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Canon PowerShot SX70 HS review

Feature-filled superzoom with grand aspirations

Our Verdict

With a 1/2.3-inch sensor at its heart, only so much should be expected of the SX70 HS’s image quality. That said, pleasing results at mid-range focal lengths, together with a lovely electronic viewfinder, effective image stabilisation, good autofocus performance and speedy operation make it a pleasure to shoot with.

For

  • Great zoom range with 21mm (equiv.) start
  • Lovely handling
  • Effective image stabilisation
  • Decent 4K video results
  • Lightweight body
  • Competent AF system

Against

  • No touchscreen
  • Build quality feels cheap
  • Wideangle performance isn’t great
  • Lack of slow-motion video options
  • Styles not possible in raw
  • No USB charging

The Essential Review

This is TechRadar’s review summary that gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds; our usual full, in-depth review follows.

Conventional compact cameras may have largely fallen out of style but their superzoom bridge cousins continue to be a viable alternative to DSLR and mirrorless systems. A large part of this, of course, is down to the scope of their optics, but the most recent models have far more than just humongous zoom ranges to entice keen photographers.

Canon’s latest PowerShot SX70 HS is one such model. While the main draw of its 65x optical zoom lens is (somewhat unusually) unchanged from the model it updates, it’s furnished with an impressive array of additional technology, from raw capture, 10fps burst shooting and wireless connectivity through to 4K UHD video. 

While relatively small and lightweight, the camera's deep grip allows you to get a good hold, and it's nice to find that it doesn't become too front-heavy when the lens is fully extended. Build quality could be better, though, and there's no weather sealing.

The camera's autofocus system works in good time and shot-to-shot times are very good, even when capturing raw files, although a fast memory card advised. With the familiar EOS-style menu system you have very good control over your captures too, although it's not possible to apply different Styles (color settings) to images when shooting raw files, and post-capture raw processing is also sadly not provided.

For a camera with such a small sensor, the PowerShot SX70 HS is capable of very pleasing output. Exposures are largely fine, although the limited dynamic range does mean that highlight details can blow in high-contrast scenes, so using the Auto Lighting Optimizer is a good idea. 

There's good detail in images in the middle part of the focal range, while the image stabilisation system does well to keep captures at the telephoto extreme relatively sharp, although wide-angle results and anything captured indoors at moderate ISO settings and above are noticeably worse. 

In good light, videos captured at the maximum 4K UHD resolution hold up well, and there's a decent amount of control offered over recording – even a mic port – although it would be nice to have a built-in ND filter to help better control exposure.

While there are better superzoom options at this price point – the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 being the most obvious example – the PowerShot SX70 HS brings together a good deal of control and a massive zoom inside a compact package. Stronger wide-angle results and a better results at higher ISO settings would make it a more consistent performer, but if you're a Canon fan and imagine you'll be regularly shooting in the mid-telephoto range, the PowerShot SX70 HS might just be the answer.

Who’s it for and should I buy it?

As a do-it-all camera, the PowerShot SX70 HS appears to have much to recommend it, while its asking price rivals those of most entry-level interchangeable lens systems. Canon’s marketing for the camera makes its target audience clear: this is a model aimed at those who want the control of a DSLR and a massive zoom lens at their disposal in one convenient package.

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Canon PowerShot SX70 HS price

  • Current price: £519/ $549 / AU$749.95 / AED 2,499

Tiny but packed with features

  • Raw shooting, including new CR3 mode
  • ISO 100-3200
  • 4K UHD video at 30/25p

The PowerShot SX70 HS is built around a lens equivalent to 21-1365mm in 35mm terms, with a maximum aperture of f/3.4-6.5. No change from its PowerShot SX60 HS predecessor then, although the presence of the latest DIGIC 8 engine means that the camera's image stabilisation system can provide up to five stops of correction among other things.

Also new is the sensor, a 20.3MP back-illuminated device, up from the previous camera’s 16.1MP alternative. While the scope of the lens means that it measures just 1/2.3-inch in size, the fact that its sensitivity range only stretches between 100-3200 may disappoint some. Still, with a more effective stabilisation system than before, perhaps you won’t need to reach the higher settings as frequently.

The camera captures both raw files and JPEG images, with the former now storable in Canon's CR3 Raw format. This was introduced in the EOS M50 back in February, and its main advantage over its CR2 predecessor is that it can store smaller raw files captured at full resolution but in a smaller size.

Videos, meanwhile are recorded at up to 4K UHD resolutions, with 30p and 25p option offered here, but no 24p option. You can record at up to 60p when shooting in Full HD, which may bother some expecting the customary slow-motion output options such as 100/120p shooting. For creative users, however, the camera somewhat redeems itself with a time-lapse option that outputs results in 4K.

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS Specs

Sensor: 20.3MP, 1/2.3-inch type BSI CMOS

Lens: 21-1365mm (equiv.) f/3.4-6.5

Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 922k dots

Burst shooting: 10fps (5.7fps with C-AF)

Autofocus: Contrast-detect AF

Video: 4K (30/25p)

Connectivity: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

Battery life: 255/325 shots

Weight: 610g (including battery and card)

Working on the contrast-detect AF principle and with just nine points that come into play in its default auto setting, the autofocusing system is somewhat underwhelming on paper, although you can move a single point around the screen to a more precise point if you need to. Furthermore, you can focus 0cm away from the subject for macro work, while manual focus with the assistance of focus peaking is also on hand. Those shooting action can capture bursts of ranges at a rate of 10fps, although this drops to 5.7fps with continuous focus.

Wi-Fi is joined by Bluetooth, and between these the camera is able to send images wirelessly and be controlled remotely from an iOS or Android device

Wi-Fi is joined by Bluetooth, and between these the camera is able to send images wirelessly and be controlled remotely from an iOS or Android device. There’s no GPS system as such, although it is possible to embed GPS data into images when using the Canon Camera Connect app. 

Battery life ranges from 255 shots per change when using the LCD through to 325 when relying on the rear display, although the Eco mode boosts this to around 405 frames. A slot around the base accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC cards too, with support for UHS-I cards designed to the Class 3 standard.

Lightweight body with great handling

  • Deep grip makes handling very comfortable
  • LCD screen can be physically adjusted
  • Power control slightly awkward to access

As is now standard practice for such cameras, the PowerShot SX70 HS combines an electronic viewfinder with an articulating LCD screen. The EVF has a respectable 2.36-million dot resolution – a healthy boost over the 922k-dot LCD panel inside the SX60 HS – and so it makes perfect sense that in good light it performs to a great standard. Details are very good, as is contrast, and colors appear to be nice and accurate. It also benefits from an eye sensor to its side, which means you don’t have to worry about manually switching the feed between the LCD and EVF. 

When you consider the watery, noisy viewfinders with occasional colour casts that you tend to find on such models, you appreciate just how well this one performs. That said, as soon as light levels start to dip, the slight muddiness of details makes it more difficult to see whether focus is precise, so you do place a little faith in the camera to get things right here.

The 3-inch LCD has 922k dots and can be twisted to face the front. It’s not a touchscreen, however, which may irk those used to jabbing their smartphones and tablets, but it also performs to a standard befitting such a model, with easy movement and its thick profile letting you get a good grip on it. You also get a slightly cut-down version of the EOS interface in both the LCD and EVF, and this includes a customisable My Menu tab, which will no doubt please existing Canon users already accustomed to this UI.

The lens's 21mm-equivalent wide-angle start allows you to get lots into the frame.

The lens's 21mm-equivalent wide-angle start allows you to get lots into the frame.

While the PowerShot SX70 HS isn't a large camera, the depth of the grip and the space on the rear for the thumb makes it a perfectly comfortable camera to hold. Handling is further helped by a mode dial that stands proud from the top plate and a shutter-release button with clear feedback between its various positions when pressed. The top plate also hides a built-in flash with a reasonable selection of control through the menu, although Canon chose to drop the hot shoe from the design of the PowerShot SX60 HS here, which means that external units can't be mounted.

The top plate is also home to the power and Wi-Fi buttons. It's a shame these aren't placed the other way around from each other as the more frequently used power control is harder to reach with the forefinger. The zoom control on the camera’s lens barrel also seems a little too high for comfort, although if you have large hands you might not mind this too much. You can also zoom with the collar around the shutter-release button, so you may end up not using this secondary control at all.

Image quality

  • Effective image stabilisation system
  • Capable of pleasing 4K video quality
  • Lacklustre wide-angle performance

Cameras designed as an alternative to DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can often underwhelm when they're compared with the standard of entry-level interchangeable-lens models, but the PowerShot SX70 HS does well to break this convention. At least in terms of operation, it’s far more pleasing to use than expected.

On top of the great handling, a lot of this is down to the camera’s autofocus system, which generally brings subjects to focus speedily. In good light it manages to do this wherever you are in the focal range, although this does dip in sub-optimum light and when shooting lower-contrast subjects, which is admittedly fairly standard on such cameras.

The metering system does well to get exposure spot on in most situations

Shot-to-shot times are also very good, even when shooting raw files, which is particular useful at the telephoto end when you might want to capture a few frames to compensate for less-than-steady framing. The image stabilisation system does a very good job to keep the feed as stable as possible, however, and it’s usually possible to get precise composition with just a handful of frames, particularly when you provide extra stability with your face as it's pressed up to the viewfinder.  

Noise reduction effects and a general loss of detail are common in indoor shots captured at moderate ISO settings and above, but this is completely expected for a camera with such a small sensor

If you want to vary the colour output you can call upon a selection of Styles such as Vivid and Neutral, although the PowerShot SX70 HS follows previous Canon models in disabling this option when capturing raw frames (or simultaneous raw and JPEG frames). This is slightly annoying, particularly if you’re used to adjusting these on a more advanced Canon camera. 

On the default Auto setting, however, colors manage to have a nice punch to them while still being true to life. Exposures are generally fine too, with just minor overexposure when faced with scenes containing fewer brighter details.

Results at moderate telephoto settings are generally very good

The camera typically outputs the kind of results we should expect from a 1/2.3-inch sensor – that is to say fine when sticking to the lowest sensitivities in good light and slightly struggling elsewhere. Particularly at middle-range focal lengths, images show very good detail, and even at the telephoto end there’s just a touch of noise reduction and softness marring an otherwise very acceptable performance. 

Results at the wide end of the lens, however, are noticeably weaker, particularly as you move away form the base ISO 100 setting, with a coarse texture and general loss of detail, so if you imagine you’ll be relying on this end with any frequency you may want to look elsewhere.  

Only a touch of vignetting can be seen in scenes like these. In fact, it's generally very well controlled

Optical aberrations are generally well controlled, with curvilinear distortion not being an issue at either end of the lens and vignetting only really visible in the types of scenes most troubled by it. Chromatic aberration is handled well too, although purple fringing is typically visible in areas of high contrast.

Videos captured in the maximum 4K UHD resolution are perfectly pleasing when you're shooting in good light, particularly when you consider what other cameras with such a sensor deem to be acceptable here, although the lack of a built-in ND filter (which, admittedly, we wouldn’t expect in such a model anyway) may make capturing footage outdoors a struggle. 

Focus slows a little at extreme telephoto settings but it's still decent

Not convinced? Try these

If the PowerShot SX70 HS isn’t for you, here are three excellent alternatives to consider... 

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Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

With a 1in sensor, great 4K video performance and 12fps burst shooting, the FZ1000 is a steal at its current price. It's a little bigger and heavier than the PowerShot SX70 HS, though, and its lens finishes at a setting equivalent to just 400mm, but its image quality is excellent.

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 review

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Nikon Coolpix P900

The P900 boasts a mammoth 83x optical zoom that equates to 24-2000mmm in 35mm terms, although it fails to offer raw shooting and struggles at longer focal lengths.

Read our in-depth Nikon P900 review

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Sony HX400V

A few years old but significantly cheaper than the Canon option, the HX400V packs a 50x zoom lens with a range equivalent to 24-1200mm but there's no raw option and neither is there a touchscreen. 

Read our in-depth Sony HX400V review