The lens included with the PowerShot SX260 HS is one of this camera's best features, thanks to its 20x optical zoom. In a camera of this size, having such a large zoom is a great option. It offers some nice wide angle options, too, with a 35mm equivalent range of 25mm to 500mm. The lens housing of the SX260 is built a fraction of an inch beyond the main camera body, although the lens retracts completely inside the housing when the camera is not in use.
When you turn on the camera, the lens extends about an inch beyond the housing, and when the zoom lens is activated at its maximum telephoto capability, the lens extends almost 3 inches away from the camera.
The SX260 uses a TTL Contrast Detection Autofocus system. This camera's macro mode allows it to focus on objects as close as 2 inches away.
- Normal: 2.0 in. (5 cm) - infinity (W), 3.3 ft. (1 m) - infinity (T)
- Auto: 2.0 in. (5 cm) - infinity (W), 3.3 ft. (1 m) - infinity (T)
- Macro: 2.0 in. - 1.6 ft. (5-50 cm) (W)
Another great feature in the SX260 HS is its popup flash unit, which is on the left side of the top panel (as you're using the camera). The flash automatically pops up whenever it's needed or whenever you shoot in Always On Flash mode. Just be careful that the fingers of your left hand don't block the flash as it tries to pop up, or you could receive an error message that will force you to restart the camera.
Thanks in part to the way the flash extends a bit above the camera body, it has a better range than most small flash units. The SX260's flash range is 1.6 to 11 feet in wide-angle and 3.3 to 6.6 feet in telephoto. Canon allows the flash to operate in Auto, Always On, Slow Synchro, and Always Off modes, depending on which shooting mode you're using.
The top panel on this PowerShot camera is pretty basic, containing a shutter button that's surrounded by the zoom ring and the on/off button (on the far right in this photo). You can make out the outline of the popup flash unit in the upper left portion of the top panel in this photo. The zoom ring also controls the Index and Magnify options in playback.
Another impressive feature on the PowerShot SX260 HS is its 3.0-inch LCD screen. This is a high quality screen with 461,000 pixels of resolution, which is very bright, and it really doesn't suffer from much screen glare outdoors. If you are having trouble with glare, you can increase the screen brightness to the highest of five brightness levels to fix the problem. The images on the SX260's LCD are very sharp, too.
Having a mode dial available as the primary control on this Canon camera is a very nice feature, as it will save you quite a bit of time to pick the right shooting mode versus having to work through the onscreen menus. As you spin the mode dial, an explanation of the function appears on the screen. The options on the mode dial include:
- M - Manual
- Av - Aperture Priority
- Tv - Shutter Speed Priority
- P - Program
- LIVE - Live View Control
- AUTO - Auto mode
- Heart icon - Easy mode
- Camera and film icon - Movie Digest
- SCN - Scene modes (11 options)
- Interlocking circles icon - Fisheye Effect mode
- Face icon - Discreet mode
- Movie camera icon - Standard mode (video)
Canon did a nice job with the control buttons on the right side of the back of the camera, as they're raised a little bit away from the camera body, making them easier to select. Finally, there's a spinning control ring that's mounted around the four-way controller, which is great for making selections more quickly. The ring has some bumps on it, which means your finger won't slip. If only Canon included these types of buttons and controls on all of their point and shoot cameras!
Just under the mode dial is the dedicated Movie button and the Playback button. As part of the four-way controller in the middle of the panel, you'll find exposure control, flash, self-timer/delete, and macro modes (clockwise from top). You can use the control ring or press down on the edges of the spin ring to make your selections. In the center of the four-way controller is the FUNC/SET button. Finally, the DISP and Menu buttons are at the bottom of the camera.
The right side of the SX260 HS camera has a flexible plastic door at the top of the panel. When you open the panel, you'll find a Mini-B USB port above a Mini-HDMI port. The flexible plastic door feels a little flimsy, and it lightly snaps into place. The mini-B USB port also handles standard definition AV output, however no video cables are included.
The SX260 HS can accept SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards up to 32GB in capacity. The slots for the memory card and the rechargeable battery are contained behind a hard plastic door on the bottom of the camera that opens and closes with a secure snap.
Canon has included a separate battery charger with the PowerShot SX260 HS, which is a nice feature. The charger plugs directly into an outlet, and it means that you can charge one battery while continuing to shoot with a second battery; unlike cameras that require you to charge the battery inside the camera.
The rechargeable Li-ion battery for the SX260 is an average size, and Canon estimates about 230 photos can be taken on a full charge. My tests showed that is a good estimate, perhaps just a little high. The amount of battery life you'll receive depends greatly on how often you move the zoom back and forth through its large 20x range, as well as how often the camera must pop up the flash unit, both of which will drain the battery a bit more quickly. Use of the camera's built-in GPS drains the battery more quickly, too.