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Johnny Wilson
  • Johnny Wilson

New Camera: Canon Powershot SX720 HS

Thanks to not seeing Chloé and family until April this year, and thanks to everywhere mostly not being open I had some birthday and Christmas money that had pooled together burning a hole in my pocket. Not really on the market for another camera (hahaha) I was out taking my brother keyboard shopping last week when I spotted a stupidly cheap discounted Canon Powershot SX camera on display; the SX720 HS. I used to play with one of these in John Lewis when I was bored on my lunch breaks in Birmingham and I did kind of want one, so not one to pass up on a bargain camera me, I spent most of my money on buying it.

My thinking is that this will sit quite nicely alongside my Canon G7XII as a kind of "second" for travelling with and the primary reason for buying it is the crazy x40 optical zoom (960mm 35mm equivalent!) and it shoots stills at 5184 x 3888 which is plenty big enough, but it also has a host of other nice features including: 1080p 60fps video, a 24mm 35mm equiv focal length on the wide angle side, WiFi and NFC connectivity (which is lost on my little Moto E6Plus which doesn't have NFC...) meaning I can remotely control the camera with my phone, and a whole handful of other novelty stuff like in camera filters and creative movie making modes that I will probably never use!

I immediately set it to Manual and took a few shots last week, including one of the flower supermoon to test that zoom, but didn't really take it for a proper road test until the hot, sunny Bank Holiday Monday weather yesterday where I took it along The Black Track in Nuneaton to annoy the local squirrels!

The first thing I discovered was that the camera doesn't have an aperture higher than f8... which is interesting when people like me who learned with film measure down from f16... so this meant in super bright sunny daylight, even at ISO100 I was dialling up the shutter speed way past 1/60 and 1/125 and into crazy numbers like 1/1250, immediately outside of my comfort zone! The second thing I learned is that at the higher zoom factors; the auto focus has a real hard time getting a crisp, sharp focus on the subject first time. This is maybe something I can tinker with, and iron out in the settings, but when shooting the squirrels at sort of, 30x - 40x optical zoom I had to half-press the shutter button 3 or 4 times to get it to focus correctly. As a result I'm not 100% sure my final pictures are as sharp as they could be, and I can see this being a problem when you want to shoot something far away before it vanishes, say like a small bird or something. But that aside, the focal length is crazy, I was about 5, 6 metres away from this little squirrel in the tree:

However pair it with a tripod and aim it at a subject that isn't going anywhere, like say; the Moon, where you can take your time you can really make the most of the zoom:

And with a bit of creative editing later, I had the resulting final image:

Which is the best shot of the moon I've been able to capture to date! The third thing I learned is that my shots where there is a high dynamic range actually look a lot more underexposed than I'd expected from the back of camera previews. Like the below example:

This is mostly down to me as, knowing f8 was my max aperture, I was compensating and trying not to hugely blow out the highlights. But this meant the darker areas of my pictures were almost obscured. I did manage to partially correct that, to a degree, in editing, which brings me on to another point: this camera only shoots JPEG so you have less damage control in post than you would with RAW so you need to get it more right in camera, but I think moving forward I will err more on the side of over exposing than under exposing. This wasn't a problem for more evenly exposed images and I didn't even bother editing the below images:

One other minor niggly point is that when zooming in to get the squirrel shots, the photo had a real green cast that I had to do my best to tweak out post prod. This is likely down the leafy shade the squirrels were under and not the lens itself, but I was impressed that even dialling it up to ISO800 there was virtually no colour noise or grain.

Before editing:

After editing:

Some minor teething issues aside, I've been mostly really happy with this camera so far. It was fairly easy to pick up and get used to straight away, although being familiar with Canon cameras helped. I immediately switched to Manual as that's where I'm comfortable (a couple of times I found myself wanting to twist the lens barrel to dial down the shutter speed, mostly because my G7XII muscle memory was kicking in!) but you can switch to Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program or just Auto, wherever you're most comfortable, and shooting in Manuel doesn't let you explore the whole host of creative stuff this camera can do that I just haven't even really looked at yet. Here's a handful of other pictures I shot whilst carrying it around last week:

It's made a good first impression. It's easy enough to carry around, slipped quite nicely into my jeans pocket when I had to put it away to switch to my phone for making an IG reel, and is weighty to a degree, but light enough that it isn't gonna burden you too badly. Battery life seems pretty respectable so far, I've used the camera on and off for about 4 hours or so and put the battery on charge when I first bought it and haven't charged it again yet so it seems to be doing well. I'm looking forward to really playing with it and putting it through a more rigorous test when I'm finally able to go travelling somewhere again!


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