The GE X600 ($199.99 direct) is an inexpensive superzoom camera with an impressive 26x zoom lens, a quality eye-level EVF, and a sharp lens. Given its features it’s priced at a bargain, but keep in mind that the 14-megapixel camera is slower to start, image quality suffers as you increase the ISO setting, and its 1080p video quality isn’t the best in the world. If you don’t need such an ambitious zoom or an EVF you’ll find that the Canon SX260 HS is a better camera that’s currently selling for around the same price.
Design and Features
The X600 takes it design cues from larger superzoom cameras like our Editors’ Choice Panasonic FZ200 thanks to its deep handgrip, big lens, and eye-level EVF, but it manages a more compact package. The X600 measures 3.1 by 4.1 by 2.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 12.5 ounces. The FZ200 is larger and heavier at 3.4 by 4.9 by 4.3 inches and 1.3 pounds.
The 26x zoom lens covers an impressive 26-676mm f/3.2-5.6 (35mm equivalent) range. It exceeds the zoom range of the similarly styled and priced Olympus SP-620UZ—its 21x zoom lens starts at 25mm, but only zooms to 525mm.
The rear LCD is 2.7 inches, but is a little bit on the soft side due to its low 230k-dot resolution. There’s no hard protective cover, so some care should be taken when stowing the camera in your bag—you don’t want to damage or scratch the LCD accidentally. Separating itself from other cameras in this price range, the X600 does have an eye-level electronic viewfinder. It’s especially useful for zoomed shots, as it makes it possible to hold the camera closer to your body to get a steadier shot. GE doesn’t publish the resolution for the EVF, but it is acceptably sharp.
Physical controls are ample. There’s a mode dial on the top, as well as buttons to start video recording and to control the Drive Mode. The rear of the camera features buttons to adjust Exposure Compensation, change the autofocus area, enable macro shooting, control the flash output, and activate the self timer.
There are a number of shooting modes built into the camera. You’ll have access to Automatic, Manual, Program, and Shutter Priority modes—although there is no Aperture Priority mode available. You also get Face Beautifier (which softens features), a panoramic shooting mode, and a black-and-white mode directly from the dial, and a number of scene modes (including Fireworks, Pets, and Snow) can be access via a software menu.
Performance and Conclusions
The X600 is a slow camera to start and to fire. It requires about 4 seconds to start and shoot and records a 0.4-second shutter lag. In Continuous Drive mode it can shoot at an impressive 6.5 frames per second. The Olympus SP-620UZ starts faster—it boots in 1.9 seconds and notches a 0.2-second shutter lag, but is limited to snapping a full-resolution photo once every 1.3 seconds at maximum resolution.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of images captured by the X600. The camera records 1,842 lines per picture height, which is better than the 1,800 lines required for a sharp photo. In terms of noise, which can harm image detail, the X600 keeps it under 1.5 percent through ISO 800—but it would appear that it does so via some overzealous noise reduction. If you can keep the camera set to ISO 400 or lower your images will look better, especially when printed, but ISO 800 will work for sharing on the Web.
Video is recorded in 1080p30 or 720p60 quality in QuickTime format. I recommend grabbing footage at the lower 720p60 resolution—the faster frame rate helps to reduce the evidence of the rolling shutter effect, which is very troublesome at 1080p30. It shows up when there is motion in your frame or if you pan the camera—the top half of your video moves more quickly than the bottom half, giving footage a bit of a rubber pencil effect. The camera can zoom in or out when recording, and you can hear the lens moving as it does so—there’s no mic input, so there’s no way around this. There’s a micro HDMI port to connect to an HDTV, and a micro USB port that allows you to plug the camera into your computer for data transfer or into the included AC adapter for battery charging. Like most point-and-shoots, the camera uses SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
When you consider its features and asking price, the GE X600 represents a good value—with some compromises. Its video and image quality isn’t spectacular, but still images are good at lower ISOs and acceptable through ISO 800. It’s slow to start and shoot, but can fire off shots in rapid succession. The rear LCD is so-so in terms of quality, but the eye-level EVF is better than I’d expect from a $200 camera. If you don’t need an EVF, the compact Canon SX260 HS is currently selling for the same price (down from its original $350 asking price) and is a better camera overall, but budget shooters who are looking for a long zoom camera with eye-level framing capability should consider the X600—just make sure to understand its weak points.
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|Dimensions||3.1 x 4.1 x 2.9 inches|
|Interface Ports||micro USB, micro HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.15 seconds|
|LCD size||2.7 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||26 x|
|Boot time||4 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||26 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||1842|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||676 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.4 seconds|
|Sensor Size||6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm|
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