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Canon SX280 Hands-On Preview

by Dan Havlik and Roger Slavens
Posted 03/21/2013

The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS doesn't look radically different from its pocket-sized, travel zoom predecessor, the SX260 HS which we rated as a Dave's Pick. And it uses the same 12.1-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch backlit CMOS image sensor. However, there's much under the hood of the SX280 HS that's been turbocharged.

For one, the Canon SX280 HS is the first in its line to offer built-in WiFi, which is identified by the silver WiFi badge on the front of the camera. And the SX280 HS can now record Full 1080p HD movie files in the .MP4 format vs. the .MOV format used for earlier PowerShot videos, as well as capture 1080p videos at both 30 and 60 frames per second versus just 24fps in the previous model.

But these two upgrades are just the beginning.

Added processing horsepower. The Canon SX280 HS comes powered by an all-new DIGIC 6 image processing chip which Canon says is its most advanced processor to date and gives the SX280 better low-light capabilities with an increased ISO range of ISO 80 to 6,400. (The SX260 HS offered just ISO 100 to 3,200.)

Perhaps more important than this extended range, however, is the camera's touted ability to deliver less noisy images at higher ISOs. According to a Canon representative we spoke with during a pre-launch briefing, the DIGIC 6 chip helps the camera capture cleaner images -- with shots at ISO 1,600 now equivalent to ISO 400 on the previous model. Of course, it was impossible to test this during my time with the pre-production SX280 HS, and we'd love to get the camera into the IR lab to see if it lives up to such a claim.

The need for speed. The DIGIC 6 processor also makes the SX280 HS significantly faster at autofocusing and shutter lag than its predecessors, says Canon. The camera did feel more responsive, overall, during the half hour or so I got with the prototype compared to my experiences with the SX260 HS. Most impressive is this PowerShot's ability to shoot at up to 14 frames per second (for a maximum of 7 frames) at the camera's full, 12-megapixel resolution. That speed should make the SX280 HS an ideal little sharpshooter for capturing candids of children, pets, or even for shooting some types of sports.

Optics and image stabilization. Like its predecessor, the SX280 HS features a 20x optical zoom -- with a range of 25mm wide to 500mm tele equivalents and maximum apertures from f/3.5 to f/6.8 -- which zoomed in and out relatively quickly and quietly during my time with the pre-production model. Meanwhile, the camera's Intelligent IS, which chooses from six different stabilization modes to combat blur, seemed to keep things steady. The SX280 HS offers Canon's Hybrid Auto mode, which is essentially a combination of Intelligent IS with Smart Auto, a feature that helps pick the appropriate image setting by picking from one of 58 pre-set modes.

Video recording also gets improved image stabilization through Canon's Dynamic IS, which can compensate for tilt and shift blur to deliver higher quality movies, Canon says.

WiFi. As we mentioned earlier, the SX280 HS is the first in its line to offer WiFi connectivity, which works with the free Canon CameraWindow app for Android and iOS devices. Using the app, photographers can transfer photos and videos from the camera to their smartphones and tablets. The camera can also connect and share files with social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as Canon's iMAGE GATEWAY. It can also print wirelessly with PictBridge compatible printers.

GPS. On top of the PowerShot SX280 HS, you'll find the camera's built-in GPS receiver jutting out slightly from the top plate. When activated, it will record latitude and longitude data with your image so they can be automatically placed on a digital map, such as in Apple's iPhoto or Canon's bundled software. Keeping the GPS receiver on will significantly drain the camera's battery, however.

Battery life. If you're keen on saving battery life, the SX280 HS offers an ECO mode, which manages the brightness of the 3-inch, 461K LCD screen on back and automatically turns it off when there's a lack of activity. The camera employs a NB-6L Lithium-ion battery and is CIPA-rated for 210 shots on a single charge, or 260 in ECO mode.

First impressions. We were pretty big fans of the Canon SX260 HS, and the new model boasts what appear to be some impressive improvements. The SX280 HS looks great and feels solid and sleek in your hand, making this new PowerShot an intriguing compact camera for a wide range of users.

Pricing and availability. Unlike its predecessor, which came in green, black and a magenta red, the Canon SX280 HS comes in just black or (slightly orangish) red scheme. It will start to ship in April 2013 for an estimated price of US$330.