The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS ($329.99 direct) is a pocket-size camera with a long 20x zoom lens. It packs a wealth of features into its svelte frame, including Wi-Fi and GPS. Images from the 12-megapixel CMOS sensor are sharp, although some details are smudged away at very high ISO settings. The camera doesn’t have a fast lens like higher-end compacts with shorter zoom ratios, and while it’s a bit on the pricey side, it isn’t out of line with the competition. The SX280′s combination of zoom, image quality, and extra features make for an attractive package, one that is good enough to oust the older, more expensive Sony Cyber-shot HX30V as our Editors’ Choice compact superzoom.
Design and Features
It’s not the smallest point-and-shoot that we’ve seen come through our testing lab, but the SX280 HS, available in red or black, squeezes an impressive 20x zoom lens into its frame. It measures 2.5 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches (HWD) and weighs about 8.2 ounces. It’s smaller than the Samsung WB800F (2.6 by 4.2 by 1.5 inches, 8.3 ounces), but the Samsung packs a slightly more ambitious 21x zoom lens that’s about a half-stop brighter and a teeny bit wider. The SX280′s lens covers a 25-500mm (35mm equivalent) field of view with an aperture that starts at f/3.5 and narrows to f/6.8 when zoomed all the way in.
Controls are good for a point-and-shoot. The Power button, zoom rocker, and shutter release are on the top plate, just where you expect them to be. On the rear you’ll find the mode dial and a spinning control ring. The ring doubles as a four-way controller, with button presses that give you access to exposure compensation, flash control, the self-timer, and macro focusing. Other shooting controls are accessed via the Function/Set button, located in the center of the control ring. This brings up an overlay menu from which you can enable the GPS, adjust the metering pattern, change the white balance, set the ISO, enable continuous drive shooting, adjust the flash power, and control image quality and color options.
The rear display is a big 3 inches, and with a 460k-dot resolution, it’s fairly sharp. But it’s no match for the huge 4.8-inch, 920k-dot display on the Android-powered, connected Samsung Galaxy Camera. The SX280 also integrates Wi-Fi so you can transfer images to you smartphone, post directly to the Web when connected to a hotspot, transfer photos to your PC or another Canon camera, and print wirelessly to a compatible printer. Setup isn’t quite as easy as with the Galaxy Camera; if you want to share photos via Facebook and Twitter directly from the camera, you’ll first need to connect the SX280 to your computer via USB in order to set up Canon Image Gateway and transfer your login information to the camera. It’s a painless step, but still an extra one.
A built-in GPS adds geographic coordinates to your photos. When this feature is enabled you’ll be able to view the location from which you shot each photo in a map when using Picasa, Lightroom, and other image-editing applications. The GPS did take about 40 seconds to lock onto a signal the first time it was enabled, but reacquisition was much speedier. It does put a drain on the camera’s battery, so it’s best to turn the feature off when you’re not using it.
Performance and Conclusions
The SX280 HS is fast. It starts and shoots in 1.6 seconds, focuses quickly for a 0.1-second shutter lag, and can shoot continuously at 3 frames per second. This is in stark contrast to the 21x Galaxy Camera, which is slowed by its Android operating system. It requires 2.9 seconds to wake from standby and take a photo and its shutter lag is 0.4-second. The Galaxy does shoot a bit faster in drive mode, 3.8 frames per second, but is limited to a 20-shot burst at that rate; the SX280 HS can go as long as you’d like without slowing down.
I use Imatest to check the image sharpness. We consider an image to be sharp if it scores better than 1,800 lines per picture height using a center-weighted metric on our SFR Plus test chart. The SX280 managed 1,957 lines, which is an impressive score. Samsung’s similar 21x WB800F is also no slouch in this department; it scored 1,992 lines on the same test. The scores are close enough to call it a draw between the two superzooms.
Imatest also checks for noise, which is another important component in image quality. As you increase sensitivity to light, measured in ISO, noise is introduced. At its best it makes images appear a bit grainy, at its worst it wipes away image information and kills fine detail. Imatest tells us that the SX280 HS keeps noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 1600, which is impressive for a compact. The Samsung WB800F does better, keeping noise under control through ISO 3200.
But the simple score doesn’t tell the whole story. We take a close look at test shots at every ISO setting on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display, checking the parts of our test scene nearest to our color test chart for signs of noise reduction. The SX280 shows some evidence of smudging at ISO 1600, but less than the WB800F. Noise is visible on the test squares is in a tight pattern, where the WB800F is a bit bigger and blockier. Either camera will do fine for online sharing at these settings, but if you want to print an image or crop heavily, you’ll get better results from the SX280. Neither does as well as our Editors’ Choice compact digital camera, the 10x zooming Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS. Its images at ISO 1600 are as good as the SX280 is at ISO 800. It’s worth considering if you don’t require the ambitious zoom ratio of the SX280, as it also packs Wi-Fi—but not GPS.
We’ve criticized Canon point-and-shoots in the past for lackluster video options; the imaging processor that Canon used in the previous version of this camera, the PowerShot SX260 HS, limited capture to 1080p24. The SX280 steps up the game, giving you the option to record MP4 footage in 1080p60, 1080p30, 720p30, 480p30, or 240p240 quality. The last one isn’t a typo—it’s an ultra-fast capture mode that slows down footage to a 30fps file, resulting in very, very slow motion. The 1080p60 footage is extremely smooth, to the point where it’s almost hyper-realistic; the 1080p30 looks more like traditional video, and is also sharp with accurate colors. The camera is quick to focus during recording, and if you’re not recording in slow motion you can adjust the focal length without stopping your video. The sound of the lens is audible, though, so keep that in mind when zooming. There’s a standard mini HDMI port to connect to an HDTV, as well as a mini USB port for PC connectivity. SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported, and a dedicated battery charger is included.
The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is one of the best compact superzooms that we’ve seen recently, thus it earns it our Editors’ Choice award. Its image quality is a bit better than the similar Samsung WB800F at high ISO settings, and it packs a bunch of features including Wi-Fi, GPS, and 1080p60 video capture. The 20x zoom lens is sharp, and the camera is speedy in every regard. It’s not perfect; images aren’t quite as good as those from our Editors’ Choice compact, the 10x-zooming Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS, and it doesn’t have always-on 4G connectivity like the Samsung Galaxy Camera. But if you’re looking for a pocket-size superzoom that takes great pictures, and comes with travel-friendly Wi-Fi and GPS, the SX280 HS should be at the top of your list.
|Dimensions||2.5 x 4.2 x 1.3 inches|
|Interface Ports||mini USB, mini HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.3 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||20 x|
|Boot time||1.6 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||25 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||1957|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||500 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.1 seconds|
|Sensor Size||6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc