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.