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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Digital Camera Review

Duncan Evans goes zooming with the 35x optics of the Canon SX30.

|  Canon Powershot SX30 IS in Compact Cameras
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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS front
Duncan Evans reviews the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS.

There have been superzooms in the past that have promised to get you right into the action, but the SX30 from Canon is about to beat all of them, offering an incredible 24mm-840mm focal length range. That’s a 35x optical zoom on top of the generous 24mm wide angle. If you thought the macro option might suffer as a consequence of this then think again. It’s rated at 0cm. That’s right, you can push the lens right up against the subject. So, the numbers sound amazing, just how well does it stand up in the cold light of day?

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Features
The SX30 is pretty much all about the zoom. Everything is based around it. Needless to say with such a colossal range your aperture, image stabilisation and ISO range become very important. The good news is that at the wide angle end you get f/2.7 and at the end of the telephoto it’s f/5.8. There’s lens-shift image stabilisation in the system that consists of one Hi-UD lens, one UD lens and one double-sided aspherical lens. Canon has put a lot of effort into getting as good a quality lens as possible onto the camera. The 14.1Mp CCD sensor is backed up by the DIGIC 4 with iSAPS processing engine and there’s an enhanced i-Contrast feature for brightening shadows. On the back, the LCD screen is 2.7in but only has 230k dots (not pixels) which makes it pretty mediocre. It does flip out and rotate to help with tricky shots, especially macro ones though. There’s also an EV as well but no automatic switching between the two. In fact it requires two presses of the display button to change between them and to change back. The first press adds a histogram to the current display.

See that this camera is clearly going to be aimed at the photographer rather than happy snapper, the mode dial concentrates on programmed modes. There are three specific scene modes and a general scene mode option, but with two custom settings and AP, SP and M modes, the target user is fairly clear.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS features: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS back   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS battery compartment
There’s no control wheel on the front of the camera, instead the joypad configuration has a rotary wheel but this isn’t that precise.   The Li-ion battery is powerful enough to keep the camera running throughout a day trip and is rated at 370 shots.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS back screen   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS top
The LCD screen flips out and rotates making macro shots in particular much easier. It’s not particularly hi-res though.   The SX30 features a fairly powerful pop-up flash and also has a well hidden sync socket for attaching camera-mounted flashguns.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Handling
There have been some complaints that it’s quite plasticky. Well, it isn’t that bad, but neither is it great quality. It does feel heavy in the hand at 601g and it’s fairly bulky. The handling is fine for shooting, but the dial on the back instead of having a proper control wheel is irritating because the feedback from it is sloppy. Because the zoom is so long it’s easy to lose track of things, so there’s a quick pull back out button to give you a wide view before returning to the focal length you were at. Unfortunately it’s right next to the thumb position making it all too easy to press against. Otherwise, handling is okay to get stable shots. The ultrasonic motor for the lens ensures it’s fairly quick and not too loud. The buttons on the back are all a decent size and easy to operate.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Performance
It’s only when you get a camera out in the field for the day that you get a good feel for how easy it is to use and how well it performs. So let’s say straight off, the camera exposes for the ground and unless you meter off something bordering the sky – like trees – then you run the risk of getting a white sky. Shooting a sunlit (low in the sky, not strong) landscape with a nice blue sky should be easy work for any digital camera, but the SX30 was a constant fight to retain the sky resulting in underexposed foregrounds. There is the i-Contrast option that brightens up shadows but this only works to a modest degree. Even so, it’s absolutely essential to use. All the metering modes were tried and even the evaluative ones weren’t fond of the sky.

There’s also an issue with colour fringing. Shooting dark objects against a white sky might be expected but objects against blue ones is particularly poor. Thankfully the lens stabilisation does a good job though invariably, at the long end of the zoom, more ISO is almost always needed.

Focussing, which is a key issue for this camera, is generally good. It’s not DSLR good, but it rarely had a problem with anything. There’s not a lot of options here, just moving the focus area slowly around, or using face detection. In fact, this is somewhat underwhelming as I would expect focus tracking as a minimum. Macro focussing at 0cm is commendable, but slightly misleading because the lens housing is fairly large so the front is some way from the CCD. More of an issue is avoiding shadows from the housing. But given the length of the optics, very handy.

Although there’s a sports scene mode, the burst mode of the SX30 is also fairly average. In a 10 second test it captured 7 hi-res images, so the touted frame rate of 0.6fps bore out. There’s also movies, but again, only at 1280x720, 30 fps, rather than full HD.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS losing highlights   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS sun in frame
There’s no great range of tones here but the reflection on the front of the sports car has blown out showing poor dynamic range.   Shooting with the sun in the frame produces lots of flare and sunspots. The good news is that the church still has plenty of detail.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS metering   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS backlit
It took numerous attempts to capture this scene successfully. Eventually, centre-weighted metering with shadow enhancement was used.   Shooting into a very bright, backlit scene with evaluative metering should produce a silhouette but there’s still detail in the cross so almost all detail is lost in the sky.

ISO and noise performance
Running the ISO series of tests the ISO80 mode is nice and clean. Any artefacts are more likely to come from the JPEG algorithms. ISO100 shots do show a little tonal variation in the shadows but nothing to even notice unless you really look for it. At ISO200 the variations show up in solid surfaces as well as shadows. At ISO400 it’s more noticeable and this is the key ISO because it’s the one you’ll most likely use in conjunction with the telephoto end of the zoom. The quality actually suffers here, and in conjunction with the colour fringing, doesn’t look too great on close up. At 100% though it looks okay. At ISO800 the noise is everywhere and while the suppression tries to keep a handle on it, this has the consequence that details tend to get obliterated and images are softer. The final ISO rating is 1600, no ISO3200 surprisingly, and this has noise throughout. It isn’t coloured noise though, but again, the result of the processing is that the image is messy and soft.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO80
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO80 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO100 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO200
ISO80 ISO100 ISO200
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO400 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO800 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Outdoor ISO1600
ISO400 ISO800 ISO1600

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO80
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO80 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO100 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO200
ISO80 ISO100 ISO200
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO400 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO800 Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Test chart ISO1600
ISO400 ISO800 ISO1600


Outdoor, sunny scenes tend to be fine but overcast ones under shade didn’t perform very well. Here, the cloudy WB gave a warm result, the sunny WB gave a perfect result (despite not being sunny) and the Auto WB was far too cold. Interior lighting with tungsten using the AWB setting is fairly aggressive and comes up with very neutral, even slightly blue results. Fluorescent as well seems also on the ball with aggressive colour correction. Back outdoors again, in mixed scenes with sun and shade, you often get blue in the shadows, but not with the SX30. However, it does tend to overdo it, resulting in golden colours becoming slightly weaker.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting.   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting.   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting.

Lens performance
Despite Canon’s best efforts, you don’t get this kind of range without some compromise. Clearly, there’s some with colour fringing, but also, at the wide angle end, the centre is sharp but the edges were pretty soft. There’s obvious barrel distortion on verticals but only what you would expect from a 24mm wide angle. An f/2.7 aperture is good news for low light conditions. Shooting with the sun in the frame produces streaks of light and also spotting. Great if you wanted special effects, not so if you didn’t. At the end of the telephoto end the quality is okay. It isn’t sharp at all, it can be a bit grainy looking and there’s not a lot of contrast but there’s enough detail to keep most people happy. Contrast is fine at wide angles.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Lens quality: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS wide angle   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS macro
The wide angle of 24mm means you can get a lot of scenery into the frame or shoot groups of people very easily.   The macro function is rated at 0cm which means that the lens can be pressed right up against the subject as it was here.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS telephoto   Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
This is the same position as the wide angle view above, but shows just how far that zoom will take you with 840mm.   With a 14MP resolution there’s plenty of detail in shots, but the overall image quality leaves something to be desired.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Verdict
If all you want is the biggest zoom on a compact with reasonable image quality, then stop reading, you’ve found your camera. If you wanted a general purpose camera then the metering, image sharpness, colour rendition, handling issues, colour fringing, lacklustre burst mode and so on are all negative issues. The Fuji FinePix HS10 is better across the board if you want the megazoom option. The thing is, the SX30 is almost the same size and price as an entry level DSLR. Yes, you get a lot of zoom for your money, but the hybrid compacts offer better quality and functionality, though at a higher price. Even with street prices now at the £350 point, there are just a few too many disappointing elements to the SX30 to really recommend it.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Pros
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Huge 35x optical zoom
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Close up macro
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Twist and rotate LCD

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Cons
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Heavy and bulky
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS White balance a bit iffy
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Exposure issues
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Mediocre quality

FEATURES Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
HANDLING Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
OVERALL Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS: Specification
Price £359.00
What comes in the box Camera, strap, UV lead, mains charger, lens cap, manual, software
Optical zoom 35x (24-840mm equiv)
Resolution 14.1Mp
Sensor size 1/2.3in
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4320 x 3240
Aspect ratio 3:2
Focusing system TTL
Focus modes Face Detection, Single, Continuous, Servo AF/AE
Focus distance 0cm
File types JPEG, MOV
ISO sensitivity ISO80 - 1600
Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection frame), Centre-weighted, spot (centre, FD frame or Flexizone AF frame)
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
Shutter speed range 15s-1/3200th sec
Frames-per-second approx 0.6fps
Monitor 2.7in LCD (230k dots)
Media type SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCPlus, HCMMCplus
Interface H-Speed USB, HDMI mini connector, AV output
Power Li-ion NB-7L (370 shots approx)
Size 122.9x92.4x107.7mm
Weight 601g inc battery and memory card

The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS costs £359.00 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

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Photographs taken using the Canon Powershot SX30 IS

Sea Beach(11)Beautiful BhutanHoly Woman..2aLike monkey ancestorWooden bridge in Punakha, BhutanOverloaded rickshaw at Sunderbon West BengalSquirrel as watchmanVery Unusual But Beautiful...A holy manLittle Patachitra painter with her own workLand of red crabsArt TeacherYellow hibiscusAmazing Maa Saraswati Idol Making, Kumartuli,West Bengal.Mimi

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ShaunsPics 10 87 United Kingdom
25 Feb 2011 9:08AM
terrable pitures not has good has my olympus sp800uz.

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