Design and features
As smartphones continue to encroach on the territory once occupied by the poor old compact camera, there is still one last hope left. Behold, the power of zoom!
Superzoom cameras generally look and feel a little bit like a traditional SLR, except without the option to change lenses. Canon's PowerShot SX510 HS certainly packs a punch in the zoom department, with a 30x optical f/3.4-5.8 lens inside a camera no bigger than a game controller. At 349g, it's certainly light enough to be carried along for most photographic occasions. By the way, that zoom equivalent is 24-720mm in 35mm format.
Behind the lens is a different sensor to last year's SX500 HS. This time it's a 12.1-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor that should theoretically deliver better photos in low light compared to the older model.
A 3-inch LCD screen at the back is the only way to compose and view images. Unlike more expensive superzooms, there is no electronic viewfinder here. It's not a particularly high-resolution screen, however, at 461,000 dots. In bright sunlight and glare-filled viewing conditions, the screen can be difficult to see.
Most of the camera's controls can be found on the top mode dial, including full auto, manual controls (program, aperture, shutter and full manual mode) and scene modes. There is a pop-up flash available, but it needs to be manually lifted into place rather than automatically popping up when needed. The SX510 HS takes JPEG photos only.
The creative options available to photographers are somewhat limited by the scene mode menu. There are options such as portrait, low-light and face self-timer, but these are not extensive by any stretch of the imagination.
More extensive options present themselves in the creative menu, denoted with two interlocking circles on the mode dial. From here, users can choose from fish-eye, toy camera, miniature, poster effect, super vivid and black-and-white filters.
The Live mode can be used to produce some interesting effects by playing around with white balance, saturation and exposure.
The CameraWindow app is basic but functional.
(Screenshot by CBSi)
Live View control, found on the mode dial under the aptly titled "Live", lets photographers adjust parameters from dark to light, neutral to vivid and cool to warm and then preview the effect in real time on the screen.
The camera comes with a few connectivity options, the most notable being Wi-Fi. The Canon CameraWindow app (iOS and Android) is simple, giving users the option to view and transfer images on the camera or add location information to photos on the camera. Wi-Fi can be turned on when in playback mode. Press up on the control wheel to start the connection, and choose an option from the camera screen (smartphone, PC, print, camera to camera, cloud). In our tests, the Wi-Fi connection proved stable, if a little slow. Images can be transferred over as full-resolution files or at a reduced resolution.
For tethered options, the SX510 HS offers connectivity via mini USB and HDMI out.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot to shot
- Shutter lag
Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The SX510 HS has two different continuous shooting modes. The first can take 3.5fps with focus fixed from the first shot. The second mode focuses for each photo, which reduces the burst rate to 1fps.
Canon rates the battery at 250 shots. Using Wi-Fi drains the battery quite substantially, so bear this in mind if you only have one battery available.
When there is plenty of light, the SX510 HS produces some nice photos, especially given its positioning as a cheaper superzoom camera. Colours are saturated without being excessive, and automatic exposures are accurate. However, it can be hard to tell this from simply looking at the screen because it often appears as if highlights have been blown out. Fortunately, reviewing the histogram can give you some extra information here to ensure you are getting all the detail you need from the shot.
As would be expected on a camera of this class, the lens is sharpest in the middle of the frame with some drop-off towards the sides. The lens also displays barrel distortion at the widest end, but it's not too extreme.
How close does 30x zoom get you? Pretty close indeed. This photo was taken from the Sydney Opera House looking over to Luna Park. See the image samples section below for the full-resolution version.
Where the SX510 HS struggles is in low light. In automatic modes, the camera pushes up the ISO sensitivity, which is completely normal, but still doesn't manage to get a completely shake-free shot because the shutter stays open too long. In some of our night tests, the camera was trying to use a shutter speed of 1/4 second at ISO 800, which resulted in some hand and camera shake.
The lens shows some very obvious signs of chromatic aberration and purple fringing, even without shooting at the widest end, which is where they usually show up most. Photos stay relatively clean up to and including ISO 200. After this, noise and over-processing becomes more visible when viewing images at 100 per cent magnification.
Good news — you can use the full extent of the optical zoom while filming. Canon also offers the ability to film in miniature effect in video, although the resolution is limited to 720p.
Videos created with the SX510 HS look good when shot in ample lighting conditions. When zoomed in to the full 30x optical zoom extent of the lens, there is quite a lot of camera shake visible, but the image stabilisation system makes the zoom very usable without a tripod. Audio quality is fine from the internal microphones.
Exposure: 1/125, f/5.8, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/640, f/5, ISO 2500
Exposure: 1/200, f/5, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/4, f/3.4, ISO 800
The SX510 HS is a decent superzoom camera targeted towards the budget market. As long as you don't expect the same experience as a more expensive camera, or exemplary performance from handheld night photography, it's a fair buy. Unfortunately, Canon Australia does not issue official RRPs, but street prices for this camera average around AU$270.