SHOOTOUT: Sony DSC-HX300 versus Canon SX280 HS

In the epic battle of David versus Goliath we have the huge 50x zoom Sony DSC-HX300 pitted against the small and slender 20x zoom Canon PowerShot SX280.  But in a non-traditional battle I’ve tested them in a single mode only, Automatic Mode.  Does one prove better than the other?  Can judgement even be passed?  Let’s find out!

Unlike many of my friends, I’m not into photography. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy good photos, on the contrary, I love art and photography and appreciate it deeply.  But when it comes to taking photos, I suck.  I’m the last person to want a DSLR or any sort of fancy camera, and I have zero interest in learning more about aperture and F-stops and stuff like that.  I recall some of it from a photography class in grade school, but even then it didn’t interest me (though I did enjoy developing film in the dark room with stinky chemicals).

About a year ago I picked up the Sony shown here, primarily to take photos that would be of better quality than my iPhone would permit.  This camera has served me well for the last year, for events like swimming and gymnastics for my daughter, but also family functions such as birthdays and the likes.  At first the camera was great, but it became a bit big and bulky, and as of late the darn thing just never gets picked up.  Then I recently saw some photos that my brother had been sharing from his Canon of the same model shown here.  I was amazed at the quality of shots coming from such a small device and had to get my hands on one to compare.  And as such, this test was born.

sony-vs-canon-cam00sony-vs-canon-cam01 sony-vs-canon-cam02 sony-vs-canon-cam03 sony-vs-canon-cam04 sony-vs-canon-cam05 sony-vs-canon-cam06


First we’ll start with my device for the past year, the Sony DSC-HX300.  This unit handles up to 20.4 megapixel shooting with an amazing Carl Zeiss lens offering 50x optical zoom, and up to 100x digital zoom.  Add in SteadyShot image stabilization, AVCHD 1080/60p Full HD video capabilities, a tiltable 3″ LCD display, you’ve got quite a piece of hardware.  But at 650g this thing is far from a featherweight.  Offsetting the rather bulky size is great “in hand” feel, the device is easy to hold steady and comfortably.  But carrying it around for long periods of time can certainly be a daunting task.

In the other corner of this battle we find the Canon PowerShot SX280, which retails for half as much as the Sony.  But half the price does not mean half the function, and you’ll still find a 20x optical zoom (4x digital beyond that), 12.1 megapixel maximum, and surprisingly the same 3″ LCD display (fixed) on this unit.  Video capabilities are identical on this unit to the Sony, as are features like SteadyShot.  By losing the zoom reach that the Sony offers, you also shed some weight here, down to 233g or only about a third of the competitor.  As you can imagine this makes holding and carrying the unit far superior, though I did find it harder to keep it steady on far distance shots (extended zoom-in) or any other situations where you may desire a two-hand-hold.

Both devices have a “wheel” to spin to switch between various modes, from predetermined scenes that might aid you, to priority modes for aperture and the likes.  I’ll admit that over the last year I have used my Sony to attempt to blur backgrounds, or special modes for fireworks, but 99% of the time I take a photo in automatic mode.  I did play around with these gimmicks on the Canon and it seemed comparable, but at the end of the day my test here is for my purposes, which is to say Automatic Mode.

Interface on both devices was nice, with the on-screen help of the Canon a step up from the Sony.  But I found the mode-wheel selector on the Canon a bit too hard/firm to spin.  Neither of them would get A+ interface scores, but both are solid B+/A- range.  It was worth noting that when both were turned down to 5-6MP, the Canon still edged out the Sony in speed (you could take your next concurrent photo more swiftly on the Canon, indicating it had a faster processor or such).

SIDEBAR: Back when I purchased the Sony as a bridge-camera, I wanted a good point-and-shoot but couldn’t find one with a zoom that fit my needs.  This was specifically for things like my daughter’s gymnastics show where seating distance requires a good zoom.  Perhaps the Canon’s zoom will be enough to justify a smaller device?  Because again I’m an automatic-mode kinda guy, who enjoys the occasional “scene” mode too. Understand then that my review here is for a person who likes basic photography, and doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles.  This is far from a full and proper camera device review!


Setting both devices into Automatic Mode, I went to the great outdoors.  Inside photos under artificial lighting would also have been a good way to compare, but the weather was too nice to ignore.  I’ll admit that this test is half-baked at best, because I was already partial to the Sony having owned it for a year, but also partial to the small size of the Canon for it’s weight/bulk savings over the Sony.  My goal was just to quickly test in a single day/outing the two back-to-back, see which had a better quality and/or zoom capabilities.

Below is a sampling of 15 different photos that I took at the same time with both cameras.  On the left (first) are the Sony DSC-HX300 versions, followed (on right) by the Canon PowerShot SX280 versions.  Click these thumbnails to see larger versions of each, which have been processed for size only via Preview on my Max OSX MBA device.  They are otherwise uncorrected in any way.

You may find two images where the Sony got a bit closer to the focal point.  This was my attempt to illustrate the zoom differences.  There was a street sign I used as a reference point (not shown here) that was about 150-yards away.  The Sony was able to zoom such that the sign filled the entire shot, where the Canon fell short and the sign appeared about 1/2 as large in the shot.  Without a doubt the Sony gets you closer, but does it do so with equal photo quality?  I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

sony-vs-canon-Zoom Dandy Sony sony-vs-canon-Zoom Dandy Canon

sony-vs-canon-Weeping Sony sony-vs-canon-Weeping Canon

sony-vs-canon-Tall Tree Sony sony-vs-canon-Tall Tree Canon

sony-vs-canon-Shrub Sony sony-vs-canon-Shrub Canon

sony-vs-canon-Rocking Horse Sony sony-vs-canon-Rocking Horse Canon

sony-vs-canon-Purse Sony sony-vs-canon-Purse Canon

sony-vs-canon-Park Bench Sony sony-vs-canon-Park Bench Canon

sony-vs-canon-Norah Wall Climb Sony sony-vs-canon-Norah Wall Climb Canon

sony-vs-canon-Norah Standing Sony sony-vs-canon-Norah Standing Canon

sony-vs-canon-No Roller Blading Sony sony-vs-canon-No Roller Blading Canon

sony-vs-canon-Garden Sony sony-vs-canon-Garden Canon

sony-vs-canon-Flowers Sony sony-vs-canon-Flowers Canon

sony-vs-canon-Flag Sony sony-vs-canon-Flag Canon

sony-vs-canon-Bucket Sony sony-vs-canon-Bucket Canon

sony-vs-canon-Bird Sony sony-vs-canon-Bird Canon


There is no clear winner here for a few reasons.  First off, my photo gallery was limited to outdoors shots, with no indoor comparison.  Secondly, I think it would be unfair to assume that someone who wants 50x zoom might be able to settle for 20x, or vice versa.  But for me I’m in a serious pickle because I found the color accuracy better on the Canon, the portability a huge plus, and the zoom was in most cases adequate.  I’m hard pressed to imagine a situation where I’d need more zoom (I could probably just crop an image after taking in a high enough resolution).  So for me, the transition to the Canon might happen.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed my pseudo-comparison here.  In this case neither David nor Goliath are losers— I think you’d win, whomever you put your money on!


  1. Haha good luck deciding. One other note the Canon has a quite reasonable wide angle when zoomed OUT which is nice for pictures of people at a table or say of cars at a car show. I can stand much closer and get the picture I want.

    • Thanks. I’m leaning towards the Canon. Your info has swayed me, but I just see its compact size being more portable and, in turn, getting more use out of it because of that pocketable dimension. 😉

      • I’ve used a 260HS for two years. It is much easier to use, obviously, than my Canon A1 SLR. But if I want high grade shots, say of staged portraits or close-ups of flowers or landscapes, I carefully set up and take multiple shots at different settings with the A1; the photos are just plain sharper and overall better quality. Digitals in my opinion have a ways to go before hiiting the same mark as a good old hi-end film camera.

        That said, 90% of my camera use is leisurely. The little digital with better-than-average capabilities is the one I choose for that. Issues? Yup, two: the same one most reviewers complain about… flash pop-up placement. The other is the diaphragm lens cover that seems all any manufacturer uses on these units anymore. On one occasion, and unbeknownst to me, some sort of dirt got on the lens. When I shut off the camera, apparently the diaphragm-type cover trapped the grit between it and the lens jamming it shut. I had a devil of a time turning the camera on again so the lens cover would open, though it finally did and I didn’t know why it was stubborn at the time. Later I discovered minute scratches on the lens. While closely checking those out, I noted an artifact deep within the lens structure that I first thought was dirt on the surface. So there was a factory lens quality control issue here also.

        Aside from the aggravating flash positioning, the threat that diaphragm covers pose to lenses, and the unprecedented lens factory contamination issues, I’ve found the 260HS a camera superior to others I’ve used. Except for the added battery problems most 280HS owners gripe about, I’d expect the same if not better performance out of that model, the one you tested.

        I talked my stepson into a 280HS and he complains that he gets better results out of the camera on his phone, so I dunno what that’s all about. I’ve yet to see a cell photo that can hold a candle to a halfway decent digital camera. Cells just can’t pack a sizeable quality lens onboard, and that means far more than pixel count. I suspect he’s just not thoroughly “read the book” for his 280HS yet, and his “automatic” settings may be off somehow, or even a dirty lens. No way a cell phone could outperform a Canon camera of any kind or cost.

        I almost allowed Canon to help bump me up to the 280HS from my 260HS when I sent mine into the factory for consideration of the scratch and artifact (they don’t repair such things, they replace), but I opted to keep the 260HS as the flaws don’t noticeably seem to deter from the images I get. Perhaps by the time I’m ready to move up again, my other gripes and the battery issues will be resolved on the newest versions.

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