General Electric X2600 review

The GE X2600 is a bargain-priced superzoom camera, but its image quality suffers as you increase the ISO and it lacks an EVF.
Photo of General Electric X2600

The General Electric X2600 ($169.99 direct) is another in the company’s budget-priced camera lineup. It’s got an impressively sharp 26x zoom lens and in bright light the 16-megapixel image sensor is capable of delivering some sharp images. But image quality drops off as you increase the ISO above its lowest setting, and the combination of a low-resolution LCD and lack of an EVF make shooting at the maximum 676mm focal length a bit of an adventure (and not in a good way). It can’t touch our Editors’ Choice superzoom, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, a much more expensive camera, and there are better budget options in this class.

Design and Features
The X2600 measures 3.1 by 4.6 by 2.9 inches (HWD) and weighs in at just over a pound. It’s available in blue or black, and feels very sturdily built. The body is hard plastic and the ample handgrip is covered by a textured leatherette. It’s actually a bit bigger than another GE budget option, the X600. That camera is 3.1 by 4.1 by 2.9 inches and weighs 12.5 ounces, but manages to squeeze an EVF into its body. The lens covers a 26x range, starting at 26mm and zooming all the way to 676mm. Its aperture is a decent f/3.2 on the wide end, but narrows to f/5.6 when zoomed all the way in—so you’ll likely have to use a higher ISO setting to get a sharp shot when zoomed all the way in, even with the built-in optical stabilization system.

There are a few controls on the top of the camera; the standard shutter release and zoom rocker are at the peak of the grip. Below that are buttons to control the flash output, enable macro shooting, and control the drive mode. There’s a mode dial, but it lacks the aperture priority and shutter priority settings seasoned photographers are used to. Instead you’re limited to automatic, program, manual, or a number of scene modes.

Aside from a movie record button, the rear controls are for menu navigation and playback settings. The LCD is fairly large at 3 inches, but its 230k-dot resolution gives it a pixelated, fuzzy look. Screens like this are par for the course on budget models; you’ll have to move up to a more expensive camera like the Fujifilm HS50EXR in order to enjoy the benefits of a top-end 920k-dot LCD.

If you want to adjust camera settings during shooting, you’ll have to do so via an on-screen menu. It’s a ribbon-style overlay that occupies the top strip of the LCD. It allows you to imprint photos with a permanent date stamp (with the existence of EXIF data in each JPG file, this seems rather silly), and more practical things like adjusting the aperture or shutter speed when the camera is set to manual mode. (In other modes, these settings are visible, but skipped over.)

Other controls are always available, assuming you aren’t shooting in full automatic mode. You can adjust exposure compensation, flash compensation, the ISO, white balance, and the focus and exposure area. There are also a few settings that you can use to adjust the JPG output to best suit your photographic vision—the color mode, contrast, and sharpness can be tweaked to your liking.

Performance and Conclusions
The X2600 is one of the slower cameras that we’ve tested. It requires 2.2 seconds to start up and take a photo, its shutter lag is a lengthy 0.4-second, and it can only take a photo once every 1.2 seconds in continuous drive mode. The shutter lag increases if you’re shooting in low light, or if you’re trying to take a photo at the maximum zoom; in both cases we clocked it around 1.8 seconds. A similar budget superzoom, the Olympus SP-620UZ is a bit faster; it starts in 1.9 seconds and is a bit slower with shot-to-shot times at 1.3 seconds, but its shutter lag is only 0.2-second and it can shoot bursts of low-resolution photos at 4.6 or 14.9fps if desired.

I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the X2600′s lens. It’s one of the refreshing aspects of the camera, as it manages to record 2,308 lines per picture height. This is better than the 1,800 lines that we require to call an image sharp. GE’s other budget zoom, the X600, isn’t quite as sharp at 1,842 lines, but it still delivers acceptable performance. You can click on the image above to see a larger version; it was shot at the maximum focal length. The X2600 defaulted to a 1/160-second shutter speed and ISO 80 on an overcast day.

But you’ll have to contend with some image noise. The X2600 records images with 1.5 percent noise at its lowest ISO setting, 64. Noise jumps to 1.9 percent at ISO 100, and is at 2.6 percent by ISO 400. To make matters worse, image detail starts to degrade at ISO 200 (though it’s still acceptable, even for printing), but everything starts to gets fuzzy at ISO 400 when viewed on our calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display.

If you’re just looking to share photos on the web you can probably get away with shooting at ISO 800, but if you opt to buy the X2600, you’d be advised to avoid ISO 1600 if you can. With a long zoom camera like this, higher ISOs aren’t just for low-light shooting. Even in daylight you may find yourself shooting at ISO 400 in order to get a fast shutter speed when zoomed in. If you can stretch your budget to a camera with a CMOS image sensor (the X2600 uses a CCD) you’ll enjoy an advantage at higher ISOs. A pocket model like the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS still offers an impressive 20x lens and images with little noise through ISO 1600, but it costs twice as much.

Video is recorded at 720p30 quality in MP4 format. The footage looks sharp under our studio lights, and the camera can zoom in and out while recording—but the lens movement is quite audible on the soundtrack. The X2600 struggles a bit to reacquire focus after zooming, noticeably racking back and forth before locking in on its target. There is a micro HDMI port on side of the camera, integrated into the handgrip, as well as a micro USB port. The usual SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported, and battery is provided by four AA cells.

The General Electric X2600 fulfills its promise of an impressive zoom lens at an attractive asking price. But it doesn’t deliver the performance or versatility of its more expensive competition. If money is tight, we recommend a different GE camera, the X600; it also packs a 26x zoom, but packs a CMOS sensor that does a better job at higher ISOs and an EVF. If money isn’t an object, the best superzoom you can buy is our Editors’ Choice Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. Its lens is a modest 24x design, but it maintains a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout its range and has all of the bells and whistles that you’d expect from a $600 camera.

Specifications
Dimensions 3.1 x 4.6 x 2.9 inches
Interface Ports micro USB, micro HDMI
Sensor Type CCD
Megapixels 16 MP
Battery Type Supported AA
Recycle time 1.2 seconds
LCD dots 230,000
LCD size 3 inches
Touch Screen No
Media Format Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity
Maximum ISO 1600
Type Superzoom
GPS No
Optical Zoom 26 x
Boot time 2.2 seconds
35-mm Equivalent (Wide) 26 mm
Weight 17.2 oz
Lines Per Picture Height 2,308
Video Resolution 720p
LCD Aspect Ratio 4
Image Stabilization Optical
35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto) 676 mm
Shutter Lag 0.4 seconds
Sensor Size 1/2.3" (6.2 x 4.6mm) mm

Verdict
The GE X2600 is a bargain-priced superzoom camera, but its image quality suffers as you increase the ISO and it lacks an EVF.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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