Canon PowerShot SX30 IS review – Introduction

Bridge cameras provide the perfect compromise between size, cost and functionality. Although cheaper DSLRs have reduced their popularity, bridge cameras still have a lot to offer, particularly because of their huge zoom lenses.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS review – Features

The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS has a 35x optical zoom, the equivalent of a 24-840mm lens (in 35mm format), so it is ideal for a range of photographic subjects from landscapes to wildlife. That such a huge magnification is possible is partly down to the fact that the SX30 IS uses a small compact camera sensor, in this case a 14.1-million-pixel, 1/2.3in CCD sensor.

In real terms, the sensor in the SX30 IS measures around 6.16×4.62mm, which is staggering when you consider it has 14.1 million photosites. Of course, there is always the risk that using a sensor with such a high resolution could lead to significant image noise and a low dynamic range, but more on this later.

With such a large magnification, the lens also features optical image stabilisation, with Canon claiming that it offers as much as a 4.5EV increase in the usable shutter speed. I have to say that the stabilisation system is superb and keeps the image very steady, making the 840mm focal length usable even at slow speeds such as 1/125sec.

The SX30 IS also features a full complement of manual-exposure modes and a built-in flash with a hotshoe to allow external flashguns to be used. Composing images is achieved using a 2.7in vari-angle LCD screen, with a resolution of 230,000 dots, or a 202,000-dot electronic viewfinder. One major omission from the SX30 IS is the ability to save images as raw files.

Build, Handling & Performance

Canon Powershot SX30

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS – Build and Handling

Like other bridge cameras, the SX30 IS is styled very much like a miniature DSLR. It also handles like an entry-level DSLR, with many of the controls in similar positions. The menu will also be familiar to Canon users.

With the SX30 IS being very light and small, it is an ideal travel camera. Although the DSLR-style design means that it isn’t pocketable, it is certainly a far smaller and lighter option than carrying a DSLR with a 800mm f/5.6 lens attached.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS – Performance

Overall, the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS performs extremely well, which it should given its specification, and it is certainly on a par with other high-end Canon compacts. The camera takes just short of three seconds to zoom from 1x to 35x, which is respectable given the focal length.

The contrast-detection AF is good without being snappy, and while it does slow down at the maximum focal length, it is smooth and doesn’t hunt back and forth. For most casual photographers, the AF of the SX30 IS is more than adequate, particularly for social events, landscapes and holiday photographs.

Image quality

Image: The powerful 35x optical zoom makes the SX30 ideal for wildlife photography

With the same Digic V processing engine as other Canon compact cameras and DSLRs, the PowerShot SX30 IS produces images with the colours you would expect from a Canon model. In its default colour setting, images are bright and punchy but still look realistic. There is, of course, a selection of other colour styles that can be applied, as well as the option to create your own.

Aimed at the casual user, the SX30 IS will spend most of its time in AWB and evaluative metering mode, and both of these produce good results. Should the metering produce a poorly exposed image, there is spot and centreweighted metering available, although I found that a quick ±0.6EV adjustment solves most issues.

Putting 14.1 million photosites on such a small compact-sized sensor was always going to hinder image quality, but the maximum sensitivity is a sensible IS0 1600. Sadly, the sensor is overpopulated and noise is visible at ISO 400. At sensitivities higher than this, image detail is compromised by noise reduction. The dynamic range also seems to have been affected, as the small photosites cause highlights to become easily blown out and there is not much detail in shadow areas.

That said, below ISO 400 the images look good, and given that most users of this camera will rarely print their images larger than A4, they should be more than happy with the picture quality.

Our verdict

Canon Powershot SX30The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS is a great travel camera let down a little by having an overpopulated sensor.

However, for many people this camera could be the ideal first step into photography.