Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 16.1MP CMOS image sensor
  • DIGIC 6 image processor
  • 65x optical zoom
    • 21-1365mm equivalent
  • Zoom Framing Assist
    • Whole Body
    • Upper Body
    • Face
  • Zoom Memory
  • Intelligent IS (Image Stabilization)
  • 3.0" vari-angle LCD display
  • Full 1080/60p HD Video
  • Face Detection
  • Tracking AF (AutoFocus)
  • 6.4 fps Continuous Shooting (with Tracking AF off)
  • Creative Shot Mode
    • Retro
    • Monochrome
    • Special
    • Natural
  • Smart AUTO
    • 58 pre-defined still scenes; 21 video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
    • Mobile Device Connect Button
    • Canon iMAGE GATEWAY
  • NFC
  • RAW + JPEG recording formats
  • Pros
    • 65x zoom lens is unmatched on market currently
    • A bit more wide angle capabilities (21 mm) than expected in large zoom camera lens
    • LCD is sharp and is articulated
    • EVF is also very sharp and easy to use
    • Camera's performance speeds are better than expected for a large-zoom camera
    • Up to 6.4 frames per second performance
    • Image quality is better than expected versus cameras with similarly sized image sensors
    • Both JPEG and RAW shooting formats available
    • Command dial is well positioned
    • Both Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity available
    • Full set of manual control options
    • Hot shoe available
    • Camera's external look and feel is similar to a DSLR
    Cons
    • Price is high
    • Would expect a little better image quality in this price range
    • ISO range is limited to 3200
    • Electronic viewfinder doesn't turn on automatically when you lift camera to your eye
    • Extremely large and heavy camera body
    • No touch screen LCD
    • Four-way button on back of camera is very poorly designed; too small and too tightly set to camera body
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured (start-up image enabled) = 1.7 seconds
    • Power up to first image captured (start-up image disabled) = 1.7 seconds
    • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 0.1 seconds
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.3 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay without flash = 1.8 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 1.5 seconds with review Off
    • Shot to shot delay with flash = 2.9 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.6 seconds with review Off
    • Continuous Mode = 10 frames in 1.5 seconds @ 16M
    • AF Continuous = 10 frames in 2.9 seconds @ 16M
    All tests were taken using a SanDisk Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    The Canon Powershot SX60 HS is an impressive ultra-zoom camera, offering a huge 65x optical zoom range. Unlike many big zoom cameras, the SX60 performs pretty quickly and it creates images that are of a surprisingly good quality. There's plenty of nice add-on features here too, with an articulated LCD, a high-quality electronic viewfinder, numerous special effect options, and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity. The camera's starting price is a little high at $549, and its image quality suffers a bit in tricky shooting situations, but this is a strong camera versus similar models that must be on your list if you're looking for a camera with a large zoom lens.
    Pick This Up If...
    You need an ultra-zoom camera with strong performance levels and plenty of nice add-on features, and you can fit this model's large price range in your budget.
    Most of the time, large-zoom digital cameras are kind of like your birthdays after age 40. You are sure it's going to be great this time, but after unending gifts of ties, the no-sugar cake, and low-fat ice cream your family thought was a smart, healthy idea, most of the time those birthdays just don't live up to the expectations.

    And if you've used a large-zoom digital camera in the past, you've probably experienced a similar feeling. While the large telephoto capabilities of these types of cameras are impressive, these types of cameras tend to perform slowly and have mixed results in terms of image quality.

    I'm not going to go as far as to say that Canon has reinvented the super-zoom digital camera with its PowerShot SX60 HS. However, this is easily one of the most impressive super-zoom cameras I've had the chance to test.

    Not only does this model have a huge 65x optical zoom range, but it also performs much more quickly than most other ultra-zoom cameras. Shutter lag isn't a significant problem with this camera, even with the zoom lens extended. Start-up to first image is less than 2 seconds at wide angle and less than 6 seconds at full telephoto, both of which are very impressive performance levels. Image quality is pretty strong with this model as well, despite a small image sensor.

    The SX60 HS isn't a perfect camera, as a $500-plus starting price is going to leave it well outside the budget of many consumers. And that 1/2.3-inch image sensor, which is the same size as what you'd find in many inexpensive point-n-shoot cameras, causes some issues with image quality in shooting scenes with tricky lighting.

    Still, this is a very good ultra-zoom camera, if you can fit the large price in your budget.

    The key component to this model is its 65x optical zoom lens. (Why Canon chose to call this camera the SX60 and not the "SX65" is another one of those great mysteries of life that I've ceased trying to figure out.)

    Canon also gave the SX60 a frame assist button on the zoom lens, which makes it easier to find a moving subject when you have the telephoto setting fully engaged. This feature is a little awkward to use at first, but you'll find it invaluable once you learn to use it well, especially if you commonly shoot moving subjects over a long distance.

    To be fair, while this camera's 65x optical zoom lens was the largest optical zoom range on the market at the time its introduction, at 1,365 mm the SX60 can't match the maximum telephoto measurement of a couple of other ultra-zoom models, including the Nikon P600 (1,440 mm) and the Sony H400 (1,550 mm). Remember, the optical zoom measurement is the multiple of the widest angle focal length the lens can achieve versus the largest telephoto focal length it can achieve.

    To reach the 65x optical zoom measurement, Canon gave the lens on the PowerShot SX60 the ability to shoot at a wider angle (21 mm) than most large zoom cameras. For general, everyday photography, you'll likely find the extra wide angle capability to be more useful than what you'd get with the extra telephoto capabilities mentioned earlier in the Nikon and Sony models.

    While it's rarely worth mentioning the digital zoom measurement in a digital camera, because of the loss in image quality you suffer when using digital zoom, I have to make note of the 4x digital zoom Canon has included with the SX60. When paired with the 65x optical zoom, this camera has a whopping 260x digital/optical zoom combination. Even if you aren't going to shoot photos at 260x, it can be used to magnify far-off objects a little more clearly on the LCD screen than the optical zoom alone. The 260x digital zoom photos are not of a good image quality with this model, but they're usually sharp enough to be adequate for sharing via social media, which is no small feat for a large-zoom model.

    With such a large zoom lens, the PowerShot SX60 is a blocky, heavy camera that will not fit in a normal pocket. With the zoom lens fully extended, this camera measures nearly 7 inches in depth. If you plan to shoot over the full telephoto quite often, you'll probably want to invest in a tripod.

    Still, my tests found that Canon's Intelligent IS system worked very well much of the time when hand-holding this camera. So on those occasions where you can't use a tripod, the SX60 will work pretty well, creating images with minimal amounts of noise or blur from camera shake.

    The overall image quality for this model was surprisingly good. Most cameras with a small 1/2.3-inch image sensor struggle with shaky image quality in scenes with odd or low light. The PowerShot SX60 outperforms many of those cameras in those tricky scenes with reasonably good image quality and minimal noise.

    For a camera with a starting price of more than $500, though, you'd expect slightly better image quality than what the SX60 HS provides, as many cameras in this price range have larger image sensors. And the maximum ISO setting for this model is only 3200, which may not be high enough to meet your needs in low light situations. The good news is that noise is relatively low throughout the ISO range. You'll notice noise in your photos shot beginning at around ISO 800, but the noise doesn't ruin image quality at any point in the range. This camera's high ISO performance is noticeably better in RAW than JPEG, so if you must shoot at the upper end of the PowerShot SX60's ISO range, I'd recommend shooting in RAW. You also can use the manual popup flash unit to improve your low light photo results. The SX60 HS isn't perfect in terms of image quality, but it is much better than a typical 1/2.3-inch image sensor camera.

    Part of the reason the PowerShot SX60 carries such a high price point is because of its nice collection of add-on features. This model offers both Wi-Fi and NFC wireless capabilities that are easy to use. It has a fully articulated LCD screen, which is great for when you have this camera attached to a tripod or for shooting self-portraits.

    Perhaps the best add-on feature with this model, though, is its electronic viewfinder (EVF). This is a very sharp EVF that easily outclasses most EVFs found in fixed lens cameras. It gives the PowerShot SX60 HS some usage flexibility options. It would have been nice if Canon's designers had given the EVF an eye sensor that would switch the view from the LCD to the EVF whenever you lift the camera to your eye. However you can easily activate the EVF by pressing the Disp button or by simply twisting the LCD screen so that it faces the back of the camera body, essentially "closing" the LCD.

    While it may sound a little silly, the biggest design flaw with the SX60 HS is the positioning and size of the four-way button on the back of the camera body. The button is too small and much too tightly set to the camera body, making it very difficult to press the edges of the button. With no touch screen capability on the SX60's LCD, you must use the four-way button extensively. And after you press it several dozen times during a photography session, you're going to have sore fingers along with several button-pressing mistakes. Adding a raised ring to the four-way button would have make this camera much more useful.

    All of the other control buttons are well positioned and easy to reach while you're holding the camera's comfortable right-hand grip, which makes the poor design of the four-way button all the more frustrating.

    The PowerShot SX60 is also a surprisingly fast camera in terms of its responsiveness. Unlike many large zoom cameras, the SX60's shutter lag is minimal at the widest angle. And even at full telephoto, shutter lag is right around half a second, which is an impressive level of performance. This model doesn't have significant shot to shot delay issues, either, with the ability to shoot back to back photos within a couple of seconds. In continuous shot mode, this model can reach an impressive speed of 6.4 frames per second at full resolution. As with many cameras, the SX60's speed drops quite a bit when shooting in RAW instead of JPEG.

    Similar to this model's strong still image quality, it does a solid job when shooting video. You have the option of shooting at full 1080p HD resolution at 60 frames per second, which is impressive. And you can use the full 65x zoom range when shooting movies, although the lens moves a bit more slowly than it does with still images.

    Battery life is pretty good with this model, offering more than 300 shots per charge when using the LCD to frame photos. You'll receive even more photos per charge if you use the EVF more often. Canon included a separate battery charger with the PowerShot SX60 HS, but it doesn't have a USB cable.

    Bottom Line - Canon's latest ultra-zoom camera, the PowerShot SX60 HS, is a strong offering, surpassing many other large-zoom models in terms of performance and image quality. The SX60 is able to operate quickly, providing better-than-average shutter lag performance at all positions in the zoom range. Shot to shot delays are minimal with this model, and it offers better start-up times than other large-zoom cameras. Canon's Intelligent Image Stabilization (IS) feature works well with this model, yielding image quality that surpasses most of the other cameras with a 50x-plus zoom range, even when hand-holding the camera. Considering the PowerShot SX60 HS has a small 1/2.3-inch image sensor, its image quality is surprisingly good. However, versus other models that have a starting price of $549, the image quality doesn't quite stack up, as similarly priced models tend to have a bigger image sensor; yet a smaller zoom range. You can shoot in both RAW and JPEG formats with the SX60, and RAW images have noticeably better image quality, especially in low light and at higher ISO settings. Beyond the large zoom lens, Canon justifies the high starting price of the SX60 by including a high-quality electronic viewfinder, an articulated and sharp LCD screen, and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities. It'd be nice if this camera had a touch screen, and it's tough to work through the on-screen menus because of the poorly designed four-way button, but those are minor drawbacks. I normally am not a fan of large-zoom cameras because of image-quality and performance related issues, but the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS definitely impressed me. This isn't a perfect camera, but it comes as close as any ultra-zoom camera on the market right now, if you can stomach the high starting price.

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