Canon PowerShot SX280 HS review

20x zoom compact debuts Canon's Digic 6 processor

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS review
The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS has a 20x zoom

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Canon's SX280 is a very appealing proposition for anybody looking for a decent travel compact camera that offers lots of control over different settings, as well as a high zoom ratio and pocket-friendly proportions.

Continuing to impress with both its IXUS and PowerShot range, Canon has another camera in the SX280 that comfortably produces excellent images and is very easy to use.

Its pictures display a good range of colour and plenty of detail, and low light performance is admirable. Keeping the pixel count down to 12.1 million pixels may seem strange in this age where most companies are pushing 16-18 million pixel sensored devices, but we think this relatively low resolution helps with the low light and low noise performance.

That said, this camera is far from perfect, which is a shame. Firstly, there's no touchscreen, which while it arguably helps to keep the cost down, is something that Panasonic has included on its TZ40, which is available for not much more than the Canon SX280's current retail price.

You're also unable to shoot in raw format, or change the autofocus point. While the former point is not uncommon for compact cameras of its ilk, the latter seems like a strange decision for a camera that offers so much manual control elsewhere.

While it's nice to have inbuilt Wi-Fi, it could be much more usefully implemented than it is here. Several companies seem to be struggling with how best to integrate Wi-Fi into cameras, but Samsung seems to be the only company to offer truly useful functionality, such as the ability to upload to Facebook and the like directly from the camera itself.

It's also a shame that you can't remotely control the camera via the downloadable smartphone app, which is something that the Panasonic TZ40 does offer.

We liked

There's plenty to like about the Canon SX280, but its standout feature has to be its excellent 20x optical zoom range accompanied by the well-performing digital zoom capability. Image stabilisation also does an excellent job of keeping images blur-free and making it easy to compose images too.

We disliked

Sadly, there's also plenty to dislike about the Canon SX280. There's still no touchscreen on this range of cameras, and it seems more than a little odd that you can't change the autofocus point. We'd also like to see a slightly better implementation of the Wi-Fi functionality.

Final verdict

A 20x optical zoom offers a great amount of flexibility and matches the TZ40's ratio. It doesn't quite offer the extra-long reach of the Sony HX50, which has a 30x zoom capability, but it's worth noting that this camera is much cheaper than the Sony. Canon's digital zoom (Zoom Plus) is also excellent, offering that bit of extra flexibility if you need it.

Several manufacturers are including digital filters on their cameras, which no doubt appeals to the legions of smartphone photographers used to the likes of Instagram. While the Canon SX280 offers some interesting options, other manufacturers, including Olympus and Panasonic, seem to do this better. It would be great to see Canon including a way of keeping a "normal" version of a shot should you decide that a digital filter was a bad idea further along the line.

Hybrid Auto is a nice feature to use, and we can see it being particularly appealing for "event" photography, such as a family holiday, party or wedding. It's a shame that the Movie Digest function can't also be used with other functions, since it's a fun accompaniment to a day's worth of still shots.

What we have here is an excellent and well performing compact camera that offers lots of flexibility both to beginner users and those looking for something a little more advanced.

It would also be a good camera for anybody looking to learn a little more about photography, since you could start on the fully automatic settings and work your way through the manual options.

Amy Davies

Amy has been writing about cameras, photography and associated tech since 2009. Amy was once part of the photography testing team for Future Publishing working across TechRadar, Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N Photo and Photography Week. For her photography, she has won awards and has been exhibited. She often partakes in unusual projects - including one intense year where she used a different camera every single day. Amy is currently the Features Editor at Amateur Photographer magazine, and in her increasingly little spare time works across a number of high-profile publications including Wired, Stuff, Digital Camera World, Expert Reviews, and just a little off-tangent, PetsRadar.