Canon SD630 Review

 
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Canon SD630 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly oversaturated red and blue tones, but good overall accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Canon PowerShot SD630 doesn't pump the reds like we're used to seeing from Canon. In fact, the SD630 is surprisingly tame in terms of color saturation. We used to see a fairly standard pattern we called "Canon color" but we're seeing a far more controlled approach to color in the new line of Canon cameras. The Canon SD630 is more tame than any other to date.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Canon PowerShot SD630 also made some changes, shifting hues quite dramatically in the cyans and oranges. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Pretty good color with the Manual white balance setting, if slightly pink. Higher than average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.3 EV Incandescent WB +1.3 EV
 
Manual White Balance +1.3 EV  

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was quite warm in Auto white balance mode, though the Incandescent and Manual settings produced more accurate color. (The Manual setting produced the best results overall, though slightly pinkish.) The Canon PowerShot SD630 required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, higher than average for this shot. Overall color looks good, despite the slight pink cast, and the blue flowers aren't too far off the mark. (Many digital cameras give these flowers a dark purplish tint.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Pretty good color accuracy, and good exposure as well.

Auto White Balance, +0.7 EV Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots were generally a little bright, with strong highlights, but still pretty good overall. Our test shots required less positive exposure compensation than average outdoors. Shadow detail looked good, despite slight limitations. Overall color was fairly accurate, if slightly pale outdoors.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,200 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,250 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,700. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines.

Strong detail to 1,200 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,200 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images overall, though still good definition. Some slight noise suppression in the shadows.

Somewhat soft overall, evidence of noise suppression in the shadows (click image to see full shot). Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Canon PowerShot SD630's images are hint soft overall, without strong over-sharpening or edge enhancement on the camera's part. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows some noise suppression in the darker areas of Marti's hair, though quite a few individual strands are visible.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, very high noise that blurs fine detail at the higher settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO "HI"

The Canon PowerShot SD630's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. (Though at ISO 80, the overall image was a hint blurry due to motion during a very long exposure of 1/3 second.) Starting at ISO 400, noise increases to a high level, with stronger blurring in the shadows. At the 800 and HI ISO setting, noise is quite high with some loss of detail, and skin tones take on a purple cast.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Strong detail and high resolution, with good color and exposure. Very good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and much darker conditions.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Canon PowerShot SD630 performed pretty well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, though contrast is slightly high. The shadow areas hold onto a fair amount of detail, but with some visible noise suppression. The SD630 required less positive exposure compensation than average at +0.7 EV, as the image at +1.0 EV was much too bright overall. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
80
Click to see SD630LL0803.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL0804.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL0805.JPG
13 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL0806.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL0807.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
Click to see SD630LL1003.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL1004.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL1005.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL1006.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL1007.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see SD630LL2003.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL2004.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL2005.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL2006.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL2007.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see SD630LL4003.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL4004.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL4005.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL4006.JPG
5 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL4007.JPG
10 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see SD630LL8003.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL8004.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL8005.JPG
1.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL8006.JPG
2.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630LL8007.JPG
5 sec
f2.8

 

Low light:
The Canon PowerShot SD630 performed very well under low lighting, capturing bright images with good color down to the darkest light levels we test at. The only exception here is at the ISO 80 setting, which was limited to the 1/8 foot-candle light level, about 1/8 as bright as average city street lighting at night. The camera's autofocus system worked fairly well, able to focus on the subject down to a little above the 1/4 foot-candle light level unassisted, and down to the darkest light level with the AF assist lamp. Keep in mind that the long shutter times here demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Pretty good flash range and coverage, though a slight orange cast indoors under incandescent lighting. Our standard shots required average positive exposure compensation.

35mm equivalent 105mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.0 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.0 EV

Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle but much more uniform at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Canon PowerShot SD630's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average here. There's a very slight orange cast from the incandescent lighting, but overall color is good. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode also required a +1.0 EV exposure boost, but coverage is more even from the longer exposure time. The orange cast is stronger, however.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
Click to see SD630FL06W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630FL07W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630FL08W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630FL09W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
Click to see SD630FL10W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft
Click to see SD630FL16W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
Click to see SD630FL06T.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
Click to see SD630FL07T.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
Click to see SD630FL08T.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
Click to see SD630FL09T.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
Click to see SD630FL10T.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9
11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft
Click to see SD630FL16T.JPG
1/60 sec
f4.9

 

The Canon SD630's flash remains bright to about 10 feet at wide angle, and to about seven feet at telephoto before intensity falls off. This almost agrees with Canon's own spec of 11 feet for wide angle, and 6.6 feet for telephoto.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, very usable 13x19 inch prints. High ISO images break new ground, with the highest settings still usable at 8x10.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Canon SD630, we found that it had enough resolution to make very crisp 11x14 inch prints. Though slightly softer, even 13x19 inch prints were still good enough to hang on a wall. At high ISO, chroma (color) noise is pretty well suppressed. ISO 400 photos look good printed at up to 11x14 inches, though with loss of detail and some color dampening. ISO 800 images were good to 8x10, with plenty of grain on close inspection, but they looked fine at arm's length. Colors, especially noticable in skin tones, degraded as ISO went up, but managed to avoid making the model look sickly as often happens. An impressive performance at both low and high ISO settings

 

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot SD630 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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