Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Digital Camera Review$349.99
Canon's SX260 HS has posted the best scores of any travel zoom camera that we've tested so far in 2012, and we think there's a pretty good chance it will carry this title all the way to our end of the year awards. But test scores aside, we really just enjoyed shooting with it. The camera is quick, compact, comfortable, and produces above-average photos in many different situations. This is an ideal travel companion.
Too often, cameras like this are held back by their own design. Such complex, ambitious lenses have trouble resolving clean detail, so top cameras resort to digital compensation and enhancement. We're not saying the SX260 is free of such trickery, but this looks to be one of the most genuinely sharp cameras available above 10x optical zoom.
This also happened to be the first fixed-lens camera we tested for dynamic range. It did pretty well actually, maintaining at least six full stops up to and including ISO 800. Nothing SLR quality, obviously, but strong enough for most users. We also found noise reduction to be quite effective, especially below ISO 200. It's possible to score some very flattering shots with this camera.
Canon's user interface is highly intuitive, and it's fast too. The menus are designed for efficiency and they react quickly and without issue. This convenience extends to most shooting behaviors: the camera is quick to power up, and features a variety of fast drive modes, however autofocus can be unreliable in low light.
Still, we'd recommend this travel zoom over any other 2012 model we've reviewed thus far. We still reserve special praise for last year's Sony HX9V, but as that camera's availability declines, the SX260 is a worthy stand-in. For convenience and image quality, the Canon SX260 HS justifies every penny of its $350 price tag.