Originally Posted: March 25, 2012
Last Updated: June 6, 2012
The PowerShot SX260 HS ($349) is the latest compact travel zoom from Canon. The SX260 replaces the SX230 (one of my favorite travel zooms from last year) and its biggest feature is its wider, more powerful zoom lens. Other things that have been improved include its image processor, image stabilization system, Smart Auto mode, and burst mode performance. The SX260 retains the same 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor, 3-inch LCD, GPS receiver, and Full HD movie mode of its predecessor.
The chart below compares and contrasts the SX230 and SX260:
That's a pretty nice upgrade, if you ask me. Will the PowerShot SX260 HS continue to be a top pick in the compact ultra zoom category? Find out now in our review!
A non-GPS model known as the PowerShot SX240 HS is available in certain countries.
What's in the Box?
The PowerShot SX260 HS has a standard Canon bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot SX260 HS digital camera
- NB-6L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
- 34 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM
As with all of their recent cameras, Canon neither builds memory into their cameras, nor includes a memory card in the box. So, unless you have one already (which you probably do), you'll need to buy yourself an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card right away. You're going to want a 4GB card at the very least, and larger if you plan on taking a lot of Full HD videos. A high speed (Class 6 or higher) card is recommended for best performance.
Canon uses the NB-6L lithium-ion battery for power. This battery, used on a number of other PowerShots, packs 3.5 Wh of energy, which is on the lower end of the spectrum. Here's how that translates into battery life:
The good news here is that the SX260's battery life is about 10% higher than its predecessor. The bad news is that it's still a bit below the group average. Picking up a spare battery (which will run you around $38) is a good idea, especially if you're using the power hungry GPS (which is not part of the above battery life calculations).
When your 230 shots are up, just pop the NB-6L into the included charger. The charger plugs right into the wall and takes just under 2 hours to fully charge the battery.
There are a couple of accessories available for the PowerShot SX260 HS. They include:
And that's it! Not surprising, though, as compact ultra zooms like this are usually pretty light in the accessory department.
Canon continues to have one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter CameraWindow, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ZoomBrowser in Windows and ImageBrowser on Macs. The software lets you e-mail or print photos, upload videos to YouTube, and do some editing, as well. Available photo editing features include trimming, redeye removal, level/tone curve adjustment, and color tuning. Movie editing tools in Image/ZoomBrowser include trimming and frame grabs.
Two other products you'll find in the box with the PowerShot SX260 HS are PhotoStitch and Map Utility. PhotoStitch can take photos that you've lined up using the Stitch Assist feature on the camera, and combine them into a single panoramic image. Map Utility will show you where photos with GPS data embedded appear on a Google Map. If you had the logging function turned on, you'll also be able to see the route you travelled.
The documentation for the SX260 is the same as it is for all Canon PowerShot models. Inside the box is a leaflet that'll get you up and running. For more details, you'll need to open up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. This manual will answer any question you may have about the SX260, though it's not the most user friendly guide out there. Instructions for the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.
Design & Features
The PowerShot SX260 HS is a more streamlined version of the SX230 that came before it. The camera is made almost entirely of metal, with everything feeling pretty solid. It's compact and easy to hold, though there's not a lot of room on the back of the camera for your thumb, with mine usually resting on the movie record button. I also don't like how the buttons on the back of the camera are flush with the body, so you can't tell what you're pressing without looking first.
Here's a look at how last year's PowerShot SX230 compares to the new SX260:
|The PowerShot SX230 and SX260, side-by-side (close to scale)
Images courtesy of Canon USA
The front view shows the SX260's new "flat top" design, since the GPS receiver has been pushed back into the body. On the back you can see that the SX260 loses the widescreen LCD of its predecessor (I view this as a good thing), and the buttons have been flattened to the flush design I mentioned earlier. The power button has moved from the back of the SX230 to the top of the SX260.
Images courtesy of Canon USA
The PowerShot SX260 comes in three colors: red, black, and green. My review unit was the green one, though I'd say it's closer to turquoise.
Now it's time to see how the PowerShot SX260 HS compares to other travel zooms in terms of size and weight. As you can see above, it's pretty compact for a camera with a 20X zoom lens!
As you can see, the SX260 is one of the smallest and lightest travel zooms out there.
Alright, let's begin our tour of the SX260 HS now, using our tabbed interface:
The biggest new feature on the SX260 is its new 20X lens. This F3.5-6.8 lens isn't exactly "fast" -- especially at the telephoto end -- so don't expect miracles in low light. The focal length is 4.5 - 90.0 mm , which is equivalent to 25 - 500 mm. The lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses and filters are not an option.
You need an image stabilization system with an ultra zoom camera, and the SX260 has one, of the lens-shift variety. This will reduce the risk of blur for still shots, and will smooth out your movies, as well. It has a "dynamic mode" for shooting videos which has extra shake reduction, as well as an Intelligent IS feature, which selects the right IS mode for the situation.
To the upper-left of the lens is the camera's pop-up flash, which is raised electronically (depending on the flash setting). The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 2.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). If you want more flash power, consider picking up the slave flash I mentioned earlier, which has a range of up to 30 feet.
The last item of note on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp, which also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
The first thing to point out on the back of the camera is the SX260's 3-inch LCD display. The LCD has gone back to a more traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than the widescreen one on the SX230. This is good news for still shooters, as composing photos on a 16:9 display is awkward. The LCD retains the same 461,000 pixel resolution of its predecessor, and it offers good outdoor visibility. In low light situations the screen brightens up nicely, allowing you to see what you're trying to take a photo of.
Now let's talk dials and buttons. At the top-right of the photo is the mode dial, which is chock full of options. I'll tell you more about those options right after this tour.
Underneath that we have four buttons, plus the four-way controller / scroll wheel combo. The function of the four buttons is pretty obvious, and you can see that the four-way controller does a lot more than just navigate menus, as well. The scroll dial around the four-way controller can be used for adjusting manual settings, navigating the menu system, and replaying photos you've taken.
Up on top of the SX260 you can see the flash (closed here), speaker, and stereo microphones. The GPS has been integrated into the body, so the SX260 lacks the "hump" of its predecessor.
Continuing to the right we see the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.9 seconds. I counted a little over twenty steps in the SX260's 20X zoom range, which doesn't allow for a lot of precision.
At the far right of the photo is the SX260's power button.
There's nothing to see on this side of the camera, aside from the popped-up flash. The lens is at the full wide-angle position here.
On the right side of the SX260 are its I/O ports, where are protected by a rubber cover. The ports here include USB + A/V and mini-HDMI. The optional AC adapter feeds through a "hole" in the battery compartment door.
That big ol' 20X lens as at full telephoto here.
On the bottom of the PowerShot SX260 you'll find a metal tripod mount (not visible in this photo) as well as the battery/memory card compartment. The door over this compartment is of average quality. Keep in mind that you won't be able to access its contents while the camera is on a tripod.
The include NB-6L lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
There's no live histogram on the SX260
The first thing I want to talk about are the items on the SX260's fully loaded mode dial. They include:
Live View Control mode makes adjusting settings easy
There at least four point-and-shoot modes on the SX260, and that doesn't include the Scene or Creative Filter modes. For general use, there's Smart Auto mode, which selects one of 58 scene modes for you (plus the proper image stabilization mode). The SX260 even knows if you're using a tripod, and reacts accordingly. If you want a way to adjust exposure compensation, color saturation, and white balance without having to know any of those technical terms, then try the new Live View Control mode. If you want to capture a short video before each still photo, then try the Movie Digest mode. Finally, there's an Easy mode which lets you turn the flash on and off -- and that's it.
As you've seen, the SX260 is loaded with both scene modes and special effects. I want to mention a couple of the scene modes that need further explanation:
- Smart Shutter: choose from smile detection, or cool wink and face self-timers; smile detection waits until someone in your photo smiles, and then it'll start taking photos; the wink self-timer takes a photo two seconds after someone in the frame winks at the camera; face self-timer takes a photo 2 seconds after a new person (presumably the photographer) enters the frame
- High-speed Burst HQ: the camera takes eight photos in a row at 10.3 frames/second (Canon's numbers -- see mine later); do note that the LCD goes black while shooting is in-progress
- Handheld Night Scene: the camera takes several exposures and combines them into a single photo, which is hopefully sharp
- Stitch Assist: helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching into a single panorama (using the bundled software)
The SX260 has a limited set of manual controls. You can adjust the shutter speed and/or aperture to your liking, and manually adjust the focus or white balance. Unfortunately, there's no bracketing feature, white balance fine-tuning (except for underwater), or RAW format support available. Something else that bothered me is that the ISO is locked at 100 when the shutter speed drops below 1 second. While this reduces noise, it's also an unneeded restriction. You'll see how this affected my night test scenes on the next page of this review.
I want to mention a few interesting options that are controlled by the four-way controller, which includes the Function menu (activated by pressing the Func/Set button). These options include:
- Self-timer: in addition to 2 and 10 second options, a custom mode lets you choose the number of shots and the amount of time before the first shot is taken
- My Colors: enhance colors or skin tones, take B&W or sepia photos, or manually adjust contrast/sharpness/saturation
- Underwater white balance compensation: for fine-tuning white balance when shooting underwater
- Still image aspect ratio: choose from 4:3, 16:9, 3:2, or 1:1
Not a whole lot of interesting options, as you can see. Unfortunately, the SX260 lacks the useful DR Correction and HDR features found on some of Canon's other higher-end cameras. It does have the i-Contrast feature (described below), but it's not as robust as the other two.
Shooting menu, with help info at bottom
The rest of the shooting-related options that I want to talk about can be found in the PowerShot SX260 HS's main menu. The menus are attractive, easy-to-navigate, and feature "hints & tips" that describe each option. The notable features here are:
- AF frame: choose from Face Detect, Tracking, and center AF; for center AF you can select from small or normal size focus points
- Digital zoom: normally I tell people to turn this off, but if you're willing to lower the resolution, you can use it without a reduction in image quality; for example, dropping down to 6 Megapixel gives you a whopping 50X of total zoom power
- Servo AF: the camera keeps focusing with the shutter release halfway-pressed, which is helpful for moving subjects
- Continuous AF: the camera is always focusing, even before you press the shutter release button; reduces focus times at the expense of battery life
- Flash exposure compensation/output: if you set the flash to manual control, you can adjust it in the same way that you do exposure; when the camera is in "M" mode, you can choose from 1/3, 2/3, or Full flash output
- Redeye correction: buried in the flash settings submenu, this option will digitally remove redeye from photos, as they are taken; look for the redeye test later in the review
- i-Contrast: improves overall image contrast; see below for example
- Blink detection: the camera will warn you if someone in the frame had their eyes closed
- IS settings: choose from continuous or "shoot only" stabilization, or turn it off entirely; a Powered IS mode is for shooting at full telephoto, and should be turned off when panning or walking
- Face ID settings: new to the SX260 is a face recognition feature; you can add a face along with a name and birthday; registered faces will get focus priority when they appear in the frame; you can add multiple angles to improve accuracy
- GPS Auto Time: sets the clock using the GPS system
- GPS settings: turn the GPS on and off, and activate a logging function which tracks your movements (at the expense of battery life)
While the SX260 lacks the more robust HDR and DR Correction tools of its more expensive siblings, its i-Contrast feature still reduces highlights and brightens shadows. The only real catch is that the camera may need to boost the ISO to 200 in order to make the magic happen. Here's an example of i-Contrast in action:
|i-Contrast off (default)
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
While i-Contrast doesn't cure highlight clipping by any means, it definitely reduces it, which you can see on the left side of the tile floor. As I mentioned, the ISO went up to 200 with this feature on, which increases noise slightly. This isn't a great scene for seeing how i-Contrast brightens shadows, but from my own experiences, it'll do that too -- just not dramatically.
|i-Contrast examples added on 3/26/12|
There's not a whole lot to tell you about the SX260's GPS feature. It's a bare bones system that logs your location and nothing more (sorry, landmark database fans). If you want to track your route, just turn on the logging function, though note that it'll put a heavy strain on your battery. Satellite acquisition times aren't wondrous. In a wide open area, it took the camera about a minute to figure out where I was. In the city, things are much more difficult, as is usually the case. Unless you're really lucky, don't expect the camera to find your location beneath the skyscrapers.
The PowerShot SX260's movie mode is essentially the same as the one on the SX230 that came before it. You can record Full HD video (1920 x 1080) at 24 frames/second with stereo sound, until the file size reaches 4GB (which takes about 14.5 minutes). While the 24p frame rate is popular with film makers, the average person may find it to be a bit choppy. The SX260 can also record at 1280 x 720 and 640 x 480 -- all at 30 frames/second. You can also use the Apple-developed iFrame codec, which is supposed to be easier to edit -- not that working with H.264 is that hard.
As you'd expect from this hybrid camera, you can use the optical zoom (complete with continuous AF) and image stabilizer while you're recording a movie. There aren't any manual controls, though, unless you count the wind filter.
Movies can also be recorded using the miniature effect (at 720p) and at high frame rates. These "super slow motion movies" are recorded at 120 or 240 fps, at resolutions of 640 x 480 and 320 x 240, respectively. When played back at normal speed, the videos taken at the high frame rates appear to move in slow motion, as their name implies. Many of the other Creative Filters can be used in movie mode, if regular color just isn't good enough for you.
There's no way to take a still photo while you're recording a movie.
Here's a brief sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting. Pardon the zoom action at the beginning of the clip.
Aside from the choppiness, the video quality is pretty good!
The PowerShot SX260 HS has a pretty nice playback mode. Some of the notable features here include:
- Movie Digest playback: I told you about this feature earlier; here's how you view the day's events
- Smart Shuffle: a bizarre feature which shows four photos similar to the one you're viewing
- Image Search: move through photos by date, category, file type, recognized face, or whether it's tagged as a favorite
- My Category: assign a category to a photo, which is then transferred over to the "Browser" software; in some cases, the camera has done this automatically
- Photobook: you can select photos to put into a photobook, which essentially just puts images into a separate folder, for easy uploading to photo printing sites
- i-Contrast: brightens dark areas of your photo
- Redeye correction: digitally remove this annoyance from a photo
- Erase range of photos: I normally don't mention image deletion features, but the ability to select a range of photos without having to click your way through thumbnails is very handy
Photo editing functions include the ability to rotate, resize, and crop. Movies can have unwanted footage trimmed off of the beginning or end of a clip.
The PowerShot SX260 HS shows just basic information about your photo by default. Pressing the Display button reveals more, and if you press "up" on the four-way controller, you'll see where the photo was taken.
The SX260 moves through photos without delay, even with the fancy transitions between each image. If you want to really go fast, just spin the dial on the back of the camera. Using the dial is another way to jump to photos taken on a certain date.
Performance & Photo Quality
As with other recent Canon cameras, performance is about average on the SX260 HS. The area in which it disappointed the most was in terms of low light focusing (especially at the telephoto end of the lens). Not because it was slow, but because the SX260 often refused to lock focus in those situations. If you think you'll be shooting tele shots in low light, you may want to consider another camera.
The table that follows summarizes the SX260's performance:
Another performance-related area to discuss is with regard to the SX260's burst modes. There are three modes to choose from: continuous, continuous AF, and high-speed burst HQ (mentioned earlier). The difference between the first two can be found in the name: one locks focus on the first shot, while the other refocuses every time. The high-speed mode is only for JPEGs, with the ISO locked at the Auto setting. The LCD is blacked out while shooting, as well, which makes tracking a moving subject a bit difficult (to say the least).
Here's the kind of performance you can expect from the SX260 in burst mode:
All-in-all, a pretty good performance for the SX260. If they could keep the LCD active during the High-Speed Burst, then the SX260 would be quite a tool for sports photography. Alas, you'll need to shoot at 2.2 fps if you want to follow the action on the screen.
Alright, now let's see how the PowerShot SX260 handled our usual photo tests!
|Please note: the majority of the test and sample photos in this review were accidentally taken at the "normal" image quality setting. This may have resulted in a small drop in image quality. I apologize for the error.|
Our usual macro test photo turned out nicely. The only real issues here is a slight "fuzzy" appearance and blacks that aren't as, well, "black" as I would like. Otherwise, color accuracy is solid, and plenty of detail was captured.
The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle and 1 m at telephoto.
Our night test scene turned out fairly well, with the biggest issue being strong highlight clipping in places. The camera took in plenty of light, as you'd expect on a camera with manual exposure controls. You can take long exposures using the Smart Auto mode as well, and the SX260 can detect whether you're using a tripod and adjust the settings appropriately. Noise levels are fairly low here, though you will spot some cyan and purple fringing in places.
The SX260 has the same "fixed ISO" annoyance as the PowerShot S100 that I reviewed a few months ago. Simply put, if you take the shutter speed below 1 second, the ISO is fixed at 100. This makes a lot of sense for keeping noise levels down, but it seems unnecessary, especially in the manual exposure modes. It's due to this restriction that I can't show you how the camera performs at high ISOs in low light, so you'll have to survive on the studio test a bit paragraphs down.
Straight out of the camera
After redeye removal in playback mode
The PowerShot SX260 HS tries to eliminate redeye in two ways. First, it'll fire the AF-assist lamp a second or two before the photo is taken, with the goal of shrinking your subject's pupils. I've found that this rarely works. The second part of the removal system is a digital system (which needs to be turned on in the Flash Settings menu), which tries to get rid of whatever shows up in a photo. Even with both of those turned on, I still got pretty strong redeye. I went into playback mode and used the removal tool there, which took care of the problem. While your results may vary, odds are that redeye will be an issue on the PowerShot SX260 HS.
There's not a whole lot of barrel distortion on the SX260's lens at wide-angle. That's because Canon is digitally correcting for it (as most cameras do) when you take the photo. Corner blurring was very mild, and vignetting (dark corners) didn't seem to be an issue, either.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for our studio test scene. Since this scene is always taken under the same lighting, you can compare the results with other cameras that I've reviewed over the years (Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20, anyone?). Keep in mind that the crops below only show a small portion of the total image, so view the full size images, as well! Here we go:
While there's no really obvious noise at ISO 100 and 200, they do have a bit of a "fuzzy" appearance to them. While you start to see some actual grain-style noise at ISO 400, it's still very low. Details start to get fuzzy at ISO 800, but it's still good enough for small and perhaps midsize prints. When we get to ISO 1600 you can see that details are getting eaten away, so I'd pass on this setting unless you're really desperate. I'd avoid the ISO 3200 setting altogether.
Since the SX260 doesn't support the RAW format, I can't run a test to see if you can extract more detail from the photos. My guess is that you could, if RAW was supported.
A lot of people are probably wondering how the PowerShot SX260 compares to other GPS-equipped ultra zooms. With that in mind, I grabbed the ISO 800 photos from the Nikon Coolpix S9300 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20, and compared them to the SX260. Do note that I reduced the resolution of the other two cameras in order to match that of the SX260.
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
Nikon Coolpix S9300 (downsized)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 (downsized)
Even with the advantage of being downsized, the Nikon's image quality just doesn't hold up against the SX260, and I've found the same to be true even at ISO 100. The Panasonic is a bit closer, but I think the SX260 retains a bit more detail here. If you view these images at full size, the difference becomes even more glaring -- despite its sort of fuzzy appearance, the SX260 still captures a bit more detail than these two competitors.
Overall, the PowerShot SX260's image quality is good for a compact ultra zoom, but not fantastic. While exposures were accurate on most occasions, the camera seems to enjoy clipping highlights, though the i-Contrast feature may reduce that a bit. Colors look good -- no complaints there. Photos are a bit on the soft side, with a "fuzzy" appearance that I've mentioned several times in this section. Noise levels are reasonable at low ISOs, and clean enough at higher sensitivities that you can still get a 4 x 6 inch print at ISO 800 and maybe even 1600. Purple fringing was a problem at times, but not to the point where I'm going to knock points off of the SX260's score.
There are two photo galleries available for the SX260. There's our standard gallery, where I went for the best possible image quality. I also have a Disneyland gallery, where I did whatever it took to get the shot -- so expect a lot of high sensitivity photos there. Browse through the galleries -- maybe printing a few of the photos if possible -- and then decide if the SX260's photo quality meets your needs!
The Canon PowerShot SX260 is a travel zoom camera that packs a 20X zoom lens into a compact and stylish package. The lens is probably the highlight of the camera, with an impressive range of 25 - 500 mm. As with other cameras in this class, the lens is on the slow side, especially at full telephoto. Naturally, the SX260 has an optical image stabilization system, complete with a dynamic mode for movies and powered mode for telephoto shots. The camera will pick the right IS mode for the situation, so you can focus on your subject instead of adjusting camera settings. On the back of the camera you'll find a standard-issue 3-inch LCD. The screen is plenty sharp, with 461,000 pixels, and it offers good outdoor and low light visibility. The SX260's built-in flash isn't terribly powerful, though Canon does offer an external slave flash if you don't mind carrying that around too. The only other accessory of note is an underwater housing.
The PowerShot SX260 has both automatic and manual controls, though enthusiasts may be a bit frustrated with a few things. The SX260 has more point-and-shoot modes than any camera I can remember. Want a locked down, foolproof shooting experience? Then use Easy mode. If you want the camera to pick one of 58 scene modes for you, then use Smart Auto mode. Those who want a short video clip recorded before each still can opt for Movie Digest mode, while special effects lovers can set the mode dial to Creative Filters. And that's not even counting all of the camera's scene modes! If you want manual controls, the SX260 has a decent set of them, including those for exposure, white balance, and focus. Unfortunately, the SX260 lacks doesn't support the RAW format, any kind of bracketing, or white balance fine-tuning. It also (annoyingly) locks the ISO at 100 when you drop the shutter speed below one second. The SX260 can shoot Full HD video with stereo sound and use of the optical zoom and image stabilizer. The frame rate is 24 fps, which some (myself included) may find to be a bit choppy. Video recording is a totally point-and-shoot experience on the SX260, with no manual controls to be found. And let's not forget the SX260's built-in GPS. It doesn't do anything fancy (like know what landmark you're standing in front of), but it gets the job done, at least outside of big cities.
Camera performance is average is most respects. The SX260 powers up and is ready to take pictures in 1.2 seconds (with its start screen turned off), which is pretty good. Autofocus performance is really where the SX260 (and most Canon cameras these days) lag behind the competition. While it's not horrible by any means, if you've used any recent Nikon, Panasonic, or Sony camera, the SX260 just feels sluggish. I also had more "can't focus" errors than I would've expected while shooting in low light. Shutter lag and shot-to-shot times were both average. The PowerShot SX260 has two burst modes, both of which are at full resolution. The standard one will keep firing away at 2.2 frames/sec until your memory card fills up, while the high speed one takes a quick burst of ten shots at over 10 frames/second. The problem with the high speed burst mode is that the LCD is blacked out during shooting. While the SX260's battery life is better than that of its predecessor, it's still below average for the compact ultra zoom category.
While not perfect by any means, the PowerShot SX260's photo quality is better than average in its class, and should serve its target audience well. Exposures were accurate in most situation, though like most compact cameras, the SX260 will clip highlights. Turning on the i-Contrast feature should help reduce that a bit. Colors were nice and vibrant, with no funny color casts. Images are a bit soft, with a sort-of fuzzy look to them. That said, details remain relatively intact until you get to around ISO 800, where the SX260 performs better than similar cameras from Nikon and Panasonic. You will almost certainly encounter redeye on the SX260, and you can correct it by using the removal tool in playback mode (if the two preventative measures failed). Something you won't be able to fix (at least on the camera) is purple fringing, though it's fairy mild.
All things considered, the PowerShot SX260 HS is a solid choice for those looking for a travel zoom camera. It's not particularly fast (especially in the AF department), nor is it loaded with bells and whistles like landmark databases. The bottom line is that the SX260 gets the job done in nearly all situations, and produces photos of higher quality than competitive models. The only people whom I'd hesitate to recommend the camera to are those who do a lot of low light shooting, as the autofocus system seemed to struggle in those situations. If you do most of your picture taking in daylight, then I think you'll be pleased with what the PowerShot SX260 can offer.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality for the compact ultra zoom category
- Packs a 20X, 25 - 500 mm lens into a compact and stylish body
- Optical image stabilization; camera will select the appropriate IS mode for the situation
- High resolution 3-inch LCD with very good outdoor and low light visibility
- Built-in GPS doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but gets the job done
- Good set of manual controls
- Smart Auto mode picks one of 58 scene modes for you; plenty of other point-and-shoot modes to choose from
- Tons of scene modes and Creative Filters
- Decent burst mode for this category
- Cool face, smile, and wink self-timers
- Records Full HD (1080/24p) video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom and image stabilizer
- Optional underwater case
What I didn't care for:
- Photos a bit soft and fuzzy
- Some highlight clipping and purple fringing (try using i-Contrast to reduce the former)
- Redeye a problem (though it can be removed in playback mode)
- Autofocus performance lags behind the competition; camera struggled to focus in low light at times
- ISO locked at 100 at shutter speeds below 1 second
- Enthusiasts will bemoan lack of RAW support, bracketing, white balance fine-tuning, and a live histogram
- Videos are a bit choppy due to 24 fps frame rate; no manual controls available
- Below average battery life
- Can't access memory card slot while using a tripod
- Full manual on CD-ROM
Some other travel zoom cameras worth considering include the Fuji FinePix F770EXR, Nikon Coolpix S9300, Olympus SZ-31MR iHS (which lacks GPS), Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V.
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the PowerShot SX260 HS and its competitors before you buy!