Among the few things that separates standalone cameras from smartphones these days is the zoom. It is near impossible for a phone to add optical zoom beyond a point, though companies like Samsung which launched the Galaxy Zoom would beg to differ. Still a 30x zoom is impractical on a compact smartphone. So is a large sensor, for which you need a bigger chassis like in standalone cameras.
The Canon Powershot SX60HS takes this advantage to a different level by packing a gigantic 65x optical zoom. Combine that with the digital blow up and you get a total of 135x zoom. Now that is better than most mid-range telescopes. For those who understand lenses the 35 mm equivalent would be a 21-1365 mm lens. That is about five times the popular DSLR zoom lens range of 75-300 mm. That is really taking things to a whole new level.
Design: The SX60HS is a compact bridge camera size and fits comfortably in your hand. It offers a good grip with most of the controls easily accessible using the right hand. It has a tiltable 3-inch LCD and a digital image finder. Near the trigger is a jog dial that lets you change the settings easily. There is also a mode dial that lets you choose from a variety of modes from full auto to custom. More controls come below, to the right of the LCD panel.
Performance: I have used ultra-zoom cameras before. They all face one big issue, that of being able to offer a stable shot at extreme zoom. A small shake of the hand when you are at full zoom will take you off focus by many degrees. That is why image stabilisation is crucial on a camera that is looking beyond the others. This is also the biggest plus point of the SX60HS. I took a moon shot and the
image stabilisation was pretty good.
For best results you might need to invest in a tripod. That will make life much easier. But then this is not a one-trick camera. It has a wider lens, so you can click some great close up as well as macro shots. Then there is the burst mode that lets you shoot up to six shots per second, good enough to catch a bird in flight. The zoom also works with the Full HD video recording and that has its advantages for people who like to shoot wildlife or just monitor stars. You can click stills along with video, but then the camera takes its time to record the shot.
The camera gives you almost as much controls as a top-end DSLR, maybe more. You have all the modes you would find in a high-end camera along with the ease of switching back to the comfort of multiple auto modes and presets. This camera is a good option for those getting serious about video for it comes with a built in stereo microphone as well as the option to plug in an external mic for better
Another area that Canon has been working on is the Wi-Fi connectivity. With the SX60HS, it takes it to another level by adding NFC too. NFC is easy as tapping your enabled smartphone to the camera and it opens up the Canon Camera Window app that lets you access images or shoot remotely. I did not find the Wi-Fi option that easy. Canon should think at making this much more simpler; in fact as simple as selecting the camera on the phone or vice-versa. Entering a password or SSID using the camera is a tiresome process. Still, the ability to connect to a smart device seamlessly adds a lot of value to the camera, especially for those who need to send images on the fly.
Verdict: The SX60HS is a worthy upgrade from the SX50HS which it is replacing. Though a bit expensive at R35,995, the phone features makes it worth every penny. I suggest this camera for those who have an eye on nature and will use the zoom a lot, as well as those looking for a good video camera.
* Dimensions: 127.6 x 92.6 x 114.3 mm
* Imaging processor: DIGIC 6
* Camera effective pixels: Approx. 16.1 megapixels
* LCD monitor type: 3.0-inch type, TFT colour LCD with wide viewing angle
* Shutter speed: 1–1/2000 sec
* Video: 1920x1080p video recording at 60/30 fps
* Microphone terminal, Wi-Fi (NFC), compatibility with UHS-I memory cards
* Estimated street price: R35,995