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Canon SX240 HS / SX260 HS Ken McMahon, May 2012
 
   
 

Canon PowerShot SX240 HS verdict

The Canon PowerShot SX240 HS has had some catching up to do. Last year's SX220/230HS retained the same 14x lens as its predecessor, but with a brand new 20x optical zoom the new SX240 HS is now on a par with competitors like the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 and the Sony Cyber-shot HX20V / HX30V. It's also done some catching up in the continuous shooting stakes, going from 2.2fps to 10.3fps in a single bound.

Other welcome improvements include a 3 inch 4:3 aspect ratio screen, Intelligent IS image stabilisation and better scene detection courtesy of the Digic 5 image processor.

All of this fits in a body that's the same size as it's predecessor and for those who want additional built-in GPS facilities, there's the otherwise identical SX260 HS priced just a little higher. Consumer friendly features like Live Control, Smart Shutter , Face ID and Creative Effects will only serve to broaden its appeal beyond the enthusiast market. So before my final wrap-up, how does it compare to rival models?

   
 

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25

     
 
 
     
     

Starting with the obvious, the one big advantage the PowerShot SX240 HS holds over the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 is its longer zoom range. Both cameras start out at similar wide angles (the ZS15 / TZ25 is marginally wider) but the SX240 HS goes all the way to 500mm equivalent leaving the 16x ZS15 / TZ25 back at 384mm - quite a difference and a significant factor for sports and wildlife photographers.

Both cameras have a 12 Megapixel sensor and there's not a lot in it in terms of image quality to justify picking one over the other. For video, the SX240 HS can boast the 1080p24 HD mode so beloved of film makers compared with 1080i on the ZS15 / TZ25 using AVCHD encoding. Both models allow you apply effects like miniature mode during movie shooting but the SX240 HS can also offer Super Slow Motion Movie mode.

The continuous shooting performance of the PowerShot SX240 HS has taken a massive leap putting it ahead of the ZS15 / TZ25 in terms of burst size (10 vs 4 frames) at 10fps, though it still lags behind the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 in terms of fast reduced resolution modes. And although neither model has a built-in GPS receiver, the PowerShot SX260 HS provides all the same features as the SX240 HS with a built in GPS at a slightly higher price. If you want GPS on the Lumix you'll have to look to the ZS20 / TZ30 - a higher specification model with a price tag to match.

But what the ZS15 / TZ25 has going for it is a good range of features and decent image quality at a compelling price. It's definitely a contender in the pocket super-zoom category.

See my upcoming Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 review for more details

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30

     
 
 
     
     

Panasonic pretty much invented the pocket super-zoom category, the hugely popular Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 is the jewel in its crown and the model all other manufacturers are looking to knock off its perch. The SX240HS / SX260HS has made up quite a bit of ground on the market leader, and now matches it in terms of zoom range and full resolution continuous shooting capabilities. Along with sleeker styling and great ease of use and creative features that may be enough to persuade those newly in the market for a pocket super-zoom.

The ZS20 / TZ30 has a touch screen - a convenience in most situations it provides a real advantage when it comes to focussing, particularly when shooting video. It's video capabilities are technically superior with 1080p50/60 best quality video option, though many will prefer the look of the 1080p24 mode on the SX240 HS, and if you like to edit video the SX240HS can also offer Apple's easy-to-edit iFrame codec. Though both cameras can shoot slow motion movies, but the SX240 HS can do so at VGA (640x480) resolution compared with QVGA (320 x 240) on the ZS20 /TZ30.

The ZS20 / TZ30 is also a more customisable camera with two positions on the mode dial dedicated to custom settings. Both models can shoot a burst of ten frames at 10fps, but the Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 has a range of extended reduced resolution high speed continuous shooting modes.

A key advantage to the ZS20 / TZ30 is built-in GPS with a detailed landmark database and now even basic mapping. If you want GPS capabilities on the Canon, you'll need the SX260 HS, but even then there's none of the landmark or mapping capabilities of the Panasonic.

Finally, there's the question of image quality. Though the image quality of the ZS20 /TZ30 has markedly improved over that of its predecessor, the quality of images from its 14 Megapixel sensor still lags behind that of both the PowerShot SX240 HS as well as its lower priced sibling the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25. But the powerful feature-set including the most sophisticated GPS capabilities of the pack make it an attractive option.

See my Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 review for more details.

 

Compared to Sony Cybershot HX20V / HX30V

Another key rival for the Canon and Panasonic super-zooms is the Sony Cyber-shot HX20V / HX30V, which shares a similar zoom range along with Sony's usual raft of unique shooting modes and gadgetry. Both the HX20V and HX30V sport GPS receivers, but unique to the latter isbuilt-in Wifi, giving it an edge over the competition. Look out for a detailed review soon!

 

Compared to Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

And finally there's Canon's own PowerShot SX260 HS, a camera that's identical to the SX240 HS other than the addition of built-in GPS capabilities. With this decision, Canon's effectively offering two versions of the same camera, one with GPS and one without, allowing you to choose whether you want to spend a little extra on the feature, or skip it and save some money. All of the tests, quality comparisons and sample images you can find in this review are equally applicable to the SX260 HS.

 

Canon PowerShot SX240 HS verdict

The PowerShot SX240 HS is undoubtedly a much better camera than the SX230 HS that it replaces. People buy pocket super-zooms primarily for the extreme zoom range they offer and Canon has extended the 14x zoom of its predecessor to 20x taking it from the back of the pack to a position equal to the market leading ZS20 / TZ30 and Sony's latest rival. Canon has also addressed the other major shortcoming of its entire compact range - poor continuous shooting performance. It'll be interesting to see if this feature is rolled out in other Canon 2012 premium compacts.

Other improvements include upgraded image stabilisation and face ID. We tend to take it for granted that each new generation of a model will be smaller and lighter than the previous one, but that makes it no less remarkable that the SX240 HS is the same size and only a little heavier than its predecessor and enjoys improved battery life too. It all adds up to a very compelling and capable pocket super-zoom that closes the gap still further on Panasonic's dominance of this market. I also like that Canon effectively offers two versions of the camera in most regions, one with GPS (the SX260 HS) and one without (the SX240 HS), allowing you to decide if you want to spend the extra on this feature.

 



Good points
Broad 20x stabilised zoom in slim body.
10fps fast full resolution burst mode.
Improved stabilisation.
Great image quality.

Bad points
No customisation options or presets.
Wobbling movie artifacts at full zoom.
Fiddly / noisy dual speed zoom.
Modest 5cm close focus.




Scores

(relative to 2012 super-zooms)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
18 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20

85%


   

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