With design cues taken from a digital SLR, the SX30 IS appears to be the same as any conventional bridge camera at first glance, once all the rage as a DSLR alternative until mirror-less compact system cameras, such as the Olympus Pens and Panasonic GF series, came along to offer a further choice.
Almost everything about this camera is writ large, including the chunky shooting mode dial, shutter release button and surrounding lever for operating that whopper of a zoom. There's even a full-size hotshoe hidden beneath a cover and set back from the pop up flash. An equally big and obvious dedicated record button for shooting video sits top right of the LCD screen, which as well as being angle adjustable can be tilted screen inward to the body for added protection when the SX30 IS isn't in use. Rather disappointing, however, is that its screen resolution is only 230k dots, when twice that would have been more commensurate with the outlay being asked here.
We managed to fit three fingers around the Canon's handgrip, with plenty of room between our knuckles and the lens barrel, but it disappoints slightly in not featuring rubber padding or more effective finger moulding. Our fingers tended to slip about a bit on its non roughened surface - not what's required when you're trying to hold the camera rock steady for a telephoto shot.
For operation that is both smooth and silent the SX30 IS' lens has been equipped with a USM (Ultrasonic) motor, and here users can also take advantage of what Canon refers to as its Zoom Framing Assist function.
As anyone who's tried it knows, when you're zoomed in fully trying to track a moving subject there's the chance it will go out of frame and you'll have to pull back slightly to locate it again. However thanks to a dedicated shortcut button on the camera, a press of which prompts the framing to jump back to one of three preset positions, Canon has provided a time saver of sorts. Once subject is re-located and button released, the zoom jumps back to its original extended setting. We did though find ourselves accidentally hitting this control more than once, which was slightly irritating, as its location is exactly where your thumb comes to rest at the back of the camera. And, out of habit, we found ourselves more often than not just zooming in and out to re-compose the frame as necessary using the zoom lever proper.
Thankfully, courtesy of that silent motor, the full extent of the optical zoom can be utilised when shooting video (as well as stills) without ruining the audio, which isn't always the case. HDMI output is also provided under a plastic side flap alongside regular A/V and USB output, and twin stereo microphones sit unobtrusively just below the pop up flash at the front. There isn't, however, an input for an external microphone so if the onboard ones can't cope, you're stuck.