I’ve used a variety of Canon products over the years, and it’s a name I have come to trust. It was with a bit of a shock that I discovered the controversy about the low-battery indicator for the Canon PowerShot SX 280 HS after I bought one and had a problem. If you’re interested in the history of this, there are two items I would suggest:
- Canon user forum discussion on low battery problem (116 pages!)
- Canon product advisory for firmware update
My new camera came with the latest firmware and it supposedly fixed the issue of the camera flashing low battery when taking a movie, even though the battery is nearly full. What the customer sees is that their battery indicator shows 2 or 3 out of 3 bars, but when they switch to movie mode, the low battery indicator flashes immediately or after taking a minute of video. The camera may decide to shut down. Turning the camera back on restores the battery indicator to show the battery near full.
There are, in my opinion, several factors working together to create this problem in the perceived operation of the camera. The first is that the camera is underpowered. The standard 1000 mAh battery is only rated for 200-400 photos or 25 minutes of video. The camera gets noticeably hot when taking long video shots, indicating the power drain. This camera can be a battery hog especially if you use the Wi-Fi and the GPS features. The second factor is common to rechargeable batteries: new ones require a few charging cycles to reach maximum capacity. The third issue is that this camera reportedly requires a huge amount of power to zoom while taking video. Finally, it appears that the battery indicator operates differently depending on camera mode—what’s a nearly full battery for taking snapshots is a nearly empty battery when taking movies. The indicator may well be working correctly for each mode, representing what the camera can do in that mode, but it is confusing when switching back and forth. It appears to me that in movie mode, the battery indicator is overly pessimistic. I take photos, plus an occasional video, so I rely on the photo setting to gauge my battery life, and then am surprised when I find the battery depleted in movie mode.
My experimentation revealed that I got better battery life on the second charge cycle than on the first. I found that on the second charge I could take 39 minutes of video (in two long segments) zooming twice briefly, 6 snapshots, and still have battery left. Now during a good portion of that video shoot the low battery indicator was flashing, but the camera worked OK. The video was shot at the maximum resolution of 1920 x 1280 at 30 fps.
I found NB-6L replacement batteries by EZO at Newegg, two for $14.99. They have the same 1000 mAh rating as the original equipment battery. At that price it’s practical to carry extra batteries when shooting all day. Note: I haven’t used these batteries yet and so this is not a recommendation of the brand.
The camera is new and I haven’t used it nearly enough to form an overall impression. The battery issue is confusing, but it’s not that big a deal. I decided to keep the camera and not return it.