Canon PowerShot SX420 Review

If zoom is what you’re looking for, this camera gets the job done and then some.

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3.3

Canon PowerShot SX420

Canon PowerShot SX420

Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

What We Like

  • Impressive zoom range

  • Wireless connectivity

What We Don't Like

  • Subpar image quality

  • Only 720p video

  • Minimal manual options

  • Unintuitive menu interface

  • No touchscreen display

The Canon PowerShot SX420 IS is a capable superzoom camera. But unless you’re absolutely counting on the ridiculous 40x optical zoom for capturing long-distance shots during the day, you’re probably better off sticking with your smartphone for both stills and video.

3.3

Canon PowerShot SX420

Canon PowerShot SX420

Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

Smartphones have become more capable than ever when it comes to photography, but one area where even the latest devices still fall short is optical zoom. For times when a simple 5x or 10x zoom won’t cut it, you’re going to want a dedicated camera. Enter the Canon PowerShot SX420, a bridge-style camera system that packs an impressive 42x optical zoom lens inside its frame.

Canon PowerShot SX420
Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

Design: Strictly utilitarian

The PowerShot SX420 IS is fairly standard in the design department, especially within Canon’s camera lineup. It comes in black and features a contoured grip for easy handling and a protruding lens housing that sticks out more prominently than a standard point-and-shoot. This is why the PowerShot SX420 is considered a ‘bridge’ camera—a compact camera feature-wise, but similar in design to a DSLR with an attached lens. 

The Canon PowerShot SX420 features a 20MP sensor with Canon’s Digic 4+ image processor to back it up.

As a whole, the design isn’t too surprising. It’s nearly identical to its predecessor, the PowerShot SX410 IS, and looks similar to other bridge cameras on the market. We would’ve liked to see a touchscreen on the rear of the camera, and the buttons are a bit small, but both are exceedingly rare in compact cameras at this price.

Canon PowerShot SX420
Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

Setup Process: Easy enough

The setup process for the Canon PowerShot SX420 is fairly standard as far as cameras are concerned. After putting the included battery in place and installing a compatible SD card, it’s as simple as powering it up for the first time and setting the date using the onscreen guide. Once the date is set (or you opt to skip this step), it’s just a matter of turning it to the camera mode you want to shoot on and you’re good to go. 

Canon PowerShot SX420
Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

Photo Quality: Great during the day, shoddy after dark

The Canon PowerShot SX420 features a 20MP sensor with Canon’s Digic 4+ image processor to back it up. 

With stills, the Canon PowerShot SX420 captures adequate shots in well-lit environments, exhibits a decent amount of dynamic range, and doesn’t produce many artifacts in the images. There’s some chromatic aberration and color fringing around brighter objects, especially when at the longer focal lengths, but aside from that image quality is adequate.

Canon PowerShot SX420
Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

Where the Canon PowerShot struggles is in low-light environments. Due to the small sensor size and slow aperture range in the lens, image quality suffers in dim light. Shadows start to look muddy, highlights get blown out, and overall the dynamic range dramatically drops when the ISO starts to increase at all. There’s also the issue of increased noise, which starts to show at anything above ISO 400. Sure, noise isn’t nearly as big of an issue anymore, as even basic photo editing programs are starting to offer noise-reduction features, but using them tends to blur fine details.

Video Quality: Don’t plan on shooting in the dark

The Canon PowerShot SX420 features 720p video recording at 25 frames per second. It records H.264 video in the MPEG-4 format with mono audio through the onboard microphone. As with the stills, the video capabilities of the PowerShot SX420 are adequate in well-lit environments, but suffer severely in low-light settings. 

When shooting video, the PowerShot SX420 IS offers Dynamic Image Stabilization (IS), Powered IS, Macro (Hybrid) IS, and Active Tripod IS, all of which work to reduce shake and movement in camera shots. While some unusual movement is present when these image stabilization modes are turned on, it is a nice addition to have if you don’t want to worry about stabilizing footage in post production.

Canon PowerShot SX420
Lifewire / Gannon Burgett

Software: Decent mobile app for easy transfers 

One of the most convenient features of the PowerShot SX420 IS is the integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. When paired with the Canon Camera Connect mobile application, the SX420 IS can quickly transfer over both photos and videos from the camera’s memory card.

As with the stills, the video capabilities of the PowerShot SX420 are adequate in well-lit environments, but suffer severely in low-light settings.

Canon’s app isn’t the greatest but it gets the job done, even if the interface is lacking. Transfers proved quick thanks to the 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity on the SX420 IS and the connection stayed strong even when moving around from location to location taking shots. 

Price: All about the Action Button

The Canon PowerShot SX420 IS retails for $229, a reasonable price for an entry-level bridge-style camera. That price point is roughly in line with the competition but still feels a bit higher than it should be considering the older sensor and processor inside. Whether or not this camera is worth the investment will largely depend on how much you need a massive optical zoom in a compact chassis. 

Canon PowerShot SX420 IS vs. Nikon B500

The closest competitor to the Canon SX420 IS is the Nikon B500, both in features and aesthetics. The Nikon B500 looks nearly identical to the Canon SX420 IS, complete with a 3” screen on the rear of the camera. 

Both cameras feature 1/2.3-inch sensors, but the Nikon B500 offers 16-megapixels whereas the Canon PowerShot SX420 IS shoots at 20-megapixels. Despite the lower megapixel count, however, the B500 has a maximum of ISO 3200, whereas the SX420 IS tops out at ISO 1600. The B500 also has a much faster continuous burst mode capable of 7.4 frames per second, a blistering pace compared to the 0.5 frames per second of the SX420 IS. 

In terms of optics, the two cameras feature similar focal length ranges: the B500 offers a 23-900mm (full-frame equivalent) focal length range while the SX420 IS has a 24-1008mm (full-frame equivalent) focal length range. The B500 does win out with the faster aperture at its widest focal length: f/3 compared to the maximum f/3.5 aperture on the SX420 IS. 

Moving to video, the B500 handily wins here, with 1080p Full HD recording, a substantial bump up from the 720p video on the SX420 IS. 

Final Verdict

It’s all in the (40x) zoom.

The Canon PowerShot SX420 proved to be a solid low-end bridge camera, but it didn’t overwhelm us. When shooting in good light, the camera proved more than adequate, but once the sun started setting or you were inside with poor lighting the sensor underperformed. If it’s the zoom range you’re most interested in, the SX420 is a solid low-price option, but if you’re just looking for a camera for the occasional family gathering or vacation, you’re better off sticking with your smartphone.

Specs

  • Product Name PowerShot SX420
  • Product Brand Canon
  • UPC 017817770613
  • Price $229.00
  • Weight 8.3 oz.
  • Product Dimensions 4.1 x 2.7 x 3.35 in.
  • Color Black, silver, midnight blue, triple midnight, customized
  • Image Sensor 20-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Connection Bluetooth 4.1/Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Battery Life 20 hours
  • Storage Type SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
  • ISO Auto, 100-1,600
  • Max Resolution 5152 x 2864
  • Inputs/Outputs 2.5mm auxiliary jack, microUSB charging port
  • Warranty 1 year warranty
  • Compatibility Android, iOS
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