Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Canon Powershot SX610 HS Review

[NB: This original article first appeared on the GMA News Online Website.]

I have always believed that the best camera is the one that’s with you. You can’t take a photo if you don’t have a camera, right? This is the reason why the number of smartphone photos on the web exploded when smartphones became readily available: when people started putting smartphones in their pockets, getting the shot became really, really easy.

However, it is wrong to assume that the smartphone is all that you need. There are some things that a dedicated camera can do that a smartphone simply cannot.

First, the focal length of the cameraphone is fixed, so, if your subject is far away, then you will have to physically go to it: yes, you have to walk! Imagine you are trying to take a photo of an animal in a zoo; you can’t just go in and walk towards a carnivorous animal, right?

Secondly, the sensors of most cameraphones are smaller than those on dedicated compact cameras. For those not familiar with the nitty-gritty of camera sensors, you can imagine that light is like raindrops and the camera sensor is a bucket; the bigger the bucket is, the more raindrops you will be able to collect. This is a good thing for cameras: since photography is all about capturing light, the more light you can capture, the better the performance of the camera will be.

An aside… I should mention that the ability to capture light is not an assurance that the photos will be great. For that, you will have to have an artistic eye, you will have to evoke emotion. That is something that is outside the purview of this post…

The Canon Powershot SX610HS is a camera that satisfies these two conditions. And boy does it zoom!

The SX610HS has a very slim profile and it slides easily into one’s pocket. When switched off, the barrel of the lens slides all the way inside the camera body so there are no protrusions whatsoever. If you can fit a 5-inch phone into your pocket, you can fit this camera as well.

The camera has a matte finish which makes it easier to handle than cameras which have a glossy, slippery finish. There is a rubber grip where you can rest your pointer and middle fingers and there is another rubber grip at the back where you can place your thumb. The rubber grip at the back is small, however, so my thumb actually spills onto the upper right corner of the screen. I could imagine people with larger hands having some trouble gripping this camera, so, for them, using the camera strap is a must. (I, myself, am not a fan of camera straps…)

The camera is light and compact, but does not feel cheap. It is well built and there are no creaking sounds when you handle it.

The SX610HS is a joy to use. Startup is quick and you’ll be ready to shoot almost immediately after turning it on. Half-pressing the shutter button triggers autofocus and the camera is quick to get the proper focus in bright lighting conditions. However, the camera has a hard time focusing when the scenery gets dark, though that is true for most point-and-shoot cameras.

Photos show great details, especially ones taken with ample lighting. Most smartphones will not be able to show the same amount of detail in the same lighting conditions. The only smartphone that will be able to equal the image quality of the SX610HS is the Microsoft Lumia 950, which I have just recently reviewed. That smartphone was able to achieve the same level of image quality simply because it uses almost the same sensor size as the SX610HS.

[Note: The following photos only underwent cropping and essentially were not edited and came straight from the camera.]

The tracking of moving subjects for this camera is really good and I was able to track moving objects, from bikers and skaters to motorcycles and family vans. This isn’t the type of camera you can shoot for fast sports photography but this will be really useful for photographing running kids or marauding pets.

And talk about zoom… This camera has 18x zoom! Just imagine what you can shoot with that capability! However, note that when the lens is zoomed in all the way, a slight movement in your hands will lead to great camera shake.

When you zoom, zoom with caution…

Anyway, with this level of zooming capability, imagine where your photography can take you…

There is a “P” mode where you can have a little control of the picture-taking process. In this mode, you can control the ISO level, the White Balance, the autofocus mode, etc. As a DSLR user, I always like to have a modicum of control on any camera that I use, and for me, this is a big plus for this point-and-shoot. Don’t expect to have the same level of adjustments as you can get from a DSLR or a more advanced compact though. The “P” mode is just an added bonus for this camera and not its raison d’ĂȘtre. Just be happy that it’s there. :)

There are a lot more things the camera has in store. For example, you can remotely control the camera via wifi! So, with this camera and a paired smartphone, you can take your selfies with a more capable shooter. What’s more, your smartphone will be your “screen” so you will have a good look at the shot even before you push the trigger.

With the wifi function, you can also send images from the camera to your smartphone. There are a million photo editing apps out there for smartphones. And when the pictures are loaded into your phone, you will be able to edit them to your heart’s content and share them on social media easily! Actually, connection-wise, you’ll fare better if you have an Android phone. Since the camera is NFC-equipped, transferring photos between the camera and your NFC-capable Android phone will be much, much easier. As an iOS user, that is something from Android that I envy…

There are also other effects that are a little gimmicky, like pinhole camera, fish-eye, monochrome, to name a few. It has a “Creative Shot” mode and in this setting, the camera will take six images taken six different ways. Again, as in the “P” mode, it’s nice that it’s there though I don’t see myself using it much.

And yes, this camera shoots Full HD videos at 30fps and video capture is really nice for this range of cameras.

The only thing I wish this camera had was a dedicated GPS sensor. My old Canon Powershot SX230 HS had one; I wish this model had one too.

This camera will definitely have a space in my everyday bag. It’s compact, it’s nice to hold, and is more capable than a cameraphone. If you do not carry a bag on a daily basis, then you may be contented with your phone. But, if you are like me, who always has a bag (I don’t like putting my wallet nor my phone in my jeans' pockets), then a dedicated camera is a plus, and the Canon Powershot SX610HS is a good option. The camera easily turns on, is ready at a moment’s notice, can really zoom in, and has a bigger sensor than a typical smartphone. If you are on the fence regarding getting a compact camera and you like taking pictures, then struggle no more. Get this camera and put it in your purse or bag. You won’t regret it.

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