There was a time when superzooms were content with focal lengths maxing out in the triple figure department. No so the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, an all-in-one complete with a 65x zoom lens (21-1365mm equivalent) that encompasses a versatile range. Wide-angle, landscapes, portraits, far-away subjects - it's all possible from this superzoom.
But is it a step too far, more numbers for numbers' sake than for practical sense? Within any optical design there are limits to what can be achieved before the quality dips. We thought the SX60 HS's predecessor, the SX50 HS, pushed things about as far as they could go with its 24-1200mm lens. So what's the SX60 like when zoomed all the way in - is it possible to hold it steady and get a sharp image?
By the time you've extended to a 1000mm equivalent - which will make those far-away subjects look giant in the frame - it's tricky to hand-hold the camera steadily, even with the decent active optical image stabiliser in play.
But that doesn't rule out the 1365mm equivalent having its use: rest the camera against a surface and you may grab the odd wildlife shot here and there. Just hold certain expectations, as a DSLR the SX60 HS is not. The lens has a number of limitations (f3/5-6.9 maximum aperture being its primary) that will see it difficult to achieve sharp frames in low light.
But we're just trying to unstitch preconceptions - get on board with what this camera can do well (from what we've seen thus far anyway) and it's a quality superzoom for sure.
We handled the SX60 HS both indoors - snapping far-away curtains and parts of the Canon press preview stand - and outside in an overcast Cologne. The generally brighter conditions led to faster autofocus response, but even in not-so-bright interior and when zoomed into the max we got some successful snaps.
Other features further assist that success. There's a built-in 0.2-inch, 922k-dot electronic viewfinder that, despite its small scale, helps to maintain that steady posture for framing, sat alongside a 3-inch, vari-angle LCD screen. The latter is ideal for capturing overhead, waist-level and even front-facing shots, and we often had it out to the side of the camera when using it.
The switch between screen and viewfinder can be actioned in two ways now too. Either close the screen with its protective side facing outwards when the camera is switched on and the finder with automatically come on, or otherwise simply cycle through the d-pad's "display" options. No auto-eye sensor is a bit of a shame, as that would help for a quicker yet transition.
The SX60 HS doesn't have a luxurious build quality, as such, but then that's not what we were anticipating. It strikes a fair balance of layout, materials and overall weight given how big the lens is when its extended all the way out. A top-mounted manual control dial and thumbwheel make operation easy whether you want to point and shoot or know your aperture priority from shutter priority and want to dig into full manual settings.
To the side of the SX60 HS's lens there is a button to "pull back" the focal length briefly as to see the wider frame should you lose a subject when zoomed right into the action. We rather like this helpful little feature.
Under the hood a 16.1-megapixel sensor increases the resolution compared to the earlier SX50 HS's 12.1MP resolution. Might sound good on paper, but with a lens already working extra hard we have a feeling the added resolution won't be of great benefit. Indeed it could be a hindrance.
Add Wi-Fi and NFC for connecting to smart devices, a boosted 1080p movie mode, plus the ability to shoot raw and the SX60 HS is an accomplished superzoom.
It's accomplished for what it is, anyway. We say that because we get the feeling that Canon didn't need to go for the bigger numbers, longer zoom and so on. In the two years since the SX50 HS's launch other manufacturers have been experimenting with shorter focal lengths, brighter apertures, larger sensors and overall greater abilities - features that the SX60 HS, in this format, could never have.
If, however, all you want is ultra zoom reach for use in decent lighting conditions, we have an inkling there will be nothing better than the PowerShot SX60 HS.