The Canon Powershot SX30 IS offers extreme lens power with a 35x zoom lens. It has a number of advanced features including fully manual operation. It is has plenty of scope and is likely to appeal to the more serious photographer.
There is a lot more to the Powershot SX30 IS than just a very long zoom. Picture quality is strong and there is a lot to like about this camera. It feels well made and sits nicely in the hand.
Why Buy The Canon Powershot SX30 IS
If you need extreme amounts of zoom then this is the camera for you. At the time of writing this review the Powershot SX30 IS has comfortably the longest zoom lens available. It has a wide range of other features and takes a good photo too.
122.9 x 92.4 x 107.7 mm
Key features include 14 megapixels. The zoom lens has a focal length equivalent to 24 - 840mm in 35mm format. This gives plenty of flexibility for wide angle photography as well as the more obviously ability to zoom in on distant subjects. The lens has a 67mm thread. This allows you to use filters to add impact of your photos.
The manual exposure modes are likely to appeal to the more serious photographer. Aperture priority and shutter priority are included as well as a fully manual mode. There are also two custom modes that allow you to save your favourite settings.
A feature I find very useful is the 2.7 inch vari angle LCD screen. There is also an electronic viewfinder available.
With this length of lens image stabilisation is an important addition to the Powershot SX30 IS.
Focusing options include manual focusing, a macro mode that can focus form more or less right in front of the lens and a servo focusing option. Servo focus helps the camera to track moving subjects.
High Definition movies can be recorded. Zoom can be used while recording and stereo sound can be captured too. There are also a range of scene modes you can call upon to improve the quality of your footage.
You can change the colours of your photos. Options exist for vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white, positive film, lighter skin tones, darker skin tones, vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red, plus the ability to set a custom colour.
There are three metering options (multi point, centre weighted and spot). You also have access to bracketing.
To further enhance flash options a hot shoe is available. This is normally hidden from view.
With a good sized grip on the front of the camera, a grove for your thumb on the back and a sturdy lens unit to grab hold of the Powershot SX30 IS gives an excellent hold. This helps to make sure the camera is still when taking a shot. This is of extra importance for a camera with a longer lens.
Starting off looking at the top of the camera you will find the main control dial, on / off button, zoom ring, shutter button and a flash options button. The control dial gives you access to the different shooting modes such as manual and automatic exposure. It also includes the most popular scene modes. Using the zoom ring I found the lens very quick to zoom in and out. When you want to use flash you pull up the top of the flash unit by hand.
The key feature on the back of the camera is the LCD screen. This pulls out away from the body and twists round through 270 degrees. This level of movement can make it a lot easier to line up a shot. The viewfinder is placed centrally above the LCD screen. It has a small wheel next to it allowing you to adjust focus to suit your own eyesight.
Either side of the viewfinder sit two buttons. The first gives you access to a selected shortcut. The second starts and stops movie recording. Having a dedicated movie button means you do not have to place the Powershot SX30 IS into movie mode before you can start recording a movie.
Next along is the thumb grove. Sitting to the right of the grove are three more buttons. The first is for zoom framing, the next places the camera in review mode and the third allows you to select the auto focus frame.
Situated inside a selection wheel are buttons for exposure compensation, ISO, focusing (macro, manual), accessing functions, confirming selections and the self timer. The selection wheel itself is used to speed up the process of choosing options. Below the selection wheel are further buttons for changing the LCD display and accessing the menu system.
Pressing the functions button gives you access to common settings. For example you can change white balance, use colour options, use bracketing and adjust the power of the flash unit. More options are found within the menu system. These include selecting digital zoom and blink detection. In all the menu runs to 21 options, there are also 16 set up options.
Image Quality - See Sample Images Below
Outdoor Scenic Shot 1
The Powershot SX30 IS produces a bright photo with plenty of colour. Some detail is lost in the lightest areas of the boats. This is at least partially due to the lower angle of the sun at the time of year the shot was taken. I tested this camera at the same time as the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ100 and that camera had a slight edge in this test when it came to sharpness and detail in the darkest areas of the photo.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 2
The sky in this shot takes on a very deep shade of blue. It appears that Canon have boosted levels as the sky did not look this blue when the test shot was taken. Other than that the Powershot SX30 IS puts it a fair effort. A small amount of purple fringing can be seen in the picture around windows and trees.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 3
In this shot you can see the extreme power offered by the long lens. The Powershot SX30 IS is able to get in extremely close from great distances. The danger is camera shake and it may be advisable to use a tripod and the 10 second timer whenever it is possible to do so. This will help to eliminate any picture blur. I have to say I am impressed with the result. Canon have pushed the boundaries with this length of lens, but the shot is sharp and purple fringing is controlled as well as can be expected.
I am happy with the sharpness of the shot. Purple fringing is more prominent in this shot around window edges. Purple fringing often creates difficulties with extra long lenses, so it is no surprise to see it appear in a number of shots with a 35x zoom lens. Apart from in a few situations you are unlikely to see it in smaller prints. It can also be cleaned up if you use packages like Photoshop.
The Powershot SX30 IS manages a sharply focused shot. The skin tones have a natural look to them even if I would prefer a little more pep to the colours in the photo. You should have no problem producing pleasing portrait shots outdoors in good light.
Indoor Portrait With Flash
Plenty of light is provided by the flash unit. This helps the Powershot SX30 IS to produce a bright, well lit photo. The lighting is spread evenly and reaches all corners. This shot compares very well with those taken by similar digital cameras.
Indoor Portrait Without Flash
As with the indoor portrait taken using with flash this is a very good effort. The edge is taken off the definition by the lower light as you might expect, but on the whole the Powershot SX30 IS copes well enough.
As with other cameras with larger lenses the quality for close up work is far better than that typically offered by smaller compacts. The amount of detail showing is excellent. According to the specification the Powershot SX30 IS can focus from more or less directly in front of the subject. The problem that can arise with this is that light is blocked out by the camera body and a shadow is caste on the subject.
The colours produced by the Powershot SX30 IS are strong and vivid. At times I felt they bordered on overpowering for my own personal taste. Whether you like to colours or not is likely to be a matter of your own opinion.
Noise is kept to a minimum in most situations. As with more or less any digital camera it will show in lowlight situations and shady areas.
Picture Quality Summary
Before I started testing this camera I was interested to see how it would cope with purple fringing. It is no surprise that it appears in various places, especially with this length of lens. Apart from that picture quality is very good indeed.
Shutter Lag Times
Single Shot With Flash
Five Shots With Flash
Turn on Time
Ease of Use
With so many features available ease of use is never going to be a strong point of this camera. To get the most out the Powershot SX30 IS you will need to be prepared to put time in to finding out how everything works.
Points I Like
Long lens - general features - picture quality
Where it Could Improve
The Canon Powershot SX30 IS is about more than just an extra long lens. There are plenty of features to get your teeth into and photo quality is very good too. If extreme zoom is something you need then this camera ticks all the right boxes.
Top Rated Cameras in this Category
Panasonic DMC FZ48 Rating 87/100
The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ48 is very hard to beat. It is up against some stiff competition, but the combination of features, image quality and pricing makes it the outstanding model in its category. When it comes to picture quality it has few weaknesses and its length of lens means it can cope with more or less any photo opportunity.
Read Review: Panasonic DMC FZ48 Review
Fuji Finepix HS30EXR Rating 86/100
The Fuji Finepix HS30EXR does offer a number of differences to rival Super Zoom or Bridge digital cameras. The main difference is the twisting lens barrel, but there are other handling aspects that make it that bit closer to a Digital SLR experience. In terms of features Fuji have packed in just about everything they can think of. Picture quality compares well against rival cameras and shutter response times are also impressive. This makes this camera a very attractive proposition if you are looking for a fully featured camera with a great deal of zoom power.
Read Review: Fuji Finepix HS30EXR Review
Nikon Coolpix L810 Rating 79/100
The Nikon Coolpix L810 offers something different as it gives you the power of an extra long lens, but with the simplicity of a point and shoot digital camera. This helps to make it somewhat cheaper than the more fully featured models with similar zoom power. Picture quality does not match up to the more expensive models in this category, but it is only if you are planning to make extra large prints that you are likely to see much difference between photos taken with this camera and those that give you that bit of extra quality. This camera is a good choice if you are looking for simple operation and a powerful lens.
Read Review: Nikon Coolpix L810 Review