After abandoning plans to make an SLR my next camera, I narrowed by choices to the Pentax X90, the Fuji HS10, Panasonic FZ40, Olympus 800UZ, and the Sony DSC-HX1. Before making my decision I read many many reviews of each camera on the Amazon site and elsewhere. I studied photos taken with the candidates posted here and on Flickr. I visited stores like Best Buy, HH Gregg and others for some hands on looks. Tired of looking and confused by the choices, I finally bought the Canon SX 30, a camera near the top of my list of choices. I was swayed by that promising 35x zoom, the impressive miniature mode movies and stills I'd seen, the 14.1 mega pixels, and mostly by the irresistible $318 Black Friday special price. Considering what I paid for the Canon, I'm not terribly disappointed. Had I paid closer to its initial $400 + price, I'm sure I wouldn't have been as happy with the decision.
Recommend this product?
Details regarding features and specifications are available here and on any good camera site. I'll restrict this review instead to my experience with the Canon SX30is and my impressions after two months and many shutter snaps. The Canon s my fourth mega zoom or bridge camera; it replaced a Panasonic Lumix DMC with an 18x zoom.
ERGONOMICS AND CONTROLS
This camera has a learning curve, and I continue to learn as I use the camera. It's not a light camera, mostly requiring two hands to hold it steady especially when fully zoomed. I like that the flash flips up manually though I sometimes forget to lift it. That mega zoom really projects so be careful when taking a picture through a window or taking a close-up shot. I don't find the controls intuitive. Some settings require using the menu button, some the function button, some the display button , and some the four options around the function button. It's easy for a newbee to miss a shot while figuring out what to do. Example: Press the function button to delete one picture. Press the menu button to delete all of the photos. Of course, each button press is followed by others.
For 11 dollars from Adorama (on Amazon)one can buy a cheat sheet that summarizes how to access all of the camera's functions. How many cameras need one of these?
ZOOM - The zoom, I suppose, is as advertised though many of the impressive sample shots I saw prepurchase were taken with the digital zoom. Maybe it's zoom greed, but the 35x isn't as impressive as I thought it would be, though still quite good. The 140x fully zoomed in digital is very impressive but the clarity of the shots at that length are understandably soft. At that length picture quality is improved by using a tripod or some other form of support. To demonstrate my zoom greed, I purchased a cheap 2.2x teledapter even though Canon advises against it. The heavy accessory screwed on to the adapter fine but the pictures with it were terrible.
PICTURE QUALITY - For me it's been uneven. Even many of my “keepers” have to be tweaked with a photo program. Occasionally I'll end up with a Wow quality picture, even a few rare ones right out of the box. I have least success using the auto mode and better success using the specific settings, especially the P mode. The vivid mode is wonderful and portrait is good. Face detection has been fine for me. In the Scene modes, I like low light, super vivid, snow, color accent and fish-eye effect. I've had lots of fun with the fish-eye effect and taken some hilarious pictures with it. Color swap is fun and can produce some awesome results, but for me it's tricky to set up the colors to swap.
ACCESSORIES - Since the camera lens isn't threaded I bought Canon's lens adapter for adding filters. I keep a UV filter on all the time instead of using the lens cap and also have a circular polarizer and the aforementioned 2.2x tele conversion lens. The polarizer works fine but is unnecessary since the vivid setting produces deep blue skies by itself. The camera also has a setting to specifically emphasize specific colors, including blue.
Last random thoughts of a Potato Head
This is my fourth bridge or mega zoom camera. I'm always upgrading to get more zoom or mega pixels. My best camera was a Sony DSC H1 camera with 12x lens three cameras ago that with a dedicated Sony teleconverter almost matched the zoom of this Canon and took better pictures.
In auto mode the focus can be fickle and I've missed some good shots because of it.
Can't force flash in auto mode, but since I don't use it often....
I really like the feature that lets you zoom out and then in again with the press of a button when you've lost your target. Great feature.
The articulated LCD screen was initially no big deal for me. I seldom used the feature didn’t see a need for it. Then one day I used the articulated screen while the camera sat stationary on a pier as I took photos of a water bird on the other side of the inlet. It was almost as good as having a tripod. The LCD screen is good and brightness can be adjusted. In very bright light the viewfinder is a blessing. I do wish the screen was a tad larger, like the three inch screens on my other two cameras.
Face detection works well and battery life is good. If charged ahead of time, the battery should through a day of serious picture taking.
Colors are mostly accurate. With tweaking of settings using the P setting, I can get good pictures of my two white dogs. Getting good pictures of white animals can be difficult.
Haven't used it often, but movie mode is more than acceptable and the dedicated movie button is very convenient. I'm disappointed with the miniature mode films I'm taking but still working on it.
The photos that impressed me most are those of a red tailed hawk that was in a large, shadowy cage. Using the low light setting and 35x zoom I got some very good pictures. Somehow the bars of the cage in the foreground disappeared in the pictures that almost look like those of an uncaged bird.
Finally - For the same price, I might buy this camera again. The Canon SX30is has so many features that one who can remember how to use all the controls, has a good eye, and is creative can have lots of fun with this camera. Just want a simple point and shoot? Keep looking.