Canon PowerShot SD30 / IXUS i Zoom Digital Camera - Compact, Fast and Cool
Written: Nov 11, 2005 (Updated Dec 29, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Once the new 5-Megapixel super-compact Canon PowerShot SD30 Digital Elph became available, I immediately got it. The camera is smaller than the SD400 or SD450, yet has the same 5-Megapixel resolution. And unlike the earlier SD20, it has optical zoom lens.
What Is Canon PowerShot SD30?
Available in several color (Rockstar Red, Tuxedo Black, Glamour Gold, Vivacious Violet), the Canon PowerShot SD30 is a super-compact 5-Megapixel stylish digital camera with metal case, a 2.4x optical zoom (38-90 mm equivalent), a 1.8-inch LCD screen, acclaimed fast Canon DiG!C II (DIGIC 2) Image Processor, 9-area smart AiAF auto focus, powered by a small rechargeable battery.
The camera stores pictures on SD (Secure Digital) or MultiMedia memory cards (16 MB SD supplied) and features fast USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to PC and Mac computers. It also supports direct printing (without computer) with PictBridge compatible printers. The camera comes with a camera dock that charges the battery and simplifies the USB image transfer and A/V connectivity.
In the Box
The camera comes with the rechargeable Li-Ion battery, camera dock, power adaptor, 16 MB memory card, wireless remote control with the battery, wrist strap, soft case of the same color as camera, USB cable, A/V cable, software and manuals.
The SD30 looks cool and is very compact. It is very miniature, looks cool, feels sturdy and heavy in your hand with its metal case. It looks and feels durable as well, but be careful not to scratch its matte finish. The camera is smaller than the SD400 or SD450.
It has a retractable lens that extends and has a lens cover that opens when the camera is powered on. When the camera is powered off, the lens retracts and the lens cover closes.
The camera has an on/off button on the top deck as well as a large shutter release button. The bottom of the camera has a metal threaded tripod mount and a dock connector.
The side has a battery and SD card compartment lid. The rear houses a bright 1.8-inch LCD monitor, control buttons and a menu control disk, which also serves as a zoom control (just like on the Canon A410). The camera has no viewfinder. The rear also has a sliding switch between review, movie and still picture taking modes.
The camera is very easy to use, aside from adjusting to use the menu control disk as a zoom control. I have not read the manual (I have not even opened it), but was able to use the camera and all its features in no time. The camera can be used by any member of the family and by photographers of all levels of expertise from novices to advanced ones (it will not give you much control over the shutter speed or aperture).
The camera comes pre-set to Auto mode. You do not have to do anything other than point and shoot - the camera takes care of the rest. The camera uses 9-area intelligent autofocus. You press the shutter release button halfway to make camera focus and the camera shows you (on the LCD screen) where it focused by displaying one or more green rectangles. Then you take the picture by pressing the shutter release button all the way.
If you want more control, you can select Manual mode, which is not a real manual mode where you would be able to select the shutter speed and aperture, but rather a mode in which you get access to selection of several parameters. In Manual mode, you can set the ISO (50-400), white balance (several presets and custom), use exposure compensation to make pictures darker or brighter, use picture effects, color replacement effects, and more.
The camera gives you instant access to the timer and flash mode selection (flash off, red-eye reduction, night portrait, auto flash) at a push of a button. The other controls are easy to use as well.
More on Features and Controls
The PowerShot SD30 is a replacement for the miniature 5-Megapixel Canon PowerShot SD20. The SD20 had no optical zoom and relied on its digital zoom instead. The SD30 has optical zoom, yet keeps the small dimensions.
The camera features selectable Evaluative, Center-Weighted and Spot metering modes. The aperture range is f/3.2-5.4 at wide angle/telephoto. The shutter speed range is 15-1/1,600 sec.
You can use the exposure compensation in the manual mode and it comes in handy in the sunset hours as the camera overexposes the picture trying to preserve the shadow detail. There are a bunch of scene modes as well, which help the camera tweak the focusing and exposure settings according to the type of scene.
The camera has a 1.8-inch LCD screen that has good resolution and good visibility in sunlight. In dimly-lit environments, the LCD increases its brightness (gains-up) and still stays fluid enough. The camera has no viewfinder.
The camera uses a compact rechargeable Li-Ion battery. According to Canon, the camera can take about 160 pictures on one charge of its miniature battery (400 with LCD off). I have not validated this claim, but I took more than 60 pictures and the low battery warning has not appeared yet. The battery can be charged in-camera while the camera is in its supplied camera dock.
The SD30 uses the latest version of Canon DiG!C processor - DIGIC II. It is the same processor used in larger Canon digital SLR cameras and it gives this Digital Elph amazing speed. The camera takes less than a second to power itself on in review mode and only about a second to power on and extend its lens in shooting mode.
The camera can capture images at about one per second in burst mode (I used Kingston Elite Pro SD memory card). In single-frame mode, the camera could snap pictures at about once every 1.5-2 seconds without flash. The flash recycle time is about 6-7 seconds.
The focusing takes less than a second and the shutter lag, when pre-focused, is almost non-existent.
The camera has a small flash that is quite weak. It is sufficient at up to 4-7 feet away. It has a recycle time of about 6-7 seconds.
Image Quality Settings
The camera lets you select between Super Fine, Fine and Normal compression levels (regardless of resolution). You can detect occasional JPEG artifacts in the mode of highest compression and some fine detail may be lost. But the two lower-compression modes (Fine and Superfine) are rather good. The available resolution modes are 5MP, 3MP, 2MP and VGA (640x480).
The camera's automatic white balance is usually quite accurate with the exception of the incandescent lighting, where you are better off either selecting Incandescent white balance setting or using the available manual white balance.
I have not read the manual, yet was able to use the camera in all modes. Usually, I am not a big fan of Canon menus but this Digital Elph is very easy to use. Not only I find the menus intuitive, they also appear very fast (instantaneously), unlike the menus on Canon A520 and A510, which take about a second to appear.
The zooming is a bit cumbersome as there is no dedicated zoom control, but you have to use the menu control disk (push the upper or lower portion of it). It works, but is not as convenient as having a dedicated zoom control.
The camera uses USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to transfer pictures to a computer. You can also remove the SD memory card and use a memory card reader (if you have one), but I used the camera with the docking station supplied. The file transfer is very fast at about 2,000 KB/s.
The camera can display a histogram in the review mode to show you if you have overexposed the highlights or underexposed the shadows. I useful feature when you don't trust the LCD. You can also rotate pictures in the review mode.
The SD30 produces well-exposed, sharp, contrasty and richly-colored images. The photos taken with the SD30 are sharp from corner to corner with only the very edges of the frame being slightly softer than the center at telephoto end. This will not be noticeable in printed pictures however since corners normally don't make it to the print due to the aspect ratio difference and other factors.
The lens exhibits slight chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in the areas of high contrast, but the amounts of it are acceptable.
The camera produces contrasty photos that have a pleasing "Canon" color with slight over-saturation and nice blue skies - the kind of color consumers like.
The image noise is absent at ISO 50 and cannot be found even in the shadows. It appears (slightly) at the ISO 100 and the detail level slightly decreases as the noise suppression in the camera tries to get rid of it. The noise gets more pronounced at ISO 200 and gets worse at ISO 400. Still, if you are printing 6x4 or 5x7 pictures, the noise should not be visible at all and will only be slightly visible at ISO 400 with larger prints. With 5-megapixel shots the SD30 produces, you can print your photos at up to 11x14 inches with good detail (ISO 50-100). The ISO 200 shots can be printed at up to 8x10.
The camera is compact, cool and capable, but I have some concerns. The camera has a rather weak flash. It also uses a proprietary dock connection and docking station, which some people like and some do not. It is also quite pricey: I paid $320 for my camera.
I highly recommend Canon PowerShot SD30 if you want a very small, cool yet capable camera with 5-megapixel resolution that produces excellent photos with print sizes of up 11x14 inches. It is extremely fast, easy to use and cool.
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Amount Paid (US$): 320
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Easy Enough for Anyone to Use