Canon Powershot SX260 HS: Superzoom day at the Zoo

Despite the low light inside the Gorilla exhibit, the Canon SX260 did a good job of capturing expressions, even through the glassLorrie and I spent yesterday scouting out the current exhibits at the Bronx Zoo for the B&H photo walk we are leading in the morning. It was fun, but since we wanted to cover the entire zoo we were moving quickly and didn’t have time to shoot as much as we would have liked. Since I’m in the middle of doing a face off of the new “super-zoom” point and shoots from Canon and Nikon I figured I’d spend the day shooting with the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. After getting back to our friends’ apartment, I reviewed the images and found a lot to like, and a little disappointment…

My first reaction when looking at the images in a preview window on my laptop was nearly pure joy. For a point and shoot, especially a point and zoom, they were quite sharp, with good color. Flipping through one after another I thought I might have found a new champion pocket camera. Until I looked at them full-screen. Here is where the “slow” lens and small sensor could be seen to have hurt the image quality – not a lot, but enough to put the SX260 a notch below my favorite point and shoot, the Canon PowerShot S100. The slow lens meant that I needed to use a high ISO (1600 for most of the low-light shots) to get a reasonable shutter speed. And in turn the small sensor meant that at such a high ISO there was some visible noise in the JPEGs (these Superzooms don’t shoot Raw).

Sealions getting a rain shower bath at the main pool at the Bronx Zoo

In fairness to the camera, it was a heavily overcast day, so lighting wasn’t ideal. And of course I was often zoomed in nearly all the way (over 400mm equivalent) and therefore operating at the slowest part of the lens. Shots on a sunny day or using more normal focal lengths would not have shown anywhere near as much noise. All in all, though, I was quite pleased with the superzoom’s image quality. The other tradeoff, of course, is speed. No point and shoot is as fast to focus as a quality DSLR, or as fast to shoot, and the superzooms are no exception. Careful framing and timing of shots is needed.

Flamingo at Bronx Zoo, JPEG as shot

Still, I was definitely impressed, and there really isn’t any other way to get a telephoto zoom that fits in your pocket. So if you need one, the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS is a great way to go. I’ll be writing more about it, as I compare it to the Nikon Coolpix S9300 over the next few  days.

Kingfisher, zoomed in through glass, indoors at Bronx Zoo