Digital Photography Review

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Review | Photography Blog

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Introduction

Ease of Use

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS has a slim design, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that it features a 40x optical zoom housed within a relatively small body. You can slip the SX720 into your pocket, so long as you don’t have very tight jeans on.

Canon has gone for a brushed metal look which makes the SX720 look stylish, while the rounded corners of the camera body also add to an overall sleek appearance.

On the front of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is a rubberised grip section which your middle finger rests along. It helps the camera to fit snugly in your grip and gives you confidence that you’re not going to drop it. On the back of the camera there’s also a small textured area just next to the mode dial where your thumb rests naturally.

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Front of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

The button layout on the SX720 is relatively simple and straightforward – especially so if you’ve ever used a Canon compact camera before. On the top of the camera is the shutter release button, which is surrounded by a zoom rocker. There’s also an on/off switch, along with a video record button.

On the left hand side of the top plate you’ll find the inbuilt flash, but when you want to use this, you’ll need to eject it from its housing using a switch on the side of the camera. Just underneath this switch and back a little bit you’ll find the Zoom Frame Assist button. This is a very useful feature, especially for a camera which features such a high optical zoom.

Basically, if you’re photographing something while using the zoom (whether at the full 40x stretch or a more modest focal length) and the subject moves out of the frame, you hold down the zoom frame assist button and the lens will zoom out, allowing you to find the subject again. Release the button and the lens will automatically return to the same focal length you’d just been using – it’s much quicker than using the zoom rocker switch.

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Moving to the back of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS and there’s a familiar Canon button layout. At the top of the back there’s a mode dial which allows you to switch between the various exposure modes on offer. Like with the previous generation of this camera, the SX720 offers manual and semi-automatic control – you can find P/Av/Tv/M modes on the dial. There’s also Auto, Hybrid Auto, Live, Scene, Creative Shot, and Movie mode. We’ll go through some of these modes further on in the review.

Underneath the mode dial is the playback button and a button which you use to directly access the Wi-Fi mode on the SX720. Underneath this is a navigational pad, which has four directional keys surrounded by a small dial. Each of the keys has a specific function assigned to it, for example up allows access to exposure compensation, left is used for changing the focusing mode, down for accessing the timer (or delete in playback), and right is for changing the flash mode. The dial is used when altering a setting – for example if you first press the up button to access exposure compensation, you can then move the dial to increase or decrease exposure compensation.

The dial is also used when altering shutter speed or aperture depending on the shooting mode that you’re using. If you’re shooting in manual mode, you’ll need to press the up key (marked as exposure compensation)to switch between altering shutter speed and aperture.

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Top of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

In the middle of the navigational area is a function/set button. Press this while in shooting mode and a quick or function menu will appear which gives you the opportunity to change all the most commonly settings, such as ISO, white balance, aspect ratio and so on.

Finally, the last two buttons are an info button which changes the information displayed when either in shooting or playback mode, and a Menu button which gives you access to the main menu – you can use this when the quick menu isn’t enough, for example if you have to change the date or time settings.

Although the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS affords you semi-automatic or manual control, you can’t shoot in raw format. That’s perhaps a little disappointing for this camera, but it’s not that much of a surprise. It would be nice if for the next generation of the camera, you could shoot raw format though – it would be a much more appealing camera to enthusiasts looking for a travel compact camera.

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Hybrid Auto is a fun mode which has been included on several Canon compact cameras before. Basically, it creates a two-second video before you take each shot (it starts recording from the moment you half press the shutter, but only saves the two seconds preceding the shot). At the end of a calendar day the camera will amalgamate all the shots together into a video – it’s great for holidays, wedding, occasions and so on, as you not only have the shots you’ve taken, but a video clip you can watch too. However, it’s not perfect – it would be nice for example if you could edit which clips end up in the final video. It would also be nice if you could switch on this video capture when shooting in manual or semi-automatic modes – just because you’ve taken manual control doesn’t necessarily preclude you from wanting this fun video.

Creative Shot mode is a fun way to experiment with how your images will look. Move the mode dial to this mode, and every time you take a shot, the camera will apply five different crops, filters, or combinations thereof to your image. You don’t have a choice over which crops or edits are made, but you can choose from groups of different options, including “Auto”, “Retro” and “Monochrome”.

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS In-hand

It’s not possible to change the autofocus point for the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS, which seems like a bit of an oversight for something which otherwise affords such a high level of manual control. You can choose the centre point, or switch on Tracking AF or Face AiAF which chooses a spot for you, giving priority to any faces in the shot.

Focusing is quick in day (or good) light, dropping a little more when you’re shooting in lower light. There’s a focusing light that will assist if it’s really dark, and it’s pretty rare for the camera to display a false confirmation of focus.

Start-up takes a couple of seconds, possibly because of the physical limitations of extending such a long lens at speed. Shot-to-shot time is pretty speedy though, while general operational speeds are also good.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 20.3 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 8Mb.

Colours directly from the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS are bright and punchy, with a lovely degree of saturation when you’re shooting in good light. Blues are well represented, being accurate and not displaying a cyan tinge.

The overall impression of detail is very good, especially at low ISOs. If you step up to ISO 1600, the impression of detail at A4 is pretty good, but you will see some reasonably severe image smoothing if you examine at 100%. On the plus side, noise is pretty well controlled because of the image smoothing, and unless you like to print out your shots at very large sizes – reasonably unlikely for a camera like this – you should be pleased with how images look.

At ISO 3200, image smoothing is a little more problematic in A4 shots, but again it’s fine if you’re sharing at much smaller sizes – such as online.

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS’s all-purpose metering system struggles a little with high contrast situations, but it’s what we would expect from a sensor of this size, and in normal shooting scenarios, exposures are pleasantly rendered.

Automatic white balance copes well with a variety of different lighting conditions, erring ever so slightly towards yellower tones under artificial lighting. If this isn’t to your liking, it’s worth switching to an appropriate white balance preset, such as Tungsten or Fluorescent. Remember that you can’t shoot in raw format, so getting things right in camera is a little more important.

The amount of detail displayed in images taken at the full stretch of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS’s 40x optical zoom is great and roughly matches the detail displayed in images taken at the wide angle end of the zoom. You can use the whole zoom range with confidence. Optical image stabilisation also does a great job of keeping images blur free at the telephoto end of that massive zoom, too.

If you need to go even further than 40x, there’s two digital zooms you can use. This is basically a crop of your image, so naturally there’s a loss in quality. The first digital zoom (80x) is OK if you really need it, and are sharing at reasonably small sizes, while the second digital zoom (120x) is best avoided unless you’re really desperate.

Noise

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS has seven sensitivity settings at full resolution. Auto mode uses a range between ISO 80 and ISO 3200, or you can switch to one of the creative shooting modes to manually select these settings.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg

Sharpening

We found that the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS images are already sharp, but do benefit from a little touch-up in post processing.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Focal Range

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS’ 40x zoom lens achieves a maximum wide-angle focal length equivalent to 24mm, and is capable of a telephoto reach of 960mm (in 35mm-camera terms).

24mm

960mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with purple and green fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Macro

The close focusing of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS at wide-angle is a mere 1cm. It does mean that there’s little light getting in when you do that and the edge definition drops off leaving around 50% of the image in focus.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg

Flash

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS’ flash can only manage a relatively weak 4m range and hence there’s some fairly obvious vignetting in our wide-angle test shot taken at a distance of 1.5m. The flash has four modes: Auto, On, Off and Slow Synchro, plus a separate setting to enable or disable red-eye reduction. Whether this is active or not, the camera successfully avoids any trace of red-eye.

Flash Off – Wide Angle (25mm)

Flash On – Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off – Telephoto (750mm)

Flash On – Telephoto (750mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots.

Flash Off

Flash Off (100% Crop) flash_off.jpg flash_off1.jpg

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop) flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Night

The Canon Powershot SX720 HS’s maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is great news if you’re seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 80.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Special Effects

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS offers several special effects modes, accessible via the dedicated shooting mode.

Fisheye

Miniature

effects_01.jpg effects_02.jpg

Toy Camera

Soft Focus

effects_03.jpg effects_04.jpg

Monochrome

Super Vivid

effects_05.jpg effects_06.jpg

Poster

effects_06.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS camera, which were all taken using the 20 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

Product Images

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Front of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Front of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS / Turned On

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS / Image Displayed

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS / Turned On

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS / Main Menu

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS / Function Menu

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Top of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Bottom of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Front of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Front of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Side of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Rear of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Battery Compartment Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Memory Card Slot

Conclusion

Canon’s SX range of travel compact cameras have long been popular, and with merit because they’ve been well crafted.

The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS continues that tradition, housing a market-leading 40x optical zoom in a slim and sleek body design, which is ideal for those who are travelling, holidaying, or just looking for something which they can use for day trips and every day usage.

It has full manual control which is great news for enthusiasts – but it would be nice if that control extended further to include being able to set the autofocus point, and to shoot in raw format, as you can with something like the Panasonic TZ80.

There’s in-built Wi-Fi, which is useful for transferring your shots, or remotely controlling the camera for group and self portraits. That makes up for the lack of a tilting or articulating screen, since you can shoot awkward angles via your phone if you need to.

It’s a shame not to see a touch sensitive screen, when other Canon cameras have such great touch control, but it perhaps helps keep the cost of the SX720 down.

All that aside, when it comes to the most important thing – image quality – JPEGs from the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS are very good. Colours are bright and punchy, while low light shooting up to around ISO 1600 yields good results. Detail is a little smudgier at ISO 3200, but if you’re only likely to be sharing online, or printing at small sizes, it delivers well.

Hybrid Auto and Creative Shot are fun modes which are great to use, but again, could do with a little more control to be even more appealing.

As it stands, the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is cheaper than Panasonic’s TZ80. While you don’t get raw format shooting, you do get a significantly longer zoom (40x vs 30x) and the JPEG image quality is better than that of the Panasonic’s so it represents great value at the moment.

Overall, Canon has produced an excellent travel zoom in the PowerShot SX720 HS, which is capable in a number of different shooting conditions and would be an excellent companion for most holidaying photographers – there’s still room for improvement though.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5) Design 4.5 Features 4 Ease-of-use 4.5 Image quality 4.5 Value for money 5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS from around the web.

Specifications

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