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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Review: Canon SX 60 For Bird Photography, Why I Do Not Like This Camera!

Lillian Stokes


The Canon SX 60 HS is now available for sale.

I own the SX 60 and have tested it against my Canon SX 50, which I love, have used extensively for bird photography and reviewed here.

I do NOT advise you to get the Canon SX 60. Bottom line, I think the image quality on the SX 60 SX is inferior to that on the SX 50 when used under the conditions for bird photography, and the SX 50 performs more reliably. Get the SX 50 now while it is still available. It is no longer produced but you can get it used online.

If you have gotten the SX 60 there are a few things which may help you use it better.
1. Do not use at full telephoto extension because at full telephoto extension the photo will not be sharp.
2. Try using it on a monopod to help steady it, especially if you are trying to use at full telephoto extension, in order to get shaper photos.
3. Try using Framing Assist Lock, to help steady the camera, especially at full telephoto extension.
4. Sports Mode is not anywhere near as good as the SX 50, so don't be disappointed if many of your photos do not turn out sharp on this setting.
5. You can get my 10 pages of extensive tips for the SX 50, many apply to the SX 60. Get them by emailing me, email link is at top right of this page.

There are a few good things about the SX 60

1. The viewfinder and the back screen are very good, much better resolution than the SX 50. I so wish these features were on the SX 50.
2. It has a better from grip and feels more substantial than the SX 50.
3. The continuous shooting mode has been increased to 6.4 frames a sec.
4. It has a 1350 mm equivalent telephoto, vs. the 1200 mm equivalent of the SX 50. both have good image stabilization. However, the photos taken at the full telephoto are of an inferior quality to the SX 50.
3. It has other bells and whistles such as full HD video, wi-fi capability, etc. (most of which I am not as interested in and I understand the wi-fi is hard to hook up).
3. In good light, and when the telephoto is not fully expended, and a bird is holding still, it can take very good photos.
See this SX 60 untouched, uncropped photo shot on Auto mode, of a Song Sparrow in my bird bath.

The not good things with the SX 60,

1. The image quality, in general, is not as good as the SX 50 when I have used it for bird photography. Other reviewers have also said this.
2. The image quality deteriorates at the full telephoto extension of 1350 mm. For bird photography, it is very useful to be able to photograph at full telephoto, since birds are small and often far away. This is what had to say about it,
"The new 65x zoom lens is better than the SX50's in some ways, but worse in others. The improved zoom range is useful, but at the telephoto end autofocus is painfully slow, often inaccurate, and the resulting photos lack sharpness. The problem is that with such a small sensor you can't zoom in this much without hitting what is called the "diffraction limit." Without getting too technical, the diffraction limit is a barrier beyond which sharpness across the frame begins to drop significantly—no matter how good your lens is. It's a particular problem for point-and-shoots like the SX60 which have small sensors and small maximum apertures as you zoom in."
3. The control dial on the back has been made smaller than the SX 50's, I do not think it is as easy to use. 
4. When you want to change the ISO or exposure compensation, it is harder for me to do this on the SX 60 than on the SX 50. Since I often shoot on AV (aperture priority) I frequently change the exposure compensation and the ISO, often while I am looking through the viewfinder. It is important for me to be able do this easily.
For example, to get to Exposure Compensation on the SX 60 you have to hit a button above the control dial to bring it up, then move your finger to the top of the camera and turn the wheel on the top to change the exposure compensation. To to bring up the ISO setting on the SX 60 you have to hit the function set button in the middle of the control dial then hit the right or left edge of the control dial to scroll right or left to change the ISO. Since the control dial is small, it is not easy to hit its edge easily. You also cannot rotate the dial, as you can on the SX 50.
To bring up the ISO setting on the SX 50 you hit the bottom of the control dial to bring up the ISO setting and since your finger is already on the control dial it is easier to then hit the left or right edge, or you can also rotate the dial, to move the ISO setting. To change the Exposure Compensation on the SX 50 you hit the top edge of the control dial then hit the right or left edge, or rotate the dial, to change the ISO.
Note: Yes, I know, the control dials on the back of both these cameras are not the easiest thing to work with and I have heard complaints about the SX 50, especially if you have large hands.

Here are some comparison images from both cameras. This is a Downy Woodpecker I photographed from the same spot, with both cameras at full extension in the digital range (SX 60 equivalent 1365 mm., SX 50 1200 mm.) Both were in AV and both aside from cropping, are untouched. The SX 50 photo is somewhat sharper with more definition.

Canon SX 60 Downy Woodpecker

Canon SX 50, Downy Woodpecker

Here are two bluebird photos of an Eastern Bluebird on our feeder. Taken from the same location at the same distance, with telephotos extended, on Av (aperture priority), untouched photos aside from cropping. Slightly more definition with the SX 50.

Canon SX 60, Eastern Bluebird

Canon SX 50, Eastern Bluebird

Here's a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker I just photographed today with the SX 60, untouched photo only slightly cropped. Not an easy shot as the bird was moving its head a lot, making holes in the apple tree to get at the sap and the lighting was not bright as the bird was in shade. I tried AV, Sports Mode (I could to get the camera to focus on the bird in Sports Mode) and this Auto shot was the best I got. On Auto the camera chose f 5.6, 1/160, ISO 500.

I was recently on the NH coast and tried the SX 60 for birds in flight. I used Sports Mode. I had a hard time getting any sharp photos of the gulls in flight. Here is one of the best I got of a Herring Gull and it is not sharp. It is untouched, just cropped.

Here is a sitting Herring Gull taken with the SX 60. It is untouched, just cropped. It is not sharp.

For comparison, here is a photo of a sitting Herring Gull I took the same day, under similar conditions, with the Canon SX 50. It is sharp. It is untouched, just cropped.

So, basically, from my point of view so far, the case is out on the SX 60, you are better off buying the Canon SX 50.

I am Lillian Stokes, a prominent American bird author, photographer and blogger, who, with my husband Don, have written over 35 best-selling books on birds and nature including the best-selling

The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America

The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Eastern Region

The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Western Region

Many of my photos were used in those guides. Right now I use the Canon SX 50 HS camera, as well as my high end Canon 1D X and Canon 7D II camera, for bird photography. If you are interested in photographing birds you need to accurately identify the birds you photograph, so buy our books.

Meanwhile, here is some information from the press release on the SX 60,

The PowerShot SX60 HS Digital Camera The new PowerShot SX60 HS digital camera is the latest addition to Canon’s SX high-power zoom lineup. With 65x optical zoom (equivalent to 21-1365mm) and Optical Image Stabilization for steady images, this camera lets users zoom in and capture special moments even at long range. This new model includes a 16.1 megapixel* CMOS image sensor that, when paired with Canon’s DIGIC 6 Image processor, creates Canon’s high-sensitivity HS System to enhance low-light image quality.  Further boosting the performance of the camera’s 65x zoom lens is Canon’s innovative Intelligent IS system which provides users with outstanding eight-mode shake correction technology. For filmmaking enthusiasts, the camera’s 1080/60p Full HD video capabilities feature the choice of automatic or manual exposure control together with a built-in stereo microphone and a port for optional external stereo microphone to record life-like audio with ease. 
Like the PowerShot G7 X, the PowerShot SX60 HS camera is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi technology, so users can share the amazing still images and videos taken with the camera online quickly and easily using compatible mobile devices. The camera’s Mobile Device Connect Button makes it easy for users to connect to a compatible smartphone or tablet. Images and movies uploaded to the cloud via Canon iMAGE GATEWAY can be shared easily on social media platforms. The PowerShot SX60 HS camera also includes NFC making initial setup and pairing easier with a compatible Android device.  
The PowerShot SX60 HS camera features Canon’s Face Detection and Tracking AF system plus full resolution continuous shooting up to 6.4 frames per second (when not utilizing Tracking AF).  The camera also features a new EOS-style grip design for comfortable and secure handling. Users can choose between a three-inch 922K dot Vari-Angle LCD screen for low-or high-angle shooting and a high-resolution 922K dot electronic viewfinder, ideal for shooting in bright outdoor conditions. 
When shooting at extreme telephoto focal lengths, the Zoom Framing Assist function remembers the user’s previous zoom position, zooms out to locate the subject, and zooms right back into the saved position when the button is released. An additional feature to this Zoom Framing Assist allows users to preset a desired composition such as whole body, upper body or face. Once this feature is enabled, the PowerShot SX60 HS camera will zoom its lens automatically to maintain the desired composition even if the subject moves closer or further from the camera. Another new function called Zoom Memory makes it possible to quickly return to the most recently used zoom position, even if the battery or memory card is replaced. 
To help make photographs and video that are creative yet simple to capture, the PowerShot SX60 HS camera features Creative Shot mode and Canon’s Smart AUTO mode that intelligently selects optimal camera settings from 58 different pre-defined scenes for still shots and 21 for video. The PowerShot SX60 HS camera also features full-manual exposure and focus control, with the photographer’s choice of JPEG, RAW, or JPEG+RAW capture modes. The PowerShot SX60 HS camera is fully compatible with Canon EX-series Speedlites for professional quality lighting effects.


CGO said...

I'd be interested in your review of the Nikon 1 V2 or v3 with the new Nikon 1 NIKKOR VR 70-300mm lens. From what I've read that camera+lens could be an ideal tool for bird photographers. Much better autofocus and a much larger image sensor than the SX-50, but not quite as much reach (810mm equivalent) and a little bit heavier. (P.S. I own an SX-50 and love it, but I'm curious about the new Nikon lens.)

Lillian Stokes said...

I am not familiar with the Nikon 1 V2 camera, it is very different than the powershot bridge camera with a built in lens that the SX 50 is. Plus it would be considerably more expensive if you bought that body plus that lens, than the SX 50 is.
I own the Canon !D Mark IV high end DSLR camera plus the 300 mm and 500 mm lenses and that is what I use for high end photography for bird images that are published in our Stokes Field Guides.
For high quality bird photography with Canon DSLR cameras I recommend also the Canon 7D and also the 1Dx cameras.
Lillian Stokes

Jim and Bev Triplett said...

Any word on the SX60? I was going to buy the SX50 until I read your post but awaiting the SX60 review.