Canon speeds up autofocusing and adds enhanced Wi-Fi to new PowerShot models

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“Evolution not revolution” seems to be an apt moniker for Canon, but that’s not always a bad thing. Although it does surprise us from time-to-time, most of its new products are enhancements of previous models than all-out replacements. We don’t get the “gee-whiz” excitement one gets from a new iPhone, but quality and performance are usually solid. Case in point is its newest models: the higher-end compact PowerShot G16 and S120, and long-zoom SX510 HS and SX170 IS. A slightly enhanced version of the PowerShot N was also announced.

Representing the company’s new “Power to Connect” campaign, Canon is rolling out Wi-Fi across the board as it introduces new models. These new cams feature an enhanced Wi-Fi menu with better social working coordination (including Flickr) via Canon’s Image Gateway software. Setup is also easier and faster as you no longer have to punch in a WEP key, and setup can be handled directly from the camera without a PC. The CameraWindow app now supports Android-based tablets, including landscape display. Despite these updates, Canon’s Wi-Fi implementation remains largely the same, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing as it’s something we aren’t overly fond of.

But the better news is that performance has been amped up. Canon says autofocusing across all four models is faster, by at least 50 percent. Plus, models with the new Digic 6 image processor will see improvements in low-light performance, even at higher ISO levels.

Canon gave us a first-look at these products yesterday during a tour of their new headquarters in Long Island, New York. Here’s a quick overview.

PowerShot G16

Check out our review of the Canon PowerShot G16 camera.

From a design standpoint, the new PowerShot G16 has some subtle changes over its predecessor, the G15. Edges are curvier, including the textured grip. Otherwise the exterior hasn’t been altered drastically. All the new features are happening on the inside: the G16 uses Canon’s new Digic 6 image processor, which Canon claims it’ll deliver improved low-light performance in conjunction with the sensor. It’s also the first PowerShot G-series camera to have Wi-Fi built in, while movies can now be recorded in 1080 Full HD up to 60p. Autofocus has also been improved, now with reduced shooting lag, although burst mode sees a very slight drop from 10 frames per second to 9.3. There are also new shooting modes including new HDR options, and Star mode for photographing the night sky like Star Time Lapse Movie, Star Trails, and Star Nightscape.

Specs wise, this popular pseudo-rangefinder retains the features of last year’s G15: a 12.1-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, and 28-140mm wide-angle 5x optical zoom lens with a fast f/1.8 aperture to achieve soft background blurring.

The G16 goes on sale in October for $550.

PowerShot S120

One of our favorite compact camera series, the PowerShot S, gets minor enhancements. Aesthetically the new 12.1-megapixel S120 looks very similar to the S110, but if you compare them side-by-side you’ll see the subtle design changes. In previous models the pop-up flash automatically pops up when you turn the flash on, but there’s now a dedicated switch on the left side. Wi-Fi isn’t new, but it gets the enhanced features mentioned above.

What’s new is the use of the Digic 6 image processor, but more interestingly is a faster f/1.8 lens, allowing for the new Background Defocus shooting mode (also available in the G16). The S120 records video at 1080 Full HD up to 60p, while burst shooting has been pumped up to 12.1 frames per second (versus 10 in the S110) in High-Speed Burst mode. Autofocusing is also faster.

The S120 also goes on sale in October for $450.

PowerShot SX510 HS

The PowerShot SX510 HS long-zoom camera (30x 24mm) is seeing some significant updates from the SX500 IS predecessor. It’s now using a 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor instead of a 16-megapixel CCD, although it’s still using the older Digic 4 image processor. It shoots Full HD 1080p video at 24p instead of 720p, and it has Wi-Fi. Canon added the Zoom Framing Assist feature that helps you track a subject when at full telephoto (to activate, just push the button on the side of the lens barrel). Autofocusing has been improved to reduce lag time.

This camera will go on sale next month in September for $250. 

PowerShot SX170 IS

Compared to its predecessor, the SX160 IS, there aren’t a lot of changes inside the new SX170 IS. What you will notice, however, is a more compact body with the switch to lithium-ion battery from standard alkaline AA. Other than that, the SX170 is relatively similar as the SX160 with a 16-megapixel CCD sensor, Digic 4 image processor, and 16x 28mm optical zoom lens. 

The SX170 hits shelves in September for $180.

PowerShot N

N01Squeezed into the news is that the unique but awkward PowerShot N also gets an update, but it doesn’t address any of the shortcomings. Instead, this “special” version, exclusive to Canon’s online store, features a dedicated Facebook button for uploading your images to the popular social media site. The button can be found on the side (it replaces the mobile device connect button), marked with the Facebook logo. Unfortunately, it isn’t a direct Facebook connection, as you’re still required to go through Canon’s Image Gateway service (complicated one-time setup still required). This N features the new Wi-Fi menu and a new startup screen. This model doesn’t replace the original PowerShot N, as that will be sold everywhere else.

The camera will be available in September for $300. As there aren’t major changes, you can read our review of the original PowerShot N for more details.

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