Five years ago, a zoom range beyond 12x was looked upon with awe. With digital cameras breaking all the megapixel limits, and signal processing becoming all-the-more powerful, zoom ranges also reached focal lengths hitherto unheard of. Canon’s S and SX series compact superzooms have been very successful in this category.
The 14.1-megapixel PowerShot SX30 IS joins the ever-impressive Canon inventory with 35x optical zoom, replacing the SX20 IS.
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
The build quality of Canon’s superzoom cameras have always impressed us. Right from the S1 IS, the contoured, ergonomic body has been turning heads. The SX30 IS is similarly constructed, with a tough polycarbonate body, grooved to fit perfectly in your hands. The accessory shoe has five contacts, and Canon has provided an innovative cover for the shoe. As in the case of its predecessors, the SX30 IS has a pull-out-and-swivel LCD, which is useful for shooting from different angles. The built-in flash, the battery/card chamber door, and the HDMI/AV Out terminal door—all provide a secure feeling. The tripod mount is metal, as required for a camera with a long zoom lens.
The 14.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot SX30 IS uses a 1/2.3-inch Type (6.16 x 4.12mm) CCD sensor for imaging and a DIGIC 4 engine for image processing. The camera features a 24–840mm equivalent f/2.7–5.8 optically stabilized lens, providing a whopping 35x optical zoom. This provides coverage from true wide-angle to extreme telephoto focal lengths. The lens is constructed with 13 elements in 10 groups, including one Hi-UD (Ultra-low Dispersion), one UD, and one double-sided aspherical element. The UD elements reduce optical aberrations, thereby reproducing high quality images across the zoom range. According to Canon, the optical image stabilizer (OIS) of the SX30 IS provides up to 4.5 stops advantage compared to a non-IS lens. This means you can obtain blur-free images even at a shutter speed 4.5 stops slower than the reciprocal of the focal length. This is a very essential feature for a super zoom, considering that chances of image blur gets magnified with increase in focal length. The PowerShot SX30 IS features Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and Voice Coil Motor (VCM). The silent and precise USM drives the zoom, while the fast, efficient, and quiet VCM drives the focusing mechanism. In normal mode, the lens focuses from 0 (zero) cm to infinity at the wide-angle end and 1.4 m to infinity at the telephoto end. In Macro mode, the it focuses from 0 to 50 cm at the wide-angle end.
The SX30 IS provides the options of Single AF, Continuous AF, Servo AF, and MF. The available AF methods are Face Detect, Center, and FlexiZone. Metering options are Evaluative, Center-weighted average, and Spot. The camera allows you to compensate exposure by +/-2 EV in 1/3-stop increments. Sensitivity of the SX30 IS ranges from ISO 80 to 1600. Shutter speeds range from 15 to 1/3200 sec. Shooting modes available are P, Tv, Av, M, Sports, SCN, Movie, and two custom modes C1 and C2. Scene mode provides the options of Smart Shutter, Low Light, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, and Stitch Assist. White Balance options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, and Custom. Still images are recorded in JPEG format (maximum size of 4320 x 3240 pixels), while movies are recorded in MOV format (maximum quality 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 fps).
The built-in flash of the SX30 IS has a range of 50 cm to 5.8 m at the wide-angle end, and 1.4m to 2.8m at the telephoto end, presumably at Auto ISO (Canon does not mention this). The flash modes are Auto, On, Slow Synchro, and Off. The camera has an accessory shoe, which can accept compatible Canon external flashguns. The SX30 IS uses a 2.7-inch, approx. 230,000-dot TFT color LCD. The panel can swivel and rotate, providing approx. 175-degree swivel angle and approx. 270-degree rotational angle. In addition to this, the camera has a 202,000-dot electronic viewfinder. The PowerShot SX30 IS accepts SD and MMC format memory cards for external storage. It is powered by an NB-7L Li-ion battery pack (included). The device weighs approx. 601g including battery and memory card, and has dimensions of 122.9 x 92.4 x 107.7 mm (w x h x d).
The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, with its intuitive design and ergonomic body, is comfortable to hold and easy to use. The swivel-and-rotate LCD screen provides maximum flexibility while attempting self-portraits and low/high-angle shots. Though it is difficult to frame your images through the EVF, it provides better stability while operating the camera. This, aided by the OIS, helps you to obtain blur-free images even at extreme focal lengths. The 35mm-equivalent focal lengths are marked on the lens barrel, which is quite useful. The camera controls are all within easy reach. The vertical control dial is comfortable to use. The built-in flash of the SX30 IS has to be raised manually to enable it, and pushed down to its original position to disable it. This eliminates the need to browse through the menu to disable the flash. A dedicated ‘record’ button enables quick video recording, and is a welcome feature.
The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS performed well in our tests. AF was reasonably fast, and the camera focused well even in macro mode. Images were reasonably sharp throughout the zoom range, and we ascertain that f/5.6 was the sweet spot. We did not observe any darkening of corners at wide-angle, with the lens wide open, which is highly impressive. Slight flare was observed, along with prominent purple fringing. The lens controlled distortion surprisingly well. Apart from slight barrel distortion observed at the wide-angle end, it produced distortion-free images throughout the zoom range. Image stabilization worked perfectly, though we could not accurately estimate the number of stops advantage it provided. White balance worked perfectly, rendering colors true to the original. Slight color cast observed under incandescent lighting on Auto White Balance could be easily corrected in Photoshop.
Native image size of the PowerShot SX30 IS was 10.8 x 14.4 inches at 300 ppi. At 16.67 percent screen size, the images were noise-free up to ISO 400. At 25 percent screen size, we did not observe any change in the noise characteristics, except for slight softness at ISO 800. Observed at 33.33 percent screen size, ISO 400 exhibited slight noise. At 50 percent screen size, ISO 200 too exhibited slight noise, but the images were perfectly usable up to ISO 400.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS retails at an MRP of Rs.28,995. At this price, the camera is very good value for money.
Design and Build Quality 18/20
Key Features 17/20
Value for Money 17/20
+ 35x zoom
+ Optical Image Stabilization
+ Excellent Performance
+ Swivel-and-rotate LCD
– Noisy display at times
The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS features an optically stabilized 35x zoom lens. Packed with excellent features and exhibiting a no-nonsense performance, this camera is worth every penny. Though the SX30 IS might not deliver the same image quality that a D-SLR offers, it could be a credible alternative for those seeking an affordable camera for travel and everyday photography.