Yet when I got back from my most recent trip to the east coast, I found I sorely missed having a big telephoto at hand. Clearly the HS10 wasn't the solution due to its weight and poor design, so I started poking around for a pocket zoom camera. Eventually I focused on four options: the Nikon Coolpix S9300, the Olympus SZ30-MR, the Canon Powershot SX260 HS, and going DLSR, in this case, a Canon 600 series.
I eliminated the Nikon, partly because I couldn't find any examples of it in Taiwan and so was forced to look at the 9100, and partly because I never find Nikon menus easy to use. I went out to look at the Olympus a couple of times. It has a very attractive 25-600mm equivalent zoom. It's light as a feather, so light it feels like a toy. The icons also make it look like a toy, and I had trouble overcoming this visceral reaction. It took good pictures and its controls were sensibly arranged. However, in the end I decided to go with what I knew, the Canon. I rejected the DSLR because I don't like the weight and the fact that I'd be buying extra lenses.
The Canon Powershot SX260 HS is not available in Taiwan and was not yet stocked in the big camera sellers in the US, who in any case won't ship it overseas. So I acquired it by circuitous routes. Here's my quickie first look review.
First, the good news. It takes great pictures, just like the S95. It has a solid feel that feels right in the hand, and lens retracted, takes up almost as little space as the Canon Powershot S95. It has a rubber piece that helps with the grip as well. The shutter button on the S95 has always felt cheap and flimsy to me, but the SX260 has a big silver button like an SLR. Very comfortable.
Functionality is awesome. I haven't explored them all yet, but it has nearly 60 scene modes, and overall greater functionality than the S95, which is to be expected since it is a next generation camera. It has GPS, which I have not used yet. The zoom, 25-500mm, is excellent and deploys rapidly. I did not find the shutter lag noticeable let alone objectionable, and like the S95, it powers right up. The controls are laid out sensibly, all operable by one finger. The record button is separate from the shutter (yay!). There is no control ring like on the front of the S95, sadly -- that's a great feature. ISO can only be controlled from the menu. It takes the same batteries as the S95 too.
Downers: It doesn't shoot on RAW (which is why they invented Canon camera hacks: WIKI). It does not have the range of ISO choices the S95 does (why not?).
All in all, this appears to be a solid camera, perfect for traveling and touring. Very happy with it and really looking forward to using it. Below I have some sample images for your enjoyment... the originals are all on FLICKR, click on READ MORE to view the rest of the post. The images are all taken on the highest picture fineness setting, superfine, and are ~7 meg each unprocessed.
UPDATED APRIL 2012: Some additional comments. The lack of the front wheel like the S95 is very annoying. Another annoying problem is having to go into the menu to change the ISO instead of having it accessible from either the wheel or a button. The more I use the big shutter button, the better it feels. The bokeh on either close ups or telefoto is very enjoyable.
UPDATED AUGUST 2012: Huge problem: the shutter cover doesn't work. If you slip the camera into a pocket, that nested cover will move, exposing the glass beneath right in the freakin center of the lens. This means that (1) the piece of glass covering the lens is constantly getting dirty from whatever is in your pocket and (2) it is vulnerable to scratches and stains from things in your pocket. That slip of glass now has two small gouges in it right in the center, permanent until I can pay to get it swapped for a new one. This is a serious design flaw....
ADDED, APRIL 2012
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