The 30x Canon PowerShot SX510 HS ($249.99 direct) is the company’s midrange long zoom camera, offering a bit more reach than the smaller 20x Canon PowerShot SX280 HS and packed into a smaller package than the 50x PowerShot SX50 HS. Images are sharp, it focuses quickly, and you get Wi-Fi connectivity, but it’s not without its issues. There’s some color fringing noticeable towards the edges of the frame, images are on the noisy side, and its video capture capabilities are a bit lacking. It’s not as capable as our Editors’ Choice superzoom, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, but it’s a decent option if you don’t want to spend that much on a camera and you want a bit more reach than the SX280 HS can muster.
Design and Features
The SX510 HS is sized like a compact, but shaped like an SLR. It’s got a fairly substantial hand grip, a lens that protrudes from the body, even when not in use, and a pop-up flash that juts out and rests on top of the lens barrel. But it measures just 2.7 by 4.1 by 3.2 inches, but it is a bit heavy for its size at 12.3 ounces. The depth prevents it from being pocketable, so it’s not as go-anywhere as the slimmer (2.5 by 4.2 by 1.3-inch, 8.2-ounce) SX280 HS.
Canon only offers the 12-megapixel SX510 HS in black. The lens is a 30x design, covering a 24-720mm f/3.4-5.8 (35mm equivalent) field of view. You can see the difference between 24mm and 720mm in the shots below. That’s just a bit shorter reach than the Kodak AZ362, a 36x camera that’s priced the same, but is noticeably larger.
There are enough physical controls placed on the body to make demanding photographers happy. Full manual mode is supported, but automatic operation is also available if you just want to point and shoot. The top plate houses the power button, zoom rocker, shutter release, and mode dial. On the rear you’ll find a control dial with four directional buttons (ISO/Wi-Fi, Macro/Manual Focus, Flash, Self-Timer), playback controls, and a +/- button that gives you quick access to exposure compensation, a tool that allows you to quickly brighten or darken a scene.
There’s one extra control of note on the left side of the lens barrel. It’s a framing assist button. If you’re zoomed in and have lost track of your subject, pressing it widens the field of view of the lens temporarily. The rear display shows a white box that represents the field of view at the level of zoom the camera will go back to when the button is released. You can use this function to reacquire your subject and go back to the desired level of zoom with one touch.
The rear display is 3 inches in size and features a 461k-dot resolution. It’s not the equal of a 920k-dot panel, like the one you’ll find on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30, but it’s par for the course at this price point. That said, the display is adequately sharp and bright for framing. Larger long zoom cameras, like the Fujifilm SL1000 generally add an eye-level electronic viewfinder, but that’s another feature that you won’t get without spending more money.
Like other recent Canon compacts, Wi-Fi is built in. You’ll be able to transfer images and videos to your iOS or Android device via the free Canon CameraWindow app. You can set the camera up to broadcast its own network SSID, or connect the SX510 to the same Wi-Fi network that your phone normally connects to. When the SX510 hops onto an Internet-connected Wi-Fi network you can post images directly to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Flickr; you’ll first need to set up a Canon Image Gateway account to configure your accounts on these services. That’s an extra step that you won’t have to deal with a long-zoom Samsung camera like the WB800F; it lets you set up accounts in-camera, and it also supports remote control via your smartphone, functionality that Canon compacts don’t yet support.
Performance and Conclusions
The SX510 HS starts and captures a photo in about 1.6 seconds. It focuses and fires a shot (at its widest angle) in just 0.1-second, and it captures a photo every 0.9-second in continuous drive mode. Like most long zoom cameras, the time to lock focus when zoomed all the way in is a bit longer. I clocked it at about 1.7 seconds; the SX510 HS automatically attempts to focus, without your having to press the shutter button, so in some situations the focus time won’t be as noticeable. The similarly styled, but less expensive, Olympus SP-620UZ is a little bit slower; it starts ain 1.9 seconds, notches a 0.2-second shutter lag, and requires you to wait 1.3 seconds between shots.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the SX510′s lens. A good lens will manage more than 1,800 lines per picture height on a center-weighted test, and the SX510 doesn’t disappoint there. It scores 1,996 lines, although it does show some evidence of chromatic aberration at the edges of the frame. This shows up as purple and green color fringing around areas that are high in contrast near the edges of the frame, as you can see in the corner crop below. Canon’s SX280 HS doesn’t show this fringing in images, and its lens is just as sharp, scoring 1,957 lines on the same test.
Imatest also checks photos for noise, which can sap detail and give images a grainy look when shooting at the higher ISO sensitivities that are required to get a sharp shot in dim light. The SX510 HS captures images that are on the noisy side. At its lowest sensitivity (ISO 80) it approaches 1 percent. It just crosses the cutoff for an image with acceptable noise at ISO 200; it shows 1.6 percent both there and at ISO 400. When the camera is pushed to ISO 800 images are made up of 1.8 percent noise.
Those scores are just slightly on the high side, so I took a close look at images from PCMag’s ISO test scene on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W to check and see how image quality holds up as the ISO increases. The camera does a very good job balancing detail and image noise through ISO 800, but fine lines start to disappear at ISO 1600 and are gone at the top setting of ISO 3200. That’s much better than the Kodak Pixpro AZ362; it also can only keep noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 100, but its images lack any sort of critical detail by the time it gets to ISO 400.
Most recent Canon compacts have gotten video performance upgrades so that they support 1080p60 footage. The SX510 HS uses an older image processor, and like previous-generation Canons it only supports 1080p24 or 720p30 footage. The footage is sharp and the camera is quick to reacquire focus, but there’s a significant rolling shutter when panning. This causes the bottom of the frame tor refresh more quickly than the top, giving rubber like motion to the objects. It’s something that you don’t see in newer Canon compacts that support 60fps capture. If you want to view footage directly on an HDTV you can connect the camera via its mini HDMI port, and there’s a mini USB port to plug into a computer. A dedicated external battery charger is included, and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards are supported.
The Canon PowerShot SX510 HS manages to squeeze a 30x zoom lens into a body that, while not pocketable, is quite compact compared with other bridge-style superzoom cameras. The lens is sharp, image quality is good through ISO 800, and Wi-Fi is built into the camera. But the lens has a tendency to add purple and green fringing at high-contrast areas in your image, the 1080p24 video is not on the level of other models, and the burst shooting mode is fairly slow. If you really, really require a 30x lens, the $250 price tag and relatively compact form factor are appealing. But the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS, which sells for $20 more, delivers better video and an improved burst rate, and doesn’t show any color fringing. It’s a pocketable, Wi-Fi-capable, 20x camera that won our Editors’ Choice award for compact superzooms, and is a better buy. If image quality and versatility is of the utmost concern, our Editors’ Choice for full-size superzooms is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20; it sells for twice as much, but if it’s within your budget, its constant-aperture f/2.8 lens is worth the extra cost.
|Dimensions||2.7 x 4.1 x 3.2 inches|
|Interface Ports||mini USB, mini HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.9 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||30 x|
|Boot time||1.6 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||24 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||1996|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||720 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.1 seconds|
|Sensor Size||1/2.3" (6.2 x 4.6mm) mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc