In this article I want to talk about the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS super-zoom compact camera. The SX260 replaces the SX230 which is one of the most popular compact travel cameras. In a previous article I’ve talked about the Nikon P510 ultra zoom digital camera, and explained why this might be the best choice for travelers who search for a mega-zoom camera. However, the P510 might not be the best pick for everyone mainly due to its relatively large size. Some people might prefer buying a pocket digital camera that has less magnification power. The Canon SX260 might be a great alternative to an ultra-zoom camera with its 20x 25-500mm lens. I will also compare the SX260 against the Nikon Coolpix S9300, which is a direct competitor and comes with a 18x 25-450 mm (35mm equiv.) lens. OK, let’s start.
We will start with a short introduction about each camera, stating its key features and then we will jump to a more in-depth comparison.
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
The SX260 HS is an ultra-slim camera, a very compact camera that utilizes a 20x optical zoom lens. When people are searching for a travel camera, many of those people want to travel light. After all, who wants to carry a second bag just for the camera if it’s possible to just grab a camera and put it in your pocket. The SX260 HS was designed to provide a great versatility and advanced features all in a very compact camera body.
The SX260 features a 20x 25-500 mm f/3.5-6.8 (35mm. euqiv.) with Canon’s well regarded image stabilization mechanism to compact camera shake and reduce blur in photos. At the rear you can find a large 3-inch 461K-dots LCD. The camera utilizes Canon’s latest Digic 5 image processor and 12.1MP High-Sensitivity BSI-CMOS sensor. The combination of the two should results in a much better image quality, especially when shooting in high ISO and in low-light. Compact cameras, especially long-zoom cameras usually employ a relatively very small sensor. The utilization of a backside-illuminated sensor doubles the sensor’s sensitivity to light and therefore results in a better image quality overall.
The Canon PowerShot SX260HS can record Full HD 1080p24 movie clips. A feature that seems to come with any digital cameras nowadays, although some cameras only offer 720p HD movie recording, and the SX260 offers a higher resolution Full HD video recording. A Full HD video recording is also a very popular features among travelers who want to travel light and enjoy taking videos from every now and then.
The built quality of this camera is excellent. The SX260 is made almost entirely of metal. That certainly adds to the durability of the camera, and you feel that when you hold the camera in your hand. It won’t feel like a camera that can easily break.
The camera incorporates a GPS receiver, built-in into the camera body itself. The SX230 has the GPS receiver built at the top of the camera, and therefore there was a slight bulge at the top because of that.
The SX260 comes with a built-in Flash, AF-assist lamp, dedicated movie button and all in all, the Canon PowerShot SX260HS certainly looks like one of the best compact super-zoom cameras on the market today. This is a camera that everyone should own. Just charge it, put it in your pocket and take it everywhere you go. You just don’t know when you might encounter a moment that worth taking a picture of. Using a camera like the SX260 HS you are sure to get some photos that other people won’t be getting, just because you had a camera with you, while other people left their bulky cameras at home.
Of course nowadays everyone is taking photos with their mobile phones, but let’s not forget that this is a super-zoom camera. Most of today’s latest mobile phone cameras do not offer optical zoom capabilities, and those who do offer, are quite limited. Maybe the best thing to do is to make the SX260 HS a smartphone and put and Android or iOS operating system inside. Of course this is and idea that is out of this article’s scope.
I also want to add that the SX260 offers manual focus, aperture, shutter priority and Manual control (also referred to as PASM).
Nikon Coolpix S9300
Nikon S9300 is another very popular compact super-zoom camera. As Nikon wrote in their product page, and I quote: “A world traveler deserved a world-class camera.”. That certainly hints that the S9300, like the SX260, is targeted for travelers. People who are searching to buy a camera for their next trip / vacation / holiday, and want an all-around compact camera that won’t prevent them from taking great pictures.
S9300 is equipped with a 18x 25-450 mm wide-angle zoom lens. The same wide-angle as the SX260, but a bit shorter at the tele-end. A wide-angle is very useful for landscape and group shots. It might looks like the difference between 25 mm and 28 mm is minor, but believe me, it’s a big difference. Because you most likely take many shots of architectures, landscapes, indoor and people group shots, it’s important that you have a wide-angle option in your lens.
The S9300 comes with a 16.0-megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor, a 3-inch 921K-dot LCD display, can shoot 1080p videos with stereo sound and comes with internal GPS to automatically geo-tagging images inside the camera, without the need for external GPS devices or using a mobile phone GPS application for recording location coordinates.
The S9300 is a very nice looking camera in my opinion, although subjective, I heard that many people love its external design. If you looked at some photos of the S9300, you might have thought that it was made of metal, but the S9300 is made of a high-grade plastic. However, this is a very solid construction and the S9300 doesn’t feel like a toy in the hands. I personally prefer a metal body, but I can certainly leave with that. It’s not a deal breaker at all in my opinion.
The Nikon S9300 doesn’t support aperture and shutter priority as well as manual control of the exposure. That’s quite a big minus for those who are searching for a compact super-zoom camera with manual control, a camera that can give them more room for creative expression as photographers. I will talk about it more later in this article.
All in all, the Nikon S9300 is a great looking ultra-slim, super-zoom, compact travel camera.
Super-zoom vs Ultra-zoom Cameras
Before we continue out comparison, I want to talk about some of the differences between superzoom and ultrazooms digital cameras. When I say “Ultra-zoom”, I usually refer to cameras that are more compact in side and have a relatively higher zoom range (more than 600 mm magnification). It happens that when you searching to purchase a new high-zoom camera, you might be debating between a larger camera like the Nikon Coolpix P510, Canon SX40 HS and Sony HX100V, or Olympus SP-810 UZ versus more compact high-zoom cameras like the Nikon D9300 and Olympus Sz-30MR for example.
Even I tend to mixed between them when writing my article. However, the main difference between ultra-zooms and super-zooms are the size of the camera and optical zoom. When you buy a new high-zoom camera, you will probably need to make a compromise between size and zoom factor. If you want a very high zoom (ie. 840mm, 1000mm), you will need to pick up a camera like the Canon SX40 HS, Olympus SP-810UZ or Nikon P510 – all of those cameras are not compact cameras, and their are almost the size of an entry-level DSLR camera. You won’t be able to put those cameras in the pocket.
On the other hand, most of today’s latest super-zoom digital cameras are made to be very compact and have a relatively very slim profile so you can put them in your pocket. They utilize very advanced lens optics design to make the lens retract into the camera body, without leaving a long lens profile.
So when you are going yo buy a camera, you will certainly find yourself trying to decide between those two. Some people will prefer the 1000mm amazing zoom of the Nikon P510 and make a compromise over portability, others will prefer less zoom and better portability.
You are the one who should make this decision. This is very personal and strictly depends on the way you use you camera, where and what you are planning to shoot, and so on.
Both the SX260 HS and S9300 are very slim cameras. Here, take a look how the two cameras looks when viewing them from the top.
You can visualize the size differences by comparing the two cameras on camera size website.
S9300 vs SX260 HS – Side by Side Comparison Table
Now let’s continue out comparison. In the next table I compared the specs of the Nikon S9300 vs Canon PowerShot SX260 HS. This will give you a nice overall view of the differences between those two cameras.
|Nikon Coolpix S9300||Canon PowerShot SX260 HS||Notes|
|Announced||February 1, 2012||February 7, 2012|
6.17 x 4.55 mm BSI-CMOS
6.17 x 4.55 mm BSI-CMOS
|ISO||125 - 3200||100 3200|
|Lens||25 - 450 mm (35mm equiv.) f/3.5-5.9 VR (18× optical zoom)||25 - 500 mm (35mm equiv.) f/3.5-6.8 IS (20× optical zoom)|
4-stops compensation image stabilization
|Same wide-angle, SX260 a bit longer zoom range. Both have image stabilization|
|Focus Range||[W]: Approx. 1 ft. 8 in. (50 cm.) to infinity|
[T]: Approx. 5 ft. (1.5 m.) to infinity
Macro close-up mode: [W]: Approx. 1.6 in. (4 cm.) to infinity
|Normal: 2.0 in (5cm) - infinity (W), 3.3 ft. (1m) - infinity (T)|
Auto: 2.0 in (5cm) - infinity (W), 3.3 ft. (1m) - infinity (T)
Macro AF: 2.0 in - 1.6 ft. (5-50cm) (W)
|Macro 1mm close on the Nikon, nothing that significant|
|Nikon offers a higher resolution monitor, better for composing, checking sharpness and focus. Nikon stated anti-reflection coating on the LCD. Couldn't find anything on Canon's site regarding this. You can use Lexerd TrueVue Anti-glare screen protector too to minimize glare.|
|Shutter Speed||4 - 1/2000 sec||15 - 1/3200 sec||4 second on the Nikon when scene modes is set to 'Fireworks show'.
Nikon: some sites report 1/4000 sec, but I checked the official website and it says 1/2000 sec.
|Manual Controls||No||Aperture/Shutter Priority|
Manual Exposure Mode
|No manual controls on the S9300, but has Electronically controlled ND filter (-2.0 AV) insertion. Canon offers control over aperture and shutter, as well as manual exposure mode. Nikon instead of manual controls offers several automatic options ti improve the final results (ie 16 scene modes)|
Canon HF-DC2 High Power Slave Flash for PowerShot digital cameras (optional accessory, buy separately)
|You can attach an external flash to the SX260, can't do that on the S9300|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 7 shots at approx. 6.9 frames per second||2.4 shots/sec. (in P mode)|
approx. 10.3 shots/sec. (in High-speed Burst HQ mode)
Max. of 10 continuous shots per burst
|Video||1920 x 1080 (30fps), 1280 x 720p (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30fps)||1920 x 1080 (24 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps) 640 x 480 (30, 120 fps), 320 x 240 (240 fps) |
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6fps, 3fps, 1.5 fps iFrame Movie (HD)
|Those who like the 24p cinematic frame rate might prefer the Canon's offering|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||200||230||Canon a bit longer battery life|
|Weight||215 g (0.47 lb / 7.58 oz)||231 g (0.51 lb / 8.15 oz)|
|Dimensions||109 x 62 x 31 mm (4.29 x 2.44 x 1.22")||106 x 61 x 33 mm (4.17 x 2.4 x 1.3")||Canon a bit more compact, but nothing significant|
|Build Quality||Plastic||Metal||Canon much better build-quality|
|GPS||Yes, built-in||Yes, built-in||The S9300 has a slight bulge at the top, the SX260's GPS was built entirely inside the camera, no bulge.
Nikon: On-board database of approx 1.7 million POI (Points of Interest) records the location when shooting. Electronic compass function displays the camera’s orientation when shooting.
Let’s summarize the differences and the common features and a few lines:
- Nikon has a higher resolution sensor
- Both cameras have the same wide-angle angle-of-view, but the Canon does offer a bit more range at the tele-end (500 mm vs 450 mm); shouldn’t be significant at all for your buying decision
- Canon offers a faster maximum shutter speed and a slower minimum shutter speed (think long exposure shots and shooting fast moving subjects. Remember, on the Canon you have manual control over the shutter speed)
- Canon offer full manual control, Nikon fully automatic, but does offer a way to control the output via scene and effects
- Both offer Full HD video recording with stereo sound, Canon shoots at 24 frames per second, Nikon at 30 fps
- Battery life is a bit longer on the Canon (not a big difference)
- The Canon has much better build-quality, metal vs plastic
- Nikon has a higher resolution LCD (+1 Nikon!)
- Both cameras have GPS for automatically geo-tagging images
- Both cameras have a dedicated movie recording button
- The Nikon has a place for the thumb at the rear, the Canon doesn’t
- Canon can shoot 240 fps high speed movies *slow motion) at low resolution, the Nikon doesn’t support this feature
- The Nikon can shoot 3D photos
Image Quality (+High ISO)
Both cameras produce excellent image quality and also good performers in high ISO. In both cameras you can start see a bit of noise in photos as low as ISO 200, but the camera’s noise reduction software handles it very well and in day light and up to ISO400 you won’t notice it unless you pixelpeeping. I usually recommend shooting up to ISO 800 with those type of cameras, preferably ISO400 and below.
The images that both cameras produce are sharp, very well saturated, with great tone, colors and fine details. I personally recommend shooting below IS800 for optimal results.
CNET high ISO comparison - CNET has made a nice high ISO comparison that shows the difference in the amount of noise in various ISO sensitivity levels. To keep things simple, both cameras produce excellent image quality up to ISO400. JPEG photos looks incredibly detailed, with natural colors and with very pleasant saturation.
I viewed quite a lot of sample images, and it’s hard to pick up a winner. I would have stated a winner if I thought one of them is marginally better than the other .
Manual Control vs (almost) Fully Automatic
Both cameras have plenty of features to play with. However, I’m sure that some of you might want a camera that won’t limit their creativity. The manual controls of the Canon are very important for those who want to get full control over the camera’s settings, including aperture, shutter speed and ISO. A fully automatic camera will do its best to guess what type of subject your are shooting and do its best to fit the optimal settings for a great photo. Not always that what you want and in order to achieve certain effects, you want to be able to control the camera’s settings.
For example, let’s assume that you want to shoot in slow shutter speed in purpose. You want a moving subject to appear blurry. With the Canon you can just choose a slow shutter speed and achieve that result, but you won’t be able to control the shutter speed (shutter priority) on the Nikon. This is just one example. Scene modes are some kind of functionality that changes the camera’s settings behind the scenes without the photographer need to do anything. For many of you that exactly what you need, especially if you aren’t into learning how to use manual controls of your camera.
For many of us, a fully automatic camera is all that we need. You can shoot pictures at the beach, inside your house, shoot fireworks and low-light shots, shooting your pet or a car race, a fully-automatic camera will do its best to get it done right, and in most cases it will. So the Nikon S9300 is that type of camera. If you really want to dive a bit deeper and have better control over the final image result, the Canon is probably a better choice.
We will end our Nikon S9300 vs Canon SX260 HS comparison review with some sample videos taken with the two cameras.
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Zoom test sample video
B&H Photo Ad
Time to Pick One Camera!
So we have two compact super-zoom cameras that I personally think are among the best out there on the market. The Canon certainly looks attractive with its metal body, GPS, full manual controls, very useful image stabilization and great optics. The Canon also has some unique features like shooting a short clip prior to shooting a photo, has Intelligent IS which chooses between 6 types of image stabilization that best fits the current situation. The Sx260HS is a very slim camera that will certainly servers as a great travel camera and a manual controls for those who want to be more creative.
The Nikon S9300 is a great compact super-zoom. Ultra-slim and compact in size, features a high-resolution LCD display which is gorgeous and useful as the same time. The camera utilizes a Nikkor glass for premium image quality and optical performance. It also comes with a GPS, can shoot full HD videos and 3D photos as well. Although fully automatic P&S camera without manual controls, it does offer plenty of scene modes and effects that can result in photos that look a bit different. That’s the camera for those who don’t want to mass with manual controls, they just want to push a button and get a great image.
If I had to choose between the two I would probably pick up the Canon because of the manual controls. All in all, you are the one who need to make the final choice. Two of my friends had the SX230 HS (the previous model) and they loves their cameras and just can’t replace that camera with any other superzoom camera. Two excellent compact and slim super-zoom cameras that serve as great travel cameras but also for general purpose photography. Highly Recommended!
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