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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS review




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Though for the best image quality a digital SLR typically wins hands down at the consumer lever, attaching a whopping lens to such a device isn't always practical nor affordable. The alternative therefore is to invest in an enthusiast targeted bridge or super zoom camera. Until recently the FujiFilm FinePix HS10 and Olympus SP-800UZ were the top dogs in the super zoom kennel, parading their ample non interchangeable 30x optical zoom lenses for all to see.

But now there's a new, um, dog, in town: the 14.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, which, in spite of its slightly misleading model number, edges ahead by offering a 35x optical zoom. This at the time of writing makes it the world's biggest super zoom, as least as regards the breadth of its focal range, here an equivalent 24-840mm in 35mm film terms. As you can see from our hands-on piece, it is capable of taking in the full beauty of natural landscapes and getting up close and personal for candid snapshots, it's enough to turn any amateur snapper into a potential member of the paparazzi.

Despite a slightly plastic-y looking build, grip the SX30 IS (the suffix indicating 'image stabilisation' of the lens shift variety which here offers up to the equivalent of 4.5 stops) in one hand and it dispels initial worries by feeling unexpectedly rugged and is almost a match for an entry level digital SLR in terms of size and shape. With the sizeable rechargeable lithium ion battery and SD card inserted, the combined weight is 601g - a very close match for a lower end DSLR.

As with all super zooms - perhaps here 'mega' might be even more apt - the pitch is that with a focal range this broad and feature set so rich, it doesn't matter that the lens on the front cannot be swapped as on a digital SLR. A vari-angle LCD screen also extends creative versatility by allowing the 2.7-inch 4:3 aspect ratio screen to be twisted and tilted and thus allow for those otherwise awkward-angle shots, when it's not always possible to get on eye level with its electronic viewfinder.

Also, despite the manufacturer's suggested retail price of a penny under £450 being a near match for the list price of a starter DSLR and standard 18-55mm zoom, to equip a DSLR with a comparable 35x lens would cost a lot, lot more - not to mention being physically impractical for most of us. Given that, the high-ish asking price starts to make more sense. Fortunately we were also able to find a more palatable street price around the £350 mark at the time of writing.

The above being said, we wouldn't expect quality here to be on a par with a DSLR, nor is it. It may be good but it's not that good, even if Canon does claim its lens has gone through the same rigid production processes as its EF series lenses for DSLRs.


January 17, 2011, 12:31 pm


I am afraid *30 zoom is not my type of camera even though this camera actually produces quite good images. I already have my Lumix FZ35.

Is Cliff Smith still on holidays?


January 17, 2011, 2:24 pm

@tean: Cliff Smith no longer works with us.


January 17, 2011, 3:22 pm

They should really put bigger sensor into this camera since it has quite a big price for a non-interchangeable lenses camera. With better sensors quite a few amateurs would switch to it.

This way it looks like a wasted potential for a truly great jack of all trades camera.


January 17, 2011, 3:55 pm

Your ISO performance comparison pages are beginning to let these reviews down.

As another user mentioned in the D7000 review, your use of the phrase "full frame" is definitely a bit misleading. In this review, some your 100% crops are referred to as "full frame", but when you show the entire final photo, that too is referred to as being the "full frame". Why don't you simply refer to the crops as "100% crops", as most other review sites would? It seems you're trying to dumb down for the benefit of the average, non-enthusiast consumer, but you're only confusing matters.

In this particular review, the area you've chosen for the 100% crop seems to be the worst possible area for evaluating ISO, as it has such a lack of contrast. The are barely any shadow areas, so it's impossible to evaluate this particular aspect of ISO performance. The photo as a whole also lacks a wide range of colour, which is pretty important for evaluating ISO performance.


January 18, 2011, 1:42 am

I'm not one to gripe,but I have to agree with Metalex with regards to the iso/noise test.

Simply impossible to ascertain detail/noise/saturation etc from the chosen area of crop and indeed the choice of subject for a noise test was bizzare! Not much of a mention with regards to dynamic range,or lack of either- though the outdoor shot kinda told its own story!

I may be wrong here,but I wouldn't mind guessing that most "bridge" camera users don't require more than 10mp. This obsession with manufacturers to "stay ahead of the game" with regards numbers is crazy. Fujifilm's HS20 due out soon is 16mp!!! WHY???

Buyers want clean,low noise images with good dynamic range. We are not printing images up to the size of a house!!


January 18, 2011, 11:11 pm

Bought this camera on 4 Jan. Absolutely delighted as it meets my expectations. Have been taking photos for 45 years with the usual slr's, zooms etc and a rucksack to carry (or lug around) the gear. Searched for something which dispensed with all the hassle (prefer to travel light these days) and finally found this camera after checking out in depth the Sony, Panasonic and Fuji. This is a solid camera which does the job both regarding photos and video. My Sony camcorder is now redundant. The IS is amazing. Just returned from taking photos of moon using 35x and 75x (the 140x was not sharp enough) hand held without tripod. The results are amazing. I am a bird man (feathered type) and this does the job very well. Bought for £356 from John Lewis and have claimed back £40 from Canon, although this offer may have now closed. In the right conditions there is no need to adjust in a photoshop type software. Any questions, queries just ask will be please to help out.


January 18, 2011, 11:22 pm

Thanks for your feedback. What we caption as a full res crop is a section of the original shot, displayed at full pixel-per-pixel resolution in the article. While some pictures are resized to fit into the page, the pictures behind the "Click to enlarge" message are displayed at full resolution in the browser.

As to the point about the ISO demo not being the best shots for the purpose of the demonstration, we will change this to provide a better illustration. This feedback came through after the next article to be published on TR was written, but we have taken note and hope you will notice the difference in future reviews.


January 19, 2011, 11:46 pm

I have an SX10 that has worked well and provided good service. It seems that the earlier review of the SX10 was more overall positive than the review of the current model SX30. I am curious as to others' impressions of the comparison. One thought is that perhaps the sensor was in some ways preferable on the SX10 (smaller less jam packed with pixels)?


January 21, 2011, 9:15 pm

Very accurate review. I tried the SX30 for three weeks and returned it to Amazon. Poor image quality, cheep feel and over priced. My Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 is still the champ!

Diva of Deception

August 2, 2011, 8:24 pm

On Sunday my Canon Powershot S3 IS died on me :( I take a lot of photos of performance on stage, without flash. I need a camera to replace mine which I loved. I am numberphobic! So I can't handle a SLR - this camera sounds great to me, especially with the zoom it has! Does anyone know how it performs in low light? My particular secret has been to take photos on sports setting close up as i can (12x optical) and many have been published in magazines. I edit a magazine for a club too and use all my photos for that... so......
Is this the camera for me? Please let me know - and if not, what would you recommend instead?


October 21, 2011, 11:29 am

I would like to know if the canon SX30 IS has manual zooming... like if i want to zoom on something specific....

And also could you recomend me if there is any other camera <$400 which is better than the canon SX30 IS...


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