Canon PowerShot SX600 HS review - The SX600 HS offers a substantial 18x optical zoom and extensive feature set all for under £200 at launch
Canon PowerShot SX600 HS Review – Image Quality
The SX600’s image quality is very good, and more importantly it is consistently good. It doesn’t quite reach the standard set by its more expensive sibling the S120, but for an all-rounder snapshot camera it is comfortably above average.
Colour and White Balance
Colour reproduction under both natural and flash light is extremely good, with rich, punchy primaries, plenty of detail even in very bright tones, nice subtle gradations in skin tones.
Automatic white balance is very reliable, producing natural-looking colours even under mixed lighting, in this case a combination of tungsten and compact fluorescent.
The SX600’s back-side illuminated CMOS sensor produces noticeably better dynamic range than conventional 1/2.3in sensors, especially in the direction of shadow detail, which makes it particularly good for low-light shots.
The exposure metering definitely helps, managing to balance the extended shadow detail without blowing out too many highlights. It also copes well with high-contrast scenes and back-lighting.
While some of its rivals have opted to outfit their recent compact cameras with 20-megapixel sensors, Canon has chosen to limit the SX600’s resolution to 16MP, and the resolution of its higher-end cameras to only 12MP.
The reason is that Canon knows that overcrowding the sensor past a certain point actually reduces image quality. Nevertheless, the SX600 has sufficient resolution to produce photo-quality A3-size prints, and is capable of resolving a surprisingly fine level of detail.
Image noise is the bane of most small-sensor compacts, but here again Canon’s use of a BSI CMOS sensor pays off. The SX600 has an ISO range of 100-3200, and all of it is usable.
It produces virtually noise-free images at 1600 ISO, and perfectly printable images at 3200. There is a certain drop-off in dynamic range at the higher settings, but it’s not particularly significant.
As we’ve noted before, making very compact but very powerful zoom lenses involves making compromises that affect image quality, so naturally the lens on the SX600 isn’t perfect, but it is a lot better than some other compact zooms that we’ve seen recently.
Corner sharpness is surprisingly good, and while it does inevitably produce pincushion distortion at the 25mm wide-angle end, it is even and well controlled. If anything, the overall sharpness could be a little bit better, but it’s certainly nothing to complain about.