The SX30 IS performed credibly overall, however there really is no free lunch - photography has always been about compromises. When you design a camera with a 35x zoom, the idea is create an optic that is not too large and heavy.
Speed is sacrificed (particularly at longer focal length settings) because a very long lens will obviously zoom and focus slower than a substantially shorter lens. The SX30 is a very good general purpose digicam and it will dependably produce acceptable to very good images for photo enthusiasts, casual shooters, family sports photographers, and aspiring wildlife shooters, but those seeking a camera that can dependably deliver critically sharp images should consider Canon's S95 or G12 models.
The DIGIC IV driven SX30 IS isn't the quickest camera in its class, but it is fast enough to function nicely as a general purpose digicam and it is quick enough to capture the decisive moment in all but extreme shooting situations. Simply put, the SX30 IS is quick enough to capture youth soccer or little league baseball, but it probably isn't quick enough to consistently capture extreme sports or professional athletes. The SX30 IS powers up promptly and shutter lag shouldn't present much of a problem - except when shooting rapidly unfolding sports/action or skittish wildlife. Shot-to-shot times are between 3 and 4 seconds - which is on the long side of average.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Canon PowerShot SX30||0.01|
|Fujifilm FinePix HS10||0.06|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon PowerShot SX30||0.35|
|Fujifilm FinePix HS10||0.64|
|Fujifilm FinePix HS10||7||12.3 fps
|Canon PowerShot SX30||∞||1.4 fps
|Pentax X90||5||1.4 fps
|Olympus SP800-UZ||10||1.2 fps
* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The Canon SX30 IS features the same TTL Contrast Detection AF system as its predecessor. It has three AF modes - single, continuous, and servo AF plus manual focus. In all exposure modes, the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera to subject distance to determine which AF point is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. The SX30 IS's default face detection AF mode is linked to the camera's exposure and WB systems. The SX30 automatically finds, locks focus on and then optimizes exposure for up to nine faces. The SX30 IS's auto focus is driven by the same ultrasonic motor (USM) and voice coil motor (VCM) technology as Canon's EF series DSLR lenses. AF is dependably quick, but the SX30 IS sometimes hunts for focus at the extreme telephoto end of the zoom.
The SX30's multi-mode pop-up flash provides an acceptable selection of artificial lighting options, including auto, flash on (fill flash), flash off, and slow synchro, plus flash exposure compensation at +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV increments. According to Canon, the maximum flash range is about 19 feet. Unlike most point-and-shoots, the SX30 IS also features a hot shoe for mounting Canon speedlites. Don't lose the removable cover for the hot shoe (use the included strap case) - a visible hot shoe completely changes the SX30's top deck look.
The SX20 IS was powered by four bulky and relatively heavy AA batteries. The SX30 IS draws its juice from a much smaller and lighter NB-7L rechargeable Canon lithium-ion battery. Canon claims a fully charged NB-7L is good for 400 exposures (EVF) and 370 exposures (LCD), but based on my experiences with the camera those numbers seem a bit optimistic.
The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS supports SD, SDHC, MMC, MMC+, HC MMC+, and the SDXC format (for memory cards larger than 32GB).
The Canon Powershot SX30 IS is a complex and feature-rich imaging tool, so it seems a little penny-wise and pound foolish to put the users manual on CD so you'll have to pack along a laptop if you want to peruse the manual in the field. There is a cursory "Getting Started" guide included, but it will only be useful for novices.
The PowerShot SX30's extraordinary focal length range makes Canon's newest PowerShot almost ideal for a broad variety of photographic applications including shooting group pictures in tight indoor venues, capturing expansive landscapes, nailing distant wildlife or in-your-face youth sports, and getting up-close macro shots of bugs and flowers.
When the SX30 is powered up, the zoom extends (and extends) from the camera body and when the camera is powered down, the lens retracts into the camera body and a built-in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Eight benchmark focal length settings (in 35mm equivalents) are stamped very visibly on the top of the inner lens barrel. Zooming is smooth and relatively quiet and the Zoom Framing Assist function makes it easier to re-acquire subjects at the extreme telephoto end of the zoom.
When light rays pass through a camera lens they separate into various color waves and dispersion (all colors don't focus at exactly the same point) can become a problem. Dispersion causes axial chromatic aberration - the fuzzy colored edge blurring image degrading phenomenon popularly known as purple fringing. The SX30's f/2.7-5.8 4.3-150.5mm (24-840mm equivalent) zoom is constructed of 13 elements in 10 groups and includes one Hi-UD element, one UD element (to reduce chromatic aberration), and one double-sided aspherical element.
A 35x zoom designed for a DSLR would be so long that you'd need a pick-up truck to transport it and so heavy that it would require three men and a boy to carry it. Canon's technical folks did a remarkable job - this lens is amazingly compact and astonishingly light-weight. But this is a super corrected lens, and as optical complexity increases, lens faults and optical aberrations are magnified exponentially. Images do show some visible corner softness and barrel distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) at the wide-angle end of the zoom range is noticeably above average. Pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) is (as expected) above average at the telephoto end of the zoom. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is also above average, but not as much above average as expected.
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