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Canon PowerShot SX510 HS review

A compact bridge camera with 30x optical zoom and full manual control

Canon PowerShot SX510 HS review
The Canon PowerShot SX510 HS has a 12.1MP sensor

Canon's aim with the original SX500 IS was clear; create the smallest and lightest long-range shooter possible. They succeeded in that goal, but in pushing for sensational numbers sacrificed some quality. With this successor, they've managed to maintain what was great about the original while correcting some of the omissions of the original.

While we can't in all honesty describe the size as 'pocketable' (unless you have particularly large pockets), it's certainly small enough to be tucked into a handbag or satchel. Being so lightweight, it's never a burden to take it with you and the included strap lets you carry it comfortably. Whether you're trekking across mountain ranges or just walking around the park, it's a great companion.

Canon Powershot SX510 HS

Lens retracted

The new 12.1 million pixel CMOS sensor is a significant improvement over the previous generation, and while the effective pixel count has been reduced, the image quality itself is boosted. The built in High Sensitivity system does a great job of boosting low light performance, and images don't suffer anywhere near as much from muted lighting.

The new Eco Mode setting, which is popping up on many new PowerShot releases, offers an effective way to save battery life. Rapidly dimming the screen when it isn't being used right-that-second helps you last longer between charges. This feature alone makes this model attractive to travel and holiday photographers.

Canon Powershot SX510 HS

Lens extended

While the lens and stabilization system haven't been updated, it's still worth commenting on their overall quality. The full 30x optical zoom is more than enough range for almost any conceivable situation, and when coupled with the capable digital zoom you'll never worry about needing to move closer to a subject. The stabilization system is more than up to the task of reducing those nasty telephoto shakes and does a great job of keeping low light shots sharp.

With the addition of wireless connectivity and full HD video recording, the SX510 HS has been successfully brought up to date and fares well against other recent releases. While we would have liked to see features offered by competing models in the same price range, such as the Nikon Coolpix P520's high resolution screen, we can understand the limitation.

Overall however, the SX510HS compares very favourably to other models in the same bracket and if you're choosing this model, you can feel comfortable in getting a very capable camera. Whether it's right for all users is a matter of preference, while size and weight are important to some, others might prefer to spend a little bit more money on a longer lens and articulating screen, as seen on its big brother, the Canon SX50 HS.

Canon Powershot SX510 HS

The screen doesn't articulate

If you don't necessarily need the full reach of this monster lens, you might be just as happy with Canon's ultimately more pocketable SX280HS, which offers the same sensor HS sensor technology in an even smaller and lighter package. While it doesn't give you quite the same 30x zoom, it's still got a pretty good reach and if you're not specifically looking for a bridge style camera, you can pick it up at a similar price.

You get a well rounded and most of all compact camera for your money and it offers the kind of focal range and stabilization which make it perfect for travel photography. You'll find it just as capable for every day photographer, with new sensor and range of scene and metering options make it flexible enough for most situations.

We liked

There's a lot to like about the Canon SX510 HS, from the wonderful focal range to it's lower power options and full manual options. The much lauded stabilization system does a great job of keeping images sharp and blur-free.

We disliked

As understandable as the omissions are, it's still disappointing not to see a touchscreen on this device or an articulated screen. While the autofocus system is snappy, it's sadly not possible to move the focus point, even if it is easy to zoom in and out to reframe.

Final verdict

The 30x optical zoom gives you as great flexibility for a camera this size and, while it can't claim to be the smallest on the market any more - the Sony HX50V has stolen that title - it manages to provide the range without costing the earth. It also offers a range of flexibility that matches or exceeds that of the Sony contender at a lower price point.

Even though the zoom range is the clear star of the show, what really shines about the Canon SX510 HS is its flexibility. Pictures are of generally good quality and although images get a little noisy at higher sensitivity settings, details are retained fairly well. The image stabilization system is very capable and we didn't experience any trouble getting shake-free pictures at low shutter speeds. Overall, you'll find the SX510 comfortable and easy to use and offers plenty of room to expand your ability.