Canon PowerShot SX600 HS review: Picks up where your phone leaves off without sacrificing easy sharing

    While Canon lists the series under “advanced, high-end digital cameras,” it really isn’t and has more in common with the camera maker’s pocket-friendly Elph line. If you probably didn’t consider the SX600 HS because it was listed as “premium,” you should reconsider.

    Overall, the camera is a simple point-and-shoot with reliably good photo and video performance. But for most people, I imagine its 18x f3.8-6.9 25-450mm lens will be the big draw along with built-in Wi-Fi and a slim, light body. For under $250 (AU$250, US$200) it’s also well priced for what you’re getting, and I expect it to drop below $200 by the holiday shopping season.

    That said, the 22x zoom Nikon Coolpix S9600 (or S9700) has slightly better image quality and Samsung WB350F More suitable for those who want the best wireless features.


    Sarah Tew / CNET

    image quality

    With the SX600 HS is a model that steps down from SX700 HS (about $100 separating them) you can expect a difference in image quality between the two. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) the photos are the same, which means they are very good. If you don’t peek at pixels and don’t usually zoom in photos beyond 50 percent and crop them a lot, you’ll probably really like what you get from the SX600 HS.

    The image above is some 100% crop from the center of our test scene. There is noise even at the lowest ISO, although you can hardly see it unless you are, in fact, pixel-peeping. Canon keeps a good balance between noise and noise reduction. While most photos from the camera could benefit from a bit of sharpness after the shot, it wasn’t until ISO 1600 that subjects started to look really soft at smaller sizes, and ISO 3200 was blurred and should be avoided.

    The most important of all is that the lens is slow, meaning it has a narrow maximum aperture. That means more light, slower shutter speeds, or higher ISOs are needed when using a zoom lens to get the correct exposure and avoid blur. Even in full sunlight, I find the camera frequently uses ISO 200 or higher when fully zoomed in, so using it indoors or in low light, handheld, is basically a formula for blurry or grainy images.

    The video quality is really good. The SX600 HS’s photo has the same noise problem as the SX600 and likewise, softens in low light. But for shooting outdoors in daylight, 1080p video at 30fps is better than I expected for the price of the camera. You can use the camera’s zoom while recording, but the lens motor is audible in quieter scenes.


    Sarah Tew / CNET

    Shooting performance

    While I wouldn’t classify this as a fast camera, it’s not slow either, basically performing on par with others in its class like Samsung WB350F . From shutdown to first shot took 1.7 seconds with a lag between shots of 1.1 seconds. Turn on the flash drive wait up to about 3 seconds.

    Shutter lag – the time it takes from pressing the shutter-release to take a shot without pre-focusing – is just under 0.2 second in bright light and 0.4 second in dim light. That is with the lens in its widest position; You can expect slightly longer focus times when the lens is zoomed in to capture low-contrast subjects.

    Canon has two continuous shooting options on the SX600 HS. You can shoot at full resolution at up to 4 fps or up to 10.5 fps at a reduced resolution of 4 megapixels. Regardless of which method you use, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so if your subject is moving quickly, it’s unlikely all of your shots will be in focus.

    Also, if you’re shooting in Auto mode, the camera’s autofocus system frequently selects subjects other than reasonable targets. The problem is, there is no way to override it. Maybe it’s because I’m used to being able to tap to focus with my smartphone, but this becomes extremely annoying when I just want to snap a photo without being able to select my subject.


    Sarah Tew / CNET

    Design and features

    In terms of design and features, the SX600 HS has more in common with Canon’s ultracompact Elph line than the SX series. Like the Elphs, the SX600 is small and light, and its controls are streamlined for quick-shooters who don’t leave Auto mode on too often.

    For example, there is no shooting mode dial; instead there’s just a three-position switch to choose what you want to capture. The rest of the controls are pretty standard, except for Canon’s Connect Mobile Device button, which lets you pre-specify which smartphone or computer you’ll connect to with the push of a button.

    Tap it and it will turn on the camera’s Wi-Fi, at which point you have to open your mobile device’s wireless settings and select the camera. Opening the Camera Window app will complete the process.

    Samsung WB350F Canon PowerShot SX600 HS Nikon Coolpix S9600
    Price (MSRP) $260 (£250, AU$209) $250 (£200, AU$250) $280 (£225, AU$300)
    Dimensions (WHD) 4.5×2.6×1 inch (114.3x66x25.1mm) 4.2×2.4×1 inches (106.7x61x25.1mm) 4.3×2.5×1.3 inches (109.2×63.5x33mm)
    Weight (with battery and media) 7.7 ounces (218 grams) 6.6 ounces (187 grams) 7.3 ounces (207 grams)
    Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3 inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3 inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3 inch BSI CMOS
    LCD size, resolution / viewfinder 3-inch touch LCD, 460K dots / None 3-inch LCD, 460K dots / None 3-inch LCD, 460K dots / None
    Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 21x, f2.8-5.9, 23-483mm (35mm equivalent) 18x, f3.8-6.9, 25-450mm (35mm equivalent) 22x, f3.4-6.3, 25-550mm (35mm equivalent)
    File format (static/video) JPEG / MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 AAC (MP4) JPEG / H.264 AAC (MP4) JPEG / MPEG-4 AVC H.264 AAC (MOV)
    Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608×3,456 pixels / 1,920×1,080 at 30fps (progressive) 4,608×2,592 pixels / 1,920×1,080 at 30fps (progressive) 4,608×3,456 pixels / 1,920×1,080 at 30fps (progressive)
    Image Stabilizer Type Optical and digital Optical and digital Optical and digital
    Battery type, CIPA rated life Rechargeable Li-ion, 310 shots Rechargeable Li-ion, 290 shots Rechargeable Li-ion, 290 shots
    The battery is charged in the camera Right; via USB to AC adapter or computer No; wall charger provided Right; by computer or USB wall adapter
    Storage media microSD / microSDHC / microSDXC SD / SDHC / SDXC SD / SDHC / SDXC
    Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS Yes (with NFC) / No Yes (with NFC) / No Yes no

    Along with sending photos and movies directly to your mobile device for viewing, editing, and uploading, you can use Wi-Fi to sync your mobile phone’s GPS to geotag your photos. , which is great because this camera doesn’t have a built-in GPS. You can also send photos wirelessly directly to the photo printer or back them up to a PC on the same network to which the camera is connected.

    Finally, the app can be used as both a remote viewfinder and shutter. It doesn’t give you a lot of control – just zoom, self-timer, shutter release and flash (assuming you have it on) – but it’s nice to have for wildlife and group portraits. However, it cannot be used to start and stop videos.


    Sarah Tew / CNET

    Canon includes NFC on the SX600 HS for use with supported Android devices, but it’s not of much use. If you don’t have the CameraWindow app installed, you can touch your smartphone to the camera and it will launch the Google Play store for you to download. Then it is only used to launch the application. You will still have to turn on the camera’s Wi-Fi and connect your device to the camera by selecting it in your wireless settings.

    Other cameras with NFC from Sony, Panasonic and Samsung will launch the app and handles the connection process, making capturing and sharing much easier. They also use NFC to quickly send single photos to your phone with a simple tap between the camera and the device.

    As you can imagine, using Wi-Fi doesn’t have a great effect on your battery life. For casual photography, the battery life is very good and on par with the competition. However, using Wi-Fi, recording lots of videos, increasing screen brightness, and frequently zooming in and out will make it short.

    General shooting options Canon PowerShot SX600 HS
    ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
    White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
    Recording mode Auto, Auto Hybrid, Program, Creative Shooting, Portrait, Smart Shutter, High Speed ​​Shooting, Handheld Night Shot, Low Light, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Machine Effect toy photo, monochrome, super vivid, poster effect, snow, fireworks, long shutter
    Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Tracking AF
    Macro 2.0 in. Up to 1.6 ft. (5-50cm) (Wide)
    Metering mode Rating, Focus Average, Score
    Color effect Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Film Positive, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vibrant Red, Custom Color
    Continuous shooting limit (full resolution) Unlimited Continuity

    As I mentioned earlier, the pop-back button next to the thumb rest is for changing the shooting mode.

    Top spot goes to Canon’s Auto Hybrid mode, which records a few seconds of video before each photo you take. At the end of a shooting day, the camera automatically collects all of your small clips and photos – taken with Canon’s scene-recognition Smart Auto – and puts them in the movie. The result is essentially a frankly outstanding film.

    In the middle is an improved version of the Creative Shot mode that first appeared on the PowerShot N. Last year’s Ultra Small Take a picture of something and the camera automatically creates five different versions using it. Various color and tone, crop and style settings in addition to saving the original image.


    Sarah Tew / CNET

    The old version doesn’t allow you to control what kind of effects are used. You can now choose a filter category – Retro, Monochrome, Special or Natural – for the camera to use with a total of 46 available filters.

    The final spot is for Smart Auto and everything else. When you have turned the switch all the way down, you press the Func key. Set the button and then navigate to the list of shooting modes. This model does not have shooting modes for direct control of shutter speed and aperture; you’ll have to go with the SX700 HS or other SX models for that. The closest you’ll get is Program Auto, which allows for control over other things like ISO and white balance.


    While it doesn’t stand out in any way, the Canon PowerShot SX600 HS is a solid choice for snapshot lovers who want a simple step up from a smartphone without sacrificing functionality. Share on the go.

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