Canon PowerShot SX700 HS review: 30x travel zoom overflows with features

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THE GOOD

Along with its 30x zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS has fun and useful shooting options; built-in Wi-Fi with NFC; a high-resolution LCD; and excellent shooting performance and daylight photo and video quality.

THE BAD

Its low-light (high-ISO) photos could be better and while its battery life is noticeably better than that of its predecessor, you’ll still want to keep an extra battery handy for all-day shooting. Canon could have done more with the camera’s NFC.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re looking for more than just a simple snapshot experience from a compact zoom camera, the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS should be on your short list, despite a couple shortcomings.

Canon sticks to the tried-and-true formula of more megapixels and more zoom for the PowerShot SX700 HS.

Sort of a successor to the 20x zoom SX280 HS, the SX700 has for new features a 30x f3.2-6.9 25-750mm lens and a 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. Fortunately, there is more to this camera than just those two specs.

Like the SX280 HS, the SX700 HS has built-in Wi-Fi. Canon’s added its Mobile Device Connect button, which lets you directly connect over Wi-Fi to an iOS or Android device with a button push (sort of, but more on that later). Also, if you have an Android device, you can use the camera’s NFC to initiate a download of Canon’s mobile app and launch the app by tapping the two together.

Shooting modes are plentiful, including a couple of new ones that you’ll only find on Canon PowerShots. (While I enjoyed them, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether they’re actually worth having.) Other tweaks include a higher-resolution LCD and better battery life.

All in all, it’s a very nice update, or entirely new model depending on how you look at it. Still, I wish its low-light photos were just a bit better.

Photo quality

Increased resolution doesn’t necessarily mean better photo quality. Despite the bump from 12 megapixels to 16, the SX700’s pictures aren’t really any more usable at larger sizes than the SX280’sand, actually, might be slightly less usable. That said, if you aren’t pixel peeping and don’t typically enlarge photos beyond 50 percent and crop them heavily, you’ll probably really like what you get from the SX700 HS.

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That’s particularly true if you’re shooting out in daylight. Up through ISO 200 you’ll get great color and decent fine detail. Noise reduction starts to kick in some at ISO 400 and is definitely noticeable at ISO 800, making your subjects look soft. In many cases, this is what you’ll most likely be using when shooting indoors. Color is still good, though, so a little post-shoot sharpening with editing software helps here.

Above ISO 800 color quality starts to drop off, too, and combined with the aggressive noise reduction, the results just aren’t good. This makes it not the best choice for low-light photos unless you have a tripod and motionless subjects.

On a brighter note, movie quality is excellent. Zoom lens movement is barely picked up by the stereo mics above the lens; you’ll only hear it in very quiet scenes. Like its photos, though, low-light results could be better, and when fully zoomed in, expect some pulsing as it tries to focus.

Shooting performance

Overall, the SX700 HS is a pretty fast performer. From off to first shot takes 1.7 seconds and the lag between shots is 0.8 second. Turning on the flash will extend that lag to 3.9 seconds, however. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing is 0.1 second in bright lighting. In low-light conditions that time goes up to 0.4 second, which is on par with the times of the top cameras in its class.

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The camera has three continuous-shooting options. Its standard full-resolution continuous mode hit 2.9 frames per second in my tests. This is with focus and exposure set with the first shot. You can also chose the same mode, but with autofocus, which slows the camera down to 1fps. Lastly, in the Scene modes, there’s a high-speed burst setting that can hit 8.5fps for up to four shots. It, too, sets focus and exposure with the first shot. What’s nice is that it refreshes relatively quickly after the burst, so you’re not left waiting too long before you can shoot again.

Design and features

Shooting with the SX700 HS is generally a fine experience, but there are a few things to be aware of. It is fairly compact given its zoom range — small enough to toss in a handbag or larger pocket. The grip on the front is just big enough to give you something to hold onto for one-handed shots. Still, when using the zoom lens, you’ll want to shoot two-handed.

Almost all of the controls are on the right side. Its buttons are large and easy to press, but they are maybe a bit too crowded. For example, the new Mobile Device Connect button is so close to the mode dial that I kept hitting it when changing modes.

Unlike the SX280 HS, the flash on the SX700 has to be manually released with a switch on the left side before you can use it. Frankly, this is the best solution without making the camera larger, but it may result in missed or blurry shots since it doesn’t trigger automatically.

On the left Canon also added its Zoom Framing Assist button, which will quickly zoom the lens out so you can find your subject if it goes out of frame and then zoom back in. It can be used for automatic face tracking as well, so that your subject’s face stays the same size in your frame no matter how they move.

Nikon Coolpix S9700 Canon PowerShot SX700 HS
Price (MSRP) $349.95 (£329.99, $399.95 AUD) $349.99 (£329, $399.95 AUD)
Dimensions (WHD) 4.3×2.5×1.4 inches (110×63.5×34.5mm) 4.4×2.6×1.4 inches (112.7×65.8×34.8mm)
Weight (with battery and media) 8.2 ounces (232 g) 9.5 ounces (269 g)
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 921K dots/None 3-inch LCD, 922K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 30x, f3.7-6.4, 25-750mm (35mm equivalent) 30x, f3.2-6.9, 25-750mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still / video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MOV) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MP4)
Highest-resolution size (still / video) 4,608×3,456 pixels/1,920×1,080 at 30fps (progressive) 4,608×3,456 pixels/1,920×1,080 at 60fps (progressive)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 300 shots Li-ion rechargeable, 250 shots (360 in Eco)
Battery charged in camera Yes; by computer or wall adapter via USB No; wall charger supplied
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS Yes/Yes Yes/No (geotagging via Wi-Fi)

The battery and SD card slot are on the bottom directly next to a tripod mount. For the SX280 HS, battery life was brief, to put it kindly. It’s been improved in the SX700 and, if you’re not opposed to using the camera’s Eco mode, which puts the camera to sleep when powered on but inactive, you can sneak in a few more shots.

That’s not to say it’s great, just better. If you’re going out for a day of shooting, you’ll want to have a spare pack with you. Especially since the camera can’t be charged via USB. Capturing video, burst-shooting stills, using the zoom a lot, and cranking up the LCD brightness will all eat away at the battery life. Using the camera’s Wi-Fi will dent your shot count, too.

The camera’s Wi-Fi is relatively easy to set up and use, but I recommend reading the manual first. Canon gives you a good selection of wireless features, but there’s a chance you may only want to use one or two of them.

For example, it allows you to share straight from the camera over Wi-Fi to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Drive, and Flickr. However, Canon requires you to sign up and register all the social-networking accounts you plan to share to with its Canon Image Gateway service. You might just be better off sending shots straight to an iOS or Android device via Canon’s CameraWindow app and sharing from one of those instead.

Canon’s Mobile Device Connect button lets you specify a smartphone or computer in advance that you’ll connect to at the push of a button. Press it and it turns on the camera’s Wi-Fi, at which point you have to open your mobile device’s wireless settings and select the camera. Opening the Camera Window app completes the process.

Along with sending photos and movies directly to mobile devices for viewing, editing, and uploading, you can use the Wi-Fi to sync your mobile’s GPS to geotag your photos, which is nice because this camera does not have built-in GPS. You can also wirelessly send images directly to a photo printer or back them up to a PC on the same network that the camera is connected to.

Lastly, the app can be used as a remote viewfinder and shutter release. It doesn’t give you much control — just zoom, self-timer, shutter release, and flash (assuming you’ve popped it up) — but it’s nice to have for shooting wildlife and group portraits. It can’t be used to start and stop video, however.

Canon includes NFC on the SX700 HS for use with supported Android devices, but it isn’t used for much. If you haven’t installed the CameraWindow app, you can tap your smartphone against the camera and it will launch the Google Play store so you can download it. After that, it’s only used to launch the app. You’ll still have to turn on the camera’s Wi-Fi and connect your device to the camera by selecting it in your wireless settings.

Other cameras featuring NFC from Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung will launch the app and handle the connection process, making shooting and sharing that much easier. They also use NFC to quickly send single photos to your phone with a simple tap between the camera and device.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot SX700 HS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Multi-area, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program, Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority, Manual, Scene, Live View Control, Movie Digest, Creative Filters, Sports, Movie
Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Macro, Normal, Infinity, Manual
Macro 0.4 inch to 1.6 feet (1 to 50 cm) (Wide)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom (adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue and skin tone are available)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

There’s certainly no shortage of shooting options on the SX700 HS. For snapshots there’s Smart Auto, which recognizes 58 predefined shooting situations. Canon’s Face ID feature allows you to program the camera to recognize up to 12 faces that it will then prioritize for focus and exposure.

Also included is the Live View Control mode, which enables you to adjust brightness, color, and tone with onscreen sliders and see what the photo will look like as you make the changes. Canon updated its Hybrid Auto mode as well; this captures a few seconds of video before each picture you take. At the end of a day of shooting, the camera automatically gathers up all the little clips and your photos — taken with Canon’s scene-recognition Smart Auto — and puts them into a 720p HD movie, creating a highlight reel for your day.

Another addition is Canon’s Creative Shot mode, which automatically creates five different versions of a single shot using different color and tone settings, crops, and styles in addition to saving the original photo. You get some control over the results, however, as you can choose a category of filters — Retro, Monochrome, Special, or Natural — for the camera to use, with a total of 46 filters available.

There are Creative Filters, too, such as Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Fish-Eye Effect, and Miniature Effect. Also available for movies is a high-speed option for capturing 30-second slow-motion clips at 120fps or 240fps at resolutions of 640×480 pixels and 320×240 pixels, respectively.

To top it off, there are semimanual and manual shooting modes for control over shutter speed and aperture. Shutter speeds range from 15 seconds to 1/3,200 of a second, though sensitivity is limited to ISO 100 for anything longer than 1 second. Apertures range from f3.2 to f8.0 at the wide end, but in telephoto you only get f6.9 and f8.0.

That’s a lot to pick from and experiment with, but there are a couple of modes you’ll find on just about every other high-end point-and-shoot and smartphone that you won’t find here. There is no high-dynamic-range (HDR) option or even exposure bracketing, for that matter, and no easy panorama option.

Conclusion

Canon packed a lot of features into the PowerShot SX700 HS and its daylight photo and video quality and shooting performance are excellent, making it one of the best travel zooms available. The low-light photo quality could be better, though, as could its battery life. And really, if you’re going to go through the trouble of adding NFC, it should do more than just open an app.

SHOOTING SPEED (IN SECONDS)

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS

(1) – 0.2

(2) – 0.4

(3) – 1.5

(4) – 1.5

Samsung WB350F

(1) – 0.3

(2) – 0.5

(3) – 1.1

(4) – 1.7

Nikon Coolpix S9700

(1) – 0.3

(2) – 0.6

(3) – 0.9

(4) – 2.2

Canon PowerShot SX700 HS

(1) – 0.1

(2) – 0.4

(3) – 0.8

(4) – 1.7

LEGEND : (1) – Shutter lag (typical)/ (2) – Shutter lag (dim)/ (3) – Typical shot-to-shot time/ (4) -Time to first shot

NOTE : Shorter bars indicate better performance

TYPICAL CONTINUOUS SHOOTING SPEED (IN FPS)

Nikon Coolpix S9700 :7

Samsung WB350F8.5

Canon PowerShot SX700 HS8.5

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS : 14

NOTE : Longer bars indicate better performance

(cnet.com)

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