Canon PowerShot SX510 HS review


The PowerShot SX510 HS is Canon’s newest additon to its SX series of super-zooms. In terms of physical size and zoom range it sits in the middle – it’s not as compact as pocket models like the 20x SX280 HS, but is a lot more portable than the 50x SX50 HS. And although its 30x zoom range is also middling in this context, compared with most other models on the market, it really is a lot of zoom in a little body. Only Sony’s 30x HX50V beats it on those terms.

The SX510 HS replaces the PowerShot SX500 IS, which remains in the line-up for now. Built around the same 30x lens, the newer model is fitted with Canon’s 12 Megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, providing lower noise levels as well as a range of other enhancements including faster continuous shooting, 1080p30 video and a sensitivity range extending from 80 to 3200 ISO.

The other major new feature is built-in Wifi, allowing connection to a range of devices including smartphones and image sharing to photo and social networking websites. All of that, plus extended battery life in the new Eco mode, Super slow motion and Movie digest modes, is packed into a body that’s exactly the same size and only a few grams heavier than its predecessor. It’s a solid upgrade guaranteed to maintain the success of what’s proved to be a very popular format. Before my final verdict let’s see how it compares with one of its main rivals, the Nikon COOLPIX L820.


Compared to Nikon COOLPIX L820


Super-zooms are mostly about lenses so lets talk about that first. Like the PowerShot SX510 HS, the Nikon COOLPIX L820 has a 30x stabilised optical zoom. The range isn’t quite the same – the COOLPIX L810 starts at at unusually wide 22.5mm equivalent super-wide angle, which could be an attraction if you shoot a lot of landscapes or interiors. The drawback is that its 675mm maximum telephoto won’t get you quite as close in to the action as the 24-720mm lens on the SX510 HS. In practical terms though, these are quite small differences at both ends of the zoom range.The COOLPIX L820 is a little chunkier than the SX510 HS and it’s heavier, in part due to its four AA batteries which provide it with around double the number of shots providing you use Ni-Mh rechargeables.

The sensor in the COOLPIX L810 produces 16 Megapixel images, larger than the 12 Megapixel shots of the PowerShot SX510 HS, but in my tests the quality of the COOLPIX L810 wasn’t quite up to the standards of the lower resolution sensor in the Canon. Both models have a 3 inch fixed LCD screen and a built in flash and they’re similar in terms of their design and control layouts.

But beyond that lie some pretty fundamental differences. The COOLPIX L820 is a basic point-and shoot compact, lacking the PASM exposure modes of the PowerShot SX510 HS. You can set the ISO sensitivity manually and adjust exposure compensation, but that’s about as far as it goes. And while the COOLPIX L820 has a handful of special effects, the PowerShot SX510 HS goes much further with Creative effects, and Live view controls for easy operation. In its favour, the COOLPIX L810 offers Easy panorama, 3D and HDR backlighting scene modes.

Both models offer 1080p full HD video, but the COOLPIX L820 has a wider range of movie modes including iFrame, now dropped on the SX510 HS, and three high speed (i.e. slow motion) video modes, one at 720p, compared with only two modes (and no HD) on the PowerShot SX510 HS. The SX510 HS does have the excellent movie digest mode though. The COOLPIX L810 has a wider range of continuous shooting modes, though not all work at the full resolution of the sensor. Finally, the COOLPIX L820 lacks built-in Wifi or GPS, a serious ommission these days, when most people want to share images quickly and easily.

The COOLPIX L820 is about 20 percent cheaper than the PowerShot SX510 HS, and if what you’re looking for is an uncomplicated point-and-shoot model with a long zoom, a good range of video modes and the convenience of AA batteries, it’s well worth considering. But if you want more control over exposure, a wider range of effects and feature modes, along with Wifi connectivity in a more compact and lightweight body, the SX510 HS is well worth the extra money.

Check out my upcoming Nikon COOLPIX L820 review for more details.

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS final verdict

The PowerShot SX510 HS is a solid upgrade to what was already a very popular model. The new CMOS sensor brings it into line with the other models in the SX range (the older SX500 IS is now the only model apart from the budget A series to use a CCD sensor) and brings improvements in image quality and a raft of other benefits including 1080p24 HD video and faster continuous shooting. Battery life has also been improved with the introduction of an Eco mode and there’s built-in Wifi with the option to tag images with GPS data from your smartphone. All of these enhancements pretty much guarantee its continued well deserved popularity.

In amongst all the good news, there are a couple of minor gripes. The chromatic aberration at either end of the zoom range takes the edge off its otherwise excellent image quality, especially as it’s something that could be corrected digitally by a new image processor. And while it’s nice to see an improvement in the previously mediocre continuous shooting performance, it’s still hardly fast in that regard. These minor issues aside though, the PowerShot SX510 HS remains a great little camera with a great big zoom and one I have no hesitation in highly recommending.

Good points
30x stabilised optical zoom.
Excellent optical image stabilisation.
Built-in Wifi and GPS linking.
1080p24 HD video.

Bad points
Colour fringing at zoom extremes.
Improved, but average continuous shooting.
Indirect Wifi sharing to Twitter.


(relative to 2013 super-zooms)

Build quality:
Image quality:


17 / 20
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17 / 20
17 / 20



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