0cm to a subject and we found that it didn't lose details.
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In our stringent ISO test, the camera captured good details up to ISO 400 but anything beyond that was almost unusable. That actually says a lot about what we can expect in low light.
We were pretty disappointed with the low-light performance. As we mentioned earlier, we had trouble focussing on a subject. The images we captured had a lot of noise, which doesn't reflect well on a camera that costs so much. It is surprising that even the new, powerful Digic 6 image processor can't do much to salvage the situation.
(Click to view low-light sample in full size)
The zoom motor is not too loud, and zooms are smooth. This makes video capturing quite fun. The fact that the quality of the captured 1080p video is really good also helps. The SX60 HS's battery actually lasted for a lot more than the 340 shots that Canon rated it at. We managed to capture 377 images before it died on us, which is great.
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The Canon PowerShot SX60 HS costs around Rs. 32,000 in the market at the moment. This is a lot of money for a super-zoom camera. Looking at the features it offers, the asking price is actually warranted. However, we are not entirely satisfied with its performance, and we think that the much older SX50 HS is still a better buy.
Ratings (Out of 5)