The Bottom Line
Considering the sub-$200 price point for the GE X2600 ultra zoom camera, there are a lot of nice things to offer in this model. The image quality is above average versus other similarly priced cameras, and the 26X zoom lens is one of the largest you'll find in this price range.
Don't expect quick response times with this camera, as both shutter lag and shot to shot delays are noticeable with the X2600.
The X2600 doesn't have any advanced features, such as a high-resolution LCD or built-in Wi-Fi, which would be a really nice option to find at under $200. Even with that in mind, the X2600 is an above average camera, both in terms of image sharpness, flash photo quality, and in its large zoom lens. There certainly are better long zoom cameras in the market, but if you have a strict budget to stick to, the X2600 would be a decent option for a beginning photographer looking for a first ultra zoom camera.
I was pleasantly surprised with the overall image quality found in the GE X2600. This camera stacks up very nicely against other cameras in this price range in terms of image quality. Images are pretty sharp throughout the zoom range.
When shooting in auto mode without the flash, you may find that a few photos are underexposed with this camera. That could be why the X2600 tries to fire the flash in almost all indoor photos and in some outdoor photos, even when the external lighting seems to be adequate. Flash photos with the X2600 are of a pretty high quality, especially compared to other models in this price range.
With outdoor photos, the colors are realistic. While the exposure is better in outdoor photos than in indoor photos, all images just seem to be a little underexposed. You can fix this problem by working in one of the X2600's more advanced control modes.
Some of the X2600's image quality problems are related to the camera's 1/2.3-inch image sensor, which is typical of what's found in point and shoot cameras. These small image sensors rarely can match the image quality found in larger image sensors.
The top feature of the GE X2600 is its 26X optical zoom lens, which gives you strong telephoto capabilities that you typically don't find in a camera in this price range. The zoom motor doesn't move the lens at lightning speed, but it is able to move through the entire range in a little over 3 seconds.
Shutter lag is a significant problem with this camera, as the X2600's autofocus mechanism doesn't work very quickly, especially when the zoom lens is near its maximum telephoto measurement. You can minimize shutter lag by holding the shutter button down halfway and pre-focusing. Shot to shot delays are a problem with this camera as well, but such delays are fairly common with all long zoom cameras.
The X2600's performance is better when shooting outdoors in really good lighting conditions versus shooting indoors in low light, but overall response times still aren't as good as I'd like to see.
The X2600 does a good job of recording movies, and the full zoom lens is available during movie recording. GE only gave the X2600 a maximum HD video resolution of 720p, yet the company included an HDMI slot with this camera, which seems to be an odd pairing. However, finding an HDMI slot in a sub-$200 camera is pretty nice.
Other than the HDMI slot, however, there aren't a lot of advanced features found with this model -- no GPS, no Wi-Fi, et cetera. If the X2600 had just one of those advanced features, it would be a great value.
As you might expect with a sub-$200 camera, the GE X2600 is a camera that has a bit of a cheap feel because of all the plastic. However, the rest of the camera's design is very similar to other ultra zoom cameras, with a large right-hand grip and a large lens housing.
GE included a popup flash unit centered over the lens, and it opens automatically anytime it's needed, which is a great feature. However, during my tests it seemed as though the X2600 opened the flash a little too often, even in situations where it really wasn't needed.
The X2600 includes a mode dial, which is a nice feature for quickly finding the exact shooting mode you want to use. There's also dedicated flash, macro, and self-timer buttons on the top panel of the camera, giving you quick access to these features. All of the GE X2600's buttons are a little small, but they're raised away from the camera body just enough to make them pretty comfortable to use.
Because this camera runs from AA batteries, you have the advantage of being able to swap out batteries at any time, which can be handy while traveling. Over the long run, a rechargeable battery is more cost effective, but the AA batteries are convenient. They do cause this camera to have quite a bit of weight in the right-hand grip, though, which can make it a little tough to hold the camera with good weight distribution.