After playing with complicated, high-end DSLRs, it’s almost a welcome change to try out a superzoom travel compact camera. Small and lightweight, plenty of automatic features, and a ridiculously long 40x optical zoom lens. Seemingly, everything you need in a compact little package.
One such camera with this criteria is the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS. This type of compact camera is not going to replace a fully featured DSLR, but for a travel light solution, it definitely ticks a lot of boxes.
As for basic features, you have the aforementioned 40x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 24-960mm, with the option of a digital zoom of 80x or expanded out to 120x. Bear in mind that digital zoom is really software doing the heavy lifting, so always rely on optical zoom. There’s also a 20.3MP 1/2.3-inch type back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 1080p HD video, and a 3.0-inch, 922k-dot LCD screen.
The body of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is exceedingly slim, with a brushed metal exterior. A small rubberized grip on the front is sufficient enough to get some confidence when holding the camera, and a textured area on the rear helps grip the camera firmly.
Manual dials and buttons are simply laid out, with the top plate having the shutter button surrounded by the zoom control, on/off switch and video record button. There’s also a little inbuilt, pop-up flash. On the side of the camera is a Zoom Frame Assist button for pulling out from a scene when the subject is moved out of frame. A very useful feature when you’re fully zoomed in.
On the rear of the camera is the common Canon compact layout. A mode dial selects the various exposure modes, including video. Under the mode dial there are playback buttons and one for WiFi connectivity. A four key navigational pad accesses certain functions like exposure compensation, focusing, time and flash modes.
Lastly, there are the Info and menu buttons. Basically, enough features to access the majority of common camera settings to shooting either semiautomatic or manual modes.
Aimed at more of the plug and play end of the market, there are plenty of shooting modes to give you great results out of the box. Hybrid Auto creates two-second videos before each shot, Creative Shot mode lets the camera automatically choose different filters and crops for each image with basic settings for each.
One big downside to the cameras is only shooting JPEGs, which hopefully will be addressed in further models. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make the JPEGs look the best they can be.
Canon PowerShot SX720 HS in Use
Shooting is very straightforward on the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS. Everything is done via the rear LCD screen, with images coming out well exposed with a good degree of color accuracy. As everything is shot in JPEGs, there can be some heavy noise reduction, especially at higher ISO levels. This will give a degree of image smoothing, but it’s only very noticeable if you print your images to a large size.
Special effects modes, which are in the dedicated shooting mode, gives some good automatic looks to your images. These include fisheye, miniature, toy camera, soft focus, monochrome, super vivid, and poster. If you just need quality results without any processing, these are a good way to go.
White balance is handled quite well in different lighting situations but can get quite yellow under artificial light. In this respect, it’s worth playing with some of the white balance presets to get to near as natural light as possible. As its JPEGs all the way here, you have to get it right in camera.
As for sharpness, the optical image stabilization helps out a lot, especially when completely zoomed into a subject. Unless you’re shooting in very low light conditions, the camera does a good job of producing sharp images. As for the ISO levels, noise starts to creep in around ISO 400, but it’s reasonably acceptable to 1600.
As for the optical zoom range, it’s great fun to be able to go reasonably wide angle at 24mm all the way up to 960mm. the only caveat here is when you’re completely zoomed in, images can start to suffer from atmospheric haze. The same goes for chromatic aberration, where it’s only with high contrast areas where purple and green fringing starts to appear.
As for the built-in flash, it only has a 4m range. There are some auto modes in the camera for the flash, but it’s best not to rely on something this small, apart from candid shots.
How Does It Compare?
A few other camera makers have the same idea in the compact camera range. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ80 has fewer pixels at 18MP, a small zoom range of 30x, but it does do 4K video, RAW files, and has a touchscreen and electronic viewfinder.
On the flipside, there is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V. Sony produces good quality compact cameras and this is shown with the 30x Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T-star zoom lens, 18MP CMOS sensor, 1080p video, and flip-up LCD screen.
|Canon PowerShot SX720 HS||Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ80|
|Sensor||21.1MP 12.3 CMOS||18MP CMOS|
As an all in one package, which has a great zoom range and produces good quality images, the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is a nice option. Small with a sleek body, it can be the ideal solution for whenever you’re on the go or a lightweight camera for common use.
The package isn’t completely flawless as there is no RAW format and no exact way to set your own autofocus point. It would also be great to have a touchscreen, but that may also bump up the price.
However, you cannot argue with the image quality, as JPEGs come out looking rich and detailed, just as long as you don’t set the ISO too high. Automatic shooting modes and looks are a welcome addition.
There are other players on the market, but as an all-round package, you can’t fault the Canon for the features it provides for the money and the quick and accessible ways to produce sharp images.