Initial Adventures With the Canon SX270

I SHOULD be continuing to look for work (waiting on an offer), but monkeying with my new Canon SX270 offered a rather well needed break.  As I mentioned yesterday, I had very recently acquired a Canon SX270 HS.  Did I really need it?  NO Smile  So why?  Well… it’s predecessor the SX260 got rated as one of the top travel cams of 2012.  I actually went on the hunt for one, but was unsuccessful.  Best price I found was at Future Shop and I was up there for some renovation supplies anyway so….  I already have a bunch of travel cams – this is part of a pet project of mine (mobility being a base requirement, and finding a “path” Smile), sort of, and at the same time, giving me a rather interesting journey into the world of digital photography.  My last post covered that in a bit of detail.

So….what do I do when I get a new one?  Why, take some pics of course Smile  Learning some of the “quirks” of a camera.  Now this one.  I wanted to stay away from Canon on this pass.  No particular reason, but in digital photography there are, as always, options.  Also, I started to study the reviews on the SX270/280 and decided it was worth trying one “to see”.  Better processing engine, faster, good sensor for it’s class.  How could I miss?  Smile

The one I ended up getting was the SX270 HS in blue – it was the only one they had.  I could have got the SX280, but didn’t need the GPS, wireless, etc. 

Canon SX270

I was a little reticent to get the blue one as I do have a preference for plain ole’ black. but you know, this is pretty subtle and pretty low key, so not so bad.  Setup was pretty straightforward for the most part.  What it DIDN’T come with, surprisingly, was a USB cable!!  It had a charger, quite a nice case (more later), but no USB cable.  The included manual was a little too sparse for my liking, but Canon’s website provided that AND their base software. 

Camera setup in itself was just like most cameras – you power it up, and have to set your date/time etc.  The control dial is on the back, which is different.  But the battery had about half charge, so enough to take a couple of quick ones to see.  I did have an SD card BTW Smile  I took a couple of quick pics out of the window of the truck, and at that point, I was pretty impressed.  Home I went to do some renovation stuff, and in the meantime, I charged up the battery.  First thing on this one that I noticed, was that you do have to take the battery out to charge it.  I have a couple in the travel cams that do that, and it’s a mystery to me why.  My train of thought is that you should have an external charger that charges via the USB port.  BUT, who am I anyway – just the lowly end user Smile 

Getting back to the SX270.  When I get a new camera, one of the first things I do, is take photos of the things I take photos of.  The reviews, to me, are pretty good about everything, but then again, YOUR personal shooting experience, to me, is what counts.  For me, I wanted to find out a little more about WHY this camera series got rated so high.  You see, so far, for me, I’ve found the Panasonic ZS25 one of the better all around cameras.  The rest that I have (and I have a few – Fuji F800, Sony HX30, Nikon S9400 and Panasonic ZS15), in this class, and they are no slouches, believe me, but they each do certain things better than others but from a plain ole’ consistent unit, for me, the ZS25 is the one.  Now, I say this a bit tongue and cheek.  I’ve found that the auto mode is simply better on those casual shots.  The F800, for instance, is better for full manual, The HX30 has a slightly better flash, the S9400 is tiny.  Little differences I’ve found along the way.  Now – one has to bear in mind here, that the person getting one of these, is probably not a first time user.  They are basically stepping up.  As the articles all imply – we are talking a market that simply wants increased functionality without having to necessarily grasp the finer points in taking photos – just get better pics easier.  When one travels. Nothing wrong with that – that’s why this market exists.  I got one for this purpose as well. What I have found though, is that in this category, that extra functionality also bridges a gap that I really like – it gets me that “extra” without having to drop tons of cash OR going to a more sophisticated system.  And dropping tons of cash…. 

Back AGAIN to the SX270 Smile  When I take those first few “test” shots – I try to get a “sunny day” shot that has some blues, greens, brown.  In full auto, with the meter set to the most general  setting.  What this is going to tell me, is how close it gets to what I saw.  Now, the one thing with a sunny day shot as most of us have discovered, is that it’s one of the toughest ones to address easily, as you will ultimately either wash out something or lose in the darker areas.  I like to take a few close ups – outdoors and indoors with flash, and also a cloudy day shot.  The flash shots give me an idea of what the range is. 

Here’s a few shots I took:

BerriesCloudy Day ShotFlashFlash-underSunny Day TestWasp Trap

Now – there was no base manipulation on these but I used FastStone Photo Resizer to shrink them down for the web.  Full Auto. 

My initial impression.  The sunny day shot was pretty much the same as what I’ve seen on the other cameras.  The sky is a little bluer with the SX270, but also not anywhere close to how I saw it.  Shadows were pretty good but nothing new here either. On the other hand, the cloudy day shot was was also overexposed – might have been how the meter saw it, but what this tells me, is that I fiddle how the meter works.  The flash shots were not really anything different – color was to my satisfaction.  Closeups were OK but nothing to write home about either.  Again, it was a sunny shot, but to me, it shouldn’t have overexposed like it did.  I double checked settings to make sure they were defaulted, and they were so for those sunny day shots…. well maybe centre focused metering.  It worked very well on the wasp trap which was my shady shot.

So.. what did these test shots tell me.  After having used my other travel cams, I would really be hard pressed to see why this camera got rated so high.  I’ll have to make some adjustments and play some more, but I’m thinking here, that from a very base conclusion, one simply can’t put in auto and “go for it”.  Now in saying that, this is basically no different in what I’ve found with the other travel cams.  Again… the Panasonic, to me, does the full auto thing better.  The rest sort of are the same.  The Sony and Nikon seem to brighter.  The Fuji F800 also does this shot very well.  Have I changed the others – yes.  I’ve got all of them set to the vivid setting.  This sort of offsets having to underexpose manually, though underexposing by 1/2 stop or 1 stop would probably achieved the same thing Smile  Intent here, though, is to assess what it does in full auto.  More important – Do I use full auto?  Actually, I use the Program Auto mode more than anything.  More to get at controls.  I like to shoot at full resolution and the lowest ISO I can get.  BUT, in saying that, I want to be able to “change up” depending on situation.

“Nuances” with the SX270

Aside from the USB cable thing, I’ve discovered a couple of things.  The SX270 has a flash that pops up much like the Sony HX30. You can push the flash back down OR you can use the menu system to retract it.  BUT – if you physically push the flash down, you need to go to the menu system to bring it back up!!  AND THEN… I was doing some setting stuff, and depending on ISO, etc. the flash would also automatically retract.  Hmmm… back to the manual. The HX30 doesn’t do this – it simply pops back up – sometimes annoyingly so Smile  I’m definitely not fussy about this for the SX270 – more experimenting needed here.  There is a plus side with the flash that is unique though.  You can actually control the flash power!!  The flash is probably my single biggest beef about this unit.

The focus area is pretty unique – it actually magnifies the area of focus.  Again, I’ve had this happen occasionally, but in playing with some settings, it quit doing that Sad smile  Manual again…..That actually caught me off guard when I first started using it – handy but at the same time, it can be a little distracting.

I mentioned this before – the case (and this is away from the camera itself), is also unique – none of my other travel cams came with a case.  A nice one at that.  BUT, IF you have the strap on, you have to thread it thru the cover on the case in order for the cover to close completely.  It might loosen up a bit – it’s also very tight fitting, but it’s currently annoying.

One of the things that’s a little annoying about this, and it’s me more than anything, is that you do need to get the manual to figure stuff out.  There was no CD.  Not that this was a big hassle, but it was annoying. Now, this unit, IF you want to take advantage of what it has to offer, will require one to read the manual.  So far, I can’t just scroll thru stuff to figure it out.  Not that stuff like this isn’t a common thing, in this class, it actually is.  The conclusion I’m coming to on this one, is that despite the fact that it generally is a nice camera, one needs to  work with it and the manual if you try to get a little more advanced.  Is this a hassle?  Well, sort of. 

In the end game – one the questions or possible more one has to ask. IF I had to get a camera to travel with and only one camera, would this be the one?  Smile  For me, it would be … maybe.  There are a few things I need to check, like battery power (reviews are saying that it’s a little short in this area), startup time when you add a lot of photos, and reading the manual a bit more for the finer points of the unit.  Sooo…. what am I really saying here?

Smile  To me, and what I know about photography, this class of cameral fits a very targeted niche.  We are looking at the person that wants to simply have more functionality in a camera when they are on a holiday.  The bigger question here, I guess, is just how much effort will the consumer want to put into learning about the camera itself?  In reality, these things are very advanced all things considered.  In it’s simplest form, the big zoom is the big thing for most, In venturing a guess.  I know that’s one of the key reasons for me.  To get beyond 10X – I have started to shoot more and more here – and yes, I do use a tripod Smile  BUT – would the user of this camera necessarily have one?  The last thing one wants, really, one a holiday, is to lug around a tripod too…..  AND would that person be any different than me?  I use a Gorilla Pod, the mid size one and fits into my camera baExtrag.  The person buying one of these travel cams may not.  Better resolution – well, maybe.. for the most part, unless you are going to be doing some editing, resolution may or may not play a part.  The bottom line here – moving here from the pointy shooty class could be a bit of a challenge.  Now in saying that, I’m also guessing that a large portion of this demographic is simply going to it in Auto and leave it there.

The final decision here, I’m thinking is a very personal oneSmile  One SHOULD read the reviews, ask friends and see their photos if possible, pick up and play, try to ascertain what you are going to do and then look at feature sets.  After using the ones I own, I’ve come to the conclusion that for the most part, they work pretty well so there’s really not a bad choice here.  The Sony is a little “up there” pricewise, but if you can use the extra features, can be worth it.  Not necessarily a good camera for “snaps” though.  The flash is a little too quirky for me.  I’m also coming to that conclusion with the SX270.  The Nikon S9400 also has a pop up, but it’s less annoying to use.  The Fuji F800 has a pop us as well, and you have to manually enable BUT it’s quite an advanced unit.  Panasonic sorta wins in my books.  Flash is integrated and doesn’t pop up.  From a more general use – it meters better.  Pricewise, it’s about middle-of-the pack.  Color rendition in the general perspective is pretty good on all units the units and VERY personal taste.  We all see color differently.  Panasonics, I’ve found do need to be in it’s vivid mode to bring up the color richness and contrast.  Nikon and Sony are like that as well, but they are the reverse, to me,  Sometimes, they are a little too “bright”.  That’s me, though.  I LOVE the flesh tones I get from my Fuji’s,  Definitely “richer” to coin a phrase.  Not always realistic, but nonetheless, closer than the others. In saying that, of course, lighting also plays a part Smile  It’s one of those “it depends” things.

Bottom line – IF I had to take only one camera, it would probably be the Panasonic ZS25.  There’s no getting away from the SX270 being a good camera – it is.  It got rated literally at the top in some reviews.  From my side of the fence, I simply don’t see it, but then I’m still new to it as well.  We’ll see if my opinion changes over time Smile  Onward….

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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