A few weeks ago Canon launched its latest flagship superzoom camera, the PowerShot SX30 IS. Sporting a lens that spans an enormous 35X zoom range equivalent to 24mm – 840mm, it is the zoomiest camera on the market. What's more it also packs in HD video recording, a fully articulated screen, an electronic viewfinder, a hot shoe that's compatible with all Canon SLR accessories, and has a standard 67mm lens thread for attaching accessories like filters. Today we got to have a play with one while touring the streets of London atop a red bus so here's a quick summary of our initial thoughts.
Given that enormous zoom range, it should come as no surprise that the SX30 IS is a bulky camera, being more akin to an entry level SLR than anything you could call compact. Indeed, it's even markedly larger than its predecessor the SX20 IS. While this means you have more bulk to lug around, it also means there's room to have a large hand grip, with a decent sized knurled section for the thumb. All the controls are also large and easy to operate. What's more, thanks to its plastic construction, it's not actually all that heavy. All told, particularly once you've attached the included neck strap and use it as a hand strap, it makes for a really comfortable and secure camera – perfect for wielding on the top deck of a bus!
The controls are very similar to that of a Canon SLR with a main mode dial on the top and a combined rotary dial and d-pad on the back. Joining these are a combined shutter button and zoom control and On/Off button on the top, as well as a host of buttons on the back including one dedicated to recording video, one for switching between the screen and viewfinder, and even a completely spare one above left of the screen ready for assigning your own favourite function.
Overall they feel reasonably intuitive and easy to use though switching between the display modes is rather frustrating: rather than have a sensor that detects when your eye is at the viewfinder and switching to it accordingly, you have to cycle through the four display modes to get to the one you want. The four display modes being Screen, Screen with histogram and framing grid, Viewfinder, and Viewfinder with histogram and framing grid.
The screen itself is also a tad small in comparison to some modern examples, at only 2.7in. It is, however, sharp and plenty bright enough for use in strong sunlight. Of course, birght sunlight is also when the articulation of the screen comes in particularly useful as you can avoid the glare of the sun by tweaking the angle of the screen without affecting your shot. There are arguments for a touchscreen being useful but we certainly didn't find ourselves pining after one in the time we were using it.
As for the viewfinder, it's rather small and suffers the usual problems of all such electronic viewfinders as compared with optical ones, i.e. there's a slight lag as the picture catches up with your movements and it looks grainy. These problems, are however, unavoidable unless you opt for an SLR. Also, overall it's still a useful addition for helping you bock out the world around you and find just the right shot. Also, with a dioptre adjustment you can adjust its focus so you can use it without glasses.
A hot shoe is hidden below a flap above the viewfinder and it can accept the full range of Canon accessories. In front of this is the pop up flash, which doesn't rise as far as we might hope, so will be more prone to creating red eye, but is reasonably powerful.