Compact cameras are a bit of an oddity in an era when phone cameras can produce images of high enough quality to print in newspapers and magazines.
Even the smallest are bulkier and heavier than a phone, with none of the gravitas of the DSLR models preferred by pros. So perhaps not that surprising I was alone in bringing a Canon Powershot SX740 HS on a walking safari where fellow travellers were all relying on their phones except for one wielding a weighty SLR model with a huge telephoto lens.
The point of a compact is that it’s small and light enough not to be an encumbrance but the best far exceed the capacities of even the most sophisticated phone. And for those of us who may have an eye for composition but are not tech-minded, they offer completely automated optimised shooting functions while offering some manual override options for those who prefer to take control of the settings.
Canon’s Powershot range has a fine reputation pushed up a huge notch by this latest model, which has the power to deliver a fantastic 40x optical zoom. This far exceeds the close-ups your phone can deliver, within a body so compact and light it will fit in the pocket of your safari shirt or those of all but the tightest jeans. And with a range equivalent to 24-960mm, the 740SX is also great for capturing not only the expressions of sleeping lions but those wide-angle shots of huge African skies and treescapes which are the continent’s most memorable backdrop.
The focus of the SX740 proved reassuringly accurate when zooming in with gratifying speed on wildlife, fixing on the face of a sedentary animal or effectively tracking those moving at less than lightning speed. Like giraffes, for example, whose graceful lolloping between acacia trees was so extraordinary, it was great to be able to quickly switch modes into the 4k video this camera offers and record the action.
While a relatively small sensor on this model has been criticised for its failure to deal with low light, it captured sunsets beautifully for this user, but one justifiable complaint is that the screen is less than user-friendly apart from the fact it tilts 180 degrees for those obsessed with selfies. Not only is the screen not touch-sensitive, I was never able to evaluate images on the spot in playback mode without getting annoying overlaying text which obstructed the view.
Battery life is impressive – more than enough to last a full day of clicking away – and recharging is quick, but there is no built-in storage or starter card included. At least you won’t have to worry about a lens cap with the rapid self-closing mechanism which is now an industry standard in compact cameras, or a case with a body this strong.
Tell me more about the Canon Powershot SX740 HS
The Canon Powershot SX740 is not the cheapest small automatic camera at £349, but it’s certainly one of the sturdiest and most powerful.
Full specs here