The new Canon Powershot SX280 HS is an easily pocketable compact P&S digicam with a long 20x zoom lens. The SX280 HS won't turn any heads or launch any trends. In fact, the polycarbonate bodied SX280 HS is a rather plain looking point and shoot (especially the black version - the camera is also available in red) that differs only marginally from its predecessor.
The SX280 HS (which replaces the SX260 HS in Canon's upscale point and shoot digital camera catalog) features a 12-megapixel (BSI) CMOS sensor, Canon's proprietary HS (high sensitivity) technology, and the SX280 HS is the first of Canon's digicams to feature the new DIGIC VI processor. When combined, these components give the SX280 HS unique low light capabilities.
Canon claims the SX280 HS produces about the same amount of noise in an ISO1600 image as its predecessor (the SX260 HS) produced in an ISO 400 image -- substantially expanding low light photography options. Another new feature is the built-in Wi-Fi technology which allows users to easily share photos on social networking sites. The SX280 HS also features a built-in GPS receiver that allows users to geo-tag their images, making the SX280 HS (with its compact profile and 20X zoom) an almost perfect travel camera.
Build and Design
Design-wise, the SX280 HS looks and handles like a point-and-shoot digital camera, but it doesn't feel cheap or plastic-like -- in fact, though quite compact, this camera feels very stable in your hands. The SX280 HS is a precision built and robustly constructed imaging tool that was obviously designed for serious shooters. The SX280 HS, unlike the auto-everything point-and-shoot digital cameras swamping the high tech marketplace these days, permits lots of individual input into the image making process via an enhanced feature set, plenty of creative flexibility, and manual control of exposure. The SX280 HS (when off) is about the same size and shape as a standard Altoids tin - it measures 2.5 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches and weighs about 8.2 ounces (with battery and SD card). The easily stripped plastic tripod socket of earlier SX models has been replaced by a metal insert. The finger-rail grip is also a nice touch, since few cameras this size include any sort of grip -- even though compact cameras lack the stability of larger cameras.
Ergonomics and Controls
The SX280 HS's user interface is logical and uncomplicated - all buttons and controls are clearly marked, sensibly placed and easily accessed, for right-handed shooters. The mode dial makes it a bit awkward to access the one touch video stop/start button, but otherwise the rear deck control layout is excellent --containing all dedicated controls except for the on/off button, the large silver shutter button, and the zoom toggle. The compass switch (4-way controller) provides direct access to the exposure compensation function, flash settings, macro mode, self-timer, and (in review mode) the delete function. Canon's "func" button offers direct access to WB, ISO, image size, etc. The compass switch is surrounded by a rotary jog dial, press the review button and you can use your right thumb on the rotary jog dial to quickly and easily scroll back and forth through your saved images or push the menu button and use the rotary jog dial to rapidly scroll through menu options.
Menus and Modes
The Canon PowerShot SX210 IS features a two-tab version of Canon's classic digicam menu system. The menu system, accessed via a dedicated button, is logical and easy to navigate. The SX280 HS provides a comprehensive selection of shooting modes including:
Auto: Point-and-shoot mode with automatic scene selection.
Program: Auto exposure with limited user input (sensitivity, white balance, exposure compensation, etc.).
Live View Mode: Easy picture adjustment to create effects.
Movie Digest (Hybrid Auto) Mode: Create a movie from still images.
Sports: Mode Dial Scene Mode for action shots.
Scene Mode: Portrait, Smart Shutter (Smile, Wink Self-Timer, FaceSelf-Timer), High-speed Burst HQ, Handheld Night Scene, Underwater, Snow, Fireworks, etc.
Fisheye effect: Mimics a fish-eye lens.
Discreet: Turns off all sounds and deactivates the flash.
Aperture priority: Users select the aperture and the camera selects an appropriate shutter speed.
Shutter priority: Users select shutter speed and the camera selects an appropriate aperture.
Manual: Users select all exposure parameters.
Movie: The SX280 HS records HD video at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p) @ 30 fps.
Like most of today's Point and Shoot digital cameras, the SX80 HS doesn't provide an optical viewfinder, so shooters must use the 3.0 inch LCD (with 461K resolution) for all framing/composition, captured image review and menu navigation chores. Most casual shooters don't use optical viewfinders anyway and in many shooting scenarios (macro and portraits, for example), it is often quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the LCD screen than it is through an optical viewfinder.
The SX280 HS's LCD screen is relatively bright, hue accurate (what you see color-wise is what you get), and fluid. However, even though the SX280 HS features Wi-Fi and GPS--it does not feature a touch screen. I had a couple of folks I showed the camera to express mild amazement that Canon had left out one of the big three ubiquitous (but mostly useless) new "hot ticket" features. The SX280 HS's LCD screen displays a standard 4:3 aspect ratio when shooting still images, but users get the full 16:9 widescreen display on the LCD when shooting/reviewing in movie mode. The SX280 HS's LCD, like all LCD monitors, is subject to fading and glare/reflections in bright outdoor lighting, sometimes making outdoor composition difficult--LCD brightness and contrast ratios are both noticeably lower than one would expect from a $300.00 premium Point and Shoot digital camera.
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