Canon PowerShot A630 Overview
by Mike Pasini
Hands-on Preview: 11/22/06
Full Review: 01/30/07
The Canon PowerShot A630 couples an 8.0-megapixel CCD imaging sensor with a 4x optical zoom lens that offers a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 35-140mm, a moderate wide-angle to a somewhat more generous telephoto than you'll find on most compact cameras. Maximum apertures vary from f/2.8 to f/4.1 across the zoom range. The A630's sensor yields an ISO range equivalent to 80 to 800, while shutter speeds from 1/2,500 to 15 seconds are possible.
Designed with ease of use in mind, the Canon A630 offers both a range of features that make it approachable to beginners, as well as the ability to exert more control over the photographic process. For the former category of users, there's a fully automatic mode, and a generous selection of thirteen scene modes. For the latter, you'll find Manual, and Aperture Shutter Priority exposures possible, plus preset, or manual White Balance, and three Metering modes. A VGA-or-below Movie mode captures videos at a maximum of 30 frames per second, for up to one hour (or one gigabyte) per clip.
The Canon A630's USB connection allows easy offload of images from the SD, or MMC card to a Mac, or PC -- and unlike some manufacturers who are still clinging to the older USB 1.1/2.0 Full Speed standard, Canon has adopted a much swifter USB 2.0 High Speed interface in the Canon A630. For users without a computer (or those who like to make quick prints without the hassle of touching their PC), you can bypass the extra step completely, and print directly from the PowerShot A630 to a Canon, or other PictBridge-enabled printer via the same fast USB connection.
Though it has a relatively large 2.5 inch LCD, Canon kept a real image optical viewfinder in the A630's design. Not only can optical viewfinders help to save battery life by turning off the LCD display, they're also useful when ambient light makes it tough to see many LCDs properly. Power comes from four AA batteries, and Canon includes single-use alkaline disposables in the product bundle. Also included with the Canon A630 is a not-so-generous 16MB MultiMediaCard. If you don't already have some, you'll want to purchase some rechargeable batteries, and a larger flash card along with the camera.
Canon PowerShot A630 User Report
It seems to me that if you can't find a Canon that matches your requirements, you just haven't looked very carefully. The Canon lineup is so rich with options it's often hard to tell one model from another. The Canon A630 might, for example, be easily confused with the A640, except it has an 8.0-megapixel sensor and doesn't support remote capture. Neither of which strike me as a problem. Especially when the savings amounts to $100.
Canon shares my opinion, it seems, because the manual for both models is identical. Or I should say the "manuals" because you need a set (the Basic, the Advanced, the Printing manuals). The A640 is black while the Canon A630 is silver, but the bodies are otherwise identical.
It's rather astonishing you can get so much camera for $300 these days -- especially considering its extensive exposure options. The Canon A630 is a classic.
Design. And there's some sweet stuff in these bodies, too. A large 2.5-inch LCD is always welcome, but these are what Canon calls Variable LCDs (articulated ones, that is, that swing out and rotate up or down so you can compose a shot with the camera over your head or down low). Canon has also included an optical viewfinder on the A630, which despite its approximate rendering of the scene is indispensable when the glare of the sun makes it impossible to see what's on the LCD. Although here again, having an LCD you can move independently of the lens means you can often eliminate that glare.
As with other A-Series Canons, the A630 has a grip you can get your hands on thanks to the four AA batteries it uses for power. Although it's substantial, the grip isn't too fat to keep the Canon A630 out of your pocket, although I tended to prefer to simply swing it from my wrist so it was ready for action.
The Canon A630 doesn't cheat on exposure options either. There's green Auto for those times when you have other things on your mind, and Program when you want to have at least EV control over exposure. But there's also Shutter and Aperture Priority modes. And -- drum roll -- a full Manual mode as well. Add a Custom mode to save a special configuration and there's really little you can't do with this digicam.
On the other end of the Canon A630's Mode dial, you have Movie, Panorama, and Special Scene modes. There's also the primary Scene modes: Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scene.
The controls and menu system have, by now, evolved into a package that's really comfortable to use once you learn how to play the game. In Auto, you don't worry about the buttons at all. In Program, just hit the Canon A630's EV button and change the exposure with the Left or Right arrow keys. Shutter and Aperture Priority modes use those arrow keys to adjust their values, too. Manual uses the EV button to toggle between aperture and shutter speed, both adjusted with those same arrow keys.
In short, this is a well-design machine.
Display/Viewfinder. The 2.5-inch LCD is large by any standard but it only displays 115,000 pixels. The big news, however, is that you can swing the Canon A630's LCD out from the back of the camera and twist it up or down. You can even flip it back so it pops right back into the rear panel as if it were an ordinary LCD.
Once you've used an articulated LCD, you'll never want to be without one.
To illustrate the amazing angles you can shoot from without even twisting your neck, I set the Canon A630's LCD so I could look down at it while the camera poked its nose into the corner of a bookcase where it could see a few titles in Macro mode. To shoot this shot with an ordinary LCD, you'd have to put your eyeball in line with the back of the camera. You'd be squatting, that is, with your head bent back.
More typically, you just want to shoot from a lower or higher angle than eye level. After all, everyone knows what things look like from eye level. But drop the Canon A630 down to floor level, angling the LCD up so you don't have to lie flat on the floor, and you'll get some marvelous shots of children at play in the low-rise world they inhabit. And when you're straining your neck to look over the crowd in front of you, just raise your arm with the Canon A630's LCD angled down to get an unobstructed shot from above.
On of my favorite photo tricks is to shoot at angles other than eye level. An articulated LCD makes this easy to remember and fun to do.
Performance. I'm sensitive to slow startups and reluctant shutdowns. They actually change my behavior. If they're really slow, I leave the camera behind. If they're annoyingly slow, I leave the power on and hope the thing wakes up from sleep fast. But I prefer to manage my battery life by shutting down when I won't be taking a shot for a while and turning the camera on just before I want to shoot.
The Canon A630 is, I'm happy to say, responsive enough that I can do that. I never seemed to miss a shot waiting for it to start up and I certainly never hesitated to shut it down for fear that starting it up again would take too long.
Shutter lag is increasingly a thing of the past and the Canon A630 is responsive here, too. I didn't happen to shoot any action shots with it, but from the time I decided to press the Shutter button and the actual trip of the shutter were not far from simultaneous.
Shooting. I took the Canon A630 on two outings. The first was a bike ride up Twin Peaks to shoot my usual cityscapes. It was an usually clear Fall day, so the A630 took some fabulous shots, among the best I've gotten there.
But one of the things I like to try up there is digital zoom. Canon's digital zoom isn't bad at all, a far cry from the old resamplings that led Dave to warn against ever using it. It may not be quite as satisfying as a few other companies manage (you can tell a digital zoom shot from a telephoto one), but don't feel like you have to avoid it.
Maybe it was the clearness of the air, but my shots of very distant objects came out much better than I'm used to. The Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge are usually disappointing. They're flat here (nothing Auto Levels can't fix in a mouse click) but they fill the frame with detail.
You see this particularly in the three-shot sequence that starts at wide angle and includes the rock wall right in front of me. There just happens to be an accommodating post right there that lets me steady the camera without hauling a tripod up the hill. From that same position, the next shot shows the full telephoto crop. And the last in the sequence shows full digital zoom. That's really quite a range at 16x (4x optical with 4x digital) and, as the bridge shots show, on a sunny day you don't need image stabilization to enjoy it.
The other shoot was a walk through the Berkeley on a warm spring afternoon. None of the street scenes enjoyed much reflection or setup time. It was turn and fire, turn and fire. The campus scenes are familiar shots to me but, again, I didn't linger.
What's interesting to me about these is that despite the high contrast of the autumn light, I don't see the usual blown highlights and oversaturation common with many consumer digicams. They look very much like what I saw. And I didn't fiddle with the Canon A630. You'll notice these are all 0.0 EV.
Now that's a camera. You see a shot you like, you fire it up, compose the scene on the LCD and shoot. Take a second or two to review it, smile and shut it down as you continue on. See two or three things you like, leave it on, compose and shoot. When you get home, take a more careful look on your monitor and be even more pleased with the results. The Canon A630 knew what it was doing even when I didn't have time to check. I got great shots with little effort, all the time.
- 8.0-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 3,264 x 2,448 pixels
- 2.5-inch color LCD monitor with 115,000 pixels and rotating, swivel design
- Real-image optical viewfinder
- Glass, 4x, 7.3-29.2mm lens (equivalent to 35-140mm zoom on a 35mm camera)
- 4x digital zoom
- Nine-point auto and manual focus modes, with adjustable AF point
- Auto-focus assist light
- Full Automatic, Program auto-exposure, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and full Manual exposure modes, as well as three Scene modes, several Special Scene modes and Movie mode
- Manually adjustable aperture setting ranging from f/2.8 to f/8.0, depending on lens zoom position and shutter speed
- Shutter speed range from 1/2,500 to 15 seconds, depending on aperture
- Adjustable ISO from 80 to 800 equivalents, plus Auto and High Auto modes
- Built-in flash with five modes and flash compensation setting
- White Balance setting with eight modes, including a manual option
- SD Card memory storage, 16MB card included
- Power supplied by four AA batteries or optional AC adapter
- Canon Digital Camera Solution software version 29.0
- Audio notes with still images
- Stitch-Assist mode for panoramic shots
- Continuous Shooting mode
- My Color mode for color adjustment
- Color swap mode
- Self-Timer mode with two- or 10-second delay, plus a Custom setting
- Custom Setting mode for saving frequently used settings
- DPOF and PictBridge printing compatibility
- Print/Share button for direct printing and image transfer
In the Box
The Canon A630 ships with the following items in the box:
- PowerShot A630 digital camera
- Wrist Strap
- USB Cable
- 16MB SD Memory Card
- AV Cable
- Four AA alkaline batteries
- Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk CD
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. (These days, 512MB to 1GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.)
- Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
- Waterproof case
- Conversion lens adapter
- Wide Converter
- Tele Converter
- High power external flash
It's easy to see why Canon PowerShots continue to be popular. Their design is user friendly and well-built, the pictures are great, and they're easy to shoot. The Canon PowerShot A630 continues in that tradition of dependability, sporting an 8.0-megapixel CCD, a very good quality 4x optical zoom lens, and a big 2.5 inch swiveling LCD screen. It offers everything from full automatic to full manual exposure control, with a healthy set of Scene modes thrown in to make it easy to bring back great-looking photos from what might otherwise be challenging situations. It has a great movie mode, and its superb lens delivers great sharpness across the frame. Thanks to its high-speed DIGIC-II processing chip, it's also very responsive, and its movie capability is impressive as well. Bottom line, like its brother the A640, the Canon A630 is a classic; just an excellent all-around digital camera, and an easy choice as a Dave's Pick.