Review – Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

2 Apr 2011

John Kennedy gets to play with the new Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, a DSLR-styled camera with an astonishing 35x zoom lens capable of shooting high quality HD movies and professional stills.

My history with cameras has always been patchy. My very first SLR camera, an East German Practika that I bought when I was 18 with the proceeds of my pay from a week away with the good old FCA had a collapsing mirror within it, causing endless frustration. Then I kept losing lens caps and even as I fumbled my way through darkrooms and figuring out the various chemical mixes, exposure times, etc, the smell of sulphur was always there and I have come to view the world of photography with a certain reference. Mainly because I sucked at it.

When digital cameras arrived I thought I was saved and invested the proceeds of a minor Lotto win in a tiny 8-megapixel Samsung digital camera which I still use occasionally. As the years have gone by and SLRs are now digital, they are still nonetheless a little complicated in my opinion and I have to laugh at seeing novices like myself carting around big expensive digital SLRs with massive lenses that they keep on ‘Auto’. I think it’s the equivalent of owning a massive 4×4 Range Rover and living in the suburbs with nothing more arduous to climb than the occasional speed bump.

I occasionally borrow digital SLRs to bring to events like CES and Mobile World Congress to shoot video footage and try and get authentic shots of products I get to look at and people I am fortunate enough to talk to. In the past, Sony DSLRs and the office Canon DSLR have served me well. Although I did lose the lens cap for the Canon on my last jaunt.

35x zoom lens

So it was with a high degree of expectation that I jumped at the chance to review the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. Why? Well, it’s a DSLR-styled camera that is what it is. It’s not pretending to be a full SLR but if you want it has astonishing horsepower – it boasts a remarkable 35x zoom lens.

You see, it looks the part, it can perform against the best of digital cameras and is astonishingly versatile and easy to use. It’s 35x image stabilised optical zoom provides a 35mm equivalent to a focal range of 24mm to 840mm.

My initial first impressions and the wow factor for me was how compact the camera was, yet it weighs only 600g – another key point if you are tired dragging heavy equipment around. Its hard and plastic body, however, still felt a little on the fragile side to me and I wonder just how much of a beating the camera can take.

A winner for me was not only its versatility and the great shots you can get from a 14.1-megapixel camera but the size of the 2.7-inch LCD screen at the rear which also has a handy tilt capability, which could be useful if you’re at an event and shooting from an audience, for example.

But the camera’s real advantage and the factor that will set it apart from all the competition is its 35x zoom. Never have I beheld a device that is capable of zooming so far and yet be so compact and small. The beauty of the technology can be discovered in the image stabilisation feature that once you have zoomed as far as you want to it corrects itself and settles into a workable focus.

PowerShot SX30 IS

When you compare the PowerShot SX30 IS with the higher-end Canon devices, like the 550D for example, which to the uninitiated could be like trying to drive the Space Shuttle, the SX30 IS gets you right to the functions you want quickly and easily.

For example, you just want to record a HD movie. The record button is helpfully large and is located right beside the viewfinder. At the same time, seasoned Canon experts won’t be disappointed at this simplicity because many of the hallmark controls of any Canon device are also in the usual places.

It’s simply a well-designed product, compact, versatile, powerful but not complicated. Here’s to good engineering and product design. The camera comes with an elegant soft leather strap.

Another plus has to be the lithium-ion battery. I charged it for less than one hour and one week later I’m still using the camera intermittently without any significant loss of battery life. So no power leakage is apparent.

The PowerShot SX30 IS matches power with simplicity and is ideal for the user who wants to shoot quality HD stills and video with no fuss. The camera has an RRP of €549, including VAT.

PowerShot SX30 IS

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years