Best high-end compact camera
Manually select a white balance setting to match the conditions and the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS gives a typically rich but realistic Canon colour scheme.
That's not to say the auto white balance puts in a poor performance, but it was thrown by large proportions of red or blue in the frame during our tests. Tungsten images were on the warm side, but switching to the Tungsten preset brought the colour balance closer to neutral.
The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS offers six ISO settings, from ISO 100 through to 3200. At the top end of the ISO sensitivity range, noise reduction is obvious. Details and texture are smeared and shadows look coarse.
However, pictures hold up well even at ISO 800. Yes, there's some loss of low contrast detail and a slight drop in colour saturation, but overall picture quality is still good.
That said, exposures can veer towards the bright side, meaning that highlights are prone to blowing easily. The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS is not alone in this respect, and at least it gives you quick control over exposure compensation via the four-way controller.
The Canon camera's i-Contrast control can also pull back detail in lighter areas that might otherwise be clipped, although it has a more noticeable effect in opening up shadows in high-contrast situations.
Pictures taken using fill-flash in daylight are well balanced (although you do need to be close to the subject), and images made at night or in low light conditions are of good quality, too. Canon's HS System and backlit sensor really do prove their worth when shooting indoors.
That said, there's a hint of purple fringing around backlit subjects and bright spots. Vignetting wasn't evident during out tests, although there was some softening in the corners at wide-angle zoom settings. But, for the most part, it's not too intrusive.
Video quality is in line with the camera's still image capturing performance, too. Movies can be shot in Full HD at 24fps, complete with stereo sound.
The lens can be zoomed reasonably quickly throughout its full range during shooting, and it's quiet when it does so. High speed video modes are also available, capturing action at 240 or 120 frames per second.