Slender and stylish, the 18-megapixel Canon PowerShot SX610 HS may lack the manual exposure modes of other point-and-shoots, but this slender camera is incredibly easy to use — a real bonus for those who want to shoot and share video with no muss and no fuss. And this $230 camera has some nifty tricks up its sleeve, too.
Available in red, silver and black, the SX610 HS looks as good as it feels in your hand. It measures 4.15 x 2.40 x 1.05 inches and weighs a mere 6.74 ounces with battery and SD card. A small, raised grip on the front and a textured thumb rest provide a sturdy grip when you grab the camera from your pocket or purse. Controls are low-profile, though, and blend in on the red model.
A high-resolution, 3-inch LCD delivers a 100 percent view of your composition, and the camera's wide viewing angle allows you to easily show off your images on screen. The display is bright, clear and works well in all but the brightest sunlight.
Although other compact cameras, such as the Nikon Coolpix S9900, have longer lenses, the SX610 HS' image-stabilized 18x zoom (25-450mm equivalent) offers enough focal range for both wide-angle and telephoto shots. Shift into Macro mode, and you can focus as close as 2 inches.
Simplicity is the SX610 HS' strong suit, with its modest set of exposure options, such as Program, Auto and a handful of scene modes. White balance, ISO and other parameters, including metering, are user-selectable.
f/3.8 1/320 sec, ISO 100; f/3.8 1/80 sec, ISO 100 Credit: Theano NikitasBut dig a little deeper, and you'll find some interesting options beyond the basics.
There's a Creative shot mode that automatically shoots a half-dozen images with one press of the shutter, applying various special effects and crops. You can see a couple of examples below.
f/4.5 1/1000 sec, ISO 80 Credit: Theano Nikitas
f/4.5 1/400 sec, ISO 80, EV +1.33 Credit: Theano Nikitas
f/13 1/320 sec, ISO 80, EV =1.33 Credit: Theano Nikitas
You can also choose individual special effects, such as Sepia (shown below), Monochrome, Toy camera and others. A Digest mode captures 2-4 seconds of video right before you capture an individual frame, and automatically compiles the clips into a short movie. Other options include smile and wink detection, which, when set, automatically snaps a shot when a person smiles or winks.
f/4.5 1/100 sec, ISO 80 Credit: Theano NikitasOther features of note include the ability to automatically enlarge the focus area while shooting to ensure sharp images. The camera can also alert you to when a subject's eyes are closed. Playback search options allow you to easily find images with search options for faces, shot date and favorites.
The SX610 HS is not the fastest camera in its class, with a relatively slow start-up time. But the camera is fairly responsive and, in high speed continuous mode, can shoot up to 7.2 frames per second. Autofocus in good light is generally fast and accurate but can struggle a bit under low-light conditions.
Overall, color reproduction is realistic, but if you prefer more-intense colors, check out the optional Vivid setting. The green foliage in the garden shot (see below) is a good example of the SX610 HS' color accuracy and intensity.
f/4.0 1/800 sec, ISO 100 Credit: Theano NikitasThe camera seems to favor adjusting shutter speed over aperture even when set to the lowest ISO of 80, as in this brightly lit scene. I noticed purple fringing along the high-contrast edge of the shadow in the below image, but this occurred only occasionally.f/4.5 1/800 sec, ISO 80 Credit: Theano NikitasGiven the camera's effective image stabilization, I kept the ISO low in this museum shot and easily held the camera by hand with the shutter speed at 1/80th second. With this camera's ISO range of 80-3200, it's best to keep the ISO as low as possible, to avoid image noise, while also making use of the SX610 HS' IS.
f/3.8 1/80 sec, ISO 100 Credit: Theano Nikitas
I was happy with video captured with this little camera. Its one-button-push simple, colors and focus are accurate, with generally smooth and quiet zooming. There's even a special dynamic-image-stabilization mode meant for video captured while you're walking.
MVI 0095 Full HD 1920 x 1080 30fps Credit: Theano Nikitas
While the SX610 HS may not have fancy specs for its movie mode, like what the Nikon Coolpix S9900 or the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500 have, the key to this Canon is its ease of use. You can shoot full in HD (1920 x 1080), HD (1080 x 720), standard definition (640 x 480) — both at 30fps — as well as miniature effect mode. You don't even have to try to figure out what format to shoot in; the SX610 HS saves everything in the easily edited and shared MP4 format.
The SX610HS' battery life maxes out at about 270 images (400 if you're in Eco mode), which is about average for most compact cameras but more than 100 shots less than what the Nikon S9900 can cover.
It's the keep-it-simple principle that makes the Canon PowerShot SX610 HS so appealing for those who prefer a no-fuss, no-muss approach to photography, especially for video, which can be overly complicated to shoot, edit and share. If you'd rather have more control over your video and still images, check out the Nikon S9900 or the Sony WX500. And for $50 more, the Canon PowerShot SX620 HS offers a longer, 25-625mm zoom and a 20.2MP sensor. But if you want to save a few bucks and are looking for a camera that's easy to use, the SX610 HS is a good buy.