The SX700HS sits at the top of Canon’s range of travel compact cameras, the better zoom-endowed brother of the SX600HS and the replacement for the SX280HS – Canon has decided to skip quite a few numbers in this series.
What these kinds of cameras offers over the much more ubiquitous smartphone, and cheaper compact cameras, is a high zoom ratio – with the SX700HS having a whopping 30x optical zoom offer. In 35mm terms, that’s the equivalent of 25mm to 750mm. ZoomPlus – Canon’s term for its digital zoom technology – boosts that reach to 60x, or an incredible 1500mm in 35mm terms.
That lens boasts a maximum aperture of f/3.2 at the widest point of the lens, rising to f/6.9 at the far end of the telephoto optic. It’s slightly better than the SX600HS, which can only manage f/3.5 at the widest point of the lens, but those looking for a wide aperture lens for shallow depth of field effects would do better to look at something like the Canon PowerShot S120.
As well as that 30x optical zoom, there’s also a 16.1 million pixel CMOS sensor that is joined by a Digic 6 processor. Canon is known for testing out its latest processors in its compact cameras, and it is here in the SX700HS that the latest can be found – this should mean that low light shooting is significantly improved from the SX280.
The camera also has five-axis dynamic image stabilisation, which should be particularly useful when shooting movies, which the SX700HS is capable of recording in full HD (1080p).
As is starting to become more commonplace these days, the SX700HS features inbuilt Wi-Fi. GPS is not included, but you can add location data when the camera is hooked up to your smartphone if that’s your thing. Canon has recently introduced a new smartphone app which means that you can now remotely control the camera from your smartphone or tablet – previously all you could do was share images between the two devices.
On the back of the camera is a three-inch (7.5cm), 922k dot, PureColor II LCD screen – unfortunately it’s not touch sensitive though as you might find on some of Canon’s IXUS products, or the PowerShot G1X Mark II.
This is a camera designed to appeal to both those looking for the huge zoom range and for enthusiast photographers – as such, it has a full complement of shooting modes including manual and semi-automatic modes such as aperture priority and shutter priority. Naturally, there are also fully automatic, scene and creative modes available too for those who just want to concentrate on composition.
There are a few fun modes to be found on the SX700HS too. One that we’ve seen on several other Canon compacts is the Hybrid Auto mode. This films a two-second video before every shot is taken, then merges them together at the end of the day to give you a video recap of your day – it’s particularly nice for parties, holidays and other special occasions.
Other creative modes include Creative Shot, which takes a shot and then creates another five images with digital filters at random. Separately there’s a Creative Mode which gives you more control over which effect to apply. When shooting in manual or semi-automatic modes you can also apply different film-simulation modes, such as Positive Film or Black and White.
In terms of the competition, there are actually quite a few cameras currently on the market which feature a 30x optical zoom, most notably the Panasonic TZ60 and the Sony HX60V. All of which feature similar specifications, although the TZ60 has a viewfinder.
Build quality and handling
Considering the SX700HS packs away a 30x optical zoom, the camera is remarkably slim. It’s easy enough to fit the camera in the average jeans pocket, making it particularly appealing for those on holiday. On the front of the camera is a pronounced grip which makes it feel secure in the hand, particularly when shooting one-handed.
All of the buttons, of which there is a decent range, can be found grouped towards the right hand side of the camera, making them easily reachable with the thumb. The only exception to this is the switch which enables the flash to pop up and the Framing Assist button, which are found on the left, on the side of the camera.
At the top of the back of the camera is a mode dial which allows you to quickly choose the exposure mode you want to use. On here there’s lot to choose from, including Automatic, video, Creative, scene and all of the manual and semi-automatic modes. The dial goes all the way around, so if you’re at one end of it, you can simply twist it back around to the start, rather than having to go all the way back on itself – which makes it fairly quick to use. Anybody who’s used to the mode dial on a DSLR will probably enjoy this.
On the back you’ll also find a classic four-way navigational pad, with a scrolling dial around it. The scrolling dial can be used to change settings such as aperture or shutter speed, depending on what mode you’re shooting in. Each of the four navigational keys has a specific function assigned to it, such as left for macro focusing, downwards for timer mode and up for exposure compensation.
There’s a dedicated button which you can press to connect your phone (or tablet) to the camera. Once you’ve set up the initial connection between your device and the camera, all you’ll need to do in future is press the button to start an instant connection. From the app you can select photos to copy across to your device, or remote control the camera.
Sadly, you can’t change any settings on the camera when remote controlling, which is something we’d like to see for the next version of the app. All you can do is zoom the lens in and out and fire off the shutter release – still it’s handy for group portraits which you want to include yourself in, or if you’re trying to shoot from a particularly awkward angle. The camera is also equipped with NFC, so if you have a compatible device, then all you’ll need is a simple tap together of the two to start a connection.
When in playback mode, that dedicated button allows you to quickly send across an image from your phone to your smartphone or tablet which you can then share online. Unlike with compacts such as the PowerShot S120, you can’t share directly to sites such as Facebook from the camera itself.
Pressing the function button in the middle of the four-way navigation pad gives you access to a sort of quick menu, which contains all the most commonly used settings. The menu will change depending on what shooting mode you’re in, but for instance if you’re in aperture priority, you’ll find you’ll be able to change settings such as sensitivity (ISO) and white balance from here. It’s also here that you’ll be able to access film simulation modes, and when in the Creative Mode, from here you can change the filter which is being applied.
If you need to change something a little more in-depth, or not so commonly accessed, the main menu is accessed via its own dedicated button on the back of the camera. This menu is sensibly arranged into different tabs, and if you’ve used a Canon camera before, you’ll certainly be at home here. You’ll probably find that you don’t need to use the main menu all that often though.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to set the autofocus point to a point of your choosing – which seems a little odd for a camera of this calibre and price point. Instead, you can have face tracking, or set the point to the centre of the frame and focus and recompose.
The button on the left side of the camera, the Framing Assist button, is a very useful button for a camera with a 30x optical zoom. It basically allows you to very quickly zoom back out of a scene and back in again. When zoomed in, holding down the button will quickly zoom back out, keeping a square around the area which the lens will zoom into again once the button is released.
On top of the camera, there’s the on/off button, the video record button, the shutter release and a zoom switch. Zooming in and out of the 30x zoom range is fluid and smooth. There’s a short pause before entering the digital zoom territory, which helps you to avoid that if you don’t want to use it, or just to make you aware that you are using it.
Shooting in Creative Shot is a little frustrating. While on the one hand, the idea of randomly applied filters is fun, it would be nice to be able to choose one that you particularly liked, especially as those that are available in the separate creative mode are not quite as varied, and are a little outdated by comparison to some of the different filters available elsewhere.
Generally speaking, Canon compact cameras are excellent performers and always come high on our list of recommendations. Sitting at the top of the travel range and featuring advanced specifications such as the Digic 6 processor, I had pretty high hopes for the SX700HS.
Fortunately I have not been disappointed by what the camera is capable of producing. Colours are bright and punchy, demonstrating a pleasing level of warmth that is pretty typical of Canon cameras, both from their compact and DSLR range.
Detail is resolved very well, especially for a camera with a sensor of this size. There’s not too much evidence of image smoothing at the lower end of the sensitivity scale – even when zooming in at 100%. As you creep up the sensitivity scale, as we’d expect, there is some loss of detail, but generally when looking at images at normal printing or web sharing sizes, the overall impression of detail is very pleasing.
This brings us around to the topic of noise. With the addition of a Digic 6 processor, the camera should be very capable in low light shooting scenarios. At mid-range sensitivities of around ISO 800, noise is very, very minimal. Although there is some smoothing of detail, it’s generally very good, and this is likely to be a very commonly used sensitivity for a lot of occasions.
Even at high sensitivities, such as ISO 1600, examining the image at 100% reveals very little noise, but a touch more image smoothing. As the camera doesn’t shoot in raw format, you won’t be able to control the amount of noise reduction which is applied if you prefer detail resolution – but I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed in the majority of shooting conditions.
Generally speaking, the camera’s metering does a very good job of helping to produce balanced exposures. I found that I very rarely had to dial in any positive exposure compensation due to underexposure, something which a lot of compact cameras tend to suffer with.
Similarly, the camera’s automatic white balance setting does an excellent job of producing accurate colours, even while shooting under artificial lighting conditions.
Most of the time, focusing is swift and accurate. In very bright conditions, it’s very quick indeed, dropping a little in lower light conditions as is to be expected, but it’s certainly competitive with other cameras of its kind. Macro focusing is also pretty impressive, allowing you to get extremely close to the subject – great for those who want to shoot frame filling views of flowers and the like.
As the zoom is the key selling point of the SX700, it’s pretty much vital that it does a good job. At the telephoto end of the optic, there’s a very noticeable difference between using the camera’s image stabilisation and switching it off. With it switched on, you’re able to accurately frame and compose an image, while the resulting shot stays blur free. There’s lots of detail retained at that far point too. If you need extra reach, ZoomPlus technology does a decent job too, and while it’s not as high quality as the optical zoom, if you’re sharing online at normal sizes, the overall impression is great.
Lots of compact cameras include creative modes as manufacturers are keen to appeal to the Instagram crowd. Here on the SX700HS, the most interesting filters can be found in the Creative Shot mode, with lots of fun and wacky filters applied randomly to your images. It’s worth experimenting with these, but as mentioned before, it’s a shame you can’t have more control over these filters.
On the plus side, when shooting in Creative Shot, you also get a standard version of the image, should you need it. The same can’t be said for when shooting in the general Creative Mode, or if you’re using a film simulation setting, where you’ll be stuck with whatever filter you apply to a JPEG image.
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG signal to noise ratio
Analysis: The SX700 produces a pretty typical performance for this type of camera though the SX280 does prove slightly better at higher ISOs.
JPEG dynamic range
Analysis: The SX700 proves the best overall performer in this group, capturing a slightly wider range of brightness values than its rivals.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Canon SX700 HS, we’ve shot our resolution chart.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
ISO 100, score: 22. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 200, score: 22. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 400, score: 20. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 800, score: 16. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 1600, score: 16. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 3200, score: 14. Click here for full resolution image.
Sensitivity and noise images
JPEG sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
ISO 100. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 200. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 400. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 800. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 1600. Click here for full resolution image.
ISO 3200. Click here for full resolution image.
Even with its maximum aperture of just f/3.2, the SX700HS can still manage to produce shallow depth of field effects
Shooting at high sensitivities reveals how well noise is controlled – if you examine the above image at 100%, you’ll see there’s a good level of detail kept.
The camera’s metering system copes well with shooting under artificial lighting conditions to produce accurate colours.
Macro focusing allows you to get very close to the subject matter for frame filling shots.
Shooting in Creative Shot mode leaves you with a random selection of digital filters.
At the widest point of the 30x optical zoom, the SX700HS offers an equivalent of 25mm, making it ideal for capturing a wide angle of view.
At the telephoto end of the optical zoom, the 30x zoom offers an equivalent of 750mm.
If you need even further reach, you can activate ZoomPlus, Canon’s name for digital zoom.
There’s even more scope for flexibility with standard digital zoom, although image quality starts to suffer when you use this – it’s not bad for sharing online though.
Once again, Canon has produced an incredibly capable travel camera. With a market leading 30x optical zoom, this camera is definitely likely to appeal to those looking for something flexible to take on holiday with them.
As we’ve pretty much come to expect from Canon, colours are bright and punchy, while detail is very well resolved, especially for a camera with a sensor of this size.
That 30x optical zoom gives you a huge amount of flexibility, but the fact that you can boost it to an even further reach using the pretty well performing digital zoom also makes it an appealing prospect for those that need it. Optical Image Stabilisation does a great job here, both in terms of helping to frame a shot and also to produce blur free shots. The Frame Assist button is also a very handy feature when you’re trying to track a subject which is far away.
While it’s a shame that the camera doesn’t have a touchscreen, there’s still a decent array of buttons which make using the camera pretty easy. There’s no viewfinder, but it’s pretty unusual to find one on a camera such as this – if you do particularly want one though, you’d do well to look at the Panasonic TZ60.
On the other hand, it’s nice to see Canon embracing Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for a camera such as this. While it’s a shame that it’s not a bit more advanced, the fact that you can remote control the camera is a bonus, especially when you want to take group shots and similar shots.
Enthusiast photographers, perhaps those who own a DSLR, should appreciate the manual control afforded by the SX700HS – especially if you’re a photographer looking for something small and flexible to take on your travels, or use as an every day pocket camera. It’s a shame that you can’t shoot in raw format though, as you can with the Panasonic TZ60.
It’s nice to be able to use creative fun modes, such as Hybrid Auto, or Creative Shot mode, but I wish you could have a little more control over some of those features – for instance by controlling which creative filters to add if want to in Creative Mode, as well as the fun random choices it decides for you.
The best thing about this camera, as you’d expect it to be, is the 30x optical zoom functionality. It shoots great, crisp images at either end of the telephoto zoom, and optical image stabilisation does a fantastic job of keeping shots blur free. It’s also nice to see that the digital zoom is also very usable, especially if you’re just sharing online. Low light shooting is also excellent, thanks to the addition of the Digic 6 processor.
Thankfully, there’s not too much to dislike about the SX700HS, it’s more a case of a little niggle here and there which stop it from being the perfect travel camera. I’d like to be able to shoot in raw format for a bit of added flexibility, especially while shooting with film simulation and digital filters activated. I also think it’s a shame that you can’t set the autofocus point to a specific point you want – having to focus and recompose is something I would normally associate with cheaper, less advanced compacts.
If you’re after a reliable camera to take on your travels, and are tempted in by a huge zoom range, then you can’t go far wrong with the Canon PowerShot SX700HS. It’s a good step up from the SX280 in terms of image quality, with particularly impressive performance when shooting in low light, high sensitivity situations.
There’s a couple of issues which stop it being better though – such as not being able to set the autofocus point, or the lack of raw format shooting. Overall though, a very competent camera which shouldn’t leave you disappointed. It’s also worth noting that, as it stands, it’s reasonably cheaper than its closest competitors from Sony and Panasonic.
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