Who says that nothing worthwhile can be found in a humble abode? The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is a little camera, yet despite its small form factor, it has a remarkable 40x zoom lens that also has optical image stabilization. Canon calls this camera the SX720 HS. When you take into account its 20-megapixel sensor and the ability to record video in Full HD, you have a camera that is quite competent and would have no trouble fitting into any pocket that is a reasonable size.
We put the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS through its paces, evaluating every aspect of the camera, from its appearance and ergonomics to the quality of its still images and videos, to determine how well it performs.
Combining large and little elements into a single design
When it comes to point-and-shoot cameras, the Canon SX720 HS is about as average as it gets. It has a rounded rectangular shape with a large lens and handgrip on the front, while the rear is dominated by a 3-inch screen, and an array of buttons to alter settings and navigate the menu. The design is rounded and rectangular. In addition to a power button, a shutter button, and a record button that is exclusive to video recording, the top of the device has a grille that houses the microphones and speakers that are already installed. On the underside of the device is a typical attachment for a tripod, as well as a door that can be opened to show the battery and SD card storage.
There is nothing particularly outstanding about the design, but the fact that Canon was able to fit such a powerful lens inside of a camera of this small is rather remarkable. There are cameras that are twice as large as the SX720 HS that have a zoom range that is significantly less. Because of its little size, we could easily store it in a diaper bag, a tiny handbag, a sling bag, or even our pockets without too much difficulty. The rubberized covering did assist to guarantee that the camera didn’t wander around in our hands too much, but personally, we would have wanted to see a somewhat more visible handgrip.
We felt that the button array on the rear offered exactly the right amount of control to provide us access to all of the relevant settings and capabilities without making the device difficult to use in any way. Although a touchscreen on the 3-inch display on the back of the camera would have been ideal, the fact that this is a more basic camera meant that the lack of a touchscreen wasn’t too much of a surprise.
In general, there is not a lot that can be criticized. The SX720 HS has a design that is rather conventional, and it places all of its essential functions and components in places where they are simple to reach for speedy access and operation.
The procedure for setting up is quick and easy.
Getting the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS ready to use is as easy as taking it and all of its components out of the box, inserting the rechargeable battery that came with the camera into the body of the camera, grabbing an SD card to insert into the slot that is located inside the battery compartment, and turning the camera on.
When you turn on the camera for the first time, it will prompt you to enter the current time and date so that it can properly stamp the picture files with the required metadata. After you get passed it, you are in a position to fire. Although the menu has a large number of choices for adjustments and personalization, the camera is straightforward to operate right out of the box and does not need any adjustments before it can begin taking pictures.
Excellent performance at a reasonable cost characterizes the photographic quality.
The sensor that lies at the heart of the SX720 HS isn’t the largest one available, but it works quite well taking into account how little it is. The ISO can be adjusted from 80 all the way up to 3200, and the shutter speed can be adjusted from 1/3200 of a second all the way up to 15 seconds. The sensor is 1/2.3 inches and has a resolution of 5184 by 3888 pixels. When used with the built-in 40x zoom lens (equivalent to 24-960mm on a full-frame sensor), the sensor delivers solid performance over the majority of the zoom range.
We put the camera through its paces in a variety of settings, including all available zoom ranges and virtually every ISO level. The SX720 HS performed quite well in areas with adequate lighting practically across the entirety of its zoom range. When set to the greatest focal lengths, the images did become visibly softer, particularly around the corners, but the quality was not better nor worse than that of other camera systems with a price point comparable to this one.
Even when the conditions were hazy and it was becoming dark, the camera functioned admirably across the majority of its zoom range. Again, the images were still usable in most circumstances despite the fact that the longest focal lengths suffered slightly. This was primarily due to the requirement for a higher ISO, which was necessary because the lens has a variable aperture that reduces the amount of light that passes through the lens as you zoom in.
In conditions with insufficient illumination, this camera performs quite poorly. There is an internal flash, but its range is limited, and the light it produces isn’t particularly flattering, regardless of the focal length you’re using or the subject you’re photographing. Although it may be used in a hurry, you shouldn’t depend on being able to use this camera for anything more than taking quick photographs in dim lighting.
The overall shot quality was rather good, which was consistent across the board. When completely zoomed in, the images were noticeably blurrier, and lighting conditions that call for the use of the flash are less than ideal; yet, when taking into account how little this camera is and the amount of zoom range it provides, the shots more often than not left us impressed.
The quality of the video is as steady as she goes.
Although Canon is notorious for restricting the video capabilities of their more compact cameras, the SX720 HS doesn’t suffer from this limitation to a significant degree. Even while shooting handheld, the camera’s several image stabilization (IS) settings and the ability to record in 1080p at up to 30 frames per second (fps) make it possible to achieve the most stable video imaginable.
When there was plenty of sunshine, the camera captured some very remarkable footage, and even when there was cloud cover, it took some passable footage. As soon as the lights were turned down or the sun went down, there was a noticeable decline in the video quality since the sensor had to increase the ISO to compensate for the decreased amount of light. The film was transformed into a murky and unrecognizable jumble as a result of the noise reduction.
All four of the image stabilization modes—Dynamic IS, Powered IS, Macro (Hybrid) IS, and Active Tripod IS—performed admirably. We tried the optical image stabilization at various zoom levels, as well as with still images and video, and it functioned exceptionally well in all of the aforementioned scenarios. If the video was shot totally handheld at longer focal lengths, it had a restless appearance; nevertheless, until it was watched on a very big screen, the shaking was difficult to perceive.
The motto of software is “function trumps form.”
The SX720 HS offers the ability to transmit photographs wirelessly from the SD card in the camera to an Android or iOS smartphone as long as the Canon Camera Connect mobile application is loaded on the device. This capability is made possible by the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Once the app has been configured, the process of moving photographs and videos is rather straightforward, despite the fact that the program’s user interface might need some improvement. Even more impressive is the capability of the software to automatically geotag photographs taken with the SX720 HS by making use of the GPS signal transmitted by the user’s smartphone.
Comparison between the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS and the Nikon A900
The SX720 HS has a competition from Nikon that is practically identical to it in the shape of the A900. This tends to be the case with most of the products that are made available by Canon and Nikon.
The SX720 HS and the A900 have the same sensor specifications, including a CMOS sensor measuring 1/2.3 inches with a resolution of 20 megapixels and an ISO range that extends from 80 to 3200. The A900 also has optical image stabilization, built-in wifi connectivity, and a focal length range that is comparable to that of the A1000 (24-840mm equivalent for full-frame).
Video capabilities, the ability to take many shots in rapid succession, and the electronic viewfinder are the areas in which the A900 shines above its competitors. The A900 is capable of recording 4K video at up to 30 frames per second, has a continuous shooting rate of 7 frames per second (compared to the SX720 HS’s 5.9 frames per second), and has a tilting 3-inch screen, which offers a bit more versatility than the Canon’s fixed screen.
The A900 has a suggested retail price of $367, which is $67 more than the SX720 HS; but, for that more cash, you do get 4K footage, a screen that is more flexible, and quicker continuous shooting. Having said that, if 4K video isn’t a need and you don’t believe you’ll need the articulating screen, it could be worthwhile to save that extra money and go with the SX720 HS rather than purchasing a higher-end model.
|Max resolution||5184 x 3888|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||20 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||21 megapixels|
|Sensor size||1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)|
|White balance presets||5|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|JPEG quality levels||Superfine, fine|
|Focal length (equiv.)||24–960 mm|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterTrackingSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View|
|Digital zoom||Yes (4X)|
|Normal focus range||5 cm (1.97″)|
|Macro focus range||1 cm (0.39″)|
|Number of focus points||9|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Minimum shutter speed||15 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/3200 sec|
|Manual exposure mode||Yes|
|Subject / scene modes||Yes|
|Flash range||4.00 m|
|Flash modes||Auto, on, off, slow synchro|
|Continuous drive||5.9 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 or 10 secs, custom)|
|Exposure compensation||±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|Resolutions||1920 x 1080 (60p, 30p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 (30 fps)|
|Storage types||SD/SDHC/SDXC card|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|Wireless notes||802.11b/g/n with NFC|
|Remote control||Yes (via smartphone)|
|Battery description||NB-13L lithium-ion battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||250|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||270 g (0.60 lb / 9.52 oz)|
|Dimensions||110 x 64 x 36 mm (4.33 x 2.52 x 1.42″)|
Anyone who believes that excellent things can’t be found in small packaging has obviously never driven the SX720 HS. It won’t blow your mind, but as we were testing it, we grew to really appreciate how versatile it was while having such a small form factor. Despite the fact that sales of small cameras are falling at an alarming rate, the SX720 HS is able to carve out a space for itself in the market because of its remarkable zoom range, 1080p video recording, 20.3-megapixel still images, and nice-looking design.
Pros & Cons
- Connectivity without wires wirelessly
- Clean design
- Optical image stabilization (IS)
- Solid zoom range
- Fewer manual choices than usual
- No 4K video
- Without a display for touchscreens
- Not protected by a weather seal