Bridge cameras make for excellent travelling companions, offering the flexibility of a zoom range far larger than any DSLR's lens but in a relatively small body.
While in terms of physical size, the SX60 HS isn't far off that of an entry-level DSLR, it features a much smaller sensor. It houses a 16.1MP 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor (the same physical size as most compact cameras on the market, but considerably smaller than those used by a DSLR). It does at least bring a jump in four million pixels from its predecessor the SX50 HS.
- 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 16.1MP
- 21-1365mm f/3.4-6.5 zoom lens
- 3.0-inch vari-angle screen, 922,000 dots
The SX60 HS offers a huge 65x optical zoom lens that provides a 21mm equivalent focal length at the wide angle end of the range and 1365mm equivalent at the telephoto end. At its widest point, the maximum aperture available is f/3.4, falling to f/6.5 at the zoom end.
Canon also has ZoomPlus technology, a type of digital zoom that boosts that range to 130x, or an incredible equivalent of 2730mm. ZoomPlus retains the resolution of an image shot using the optical zoom by interpolating pixels. A standard digital zoom is available to push that even further to 5460mm, but there will be a loss in image quality.
Full manual control is available, and like the SX50 before it, so is the ability to shoot in raw format – a clear indication that the company expects the PowerShot SX60 HS to be used by advanced enthusiasts. There's also a range of automatic modes, semi-automatic and scene modes.
For those who like to get creative, there are a couple of options with the PowerShot SX60 HS. First of all there's the Creative Shot mode – this will take one shot, plus 5 more with different random effects and crops applied. There's a variety of different subsets you can choose from, but you don't get absolute control over the digital filters which are applied. Secondly, there is a dedicated filters mode which allows you to choose a specific filter.
It's starting to become more common now, but the SX60 HS is equipped with inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC. This allows you to use your smartphone or tablet to remotely control the camera, as well as giving you the option of transferring images taken on it quickly to your device for sharing online, via email and so on.
On the back of the camera is fully-articulated, 922,000-dot, 3.0-inch screen. It's not touch-sensitive though. It is joined by a 922,000-dot, 0.17-inch electronic viewfinder on the top of the camera.
The SX60 HS is a replacement for the SX50 HS which has been on the market for some time now. The SX50 HS boasted a 50x optical zoom, but it also had the ZoomPlus technology to boost that up to 100x. It also didn't have inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC, so there's been quite a few improvements made to the camera.
Build and handling
- Manual, semi-auto and auto modes
- Easy to use controls
- Weighs 650g
The SX60 HS is one of the largest bridge cameras on the market, and you'd be forgiven for thinking at first glance that it was in fact a DSLR, especially one of the smaller entry-level models.
There's a deep grip which makes the SX60 sit very comfortably in the hand, while it is also textured to give it that extra feel of quality. The grip has a slight contour for your middle finger which makes it feel even more secure in the hand.
Enthusiasts are likely to appreciate the number of direct buttons and dials which are found on the body of the camera. On top of the camera, there’s a mode dial which allows you to switch between different exposure modes – there are automatic and scene modes to choose from, as well as semi-automatic and manual modes (M/Av/Tv/P). There’s also a video mode accessible directly from this dial, although you can also use a dedicated video button on the back of the camera too when using different modes.
Also on top of the camera is a zoom switch for extending the SX60’s 65x optical zoom lens. You’ll find this just around the shutter release button, and it’s fairly smooth and fluid to use, enabling you to quickly reach the far end of the zoom quickly. When you have digital zoom switched on (and you’re not shooting in raw), keep the zoom switch held down to enter the digital territory – it will pause slightly before entering first the Zoom Plus and then again before entering the standard zoom.
Just in front of the mode dial is a scrolling dial which is easily reached by the forefinger and serves a number of different functions depending on the shooting mode you’re in. For instance, if you’re in aperture priority mode, it will alter aperture, while in shutter priority it will alter shutter speed.
Finally, on the top of the camera is a dedicated “shortcut” button which can be customised to one of 18 different functions, including switching raw and jpeg on and off, directly accessing white balance and timer mode.
Head to the back of the camera and you’ll find a familiar layout if you’ve used any Canon cameras before. There’s a standard four way navigational pad, with each of the directional keys serving a specific function – press left, for example, to access focusing mode (macro, infinity and manual are available), while pressing right accesses flash options. It would be nice if you could have customised these keys in the main menu.
In the centre of the navigation pad is a function button which gives you access to a sort of quick menu for the most commonly used settings available, such as ISO (sensitivity), white balance, aspect ratio and so on.
Just above the navigation pad is a dedicated button for altering exposure compensation. When in manual mode, you can press this button to switch between aperture and shutter speed. You can only access exposure compensation when shooting in aperture priority or shutter priority.
Also useful is a button on the back of the camera for changing the autofocus point. It has the same icon as the buttons you find on Canon DSLRs for the same purpose – simply press it and then use the navigational keys to scroll around to the point you wish to focus on.
The Zoom Frame Assist button is extremely handy when photographing at the far end of the zoom range. This button can be found on the side of the lens barrel. If you lose track of a subject, simply hold it down and the lens will zoom back out again allowing you to find the subject again – release the button and the lens will zoom to that point.
Raw format shooting can be activated from within the quick menu, which places some restrictions on what you can and can’t shoot . For instance, you’ll no longer be able to alter the colours using MyColors, or use digital zoom, which seems a bit of a shame.
The screen is a fully articulating device which is very handy when photographing something from an awkward angle, and is much more useful than merely a tilting screen. In order to activate the electronic viewfinder, you need to press the down key (display) on the navigational pad – and you'll need to press it twice when you want to switch back to the screen. This is a fairly frustrating way to work, and it would have been fantastic to see an eye sensor on the SX60 HS to make it a more seamless transition between using the two.
- Single, Continuous, Servo AF/AE, Tracking AF
- Face Detection
- 0cm minimum focus distance
Focusing is quick and generally reliable when in good light, locking onto the subject with accuracy. Unlike some of the other cameras in Canon's range, you can alter the AF point which gives you greater flexibility when framing. As the light drops, the camera struggles a little more with focusing, but generally speaking it's not too bad.
- Optical image stabilization
- Solid metering performance
- 340-shot battery life
The camera's general purpose metering system does a good job of producing accurate exposures even in tricky/mixed lighting conditions. I found I hardly ever needed to add or subtract exposure compensation, though it would be handy to be able to do that in the automatic modes if you needed to. It seems strange that it's only possible in aperture priority or shutter priority.
Automatic white balance does a decent job when faced with different kinds of light, but it does err slightly towards warm or yellowish tones under artificial lighting. Switching to a more appropriate white balance setting fixes this problem though.
It's important that the zoom be up to scratch with a camera like this, and being a market leader at 65x optical it really needs to deliver. Images taken at the far end of the optical zoom (1560mm equivalent) show a great level of detail and certainly make the camera very flexible to use. If the 65mm isn't enough – which seems unlikely in most scenarios – you also have the option to use ZoomPlus. This also puts in a reasonably good performance, and is certainly useful if you do need that extra reach. I'd probably stay clear of the extra digital zoom unless absolutely necessary, as here you can see a much greater loss in quality.
At its widest point, the SX60’s lens offers 21mm, which is great for capturing wide sweeping vistas. Click here for a full resolution version.
The 65x optical zoom gives you lots of flexibility – here we can see a close-up of a ruin which is barely visible in the wide angle image. Click here for a full resolution image.
Use the ZoomPlus feature to get even closer if you need to. Click here for a full resolution image.
The standard digital zoom allows you to get even closer if you need to, but it also represents a drop in image quality. Click here for a full resolution image.
The lens also produces sharp images at its widest point (21mm), and shooting mid-range apertures such as f/8 allows us to examine how well the lens performs for edge-to-edge sharpness. Detail is kept reasonably well across the frame, with some slight softness in the very outer corners of the frame when viewing at 100%. Again, though, the overall impression of sharpness is great.
- Photo Effects
- Good detail at low sensitivities
Images straight from the camera are beautifully bright and punchy, displaying a typical level of Canon saturation that I've come to expect.
The camera works especially well in good light, putting in a performance that is comparable to a DSLR. At lower sensitivities, the amount of detail resolved is fantastic when examining at 100%, which gives you excellent scope should you wish to crop an image down the line.
As you move up the sensitivity scale however, the performance dips a little. Examining images taken at ISO 1600 reveals noise at 100% magnification, although overall a decent impression of detail is kept when viewing at normal printing and web sizes. In dark conditions, a fair amount of image smudging can be seen – and not just when viewing images at 100%. Trying to use the extensive zoom range in dark conditions is also difficult as the camera will often struggle to focus.
By examining the raw files we can see how much processing the camera applies to JPEG images. If you're interested in retaining more detail at the expense of noise, it's good to work with the raw format files.
There’s lots of detail resolved by the SX60’s 16.1 million pixel sensor. Click here for a full resolution version.
When shooting in bright light conditions, the camera is at its best producing images which are vibrant and punchy. Click here for a full resolution version.
Colours directly from the camera are wonderfully saturated, as we have come to expect from Canon cameras. Click here for a full resolution version.
When shooting in lower light at higher sensitivities you’ll begin to see some examples of image noise creeping in, especially if you examine at 100%. Click here for a full resolution version.
The camera’s evaluative metering system has coped well here to produce a balanced exposure despite the tricky lighting conditions. Click here for a full resolution version.
If you’re shooting in JPEG only, you can alter colours using MyColors, for instance by shooting in Monochrome. Click here for a full resolution version.
Activate the macro focusing function to shoot close-ups. Click here for a full resolution version.
Use the Creative Shot mode to take five images with randomly applied filters and crops – you’ll also be left with an unaltered original should you need it. Click here for a full resolution version.
You can use these digital filters in the dedicated filter mode, but you can only shoot them in JPEG.
High Dynamic Range. Click here for a full resolution image.
Fish-eye Effect. Click here for a full resolution image.
Miniature Effect. Click here for a full resolution image.
Toy Camera Effect. Click here for a full resolution image.
Soft Focus. Click here for a full resolution image.
Monochrome. Click here for a full resolution image.
Super Vivid. Click here for a full resolution image.
Poster Effect. Click here for a full resolution image.
If you're using it mainly in good light, or as a holiday camera, you're going to be extremely pleased with this camera. It's nice to see Canon thinking about advanced amateurs with this bridge camera offering, for instance by keeping raw format shooting as an option. Manual control and a decent range of dials and buttons also makes it likely to appeal to the enthusiast user.
Image quality is good, with bright and punchy colours and plenty of detail. In lower light, then you will see noise starting to appear if you examine at 100%, and in situations where it's very dark, the PowerShot SX60 HS struggles, but not any more so than other cameras of its kind. Given its big appearance, it can be hard to remember that at its heart is a small (1/2.3-inch) sensor.
Many people appreciate a viewfinder, and while the electronic device found here on the SX60 HS is large enough to be useful, there's no eye sensor which makes using it a less than seamless transition, which is a touch disappointing. On the plus side, the high resolution screen is fully articulating, which makes composing from awkward angles easy, it would have been nice to see a touch sensitive device here though.
With a host of interesting and useful features, picking one as a standout feature is fairly tricky, but it probably has to be the incredible zoom range that the SX60 HS offers. Not only is 65x optical zoom versatile, the performance at the far end of the telephoto optic is also impressive, while even the ZoomPlus is useful if you really do need to get even closer than the 65x optical zoom allows.
Luckily there's no huge bugbear with the SX60, rather a series of small things that if each were corrected would add up to make a good camera even better. For instance, it'd be nice to see a touchscreen, but it's not a deal breaker. Similarly, the Camera Window app could have greater control, but the fact that you have it at all is a bonus. What is a little more disappointing is the fact that the viewfinder doesn't have an eye sensor.
Another great performer by Canon which is kept from perfection by a few small, but significant, niggles.If you're mainly interested in a camera that you're going to use in good light but you still want to maintain control over every aspect of shooting, this is a good option, while the incredible zoom gives you lots of scope for flexibility.
Panasonic Lumix FZ80 / FZ82
The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 (known as the Lumix FZ82 outside the US) sports a strong 20-1200mm focal range (60x) and features 4K video capture. The camera is incredibly easy to use, and the menus feel light and not at all intimidating, making it ideal for beginners. The biggest let-downs are the EVF magnification, and the lack of an eye sensor to automatically switch between Live View on the LCD and the EVF. Noise at the highest ISO settings the camera offers is high, but shouldn’t prove too much of an issue for the photographers this camera is aimed at. Put into context, though, none of those are deal-breakers, making the FZ80 / FZ82 one of the best budget bridge cameras out there.
Sony Cyber-shot HX400V
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC HX400V sports a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens offering a 50x optical zoom with a focal range of 24-1200mm and Optical SteadyShot stabilization. The 20.4MP Exmor R CMOS sensor is powered by the BIONZ X image processor, and the camera can be connected to smart devices using NFC or Wi-Fi, while GPS allows you to geotag your images.
Read the full review: Sony Cyber-shot HX400V
Nikon Coolpix B700
With a high resolution of 20.3MP you can make some large prints from the Nikon Coolpix B700. For sharing images easily online and taking control of some camera functions the B700 features Nikon Snapbridge, with apps available for iOS and Android. The lens offers 60x optical zoom, with a focal range extending from 24-1440mm, and is supported by 5-stop dual-detect optical VR (vibration reduction).