Canon PowerShot SX510 HS £289.99
22nd Aug 2013 | 04:03
Miniature bridge camera with 30x optical zoom and full manual control
Despite the downturn in compact camera sales, one area that still remains buoyant is the bridge and superzoom camera market.
Last year's Canon PowerShot SX500 IS combined the two, making an ultra small camera in the shape of a bridge camera. With a 30x optical zoom, this is a camera very much aimed at travelling and holiday photographers.
Outwardly, the design of the new Canon PowerShot SX510 HS remains very similar to its predecessor, but a few significant upgrades have been made.
What is a bridge camera?
First is the new sensor, which is a 12.1 million pixel CMOS device. The Canon SX500 IS featured a 16 million pixel CCD device, so although the resolution has lowered, image quality should be improved for the new camera. Canon's HS system, which is thought to stand for high sensitivity, is now found on the Canon SX510 HS, so this should make for good low light photography.
Wi-Fi connectivity has been added to the Canon SX510 HS. It seems that more and more compact cameras are featuring this specification now, and it may soon come to be the standard for all, much like Full HD video recording has pretty much become.
Last year's Canon SX500 IS featured only 720p recording, but Full HD 1080p is now available on the Canon SX510 HS, complete with stereo sound.
The lens, as with most bridge cameras, is the standout feature. Starting at 24mm at the wide angle, the 30x optical zoom gives an effective focal length of 720mm. This can be expanded using Canon's ZoomPlus digital zoom technology to 60x, or 1440mm.
With a long focal length, optical image stabilisation needs to be effective, and the Canon SX510 HS features Canon's Intelligent IS technology for helping to keep image blur to a minimum.
Full manual control is available, along with semi-automatic modes (shutter priority and aperture priority). Smart Auto mode now has the ability to recognise 32 different types of scenes. Unlike some other bridge cameras available, the Canon SX510 HS doesn't have the ability to shoot in raw format.
Build quality and handling
The first thing to notice about the Canon SX510 HS is of course its small size. Looking at pictures of it in isolation makes it difficult to really grasp just how small it is.
Styled like a normal bridge camera, but in miniature, the Canon SX510 has a fairly chunky grip on the right-hand side. Since you'll also find all of the control buttons on the right-hand side of the camera, using this camera one-handed is easy.
The back of the camera is very similar to other Canon compacts in its range. A scroll dial around the navigation pad can be used to scroll through the menu, as well as to make changes to certain elements such as aperture - depending on the mode you're using.
A type of quick menu can be accessed by pressing the central function button, bringing up options to change the most commonly used settings, such as white balance and sensitivity.
On top of the camera is a mode dial for switching between the various exposure modes on offer, including fully and semi-automatic and full manual control. It's a fairly sizeable dial which also finds room for scene, digital filters, movie and Movie Digest modes.
The zoom itself is controlled via a standard compact camera zoom switch around the shutter release button. Zooming in and out seems quick and fluid, getting you from the wide to the telephoto angle speedily.
One very handy feature of the Canon SX510 is Zoom Framing Assist, which has two functions. First of all, if you're zoomed in but lose track of your subject, pressing the button on the side of the lens zooms it out instantly so you can find it again, and zooms back in once you release the button. This is particularly useful if you're photographing a moving subject such as a bird or a plane.
Secondly, it will also automatically zoom the lens out to keep the subject roughly the same size in the frame if it moves towards you, which again is useful for photographing moving subjects, such as children playing football. We'll be keen to give these elements a proper test once a full review sample comes in.
As always, it's difficult to come to any firm conclusions about the performance of a camera, but we're by now reasonably assured that Canon compact cameras are usually of a high standard.
With a lower resolution count but CMOS sensor, it seems likely that image quality should be very good, including the HS system, which should also see some good low light performance - we'll be keen to assess that fully at a later date.
Canon says that a new Eco mode boosts the battery performance of the camera by up to 32%. Because this camera is primarily aimed at travelling and holidaying photographers, that's an important feature, so hopefully that particular promise will be delivered on.
We'll also be keen to see if Canon's excellent image stabiliser does a good job here - especially with that long 30x zoom factor - when we get a final production sample in for a full review.
It's a shame that the Canon SX510 HS isn't capable of shooting in raw format, but we don't think it's a camera aimed at those people who really want this feature, and adding the option would no doubt have pushed the price up.
As it is, the Canon SX510 HS costs £289.99 (around US$455/AU$505), which is almost the same as the Canon SX500 IS's original price.
Although the Canon SX510 uses a processor which is now two generations old (the Digic 4), it's still a good performer and should help to produce good images and still boast pretty fast processing and autofocus times.
Bridge cameras continue to perform well in what is otherwise a tricky time for compact cameras. For those who want full manual control and a large zoom ratio, the Canon SX510 will be appealing, while the small form factor is ideal for travelling photographers.
We've been impressed with Canon's bridge cameras in the past and expect much the same from the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS. Look out for a full review of the camera as soon as full production models become available.
First reviewed 22 August 2013