Powering up in an instant, with the broadest focal range of any mega zoom on the market we can forgive the SX30 IS the odd soft shot when attempting to shoot handheld at extreme telephoto, whereon the framing does tend to float around a bit before your very eyes and it's difficult to get composition exactly as you want it without first having two or three goes.
With roughly that number of attempts we were able to achieve commendably crisp results when shooting handheld at maximum zoom in broad daylight however, as our test shots indicate. Unsurprisingly when faced with busy scenes the camera has trouble deciding on whether it should be focusing on the background or your intended subject just in front of it, but again a couple of attempts and we got what we were after.
It helps that the camera is responsive. The zoom travels through its expansive range in a relatively swift three to four seconds. There is a low mechanical grinding noise as it does so, but this isn't off-putting, especially when shooting outdoors when you're surrounded by potentially distracting sounds anyway.
Although the SX30 IS' LCD screen may be slightly smaller than we expected at 2.7-inches, when 3-inches and above is the norm, plus its resolution is lower than we would have liked, it does the job. There's always the alternative of the 202k dot resolution electronic viewfinder just above, but with the LCD having the further advantage of not only being bigger but providing the ability to swivel and tilt as well - as on Canon's equally recent EOS 60D DSLR - we didn't find ourselves using the EVF all that often.
Overall when it comes to results from the SX30 IS, any grumbles we have to level at it are the usual ones. Images appear a little flat and distinctly two dimensional straight out of the camera, so require some modest tweaking for brightness and contrast at the image editing stage. Plus there is some slight (but not overly pronounced) loss of definition towards the corners of the frame when shooting at maximum wideangle. Neither are unexpected but we feel the need to be picky when this is a camera costing almost as much as a DSLR which would over much sharper and realistic results overall.